This paper discusses the development
of a number of resources designed to increase significantly staff
and student experience in learning with computer assistance in
a teacher training program. The project was prompted by the introduction
of a M.Teach degree as a replacement for the Dip.Ed in the Faculty
of Education in the University of Sydney. The resources include
an orientation course, IT electives, a WWW site, e-mail, and CBL
modules. Preliminary evaluation data are discussed and next step
1.1 The M.Teach at Sydney University
The Faculty of Education at Sydney University
has this year replaced its Diploma in Education (Dip.Ed) with
a Master of Teaching (M.Teach) degree as its ëend-oní
pre-service program. The new degree differs significantly from
its predecessor as it is a two-year program (the Dip.Ed was a
one-year course), with a strong commitment to a problem/case-based
learning perspective and on-going strong links into ëpartnershipí
schools. Students are encouraged to work in cooperative groups
on student-developed projects based around the key and recurring
themes of students, teachers, knowledge and the
curriculum, schools and communities and to engage
in critical reflection as a learning strategy. There is an extended
internship (50 days) in the final semester of the program which
can be undertaken in any agreed locality in Australia or overseas.
The initial intake was 185 (approx. 1/3 male, 2/3 female, average
age 26 with many ësecond careerí students) and the
program has K-6 and 7-12 components (in all secondary Key Learning
Areas). Successful completion of the M.Teach will earn credit
towards an M.Ed and an honours strand in the M.Teach may permit
direct entry into doctoral studies. Students will enter teaching
(in NSW) with an advanced salary (ëfive-yearí trained)
To place the new program in a context, Graber (1996), following Zeichner and Gore (1990), has recently noted that teacher socialisation can be usefully characterised in terms of three models:
(a) A functionalist approach deriving from positivism which tends to hold that students are ëclean-slatesí, and passively come to assume the ideas and values of their instructors as a function of exposure and time.
(b) An interpretative approach, allied to constructivist ideas and which acknowledges that students bring to their courses assumptions and expectations. It sees ìsocialization as problematic ... and assumes that students are their own agents of socialization, developing an orientation about teaching that is highly individual and grounded in personal experienceî (p.452).
(c) A critical approach, which
challenges students to examine current apparent assumptions and
ideas in their professional studies which might otherwise be taken
for granted. Graber notes that key topics in a critical approach
are often class, gender, and race.
From this perspective the M.Teach is
positioned as an amalgam of (b) and (c).
1.2 Information Technology (IT) in the Education Faculty
It has been the policy of the faculty
for several years that students in all pre-service teacher training
programs (B.Ed and Dip.Ed) should have experience with IT and
this has been implemented through discrete courses in educational
technology as well as integrated studies within ëmethodí
courses. To support this the faculty has been able to develop
good facilities in an Educational Technology Centre (ETC) - 3
Mac labs, 2 PC labs, an open access room with 45 stations, a multimedia
lab, a TV studio and photography labs. All staff (teaching and
administrative) have personal computers on their desks and are
connected to the faculty LAN. A few machines are available for
use in ordinary teaching rooms (on trolleys) and for staff to
borrow, for example, for conferences and other meetings. The university
has begun to upgrade the major lecture theatres for networked
computer use (however not as yet in the theatres used by the M.Teach
It is fair to say however that although
this model has worked reasonably well in that all Dip.Ed students
had the opportunity to become competent with at least word processing
and had exposure to other common applications and some were getting
additional specialist work on computers in education (in maths,
science and TAS (Technology & Applied Studies), for example),
relatively few students were completing their training having
had any experience of learning with and through computer-assistance
as a routine and pervasive activity. The advent of the M.Teach
was seen as a significant opportunity to try to encourage this
latter goal and the purpose of this paper is to discuss what has
been put in place thus far.
1.3 The rationale for IT
Direct support for the necessity of
a sound IT component can be found, inter alia, in policy statements
of the NSW Board of Studies which make it clear that teachers
require IT skills, the emerging IT policy of Sydney University
(and increasingly, universities in general), and the joint framework
statement of the Australian Computer Society and the Australian
Council for Computers in Education on Computers in Schools (ACCE,
1996). The point is made in the latter that ìcontinuing
changes in information technology are likely to lead to radical
change in all education sectorsî, and that ìsubstantial
strategic planning at all levels is necessary to anticipate this,
and to prepare the people involved for substantial changeî
(ACCE, 1996, p.1).
1.4 Emergence of the Internet
The Internet has been described as ìa
chaotic network of millions of computers containing information.
No-one owns it, no-one organises it and there are no rules for
its useî (Longstaffe & Furber, 1995, p.5). Not a promising
start for an educational resource one might think, but current
levels of publicity about and interest in the Internet seemingly
would leave little room for arguing other than it is a, even the,
major phenomenon of this decade. It is perhaps worth recalling
that in 1969, according to a UK Department of Trade & Industry
(1996) report, just 4 computers comprised the network and as recently
as 1984 it was still only about 1000. By 1995 this had grown to
10 million. The same report estimates that within 5 years it will
extend to 170 million for the WWW (67% of PC users) with 200
million users on e-mail (79% of PC users).
The report estimates that presently
there are some 6 million hosts in OECD countries with 70% of these
in North America. Host site growth is put at 90%. There
is a marked difference in current user classifications however,
between Europe and UK - a pointer perhaps to future developments.
In the UK, 74% of users are in the academic sector and 25% in
commerce (plus 0.4% government and 0.6% semi-commercial). In the
USA on the other hand, commercial users head the list at 41%,
then academic - 34%, 7% government, 6% military, 7% networks,
and 5% semi-commercial. The report argues that the Internet is
currently in a phase of ëmainstream uptakeí characterised
by a proliferation of applications which are ìuseful and
funî. By the end of the decade this phase should move into
ìubiquityî in which its use will be transparent to
the user population and usage will be on a par with that of the
present telephone system. If so, it cannot be ignored.
Support for such a view seems widespread. Reflecting on his 16-year term as Librarian at the University of Sydney, Dr Neil Radford has written:
By far the most astonishing and far-reaching
change I have witnessed is the emergence of information in electronic
form. It began as a light drizzle in the late 1970ís, a
few drops here and there of one database or another bravely mounted
on a distant computer and sometimes accessible by slow trans-Pacific
lines. The drizzle became a gentle rain, then a downpour, and
now a torrent, surging forward, carrying the Library and its users
with it. I doubt that the book will ever be completely submerged
by the force of the electronic deluge, but there can be no doubt
that old ideas of access to information have been totally turned
around in the last decade or less. The future will be increasingly
electronic and it is not an original thought to say that the pace
of change will surely accelerate. (Radford, 1996, p.1)
It is nonetheless clear from the literature
however, that the case for CBL remains open. Meredyth and Thomas
(1996), for example, in introducing an IT and Teaching special
feature in the Australian Universities Review note, ìwe
present a picture of IT in which there are few easy solutions,
minimal human redundancy, and the expenditure of vast amounts
of time and moneyî (p.10). Peek (1996), in relation to the
WWW, remarks that ìthese are exciting times, they are also
uneasy ones. What traditions, industries and institutions will
survive? ... What we may be witnessing now is the Webís
ëgolden eraí when many experimental offerings are
available, and, for the most part, still without significant direct
cost for the userî (p.665). Longstaffe (1996), writing of
developments in the UK argues that, ìprovision in UK universities
remains patchy, but the need to give students access to the Internet,
as well as to provide them with computer-based learning material
and IT skills, will be something universities cannot afford to
In addition to the requirements of the
university and the NSW Board of Studies (the principal employer
of our graduates) in regard to IT skills as noted earlier, it
is our inclination to agree with Peek, Radford, Longstaffe and
many others in recognising that we may well be in the midst of
a remarkable era. It is our aim then to assist in providing a
resource for staff and students to experience first-hand extensive
IT in teaching and learning that will enable them to develop a
personal view of its present and potential role in education.
2. The elements planned as IT support in
the M.Teach program
(a) An 8 week x 2 hours orientation Information Technology course.
(b) Options (electives) available in IT.
(c) All M.Teach students provided with e-mail accounts (no charge).
(d) Easy access to the Internet from all computers in the Faculty.
(e) A comprehensive M.Teach WWW site.
(f) The development of units of study which depend on the site (eg, case studies)
(g) Use of on-line evaluation and self-testing modules.
(h) Development of CBL resources (using Authorware, Director, etc.)
(i) Computers available and employed in lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
(j) Over time, the development of aspects of a ëvirtualí school.
(k) Exploration of e-links with other
institutions with similar programs.
To date, elements (a) to (f) are in
place and ongoing, (g) and (h) are partially developed, and (i)
to (k) are being planned. The work has been supported with a CAUT
grant and ëQualityí funds.
The orientation IT course provided experience
with basic applications (largely using ClarisWorks), e-mail
(Eudora), accessing remote databases (telnet), and
the WWW (Netscape). Limited experience was also provided
on what might be termed ëtraditionalí educational
technology: paper aids and boards, the OHP, film projectors, video,
During first semester work proceeded
on the M.Teach web site (http://alex.edfac.usyd.edu.au/).
It contains course outlines and the normal hand-outs which accompany
courses, a ëlate breaking newsí section, a ëwhatís
newí section, an extensive range of support material (key
and supplementary readings to support lectures, seminars, and
case studies), an ëM.Teach students speak outí section
(student publications), links to relevant external sites and recommendations
as to mailing lists. The project has been also generously supported
by the NSW Board of Studies which has permitted use of several
sets of its curriculum documents (distributed using Acrobat
and running as an intranet). In general we have endeavoured to
mirror the range of resources found on the Internet which Brannigan
(1996) has usefully summarised as: documents, computer software,
on-line information services, databases and datasets, campus information
systems, library catalogues, and mailing archives.
Options (6 x 2 hours, offered in Semester
2 of Year 1) allow interested students to pursue additional work
and include Classroom Video, DTP, Further Classroom
Computing, and Exploring with Netscape. This is proving
popular with some 30% of M.Teach students electing to take an
IT-oriented option (there are many non-IT courses also on offer).
The program directors have indicated that the IT courses will
need to be expanded in 1997.
Such IT support for tertiary courses
is of course no longer that notable (eg, Maurer, 1995), however
for staff and students in this faculty it is still a significant
step and one which sharply focusses the distinction between declarative
and procedural IT knowledge.
3. Preliminary Evaluation
This year there will be three formal
surveys of M.Teach students and one of staff involved in the program.
To date two surveys of students have been completed and there
has been informal feedback from staff. Each survey was conducted
on-line (which proved in itself to be an excellent way of arousing
interest in expanding the studentsí ideas of how computers
can be used in teaching) using items with a response scale reading
from ënever/nilí to ëextensively/expertí
(or equivalent) and nominally scored from 0 to 100.
3.1 Survey 1
Work done during the orientation IT course and the first student survey (early March) indicated that the existing experience base of the students was quite low apart from a moderate familiarity with word processing. Selected items are provided below:
N= 172: males = 52 females = 120
Question (0 = 'never/nil' .. 100
ï At school, to what extent did you use computer-based learning software?
Means: males = 5.1 females = 6.5
ï At university, to what extent did you use computer-based learning software?
Means: males = 19.9 females = 21.1
ï To what extent are you experienced with word processing for essays , reports?
Means: males = 55.2 females = 49.0
ï In general, how would you rate your level of ëcomputer competenceí?
Means: males = 41.6 females = 30.5
ï To what extent are you experienced with e-mail procedures?
Means: males = 15.8 females = 9.4
ï How would you rate your level of experience with the Internet?
Means: males = 11.4 females = 4.9
ï To what extent are you anxious about your ability to cope with learning about computers?
Means: males = 32.6 females = 66.0
In most instances males expressed somewhat higher levels of experience and less anxiety than females.
There were however marked high levels
of anticipation with regard to using computers in their own futures
Question (0 = 'nil /unimportant' .. 100 = 'greatly/very important')
ï To what extent do you believe
teaching and learning can be improved with computer-based procedures?
Means: males = 73.4 females = 70.0
ï To what extent do you expect to use computers in your own teaching?
Means: males = 65.6 females = 60.0
ï To what extent do you see ëcomputer competenceí as an essential skill for teachers in our schools ?
Means males = 85.6 females = 87.0
3.2 Survey 2
A second survey of students was conducted
after the 8-week IT orientation course and the results were encouraging.
We were most successful in doing what
we had had most experience of, that is, increasing the knowledge,
enthusiasm and confidence of students with word processing, databases,
spreadsheet and graphics work.
The course also was quite successful
with e-mail. Students reported that they found Eudora easy
to use, and that they were using it. In response to the question:
ëWhat importance would you place on having e-mail available
when you start teaching in a school?í, the mean rating
on a scale of 0 (ënoneí) to 100 (ëessentialí),
the mean for males was 61.6 and for females, 71.8.
However, despite the publicity in the
media at large and the easy access to the WWW provided in the
labs, students did not rush to become web surfers. The expressed
mean number of accesses to both the M.Teach homepage and other
sites was less than 5 for both males and females over the period
of the survey (Feb to April). Even less used was telnet
to contact remote databases with a mean of less than 1 access
per student. It is our impression (a formal survey is to be conducted
shortly) that this mirrors the behaviour of colleagues in the
faculty: e-mail is readily acknowledged as valuable, but the WWW
is not yet, by and large having the same attraction.
3.3 Other comments
A vote of support was provided by a
group of students who responded to an expressed need for a longer
IT course (from females in particular) by starting student-organised
workshops following the formal end of the initial IT course. This
has now developed into a student-run elective course in IT in
the Options phase of Year 1.
We are about to do a further survey
of the M.Teach group to see to what extent the influence of the
IT orientation course has been sustained and whether use of the
M.Teach page and related web work has increased as the concepts
(not to say deadlines for assignments) have matured.
Staff reactions have been mixed. As noted below the most critical next step will be to develop strategies to better integrate the resource with existing procedures. Two reactions from staff are instructive:
First a success: ìI have found
the IT support for the M.Teach very useful. I used the homepage
to post an article I had written which was relevant to the primary
course and there was an enthusiastic response from the students
that it made access so easy. I also received correspondence from
a number of Americans who had read it on the WWW. It also, as
you know, topped the list of ëaccessesí (hits) for
the homepage which was personally gratifying.î
Second, an apparent failure, but one
which carries clear lessons: ìYou asked why academics
are not using it so much. My own position is that anything to
do with the Internet is so slow and unreliable that I am avoiding
it as far as possible. Perhaps others have more time than I, but
I do not see it as cost-effective at this time. Perhaps when search
engines and/or protocols for identifying items are more sophisticated,
it will be more efficient, but for now, Iím afraid not.î
A simple point underlined by this response
is that it is easy to forget that we who work in the ETC with
the best equipment and ready access to excellent technical advice
can forget that colleagues a few offices away are using early
LCs or 386 machines with 4MB RAM.
We quizzed staff on their apparent reluctance
to let us have their lecture notes to put up. Replies expressed
concerns over being ëripped offí by other academics
using their material, to insufficient time to turn rough notes
into presentable copy (ìa 50 minute formal lecture occupies
about 15 pages of script if it is delivered word for word. I havenít
done this for years. I use notes that make sense to me but which
would require considerable modification before putting on the
homepageî). We think these are understandable responses
and it will be a task to be met next year. On the plus side has
been a decision by the facultyís M.Ed Committee to seek
ways of incorporating and extending the M.Teach site to be a
resource for that program.
A somewhat surprising finding from the
students was the extent to which some at least are making use
of their e-mail accounts for off-course activities: ìE-mail
is great, fantastic, wonderful, convenient etc etc rave rave.
First time Iíve had an opportunity to use it. I use it
mostly to keep in contact with friends overseas and interstate
actuallyî. It might be objected that here is an example
of the university network subsidising private and essentially
non-academic activities. Perhaps so, narrowly viewed, but consider
this response: ìI have been making great use of e-mail
communicating with philosophy students at a Hungarian University
who have asked me to contribute to their homepages and have invited
me to Hungary which I am doing in the break after prac. [the in-school
phase of the program]î. It is surely a relatively short
step for the former student to develop into the latter and this
is part of the thinking behind our intention to establish e-links
with other institutions with similar programs.
The third example is of a student who
is using it for both purposes: ìI use it for both personal
and professional things - a great way to contact my extensive
overseas family and to organise coffee with friends who have graduated
and who are never home. I use it also for listservs - at the moment
for an Aboriginal Studies listserv from ANU, plus Yahoo Picks
of the Week. I also use e-mail for contacting staff members of
the faculty and find it very useful as a way of contacting other
MTeachers whose phone numbers I do not necessarily know, or when
I have the same thing to say to my study group and donít
want to repeat myself a 100 timesî.
There were also problems however - complaints
that sites are slow or fail to load, that navigation is confusing,
that e-mail messages are returned 'address unknown', and that
important e-mails are not answered. One student ended her reply
to our survey with the advice to ëkeep your sense of humourí.
We would but agree.
4. Next steps
As noted above the orientation IT course
provided experience with basic applications, e-mail , accessing
remote databases, and the web. Other questions (not shown above)
in the initial survey indicated a strongly expressed need for
traditional educational technology topics and these were included
but a way will need to be found for increasing this element without
increasing the face-to-face component - hopefully CBL to the rescue.
It has become apparent from staff and
student comment that improvements need to be made to the navigation
procedures for the M.Teach homepage. It is easy to increase the
amount of material while overlooking that without a clear and
simple index users will never find it. We expect that on-going
RAM upgrades will allow the use of Netscape 2+ which will permit
frames which may help and we have now also included a local search
facility. This is but a local reflection of the wider problem
of drowning in a sea of information while not being able to find
'anything', that web users know all too well and is expressed
in the staff quote above. Work however is beginning to emerge
(eg, Comber (1995), Lindgaard (1994), Nielson (1993)) which offer
research-based guidelines to assist developers.
We also would now agree with Schamber
(1996) who notes that the core idea of a ëdocumentí
has become unclear, eg, is a thread of e-mail messages a single
document? Who owns the intellectual content of a set of hyperlinked
documents or of a collaborative document? An aspect of this was
expressed by the staff member noted above who felt that the web
offers no protection against theft of research material.
Work by one of the team (Margaret Chan)
with final year TAS B.Ed students on student development of web
material has met with such success that another of our aims next
year will be to empower more M.Teach students to do this.
But perhaps the most significant issue
to be addressed is to develop integration strategies which will
function well across upwards of 200 students and 50 teaching staff.
The problem has been highlighted by Thornbury et al (1996): ìthe
integration strategy ... is widely recognised within the learning
technology community as being more critical in the success or
failure of introducing a new resource into teaching than the quality
of the resourceî (p. 19).
Thornbury et al (1996, p. 20) report that their work as the lead site for the MENTOR TLTP (UK) project indicated three key features for successful integration:
(a) Regular, structured advice to students on which material to use and to what depth it should be covered. It was found important that this advice be given in a structured manner, for example, a weekly handout.
(b) Linking other learning activities (eg, lectures and tutorials) to the progress expected with the module. This provides motivation for students to make regular use of the system.
(c) An opportunity for discussion and
face-to-face problem solving between students and lecturer.
This makes good sense and will be tried
but while point (c) does not present any problems (it does of
course assume all staff are comfortable with the system and this
is not the case yet), points (a) and (b) may be somewhat at odds
with the teaching-learning strategy of the program, that is, manifestly
an interpretative-critical perspective.
The project to date has had the invaluable
support of a full-time Research Assistant (Christine de Matos).
When our grant runs out however this will cease. Douglas Hofstader
in his work Godel, Escher and Bach put forward Hofstaderís
Law which says that ëit always takes longer than you expect,
even when you take into account Hofstaderís lawí.
We agree. If departments are to make extensive use of CBL ways
will need to be found to avoid depending on individual enthusiasts
on staff to do the job, but thatís not an original comment
of course (cf, Longstaffe, 1996).
It is a truism nowadays to note that a piece of CBL software, a remote database, and now the web is not simply another ëbookí, and that getting into the habit of routinely using electronic means to augment or even replace traditional print is not a trivial change of habit for students and staff alike. Our experience to date bears that out. Work planned includes further investigation of factors which may influence why some staff and students in the M.Teach program are more inclined than others to experiment with teaching and learning with IT (eg, Kearsley and Heller, 1995; Relan and Smith, 1996). This information is considered one of the keys if we are to move closer to the goal of pervasive integration.
Recent reviews of the impact of CBL (eg, Ayersman, 1996; Davies & Crowther, 1995; Felix & Askew, 1996; Longstaffe, 1996; Meredyth & Thomas, 1996) remain guarded in their conclusions. Davies and Crowther examined six assertions as to the advantages of CAL relevant to the M.Teach program: that CAL increases efficiency, increases student motivation, facilitates active learning, facilitates experiential learning, is consistent with student-centred learning, and leads to better learning. Their conclusion:
It has been argued in this paper that
there is a need to separate the myths surrounding this technology
from the realities. In order to gain maximum benefit ... it is
important that the key differential advantages are used as a base
from which to develop appropriate courseware. It is equally important
that the limitations of the technology are recognised, and that
courseware development is not based upon unrealistic expectations
of its applicability. The existence of this new technology provides
an opportunity to reconsider the course development to match this
new environment (p.6).
It is the hope for the initiative described
in our paper that it will contribute to assisting both the teaching
staff of the faculty and the teacher trainees through their first-hand
experiences with the technology to develop an objective appreciation
of those strengths and weaknesses and be able to apply IT wisely
in their own fields.
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The authors thank their colleague Bruce
Keepes for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
John Harvey, Margaret Chan, Christine
de Matos, Paul Lambert & David Reid © 1996
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