Teachers use of digital resources: drivers and blockers

The trigger for this post – a paper on teachers’ use of digital technologies in Singapore
Earlier this week I stumbled on an interesting paper about teachers in Singapore in a recent issue of BJET. The authors were interested in whether teachers were following the recommendations about integrating digital technologies into their teaching practice.

They asked student teachers to complete a survey asking them how much they tended to comply with requirements to use digital technology, and their perceived sense of competence, value and frequency of digital technologies as a teaching aid.

Interestingly they found a negative correlation between compliance and technology use, indicating that “teachers who were more competent at using digital technologies were less likely to be compliant in the rule for using them in class, and those who were compliant may not actually apply digital technologies in their teaching”.

In contrast, a teacher’s perception of their competence and the value of digital technologies were positively correlated with how often they used technology in class.

This interesting finding suggests that mandating the use of digital technologies – telling a teacher what digital technology to use and when to use it – may not be the best way to get technology into teaching practice (surprise surprise!).

Indeed the authors state that “a more productive approach may be to enhance the competence of teachers in the use of digital technologies so that they value its effectiveness and are confident to apply it in classroom activities”.

Drivers and blockers to teachers’ use of digital technologies
This got me thinking about a review I did for Becta called “Teacher use of digital learning resources: a summary of the drivers and blockers to resource use”. It was completed in 2007 so it is getting on a bit now, but it’s worth summarising some interesting points.

After a pretty extensive review, I decided that the drivers and blockers appeared to exist one one of four ‘levels’ these being:
1. Technical (e.g. having access to the internet from the classroom)
2. Organisational (e.g. Schools promoting the use of digital resources)
3. Teacher/process (Teacher time constraints, confusion and concerns relating to e.g. copyright)
4. Teacher/emotional (e.g. not feeling valued for creating resources, fear of looking stupid in front of peers or students if something goes wrong)

Who owns a teacher’s digital resources?
The thing I found interesting was that, based on the many anonymous responses I received from teachers after posting for comments on teacher discussion forums, the most powerful blocker related to emotional issues. This was either a fear of looking foolish, or a resentment that resources would not be valued – and might even be stolen – by other staff or by their school/LEA. And yet I couldn’t find any literature about this issue anywhere! Hence why I canvased the discussion forums. Here’s a couple of quotes from the replies I received:

“I’m usually happy to share resources with people and contribute to forums such as SLN. However my HOD barely ever speaks to me or thanks me for anything I do. Imagine my surprise when I find that my HOD has copied files (without my permission) from my disk and then passed my work off as theirs for an area of the curriculum they are responsible for planning… It was my disk, the work was produced on my computer and in my own time so I think it’s mine?” TES Community Forum (2007)

”I teach in FE and have developed computer-based courses such as English for Driving…It was passed on to XXXXX by someone within my institute. It is now selling commercially and the college is making money from royalties. What do I get? Not even a drop of recognition. How do I feel? Mixed emotions.” ICTResearch Email reply (2007)

“I teach in an FE college in Scotland. My contract of employment states that the college owns the copyright of everything produced (even in my own time). Many Scottish FE colleges have the same or similar contracts. The only way to share anything is to break the contract – which many people do. As far as I know no one has ever had any problems – but it is hardly encouraging.” ICTResearch Email reply (2007)

“I’ve just resigned from working with one particular LEA… for telling me that I can’t discuss ideas and problems on lists such as this in case I say something that ‘will reflect badly on the LEA’. This clearly makes it more difficult for teachers to share anything.” ICTResearch Email reply (2007)

Makes for interesting reading, huh.

So what to conclude? In Singapore we see that teachers do not want to comply with mandated directions for use of digital technologies. They want to take ownership, to choose when and how they want to use digital resources to dove-tail into their teaching.
In my review I found that when teachers did bother to make resources, they were often told that they belonged to the school, to the LEA, and in one case to the HoD :o)

Surely if we want teachers to engage with using and creating digital resources – things that can in theory be swapped and shared and re-mixed – then we should ensure that they keep ownership, and that we train teachers about copyright issues and ways in which they can protect their resources whilst still sharing them.

Comments ( 1 )
  • Doug Belshaw says:

    Hi Tabetha,

    I find Singapore fascinating. I’ve never been there but, like you, did a literature and policy review for Chapter 2 of my thesis.

    I was at a conference recently when someone from the Singapore government’s Ministry of Education presented. They painted a picture of compliance and wonderful digital literacy skills. I’ve no doubt there’s the latter, but I doubt very much whether it was caused by the former! Singapore is notorious for its compliance culture with a huge focus on standards-based testing. Hence their PISA results, I suppose.

    Almost every teacher in the UK is either explicitly or implicitly in the situation where the copyright for anything that they produce for the classroom can be claimed by their employer. It’s a ridiculous situation. The other thing that both schools and the government do is try and put teachers on a leash in terms of social media and their online life. I’m all for teachers avoiding sharing drunken photos of themselves with students they’ve friended on Facebook, but I do think most policies go too far. (Just check out the teaching unions’ policies around this to see what I mean)

    One last thing to be careful of, though. Teachers are busy people. Very busy people. As such, there can be a tendency to put off that which isn’t seen as core or essential to the priorities coming from their leadership. And, in fact, to third parties who wonder why they aren’t doing XYZ, they’re likely to blame the leadership for being ‘hamstrung’ in some way.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that all is not always what it seems. Sometimes the speed bumps and roadblocks are in the mind, and don’t exist in reality!

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