School ICT Network Infrastructure Upgrade Project: Evaluation of Early Impacts
This report reviews the early impacts of the Network Infrastructure Upgrade Project which provides small schools with either an upgrade to an outdated computer network, or installs a new network if none exists. 50 schools were selected to participate in this evaluation where either the principal or their representative were interviewed.
Author(s): Dr Lorrae Ward, Bronwyn Weston and Tracy Bowker, Cognition Consulting. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.
Date Published: March 2007
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Based on the findings and the overall impressions of the researchers, there appear to be four major themes arising from this study.
- It would appear that a number of interlocking pieces or conditions are necessary for integration to occur and that these are in place in many of these schools.
- Positive changes in teacher attitude, confidence and motivation are evident.
- The network infrastructure upgrade is enabling increases in pedagogical and professional use.
- The need for greater initial support and training at the outset.
Firstly, as discussed at the beginning of this report (please refer to download of full report), infrastructure provision and professional development alone are not enough to promote the full integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Teacher willingness to change practice and to use ICT, along with their capability to use ICT and manage its use by others is also needed. Findings from these interviews suggest that all of these conditions are now present in a significant number of schools covered by this initiative. The network infrastructure upgrade is definitely one piece of a "jigsaw" that includes various other ICT initiatives such as ICTPD and TELA. It appears that where a number of initiatives are present within a school there is a higher level of integration and use of ICT.
Secondly, increasing teacher confidence and motivation are crucial mediating factors on teacher use of ICT. What is suggested in relevant sections in this report is that teacher attitudes, including their confidence and willingness to use ICT, are changing as a result of the network upgrade. As with the provision of laptops, learning to use the network and realising what it offers has had a positive impact on both their skill levels and on their willingness to use ICT. With increased use comes increased confidence, which leads to increased use. It appears that in many of these schools this positive cycle is now occurring.
Thirdly, while teacher use of ICT for report writing, communication, planning and creating resources shows an overall increase, so does the integration of ICT into daily teaching and learning. The findings clearly show an increase in pedagogical and professional use. This is an increase not always apparent in the past. For example, one school commented that there is now more variety in their teaching, as they continue to find different ways to use the new equipment and software. The variety of hardware that has been purchased, or is intended for purchase, also shows increased classroom use in a relatively short space of time. Another school commented that using the technology has now become part of the culture of the school, and that a higher importance is being placed on the use of technology for teaching and learning. Others reported that there was a much higher uptake of ICT inclusion and integration across a wide range of curriculum areas, and that this was now the norm rather than the exception. It appears that increased confidence in the network has allowed teachers to trial new ideas, resources and equipment in classrooms. Part of this can be attributed to the robustness of the upgraded systems. It appears that one of the reasons teachers can now work with more confidence is because of the reliability of access. As one school put it: "we now have an efficient system, less frustration, and more confidence and willingness from our staff and students to try new things". Several schools mentioned that there was a new excitement about learning and teaching and that the upgrade had been a catalyst in change management within the school.
Finally, it would appear that the network infrastructure upgrades have been hugely successful. The issues mentioned by respondents have been primarily teething problems and, while these do need to be considered for future implementation, they are not major. When considering the responses it appears that the upgrades have had a very positive impact on schools in a number of ways. Of particular note must be the increased classroom use. As mentioned earlier, it may be that 'all the ducks are now in a row' in many schools. That is, everything is in place for the potential of ICT as a tool for teaching and learning to be realised.
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