Chasing dreams and recognising realities: teachers’ responses to ICT

Doing a bit of reading of the literature. As preparation for the redevelopment of a 3rd year course helping pre-service teachers figure out how ICTs can be integrated into/transform their learning and teaching.

This is a summary of Underwood and Dillon (2011). The abstract is

The teaching profession’s response to the inexorable march of new technology into education has been a focus of research for some 30 years. Linked with the impact of ICT on measurable performance outcomes, teacher attitudes to technology and the impact on pedagogic practice have been central to that research, a research that has often seen teachers as a barrier, not a force for change. The current article brings together findings from a decade of studies that have explored the ways in which teaching staff have responded to the growing notion that ICT is a core part of the teaching toolkit. In doing so we question the simplistic stereotyping of Luddite teachers. Drawing on findings from rare, but crucially important, longitudinal projects the article discusses hopes and fears raised by teaching staff when confronted with changes to existing pedagogy, before moving on to explore issues such as the ‘technology dip’, how maturity modelling can inform our understanding of technological change in schools and ways forward for helping teaching staff to embed technology into their teaching. The article concludes with a discussion of why it is important that the educational system meets this challenge from a learner’s perspective

The paper gives some insights into lines of research in this field, though I’m not sure whether the paper actually delivers anything earth-shaking.

Are teachers the problem or the solution?

Starts with a quote from Aviram and Talmi (2004) that argues for the inevitability of an ICT revolution arising mostly out of the “omnipresence of ICT in our everyday lives”. Then proceeds with references suggesting it isn’t so inevitable

  • Research showing most people don’t use advanced features of technologies (e.g. mobile phones) which may explain lack of readiness to use m-learning despite heavy use of mobiles.
  • Technologies “often fits uncomfortably with teachers’ professional judgements”.
  • Technologies that move teachers outside their comfort zone have slower take up and higher rejection rates (Watson 2001).
  • Jamieson-Proctor et al (2006) note that teachers want to enhance the current curriculum rather than transform with ICT, a reluctance to go beyond familiar practices. Arguing teaching is a conservative profession resistant to change. Which leads to the conclusion that positive impacts are more likely when based on existing pedagogical practice. With the example of the IWB given – though some mention of teacher unease around this

Comment: This is human nature 101. People are pattern matching intelligences. Anything that goes outside their established patterns doesn’t really register. It gets transformed into what they know or ignored. Changing this is difficult, but then that is the nature of learning. Learning anything knew is difficult. Which is one reason why I think an ICTs course for pre-service teachers has to try and engage pre-service teachers in the use of ICTs in new and interesting ways and challenge them to re-think their “existing pedagogical practice” AND show them how ICTs can be used to support their existing practice.

Underwood and Dillon (2011) continue with the idea that it is more than professional practice. The idea that the type of people go into teaching is a factor. “If teachers, as a group, are inherently low technology users compared to the general population, does this mean there is a natural resistance to the embedding of technology into the educational processes and practices?” Limited references to support this view and then they suggest there is evidence that the profession actually more constructive than this, if a little cautious.

Comment: If “teacher as a group” are prone to low technology use, what might this say about teacher educators?

Three ways forward

  1. A minimum emphasis on technology – a laissez-faire approach.
    Argued this is not an acceptable alternative as it leads to a digital underclass.
  2. Bend the technology to the system.
    Argues that there are some benefits, but also leads to an impoverished world in digital terms.
  3. Merge and evolve.
    So we need a merger of technology and education and then an evolution. An evolution that requires a skilled teaching work force.

The first two “options” tend to remind me of Cnut the Great (King Canute). But even the 3rd option suggests to me Cnut the Great. As if the education system will have ability to pick and choose what is merged. Who in the education system makes this decision? Is it the government (which level?), the principals and school leadership, or teachers? How do these folk propose to stop students using ICTs anyway they wish? How do principals/school leadership propose to stop teachers using the ICTs they have in their pocket to teach better? (and so on up the chain). The evolution will happen, the question of anyone being able to control it is much more open.

The Technology Dip

Suggesting that change is not linear, but arises from a set of complex, interacting influences. Change takes a long time and the “grammar of school” is a barrier. p. 321

“To truly embed change we have to unveil the hidden mechanisms that rule school first”

Argues that there is a “technology dip” an “unequivocal confirmation of the existence of, and recovery from, the ‘technology dip'”. From Somekh et al (2004) – school performance on national tests dipped in the years following the introduction of resources into the Test Bed schools. But research shows that there are swift and strong recoveries post dip.

Comment: The graphs demonstrating this seem somewhat light on with data about the statistics. There is the question whether national tests are a good measure.

Talks a bit about the assimilation of technology into the grammar of school, but that this uninspiring use of ICTs can often hide more interesting changes.

Mentions Crook et al (2010) in-depth case studies of 85 teachers. Finding that ICT largely used to support expository, construction and search activities.

There’s a bit of talk about VLEs and maturity models. The purpose wasn’t obvious.

Comes back to this

A consensus that emerges from much of the research on teacher responses to technology is that perceived usefulness is the most influential predictor of satisfaction and intention to continue e-learning usage.

with a range of research supporting it.

Ends with identifying the need to bridge the gap between current concepts of learning/schooling and the need for flexible thinkers and “debatable citizens” (a strange term).


Underwood, J., & Dillon, G. (2011). Chasing dreams and recognising realities: teachers’ responses to ICT. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(3), 317–330. doi:10.1080/1475939X.2011.610932

4 thoughts on “Chasing dreams and recognising realities: teachers’ responses to ICT

  1. Pingback: Chasing dreams and recognising realities: teachers' responses to ICT | Technology in the Curriculum |

  2. Valuable post as always. Thank you.

    I can’t help but think that drawing on educational folk to give advice about the problem of what to do with just one of the defining technologies of this century is a bit like asking bank tellers in the 70’s for advice about how to integrate and implement the new-fangled ATMs. I’m not sure it is possible to shift most/many teachers from the window-dressing protocol that has been refined over 35 years, i.e. just have it in the classroom. No one will ask anything about what is going on (kids were playing games as rewards on computers in classrooms in the 80’s). It is a protocol that is firmly entrenched in the day-to-day routines of many teachers.

    What I find intriguing is that schools have been playing this game, let’s integrate/enhance etc. for so long. 35 years of doing it again and again with the same result (recall Einstein’s lovely quote about stupidity) points less to the technology and more to a system that is primarily concerned with self-preservation.

    Way to much to say here. We see idiocy after idiocy (e.g. TPCK) developed to supposedly wiggle its way through. Solving this problem remains a BIG business. Lots of folk out there mad keen to tell and sell about how to do it. It’s fed by a technology that improves exponentially. There is always new things to tell about and sell how to use them.

    The ways of thinking about the elements of the challenge are critical. Your understanding of these either implicitly or explicitly frames what what does in an educational setting. These elements include: how ‘technology’ is understood. How change is understood. What does it mean to ‘know’ something at this period of human history? What do developments in computing and related technologies have for various fields of knowledge, or, in terms for the Mums and Dads, “why are you teaching my child how to do things that machines are good at or soon will be?”

    To me, it is more a matter of whether or not, as Rushkoff (Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. New York: OR Books.) argues, we program or are programmed:

    ‘Digital technology is programmed. This makes it biased toward those with the capacity to write the code. In a digital age, we must learn how to make the software, or risk becoming the software. It is not too difficult or too late to learn the code behind the things we use—or at least to understand that there is code behind their interfaces. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of those who do the programming, the people paying them, or even the technology itself.’ (p. 128).

    The other take I’d push for, one that schools have totally ignored, is taking a look at the forest, not just the trees. The well known readers digest version of this is here:

    To return to ‘the how” question. Schools for thirty odd years have continued to behave as if they are the sole/major source of computing and related technologies. This hasn’t been the case for decades but we still policies and procedures that reflect this mindset. Any decent ‘how’ question would pay attention to what the kids had access to in the home and elsewhere. The smart thing to do would be to think carefully about how to work when there is such a concentration OUTSIDE the classroom.

    The most difficult element in this task of ‘integration’ is the long-standing practices of schooling. The various ways of doing things have an elaborate infrastructure of material that keeps them in place. Changing these practices in other than a superficial way will mean dismantling all the ‘stuff’ that supports them. No simple task.

    To me the question is not how to integrate these technologies but how to do school. Doing school as if we were living in the 1800s is clearly dumb. But that is precisely what we are doing. It’s akin to running a horse-based public transport system and trying to integrate the automobile.

    1. Chris, thanks for taking the time to respond and the pointers. It’s the dissonance between the assumptions of the current system and the nature of the outside world that causes my biggest problem. There is a tension between folk seeing our job as “preparing pre-service teachers to teach in schools” and the view that schools are exactly the wrong type of system for what we can do.

      I do think we’re in the midst of a change over, maybe. The prevalence of ICTs in everyday life is, I think, one of the factors that can address the failure of the last 35 years or so. Perhaps the “grammar of school” will finally start being transformed because of what people are doing at home (and at school with the personal devices). Of course Gillards “be in the top 5” aim isn’t going to help that in the short term.

      Then there is the “grammar of university”. There are certain expectations and ways of doing things which are also holding things back. this post touches on this a bit.

      To some extent I need to connect with the extant literature so that I can meet that grammar and show that I’m aware of their insights. So I will probably be reading/blogging a few more of these over the coming weeks.

      I’m hoping in the course we can tread the two lines somehow. Prepare them for working in a broken system and start seriously thinking about what the system should be doing. More to come.

  3. Pingback: Exploring current institutional e-learning usage | The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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