Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Barriers to the Effective Use of ICT by Teachers

Many claims have been made in literature about the positive effects of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and how it can be an effective tool in supporting teaching and learning. The introduction of ICT in education is vastly different from any other educational change. The new technologies have the potential to support education across the curriculum and provide opportunities for effective communication between students and teachers in ways that have not been possible before.

However, it has also been firmly established that just the mere introduction of ICT into schools does not, by itself, improve the quality of education. Due to ICT’s importance in the future of education, identifying the possible obstacles to the integration of these technologies into schools is an important step in improving the quality of teaching and learning. This article seeks to examine some of the reasons for the lack of a more widespread uptake of ICT on the part of teachers. The reasons are highlighted below.
Resistance towards change

There can be some teachers who do not see the benefits ICT can offer. It is therefore important to show the teachers how new technologies will benefit their teaching and student learning. Some teachers may also feel that there are more than enough ICTs readily available and thus feel there is no point in having more initiatives. Subsequently more efficient ways of teaching may not come into effect in their classrooms. Alternatively, teachers may not feel supported, guided or rewarded in the integration of technology into their learning.

Pedagogical practice versus technical skills

The existence of ICTs does not transform teacher practices in and of itself. However, ICTs can enable teachers to transform their teacher practices, given a set of enabling conditions. Teachers’ pedagogical practices and reasoning influence their uses of ICT, and the nature of teacher ICT use impacts student achievement.

Various studies have shown that in many ICT professional development courses, teachers are often not taught how to revise their pedagogical practices, how to replace other traditional lessons without depleting the curriculum coverage, and so on. Teachers require extensive, on-going exposure to ICTs to be able to evaluate and select the most appropriate resources.

Lack of competence

A factor which is directly related to teacher confidence levels is that of teacher competence. In order to achieve high levels of teacher competence in ICT, there is a need to provide training, and there is a great deal of evidence in literature to suggest that effective training is crucial if teachers are to implement ICT effectively in their teaching. If training is inadequate or inappropriate, then teachers will not be sufficiently prepared, and perhaps not sufficiently confident, to make full use of technology in and out of the classroom.

Lack of support from the whole school
The most effective way to bring about the adoption of an innovation in schools is to engage the whole school in the process of planning change. If the school, and particularly the principal, are not committed to adopting a particularly ICT, this creates a major barrier. If one teacher attends training, the rest of the school sets up antibodies to any new ideas which the trained teacher brings back into the school. The last thing the other teachers will then do is to change their practice.

Lack of Time

Some teachers may be confident and competent in the use of ICT, yet they are sometimes unable to make full use of technology because they lack the time needed to fully prepare and research materials for lessons, particularly where this involves online or multimedia content. Time is also needed for teachers to become better acquainted with hardware and software.

Lack of effective training

Providing teachers with training opportunities not only in using ICT but in pedagogical training is very important. There’s a need for the teachers to have more control over learning process of students. Before teachers need to know how to use computer technology, they need to ask “why” they need to know, and “what” they need to know. Equipping teachers with IT skills, will not necessarily influence the likelihood that they will use computers to extend or improve their teaching. Providing both pedagogical training, and training in using ICT therefore seems very important.

Lack of technical support

If there is a lack of technical support available in a school, then it is less likely that preventative technical maintenance will be carried out regularly, resulting in a higher risk of technical breakdowns. Once the breakdowns do occur, a lack of technical support may mean that the equipment remains out of use for a longer period of time. This may eventually make teachers disinterested in using the technology.

No perception of benefits

Several studies also conclude that a willingness to use ICT depends heavily on not only its usability, but also its perceived usefulness. If the teachers perceive ICT to be useful to them, their teaching and their pupils’ learning, then they are more likely to have a positive attitude to the use of ICT in the classroom.

All of the above points act as barriers in enabling teachers to widely implement ICT interventions in their classrooms. The above list is certainly non-exhaustive as there can definitely be many more case specific factors that may lead to teachers not using ICT interventions effectively.

Based on our personal interaction with the teachers of the Learn, Out of the Box, we realized that a lot of these problems are relevant within the context of our programme. Teachers have often discussed  a lack of adequate time to lesson plan, or a dearth of support from the school authorities. In such cases, it becomes important for us to support them by thinking of creative ways to effectively deal with these barriers.

While designing the training curriculum for our programme, we decided to go beyond technology, and focus extensively on teaching practices and integration methods. We aim to provide a platform to the teachers to introduce, demonstrate and discuss creative classroom ideas.

Additionally, we specifically worked to design a holistic and effective teacher training plan to help our teachers integrate the new method of teaching into their classrooms. The goal of our training is to develop their skills and capacity through demonstrations and closely guided practice rather than creating a dependency on technology. You can read more about our teacher trainings here.

Lastly, to ensure that there is no lack of technical support, all our locations have a team of Regional Programme Associates who visit the schools regularly and assist the teachers with any technical difficulties they face with the hardware provided.

Ultimately, an environment needs to be established where the use of ICT is encouraged and rewarded and schools train teachers in new pedagogical approaches. We, at the Learn, Out of the Box, also attempt to keep these barriers in mind while we work to implement our programme.

  • Scrimshaw, P. (2004) Enabling Teachers To Make Successful Use of ICT, Becta, version 1
  • Cox, M., Preston, C., Cox, K., (1999) What Factors Support or Prevent Teachers from Using ICT in Their Classrooms, University of Sussex
  • Bingimlas, K. (2009) Barriers to the Successful Integration of ICT in Teaching and Learning Environments: A Review of the Literature, Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, vol 5(3), 235-245
  • Mumtaz, S. (2006) Factors Affecting Teachers’ Use of Information and Communication Technology: A Review of the Literature, Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 9:3, pp. 319-342
  • A Review of the Research Literature on Barriers to the Uptake of ICT by Teachers, British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, June (2004), version 1