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The philosophical approach most relevant to this research’s setting is the phenomenological approach. Phenomenology revolves around the intent to understand phenomena in their own actual terms and describe human experiences as experienced by the person in focus (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998). Developed by the German philosopher Husserl (1859–1938), phenomenology supports the belief that in order to arrive at a certainty about something, anything outside the immediate experience has to be ignored and rely on the individual’s consciousness (Fouche, 1993). Conciousness is an important concept in phenomenology and is considered to be the means of access to anything that is given to awareness (Giorgi, 1997). People can be certain about the way objects and ideas appear in the minds and conscousness, while realities are treated as pure phenomena, which is also how phenomenology got its name from, the science of pure phenomena (Eagleton, 1983). Phenomenology attempts to understand the people’s views and perspectives on social reality (Willcocks & Mingers, 2004; Verbeek, 2006). According to Giorgi (1997) phenomenology refers to the lived experiences of a person. It is concerned with the analysis of how things are experienced, as well as the meaning they are given from the indicidual (ibid, 1997). This study attempts to gather data about the teachers’ experience with ICT through their own eyes, using their own words and feelings. The phenomenon of ICT use in the Greek Primary Schools will be examined through the teachers’ experiences and perspectives, in order to understand the meanings that the teachers assign to ICT. The intent is to present results that are true and based on the participants’ real, daily and constant friction with ICT and not just a statistical analysis, therefore phenomenology would have been a strong candidate to draw upon.
For this specific study, a more suitable approach as a hybrid, modified phenomenology is post-phenomenology. Since the philosophy of technology has emerged and strengthened its position in the research field over the years, phenomenological approaches had to adapt to match the new standards and reflect the historical and technological changes in the 21st century. Idhe (2012) equates post-phenomenology as « pragmatism + phenomenology ». Post-phenomenology has the potential to analyze the role of technology in cultural, social and personal life and avoids certain vague spots in phenomenology that could lead to misconceptions and inadequate and one-sided understanding of technology (ibid., 2012). Phenomenology has received criticism for those vague spots, based on that its descriptivism tends to ignore, or make it difficult to propose, normative issues – politics, ethics, social issues do not seem to be a phenomenological forte (Idhe, 2012). Classic phenomenology has attempted to understand technology in terms of its potential and its possibilities (Verbeek, 2007). Idhe (2015) argues that post-phenomenology is the answer in this attempt, since it is concerned with how technology shapes our actions, choices and subsequently, experiences of the world. Additionally, it includes questions related on how can technology serve our purposes, but at the same time it has an influence on us. He states that post-phenomenology had to emerge as a philosophical response to the technological advance and change and that it finds a way to analyze the role of technology in personal, societal and cultural life (ibid., 2009). What is being done in this research though is not a study of ICT in the classrooms on a theoretical level, but an analysis of what they actually do and the interrelated relationship between ICT, teachers and their environment. ICT plays a mediating role in this relationship and this role can be truly visible if the philosophy around them thinks from the perspective of things (Verbeek, 2007). By adding pragmatism into the equation, post-phenomenology reveals a way to contain the possible misunderstandings in phenomenology, derived by its nature as a subjectivist philosophy with traces of idealism or solipsism (Ihde, 2009) and therefore, it is suited better for the current research. With this research, I want to examine the ICT use in the Greek Primary School classrooms and how do the teachers perceive their existence and use these ICT. They come in daily contact with ICT, therefore there is a two-way relationship between them: they use technology for their own purposes and at the same time, technology has an influence on them. My intention is to explore and understand this phenomenon of human-technology interaction, as well as its meaning through the views of the teachers themselves and gather their opinions, thoughts and perspectives. Therefore the qualitative approach and post-phenomenology are best suited for my research.
Technology in Education
ICT has not been specifically designed for educational purposes (Christensen, Horn & Johnson, 2008). However, its use in teaching and learning has gradually become a basic component in educational policies and an object of scientific research (Laurillard, 2012). ICT is considered to be not only the backbone of Information Society, but also an important asset and tool for inducing reforms that improve the educational system (Pelgrum, 2001).
Computers were introduced in schools in the early ’80s in the United States and since then, they have become an irreplaceable asset for the educational system, providing the means to improve teaching and learning (Lefebvre, Deaudelin & Loiselle, 2006). They could also support communication between students and teachers in ways that have not been possible before (Dawes, 2001).
ICT can be generally defined as « a diverse set of technological resources and tools used in order to communicate and to create, store and manage information » (Blurton, 2002). In the educational sector, these tools and resources are numerous. Computers, projectors, monitors and televisions, printers, cameras are some of the hardware used, while the Internet, educational software and blogs are some of the software enrolled to assist in the educational process (Tinio, 2003; Eady & Lockyer, 2013). However, ICT’s true strength lies in the fact that they can cooperate and complement each other, providing the teacher and the student with a full arsenal of pedagogical choices and suggestions to serve the needs of each individual separately (Jóhannsdóttir & Skjelmø, 2004).
ICT have changed the contemporary education’s environment, being a catalyst in the schools infrastructure and contribute greatly in the evolution and the modernization of the educational system (Panetsos, 2001). Its incorporation in the educational process is considered obligatory according to Lionarakis (2001) since ICT increases competitiveness between the national educational systems, also increasing the quality of the education overall. It overcomes geographical borders and time boundaries, offering the same quality education to every student, and ICT prepares the future citizens and equip them with the invaluable knowledge and skills, necessary for entering today’s « Information’s Society » in which they are asked to live and work into (ibid., 2001). Anthony (2012) also emphasized the importance of ICT in education, stating that ICT removes problems concerning time and space, it facilitates access to knowledge and it makes serving and sharing knowledge easier.
The incorporation and use of new technologies in classrooms is essential for providing the students with opportunities to learn to operate in the information age we live in (Koutsoukou, 2014). Studies highlight the importance of ICT in education, especially in comparison with the traditional educational environments and show that the potential to enhance modern teaching methods is greater when ICT is present (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000; Yelland, 2001; Karanezi, 2014). In addition to enhancing the pedagogical practice, ICT can also assist students directly with their learning. Technology has proved to play its role in student skills, motivation and knowledge and can be used to help students complete learning tasks (Grabe & Grabe, 2007; Bietenbeck, 2014), become knowledgeable, reduce the amount of instructions given directly to them and find help without the intervention of the teacher (Shamatha, Peressini & Meymaris, 2004; Romeo, 2006). Over the years, the pedagogical curriculum in schools has changed in order to adapt the technological advances. According to Gillespie (2006), new technologies allow students to collect information and interact with resources, instead of just searching for them, as well as communicate and collaborate better. A great example is the Internet, which is used both as a reference source and as a means of communication (Murphy, 2006). Students are motivated because of the interactive nature of ICT, think more clearly and develop better data analysis and interpretation skills (Newton & Rogers, 2003).
Teachers, Students and ICT
Teachers have always used technology: traditional technology until recently and a combination of traditional technology with digital technology now (Laurillad, 2012, Bates, 2015). As technology improves and evolves, the same is required from the teachers as it happens to every professional. They have to play new roles and hone new different skills and styles (Jarvis, 2006). With every new technology introduced in the classrooms, the student-teacher-technology relationship changes (ibid, 2006).
Argentin, Gui & Tamanini (2013) point out that the availability and existence of ICT does not affect the students’ learning and performance per se, but their effects depends on the way they are incorporated and used in the learning and teaching process. ICT has the possibility to improve teaching and consequently have a positive impact on the students’ learning by enhancing the traditional ways of teaching or by introducing new and improved ones (ibid., 2013).
Argentin, Gui & Tamanini (2013) classifies this teacher-technology relationship into five dimensions, according to their pedagogical innovation: The first and most common dimension of the ICT use from the teachers is happening in the « background » of their teaching activities. This includes lesson preparation by using the computer (printing, creating slides etc.) in order to make the lesson more attractive, unique and complete for the students and at the same time, they improve their skills by customizing their teaching to be more effective. More than 95% of European teachers state that they prepare their lessons by using digital tools (European Schoolnet, 2013; Balanskat, Blamire & Kefala, 2006). Teachers believe that the lesson’s preparation online is affecting positively their teaching’s quality (Condie & Munro, 2007). The second dimension of ICT use in the classrooms relates to knowledge sharing. Digital tools can support the transmission of information and concepts effectively and efficiently and teachers plan their lessons with greater accuracy (Higgins et al., 2007; Balanskat, Blamire & Kefala, 2006). Additionally, the lesson becomes more attractive for students (Balanskat, Blamire & Kefala, 2006), having a clear impact on intermediate outcomes like the student’s motivation and behaviour (Condie & Munro, 2007). On the same context, interactive boards have positive effects on the student’s motivational levels, by being more attractive due to the visualization (Smith, Hardman & Higgins (2006). However, there are doubts about this students’ enthusiasm, since it is provoked from the « novelty factor » (the excitement that something new brings) and it will consequently vanish when ICT in schools will not be a novelty anymore (DiGregorio & Sobel-Lojeski, 2009). The third dimension of ICT use in the classrooms revolves around students and their active involvement with technology. Balanskat, Blamire & Kefala (2006) states that teachers usually do not exploit the creative potential of ICT to its fullest, since they do not engage students actively in the production of learning. The active use of ICT for knowledge production by the students is still under research while a number of studies have even associated negatively the frequency of ICT use by students at schools and the learning outcomes (OECD, 2011; Biagi and Loi, 2013; Gui, 2013). A fourth dimension relates to « media education » practices. The presence itself of ICT in the classrooms can trigger a discussion between students and teachers about digitals opportunities and risks, since children seem to have a particularly low level of awareness about them (Calvani et al., 2012; Gui, 2013). There is evidence among studies that digital supportive teachers have more digitally aware students (Argentin, Gui & Tamanini, 2013), which result in a higher level of critical digital skills and practices amongst students, having a direct positive impact on their learning outcomes (Pagani & Argentin, 2015). The fifth and last dimension of ICT use in schools is related to ICT as a means for communication between teachers and their colleagues, teachers and their students and teachers and their students’ families. Only a small proportion of teachers report that they use ICT to increase their collaboration with other teachers, students and parents. Condie and Munro (2007) report that they are positive effects on the quality of teaching when there is communication through ICT. In addition, students and teachers benefit both from established home-school link using ICT.
Teachers and ICT
Studies have researched the role of teachers in contemporary classrooms and their relationship with technology. Teachers have always used technology in one way or another: traditional technologies until a few years ago and digital technologies in correlation with traditional technologies now (Laurillad, 2012; Bates, 2015). The effects of ICT on them are summarized by Gibson (2001) as the ways that digital technologies affect and influence the teachers:
• They expect more from the students, like understanding more difficult concepts.
• They can reach out to the needs of every individual student more effectively.
• Their teaching is more student-centered.
• The material they present is more complex and they are willing to experiment with new material.
• They are open to different and multiple perspectives and views on problems.
• Their professional level is increased since they assist their students in the learning process rather than transmit knowledge.
Traditional versus modern teaching styles have been in the centre of research by educational researchers, presenting results showing that the teaching style matters (Pagani & Argentin, 2015). Tondeur et al. (2008) distinguishes two different beliefs related to teaching: traditional teaching, being more teacher-centered, and constructivist teaching, based on a student-centered approach. According to the authors, teachers close to traditional teaching tend to have low technology incorporation rates in their teaching practices and use ICT mostly as a learning tool. In comparison, teachers adopting a constructivist belief use digital technologies more frequently and use ICT more as instructional and information tools (Tondeur et al. 2008).
On the same context, the teachers’ pedagogical beliefs play a key role in the ICT integration in the classrooms, in whether and how they will use technology in their educational practices (Deng et al., 2014; Inan & Lowther, 2010). According to Ertmer et al. (2015) and Lin, Wang & Lin (2012) teachers select certain ICT that complement their educational methods, but also ICT that align with their beliefs about « proper » education. The role technology plays in the classrooms is closely related to the teachers’ conceptions and beliefs on the nature of teaching and learning (Tondeur et al., 2016). Researchers have also been concerned with the difficulties faced by the teachers when trying to implement ICT in their educational practices. These difficulties are related with the plethora of the existing ICT as well as their various uses (Ward & Parr, 2010). Sipilä’s (2014) research points out that teachers with advanced digital skills tend to use more frequently ICT in their teaching, there are differences however related to the different forms of ICT and the use on different subjects/ courses. Bates (2015) argues that in order to take full advantage of the features that ICT has to offer, the appropriate use of technology is critical. Identifying the appropriate technology for the appropriate task is a complex challenge (Griffin, 2003). As Bates argues, ICT are tools that can be applied and used variously and serve many purposes. Thus, the way a certain technology could be used or is being used must be considered when judging its value (Bates, 2015).
Students and ICT
ICT’s effects on the students are examined by Majumdar (2015) who states that ICT tend to improve learning, motivation, collaboration between students and create a student-centered learning culture. ICT shifts the learning model from being reproductive into being more independent, an autonomous model which promotes critical thinking and creativity (Majumdar, 2015). ICT can have a positive effect on children with special needs and learning disabilities, both in terms of ease of access to information and overcoming their limitations, as well as an cognitive tool to increase their school performance (Chua et al., 2016; Ting-Feng et al., 2014).
Educational software in the form of educational games have been researched in Lim’s (2008) study in a Singapore’s Primary School. Lim studied a case of an educational game called Atlantis, where the student was assigned with the mission to save Atlantis, a mythical country facing cultural, social and ecological decay due to its rulers’ blind greed. The results show that students got engaged in English, Mathematics and Science problem-solving quests by playing the role of a global citizen and at the same time they honed their social skills by interacting with fellow student-players. Educational games were also examined by Beavis, Muspratt & Thompson (2015), reporting that students are positive towards the use of such games for learning purposes, noting however that it is important to always take into consideration the students’ voice and experiences when designing software like this. The students’ involvement in ICT development and use was stressed further by Beckman, Bennett & Lockyer (2014) who support that including students’ opinions is a must in order to understand their needs.
ICT used for communication in Primary Schools were researched by Shang (2007), showing that there was an improvement in their writing skills. Regular e-mail users showed better performance in correct writing and independent thinking and e-mails acted as an effective way for students to practice their written thoughts. On the same context of communication, blogging is also examined for the purposes of literacy instruction. Halsey (2007) presents a case where the teachers and students in New Zealand built a blog in order to publish and share their work with other schools. This allowed collaborative interactions in the forms of dialogue between students, teachers and parents. Another important outcome of using ICT such as blogs is that learning also takes place outside of the classroom’s walls borders.
The interactive nature of ICT, involving a variety of digital multimedia such as videos, images and audio, is motivating the students to participate actively in the teaching process, since the audiovisual material has the ability to be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded, enabling students to control their learning (Watts & Lloyd, 2004). But even when there is not audiovisual material involved, studies show that text writing in computers is a process more collaborative, social and iterative in comparison to paper-and-pencil environments. The quality of the writing in computers tended to be superior and the written texts longer than the ones using the traditional methods (Goldberg, Russel & Cook, 2003).
Table of contents :
1.1 The Research Problem
1.2 Aim and Research Questions
1.3 Scope and Limitations
1.4 Thesis Structure
2 Theoretical Framework
3 Literature Review
3.1 Technology in Education
3.2 Teachers, Students and ICT
3.2.1 Teachers and ICT
3.2.2 Students and ICT
3.3 Opportunities and Risks
3.4 Barriers and Variables in ICT Incorporation
3.5 ICT in the Greek Primary Schools
4 Methodology, Research Setting and Methods
4.1 Interpretivist Paradigm
4.2 Research Setting
4.4 Data Collection
4.4.1 Policy Document Analysis
126.96.36.199 Analysis Process
4.4.2 Interviews and Focus Groups
4.5 Analysis of Interviews
4.6 Validity and Reliability
4.7 Ethical Considerations
5 Document analysis
5.2 Summary of the Document Analysis Findings
6 Empirical Findings
6.1 Findings – Interviews and Focus Groups
6.2.1 ICT Used
6.2.2 Suggested Policies and Acquisition
6.2.3 Effects on Teachers
6.2.4 Effects on Students
6.2.5 Teacher’s Wishes and Ideas for Improvement
7.1 ICT’s Suggested Policies and Acquisition
7.2 Effects on Teachers
7.3 Effects on Students
7.4 Ideas for Improvement
8.1 The Research Questions Answered
8.3 Future Research