Educators' use of the Online Learning Centre (Te Kete Ipurangi) 1999-2001

Publication Details

Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) is a web site giving teachers and principals access to teaching, education information, and communication with colleagues. This evaluation of TKI looked at the effectiveness of the site in meeting the needs of teachers and principals in terms of its key functions of providing with: * quality teaching and learning resources, * information on educational issues and developments, * opportunities for interaction with colleges in public or private areas of the site around common interest areas.

Author(s): Vince Ham and Derek Wenmoth, Christchurch College of Education. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: 2002

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Executive Summary

This research report is the second of three submitted to the Ministry of Education as part of the Christchurch College of Education's Evaluation of the so-called 'New Initiatives' announced in the 1998 document Interactive Education: A National Strategy for Information and Communication Technologies in Schools (Ministry of Education 1998). The 'New Initiatives' were:

  1. The Principals First: First principles programme of professional development in ICT for Principals.
  2. The Online Resource Centre, subsequently entitled Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) the Online Learning Centre.
  3. The 23 ICTPD School Clusters programme of professional development for teachers in ICT.


The overarching aim of the study reported here was to evaluate schools' contributions to, and usage of, the Online Learning Centre (TKI) during its first two years of operation. More specifically its objectives were:

  1. to analyse and critically evaluate the contributions of the 23 ICTPD Cluster schools to the Online Learning Centre, 
  2. to describe how, and to what ends, NZ school managers and teachers used the Online Learning Centre, and 
  3. to identify users'' views on the value of the Online Learning Centre.

The aims and objectives of the TKI website

The emphasis in stakeholder goals for TKI have changed somewhat over time, as the concept of a New Zealand portal site has expanded, and as technical advances in terms of the database driving the site have opened up new opportunities for features and structures. Three key aims of the site in its first two years of operation were for TKI to act as a portal through which users could access high quality, comprehensively cross-referenced resources and information on the world wide web, as a repository of official information and similarly high quality and cross referenced home-grown educational resources, and as a virtual community for educators in New Zealand schools.

The 23 ICTPD Clusters' contributions to TKI, 1999-2001

In total the 23 Clusters had published 112 educational resources on TKI to the end of 2001. Most of these were either ready-made units of work for students incorporating ICT components, or pedagogical strategies for teachers using ICT in their classrooms.

Clusters were variable in the extent to which they committed to, and succeeded in, meeting the requirement to publish educational resources through TKI. Only four clusters even came close to reaching the probably unrealistic targets set in their contracts.

Only a minority of the resources submitted by the 23 Clusters in 1999 and 2000 reached publication standard for the TKI site, and most of those were published only after extensive revision. However, the expected ratio of submissions to publications for resources sent in 2001 was significantly higher, largely as a result of increased provider experience and understanding, combined with the publication of clear criteria for publication by TKI during 2001.

The process of editing and revising submitted resources for web publication was proving a lengthy one, turnaround times being measured in months for many resources.

Educators' use of TKI, 1999-2001

Users

After the first year of operation about a half of New Zealand teachers had heard of TKI and about a third had accessed it. By the end of its second year of operation over two thirds of New Zealand teachers had heard of the site and around half had accessed it.

Males were significantly more likely to be users of TKI than females.

In its second year of operation at least, secondary teachers were more likely to have accessed TKI than primary teachers. However, primary teachers who were regular users of the internet were more likely to also be users of TKI than secondary teachers who were regularly users of the internet.

There seemed to be no significant differences within TKI user groups in relation to school type, teaching experience, positions of responsibility held, or the particular age levels within schools that teachers teach.

Levels of usage appeared to be similar in Māori immersion or bilingual schools to those in other schools, although only small numbers of teachers from those schools responded to the survey.

Teachers did not lack access to the Internet. The major constraints on teachers' use of TKI seemed to relate to lack of awareness, lack of skill, perceived irrelevance, the pressure of other priorities or, above all, lack of time, rather than to limited access.

Usage

More users visited the site more often, and for longer periods, over its first two years of operation.

The greatest use of the site occurred during the school week and within the working day.

Usage of TKI tailed off significantly during the December/January school break, but not during the other breaks in the student year.

Taken as a whole, the available figures on frequency and duration of visits, especially when put alongside the figures for repeat visiting, paint a picture of a proportionally small but growing number of teachers who visited often and stayed for quite long times (over 20 minutes), alongside a much larger number of visitors, still the vast majority, who visited the site infrequently and took only a glimpse. For both the Day 1 and the Day 2 Sites, there appears to have been a tendency for users to be either fanatics or phobics, regulars or reluctants, with relatively few in the middle ground.

Users of both the Day 1 and the Day 2 Sites were quite focussed in their travels through the sites, and tended to go back to the few areas that they know, rather than explore widely throughout the sites. They seemed to have quite finely focussed reasons for visiting the site which centred most around the collection of curriculum related teaching resource materials and/or official reference information.

A substantial proportion of the increase in secondary teachers' usage of TKI is explained in terms of their use of the NCEA and Assessment Communities.

Usage of the more interactive public features of the site, which involve collegial communication and active contribution, was restricted to a very small minority of users who visited these sections rarely.

Even those users who did stay online at the site for a long time, or who visited very regularly, apparently strayed little from their previously well worn, and quite narrow paths.

Usability

Users rated the Day 2 Site interface more user friendly than the Day 1 Site interface, especially its organisation around curriculum content areas.

Most users came with a specific task in mind rather than to browse or 'window shop'.

Most users had been able to find what they were looking for through the site, and the Day 2 Site had proven more 'searchable' than the Day 1 Site. However, for a significant minority failed `searches' within the site were still a problem. The reason for this may have been in the still relatively limited numbers of site references and resources that were fully catalogued according to the site's meta-data system.

The greatest difficulties users had with the site relate to navigation and structure. This was partly due to what they saw as confusing labelling and icons, but even more it was due to a frequently reported lack of a sense of where they were in the site at any given time. It would appear that users of the site did not have a clear concept of its varied purposes and roles and thus had difficulty developing, on the basis of the way it was presented to them visually, a coherent mental map of the structure and operation of the site which would make it more easily navigable.

Usefulness

Teachers found the sites most useful as a source of specific classroom resources and ideas, and least useful as a place to locate professional readings or to make collegial connections. Consistent with their view of TKI as a 'repository for quality teaching resources', users used it almost exclusively as a place to visit for ideas and resources `for tomorrow's lesson or test', and, to a lesser extent, as the place to go for official curriculum documents and news.

Moreover, users seemed to go to the site only with the expectation of locating and possibly downloading teaching resources, and had neither sought out, nor made much use of, the other features and information that the site offered. In this regard, users in secondary schools were even more focussed than users in primary schools.

Except in respect of NCEA, primary teachers found the various Communities more useful than secondary teachers.

About half of the users of the site had used specific resources in their classrooms. These were mostly assessment ideas and exemplars, or classroom teaching ideas and ready made plans for units of work. To a lesser extent users also found and used specific learning resources for students, and resources related to policy issues.

For teachers, the direct classroom benefits of their use of TKI related more to improved 'teaching' than to improved 'learning', but within the latter, the perceived benefits related more to improved student motivation and attitude than to improved student achievement.

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