Monday, November 02, 2009

Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings

Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings, provides a useful, timely credible information about Australian student and staff access, use and views on information technology for education. The research is from 2008 an covers primary and secondary schools, vocational education (TAFE), universities. Communication and group work activities was one commonly valued use for email and discussion lists. Online games, social networking and media sites were of interest.

There was an interesting split with most of primary students indicating social networking sites are for fun, not learning and should not be accessed at school. In contrast adult students believe social networking can be used for education. But all levels expect to have access to computers and the Internet at educational institutions and home. They also expect the teachers to be be able to use the technology to communicate with them.

Unfortunately the report is difficult to read, being a large PDF document. Here is the Executive summary as text:
This report outlines findings collected from listening to and analysing the views and expectations of students within Australian education and training institutions about learning with technologies. The overarching question for this research was: ‘what are the views of students and early career educators, about learning with technologies in Australian education and training?’ In 2008, students in primary and secondary schools, vocational education and training (VET) institutions, international students studying education in universities and pre-service teacher education students contributed to the research based upon their current experiences and views. Early career teachers were asked to reflect on their experiences as pre-service teachers. Data was collected through online surveys and focus groups. The research design was informed by a literature review, which is available at:

The purposes of this research were:
(a) To gain an improved and contemporary understanding of the expectations and experiences of learners and early career educators, of how information and
communication technologies (ICT) may be utilized to improve learning outcomes; and
(b) To develop a better understanding of students’ and educators’ requirements regarding ICT in education and training.

The data collected shows that within their educational institutions and at home, students and early career educators have access to and use a range of technologies for teaching and learning purposes, but in particular, use computers and the Internet. Access and convenience to computers and the Internet within education and training institutions varied for the different respondent groups, according to specific locations, including within their education and training institutions. In general, more use of the computer and Internet for educational purposes is made by students as they progress through the respective levels of education. Participants indicated they use technologies to research information; for communication and group work activities with other students and educators; for solving problems; presenting assignments; and for reflection, planning and for creative purposes.

All cohorts indicated the importance of high quality teachers who form positive
relationships and can construct relevant and engaging learning contexts, with and without technologies. Survey and focus group responses identified the following benefits of including technologies in education and training:
  • Access to detailed and easy-to-access information;
  • Skill building through problem-solving;
  • Development of maths and other literacies;
  • Opportunities to practice tasks;
  • Increased motivation to learn through self-directed and interest-focused work;
  • Improved presentation of work including the use of office productivity and multimedia software applications;
  • Personalized learning that supports different learning styles and levels; and
  • Increased control of their own learning.

The value of technologies for communication and group work activities was recognised by all cohorts. Tertiary students in particular, indicated they value communication with their lecturers through using technologies such as email and discussion lists. Despite students’ preferences for varying approaches to learning however, many students reported their classroom activities often involve considerable teacher/lecturer information-giving.

Online games and social networking and media sites were reported to be of interest and used frequently by many respondent groups, particularly outside of educational institutions.

Despite some concerns about possible distractions, over half of the respondents from most groups indicated that educational games should be more widely used because of their motivational and educational benefits.

The value of social networking sites for learning received variable responses. MSN was commonly identified as ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ being used across all groups. Unique to secondary students however, was the extent of their involvement in chatting online with other students in regard to their studies, with over 70% of online survey respondents indicating they did so.

There were mixed responses about the value of Myspace, Instant Messaging, Facebook, Although 50% of primary students reported using MSN for learning, around 70% of primary students indicated they believe sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube are more for fun than for learning, and should be accessed from home rather for from schools.

On the other hand, about half of the post-school, adult respondents disagreed with the younger students. The adult students instead indicated they believe social networking and media sites such as YouTube and Flickr can be used for educational purposes.

All respondents indicated they have high expectations about access to and use of computers and the Internet at various education and training locations and want intranet access from home. Respondents also indicated they expect teachers and lecturers to have confidence in using technologies and to use email to communicate with them.

Across all cohorts concerns were raised about issues related to teaching and learning with technologies. These concerns included insufficient time, lack of access to and use of the Internet, concerns about the speed of the Internet, and concerns about the level of teacher/lecturer skills. These concerns were raised by about half of respondents in most groups, although some issues were identified as being of greater concern for some respondent categories than others.

About a third of adult participants indicated they believe that improving lecturers’ knowledge of online games would improve students’ learning. Over 40% of primary students and 60% of secondary students raised concerns about online sites being blocked at their educational institutions and the impact of this filtering on their studies. Issues such as plagiarizing, distractions in lessons caused by playing games, online bullying, and viruses were raised by some in focus groups. In the surveys, these issues were not seen as a concern by around half of respondents in all groups.

All cohorts emphasized the importance of good relationships and communication between students and educators, and indicated they would like to receive more formative feedback from their teachers and/or lecturers.

Participants also indicated they would like greater variety and more interesting learning approaches, more personalized learning that caters for their individual requirements, and the opportunity for individual help. Importantly however, focus group respondents highlighted the importance of face-to-face teaching aided by technologies, rather than advocating only face-to-face or only online learning. Furthermore, while more up-to-date technology, faster Internet speed, more accessible computers such as laptops, and less blocked Internet sites were suggested by respondents, the quality of the teachers and lecturers was reiterated across all cohorts. The challenges then are before us. ...

From: Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings, Associate Professor Kathryn Moyle PhD, University of Canberra and Dr Susanne Owen, Executive Director, Owen Educational Consultancy, for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009.

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