Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor C. Paul Newhouse

Second Advisor

Dr Jeremy Pagram

Abstract

In recent years the usage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools has become more prominent (Pegrum, Oakley, & Faulkner, 2013), with the majority of the focus being on hardware implementation (Hunter, 2013). However, teachers have generally struggled to integrate the use of ICT fully to promote learning in their classrooms (Sipilä, 2014). Therefore, schools may need to develop teachers’ ICT skills; this also being in response to students demonstrating higher levels of ICT skills within schools (Morgan, 2012). The well documented limitations in ICT skills of many teachers, and the likely increasing ICT skill levels of students’ is creating the potential for a digital divide between the teacher and his/ her students.

A digital divide is normally identified between developing countries that lack the resources and financial support when compared to developed countries (Shih, Kraemer, & Dedrick, 2008). However, there is a concern regarding the knowledge and skills of teachers to make use of ICT in the classroom (Asia Society, 2012). In addition, it is likely that as teachers get older the ICT knowledge and skills gap between them and younger people will widen (Department of Education and Training in Western Australia, 2006). Is this widening skills gap creating a critical digital divide between teachers and students in the classroom? It has been argued that students have lived in a world of technology since a young age, and therefore, have developed a natural ability to use technology to communicate and find information (Groff, 2013). Is this natural ability exploited in the classroom and do the students exhibit higher-levels of ICT knowledge and skills than the teacher? If a digital divide exists, would this affect the way in which ICT is used by students in the classroom? This study sought to investigate this question.

The environment for this study was a Western Australian secondary school, with the participants being teachers and students. The study implemented a quasi-ethnographic multiple case studies approach to research, with multifactorial surveys and interviews, was implemented for the study. The primary sample for the study comprised eight teachers, two from each of the core learning areas of Mathematics, English, Science, and History and Social Sciences. Each teacher sampled, allowed access to one of his/her student classes, resulting in a sample of 154 students from Year Seven to Year Eleven, therefore there were eight distinct case studies. Initially, the students and teachers participated in a survey to establish the extent and nature of the potential digital divide (the first construct) between the teacher and his/her class. This construct analysed the ICT competence by assessing the level of ICT Skills, Application and Attitude for each of the students and teachers. The responses to the teacher interview questions and some of the questionnaire items were also used to determine the extent of the Meaningful Use of ICT (the second construct) with each class. Finally, this was compared with the extent and nature of the digital divide for each case study class to investigate whether there was likely to be a qualitative connection between the two constructs. That is, the study aimed to investigate whether a digital divide existed, and whether it was likely that this affected the use of ICT in the classroom. The intention of the study was to assist in directing teacher professional learning practices, and policies to support enhanced learning with ICT.

The study found that both the sample of teachers and sample of students had varying levels of ICT competence. However, there was little difference in the student mean for each class on the measures of ICT competence. For some case study classes, it was determined that there was a digital divide in favour of the students, and for others the divide was in favour of the teacher. This outcome was determined by the ICT competence of the teacher, not the students, because there wasn't a significant difference between the student means for the eight class. The study found that when the digital divide for a class was in favour of the students there was limited evidence of Meaningful Use of ICT. However, when the divide was clearly in favour of the teacher for the class, there was a noticeable level of Meaningful Use of ICT with the students. The results of the study suggested that the difference in ICT competence of the teacher compared with students was likely to affect the Meaningful Use of ICT in the classroom. Therefore, it is recommended that policies and practices in schools and school systems be enacted with the aim of increasing the ICT competence of teachers.

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