NMSSA 2016: Using Digital Technologies for Teaching and Learning - Key Findings

Publication Details

In 2016, the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) assessed student achievement at Year 4 and Year 8 in two learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) - technology and learning languages. This report provides findings on an additional area of research in 2016 - the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning.

Author(s): Educational Assessment Research Unit and New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Report for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: May 2018

Executive Summary

Introduction

This study was added to NMSSA 2016 as it was a timely opportunity to obtain information about the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning - an emerging area of curriculum development for the Ministry of Education. As the new Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko curriculum had not been completed during the time of the study, the investigation was independent of the other learning areas. A section of the questionnaires administered to students, teachers and principals, asked them about the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning.  Students were asked about their attitudes toward the use of digital technologies for learning, the opportunities to use digital technologies in school, and access to digital technologies at home. Teachers were asked about their attitudes to the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning, the opportunities for their students to use digital technologies in school, and their perceptions of the effects of using digital technologies for teaching and learning. Principals were asked about their perceptions of the effects of using digital technologies for teaching and learning, and the level of support for implementing digital technologies in school.

Digital technology

In the student questionnaire, the use of digital technologies was referred to as 'learning with digital devices' Learning with digital devices was defined as 'using the Internet, computers, tablets, iPads, notebooks, laptops, smartphones and other digital tools as part of your learning at school'. In the teacher questionnaire, the definition of digital technology was: 'Digital technologies include, but are not limited to, using the Internet, computers, tablets, notebooks, smartphones and other emerging digital tools as part of your teaching programme within the classroom'. In the principal questionnaire, the definition of digital technology was: 'Digital technologies include, but are not limited to, using the Internet, computers, tablets, notebooks, smartphones and other emerging digital tools as part of teaching and learning programmes'.

Study features

NMSSA used a two-step sampling procedure to select 100 schools at each year level and up to 27 students within each school. The nationally representative sample at each year level was made up of about 2,300 students (see Appendix 1, Technical Information 2016 report). The digital technology questionnaire was one of the sections of a computer-based questionnaire administered to all students.  An Item Response Theory (IRT) measure called Attitude to Learning with Digital Devices (ALDD) was constructed from the attitude statements of the digital technology questionnaire.  

Up to three teachers in each school completed a teacher questionnaire.  In total, 231 Year 4 teachers and 270 Year 8 teachers responded.  In total, 182 of the 200 principals  completed the principal questionnaire. The digital technology questionnaire was one of the sections of pencil-and-paper questionnaires administered to teachers and principals.

Key findings about using digital technology for teaching and learning

Students' attitude to learning with digital devices

Students generally had positive to very positive attitudes towards learning with digital devices. Year 4 students generally had more positive attitudes than Year 8 students, although there was a great deal of overlap in the ALDD scale score distributions for Year 4 and Year 8. Boys had more positive attitudes, on average, than girls at both year levels. There were no differences in average ALDD scale scores between ethnic groups at either year level. On average, Year 4 students from high decile schools had more positive attitudes than students from mid decile schools. At Year 8, on average, students from high and mid decile schools were less positive than students from low decile schools. At Year 4, there were no statistically significant differences between the average ALDD scale scores for students at different types of school. At Year 8, the average ALDD scores for students at full primary schools was greater than that for students from secondary schools. This difference and the differences by year level, gender and school decile described above were generally of small effect sizes.

Students' use of digital technologies in school

At least 40 percent of students at Year 4 used digital devices 'Very often' to 'Learn about using the Internet safely', 'Search for information on the Internet', and 'Use online learning activities/games'. At Year 8,
63 percent of students used digital devices 'Very Often' to 'Search for information on the Internet'.

At both levels, boys' and girls' responses were generally similar. At Year 4, boys were more likely than girls to 'Watch an online activity that is happening in another place'. At Year 8, girls were more likely than boys to 'Create digital texts', and 'Search for information on the Internet'. The effect sizes of the gender differences were small.

The responses of students from different decile bands were similar. Generally, students from low decile schools had the most frequent opportunities to learn with digital devices, with two exceptions. At both year levels, students from high decile schools had more frequent opportunities to 'Search for information on the Internet'; at Year 8, students from high decile schools had more frequent opportunities to 'Create digital texts'.

Students' access to the Internet and digital technologies at home

The majority of students at both year levels had Internet access at home (Year 4: 81 percent, Year 8: 94 percent).  At both levels, less than 6 percent did not have Internet access, and the remaining 13 percent of Year 4 students and 1 percent of Year 8 students did not know. 

At both year levels, about two thirds of students reported having a desktop computer at home that they were allowed to use, and about three quarters had access to the use of a tablet/iPad. A greater proportion of Year 8 students than Year 4 reported having, and being allowed to use, a notebook/laptop (69 percent vs 47 percent) and a smartphone (77 percent vs 40 percent). With regards to school decile, availability and access at home were generally lowest for students from low decile schools.  

Teachers' perspectives

At both year levels, the majority of teachers were positive about digital technology.  Over 75 percent of Year 4 and Year 8 teachers responded 'Moderately true' or 'Very true' to the attitude statements. This finding was generally similar across decile bands. There were no year level or gender differences.

At both year levels, the majority of teachers reported that their students had opportunities to use digital technology.  Over 50 percent of Year 4 teachers and over 40 percent of  Year 8 teachers responded 'Very often' to the following opportunities: 'Search for information on the Internet', 'Use online learning activities/games', and 'Work with others on an activity using a digital device'.  This finding was generally similar across decile bands. 

The majority of teachers at both year levels were positive about the effects of digital technology on students' learning. Over 90 percent of teachers at both year levels, responded 'Agree' or 'Strongly agree' to the following statements: 'It has helped my students integrate knowledge from more than one learning area,' 'It has increased my students' engagement in their learning,' 'It has made me think about new ways of teaching and learning,' 'It has allowed some of my students to show knowledge and skills that were not so evident with pen and paper'. At Year 4, over 90 percent of teachers responded 'Agree' or 'Strongly agree' to the following item: 'It has made positive changes to the way my students learn'. 

Principals' perspectives

Principals at both year levels were similarly positive about the effects of using digital technologies for teaching and learning. Over 90 percent of the prinicpals responded 'Agree' or 'Strongly agree' to all the statements. This finding was generally similar across decile bands.  There were no year level differences. 

Principals were also similarly positive about the level of support they had available for implementing digital technologies in schools.

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