how do students use information and communication technology in ...

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communication technology (ICT) in the Icelandic school system has increased in recent years and more schools are offering new forms of learning e.g. distance ...


Michael Dal

Samuel C. Lefever

Assistant Professor Reykjavik University Iceland [email protected]

Assistant Professor Iceland University of Education [email protected]

Assistant Professor Iceland University of Education [email protected]

or e-learning. New technology offers teachers and students new opportunities in education and the use of ICT can influence the whole school community. Students have different attitudes to different teaching methods; some like to work in small groups and communicate with the teacher and fellow students while others prefer to work on their own and do not make as much use of communication. Communication with the help of technology can give the students a new feeling of freedom as they can communicate and answer questions wherever they are and whenever they want. But this type of communication can also distract from the discussion, attendance can be poor or late, and spontaneity in answering and brainstorming may be lost. The student can make use of the personal anonymity the web offers but the quality of the communication depends on the organization and the tools used as well as the role of the students and the teachers [3].

ABSTRACT In this paper the focus will be on the students and communication in ICT, its use and how it relates to their learning. The research study which is described in this paper is one part of a three-year project that started in the autumn of 2002 in Iceland. The main results are that students like to use ICT but are not convinced that it helps them in their studies. Less than half like to communicate with ICT and even fewer like to express themselves with their classmates with the help of ICT. Keywords Information and communication communication, learning, students.


1. INTRODUCTION Until a decade ago the traditional lecture was the main delivery model for education in a campusbased learning environment for students over 16 years old. But as student populations have changed and access to new technology delivery modules has improved, the distinction between ordinary campusbased learning and distance or online learning has dissipated. The use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the Icelandic school system has increased in recent years and more schools are offering new forms of learning e.g. distance learning (DL) and distributed learning (DBL). In this paper DL refers to learning where teachers and students rarely meet; DBL is when DL becomes a part of traditional learning and teachers and students meet less frequently and use the Web and ICT as a platform for teaching and learning. It has even been predicted that campus-based or residential-based systems will disappear [4, 6].

Teachers and students must feel comfortable with the tools they are using. Changes in attitudes toward new technology are related to their experiences as good experience can foster positive attitudes [3, 12, 10, 13]. But most important is not the use of technology, but how we use it. The role of the teacher is important and new media and ICT tools provide teachers with new opportunities to communicate with students as individuals or in a group. Hedberg et al: [9] state that “The multitude of ways the teacher and learner can communicate and the time and feedback quality of those communications largely determine the success of the teacher/learner relationship and the learning outcomes“. The communication gives the teachers the opportunity to intensify positive attitudes and enhance student self-respect as well as improving their learning.

Students need assistance and guidance to make the most of their learning, whatever form it takes, whether campus-based learning, distance learning

In the Betty Collis and Marijk van der Wender [5] report on current and future use of ICT in Higher Education (2002), the general conclusion is that change is slow. “ICT has become part of the blend of on-campus delivery” and “e-mail, wordprocessing, PowerPoint and the Web had become standard as part of the teaching and learning process”.

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the end, 9245 student e-mail addresses were obtained but as many as 670 (7%) of the addresses were non-functional, reducing the total number of operable addresses to 8575. Nevertheless, it was clear that some of the addresses were not in use. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate how many individuals actually received the questionnaire. Although students are given an e-mail address from the school, they may not use it for various reasons. One of the reasons is that many teachers use systems like WebCT, Angel or Blackboard in their teaching and these systems include a mail system that is often in no connection with the school or other e-mail systems.

The research study which is described in this paper is one part of a 3-year project that started in the autumn of 2002. The title of the study is LearnICT – using ICT in learning and teaching. It is partly funded by the Icelandic Center for Research (Rannis) and is in cooperation between 3 universities in Iceland. The main goal of the LearnICT project is to examine the influence of ICT on teaching and learning at all levels of the school system. LearnICt focuses on several research questions, among them are questions regarding the influence and consequences of ICT use in education [11]. This report is a statistical description of some of the data related to the use of ICT in Icelandic high schools. In this paper the focus will be on the students and communication in ICT, its use and how it relates to student learning. The principal research questions are: What ICT tools do students use and what are their attitudes to learning?

The questionnaire was developed for this study in 2002 by the authors of this paper. Five students at the Iceland University of Education helped with the data collection. The questionnaire was developed from two previously used questionnaires, a questionnaire developed by Ásrún Matthíasdóttir in order to investigate the attitudes of students and teachers to distance education [1] and a questionnaire developed for evaluation of distance education at the Iceland University of Education [2].

2. METHOD The research study was conducted in autumn 2002 in 14 Icelandic high schools and one private school where most of the students are age 16 to 21. The data was collected with the use of e-mail and web sites. Initially an introductory letter was sent by email to participating students followed by an e-mail access to a Web-based interactive questionnaire. The study was anonymous and there was no possibility of tracing individual answers.

Four main topics are covered in this questionnaire: 1) Background information e.g. sex, age, etc. 2) Access to computers, Internet and related items. 3) Student’s attitudes toward the use of computers in their studies.

The response rate was 2093 out of 8575 or 24,5%. Females were 65% of the respondents and males 35%. This is a biased sample since statistics for the year 2001 indicate that the gender percentages of the total high school student population in Iceland were 52% female and 48% male. The age group of 70% of the respondents was 16 – 19 year-olds. This is consistent with the 2001 statistics which show that 71% of high school students in Iceland were in the age group 16 – 19 year-olds.

4) Student’s experiences and attitudes towards distance education and distributed education. Topics 1 to 3 will be described in this paper.

3. RESULTS The use of the Internet for school study is quite common among the students. A majority (70%) of them use it 2-4 times a week or more often. The Internet is primarily used for finding references (90%) and for collecting material from the teachers (80%). The use of Icelandic and foreign search machines is also common (77% and 70%) as well as looking for support material on the Web in Icelandic and other languages (59% and 50%). Less than half (40%) of the students reported knowing how to make web sites. The students having that knowledge use them to create websites about specific topics (61%), to publish information about themselves, (54%) and to publish school projects (50%).

A special computer program, Outcome (, designed for interactive data collection was used. The questionnaire was designed for the computer format and a mailing list was prepared. The computer program merged the mailing list and the questionnaire, sent it out, collected the data and sent reminders to those who had not answered. Confidentiality was ensured since the researchers could not trace the responses to the participants. The schools in the study differed in terms of the email systems used. Some of them provide every student with an e-mail address but others let the students use e-mail addresses from sources of their own choosing. Schools with internal mailing lists allowed their use for the questionnaire and in other schools students’ e-mail addresses were collected manually and entered into the Outcome program. In

The students consider the access to computers in schools as reasonable. The majority rate the access as excellent or good (62%) and 55% rate access to computers in the classroom as excellent or good.


About one fourth (26%) of the students use laptops in the classroom.

I like to express myself with the class with the help of ICT

The use of e-mail is very common among high school students (84%). Almost all the students use it to send assignments to the teacher (93%) or questions (62%) and to communicate with the teacher (67%). Half of the students use e-mail to look for information (50%) and for communication with fellow students (46%). One third of the students use e-mail to send questions to fellow students. The majority found it easy to use the Internet (82%) and e-mail (80%) in their studies.



Agree Neutral Disagree


When the students were asked whether computer communication with fellow students helped them in their studies, almost half of them were neutral and just over one third (34%) agreed with this statement.

Figure 3 Well over half (66%) of the students found it easier to do school projects with ICT and disagreed (70%) that ICT was so complicated that they did not want to use it. The students were asked to give their opinions about the effectiveness of aspects having to do with ICT in connection with their studies. Figure 4 shows the responses for 3 items having to do with ICT: support material on the Internet, teachers’ web sites and discussions on the web. None of them received higher rankings than 50%.

Computer communication with fellow students helps me in my studies 21% 34%

Agree Neutral Disagree

What of the following are most likely to help you succeed in your studies?



Figure 1 When asked whether communication with the teacher was helpful, students in the study were more positive. Fifty percent agreed and just over one third (37%) were neutral in their statements as seen in Figure 2.


Considerabl e Least

10% 0%

Support Teachers' web Discussion on material I find sites the web on the web

No experience

Figure 4 If we look closer at Figure 4 we see that about half (47%) of the students view support material which they find on the web as helping them considerably to succeed in their studies. Fewer students (39%) feel that teachers’ web sites give them considerable help. About half (46%) have no experience of discussions on the web and one third (28%) have no experience of teachers’ web sites. Only 7 - 15% of the respondents rank these items as most helpful for success in their studies and 18 - 24% consider them to be the least helpful.





Computer communication with the teacher helps me in my studies



Agree Neutral Disagree

Figure 2 It is of interest how many students (45%, 37%) are undecided in their attitudes regarding the help of email communication with their fellow students and teachers in their studies. It is also of interest how many are positive (34%, 50%). When the students were asked if they liked to express themselves with the class with the help of ICT the answers were similar. The largest group of responses (45%) were neutral, 27% agreed and 28% disagreed as shown in Figure 3.

The students were also asked about their attitudes towards assessment methods. The majority of students who responded preferred assessment methods that can be considered traditional although they involve the use of computers. Most students (43%) prefer writing essays at home on the computer and it is also most popular as a second choice (39%) as can be seen in Figure 5.


amount of data. It cannot be determined with certainty how many persons received the e-mail questionnaire and that is an important factor regarding the future of interactive data collection. How can the reliability of e-mail address lists be ensured?

What assessment form have you been most pleased with? 50% 40%




Betty Collis and Marijk van der Wender [5] use a Web-based questionnaire for data collection in their study and they only report the number of responses they received, not how many persons actually received the questionnaire. This raises the question whether traditional rules for response rates are irrelevant in terms of web-based data collection as it is not possible to fully control who receives the equestionnaire.



No experience

10% 0% Interactive exam

Home exam

Home essay

Figure 5 If we look closer at Figure 5 we see that about half (48%) of the students have not experienced interactive exams (web-quiz, online-test) and socalled home exams (42%). A home exam is when the students get exam questions from the teacher through e-mail, a web site or other ICT media and have a specific time limit to complete the exam on the computer and send the answers to the teacher.

The bias in response rate between the sexes (65/35) is also of interest. Does it reflect greater use of ICT by females or does it confirm the myth that girls do practical things with computers while boys play with them? The preliminary findings of this research indicate that although access and use of Internet and e-mail is common among Icelandic high school students, new opportunities that fall under ICT are not widely used e.g. web discussion and interactive exams. Students actively use computers for finding material on the web and for sending projects and assignments to the teacher. They use the Internet for communication and have positive attitudes toward ICT in their studies. But it is not common for students to create web sites for school projects or take home exams.

Students were asked to give their opinion about whether the structure of the teaching had changed with increased use of computers. Most of them (69%) agreed with that statement, as seen in Figure 6. I believe that the structure of the teaching has changed with increased use of computers


Students like to use ICT but they are not widely convinced that it helps them in their studies. Less than half like to communicate and express themselves in coursework with the help of ICT or feel that it has helped them learn more effectively. This indicates that ICT has been used for practical things and communication but it is not clear to students how helpful it is. They do not see clearly the connection between ICT and their studies nor connect it to changes in the way they learn.



Neutral Disagree


Figure 6

So the question is: what has changed? Do computers only provide another form of communication and easier access to information? Why have there not been more changes in terms of teaching and learning with the influx of ICT? Michael Fullan emphasises two obstacles that can hinder educational change. One obstacle is the constant changes that people in the educational system have to react to. Another is the pressure for change in contrast with the real possibility for change [7, 8]. Weinstein states that it is necessary to help students and teachers to “change their mind” if we are to change schools [16]. Others like Schank and Jona [15] emphasise that technology in education must change the role of teachers, the role

When asked about their own learning, less than half of the students agreed that the use of ICT helped them to be more organized (44%), active and independent (47%) in their learning. Over one third of the students (38%) were neutral in their responses.

4. DISCUSSION It is important to bear in mind the low response rate when examining the data. The low response rate raises questions about the use of interactive media for data collection. Nevertheless, responses from over 2000 participants represent about 10% of all high school students in Iceland and a sizeable


[6] Drucker, Peter 1997. "An Interview with Peter Drucker," Forbes Magazine, March 10 pp.126127.

of students and the development of curriculum and instruction. Educators have been asking for educational reform for some time and many look to new technology for the impetus. Margaret Riel and Kathleen Fulton state that “Among the key ingredients found most often on lists for tomorrow's skills are the ability to think quickly, adapt to changing conditions, build alliances to address large scale challenges, and work comfortably in a global information environment.” [14]. This study indicates that attitudes toward ICT and its potential for educational reform are positive but we are left with the question to what degree the use of ICT can change education and promote the skills students need for success in the future.

[7] Fullan, M.G. (1996). Turning systemic thinking on its head. Phi Delta Kappa 77(6) [8] Fullan, M.G. (2000). The three stories of education reform. Phi Delta Kappa 81(8) [9] Hedberg, J., Brown, C. and Arrighi, M. (1997). Interactive Multimedia and Web-Based Learning: Similarities and Differences, in Khan, B. H. (Eds.) Web-Based Instruction. Educational Technology Publications, Inc. USA (p. 47). [10] Huang, S. L., Waxman, H. C. and Padron, Y. N. (1995). Teacher Education Students’ Attitudes Toward Educational Computing. On the Internet 1999. [http:/ 95/1812.htm]

5. REFERENCES [1] Ásrún Matthíasdóttir (1999). The Division of Early Childhood Education in the Iceland University of Education, The Attitudes of Students and Teachers in Distance Education. On the Internet: [].

[11] námUST. On the Internet: [] [12] Liao, Y. K. (1993). Effects of Computer Experience on Computer Attitudes Among Preservice, Inservice, and Postulant Teachers. In D. Carey, R. Carey. D, A, Willis, and J. Willis (Eds.)., Technology and Teacher Education Annual - 1992. (pp. 498-505). Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

[2] Ásrún Matthíasdóttir, Auður Kristinsdóttir, Allyson MacDonald (2001). Úttekt á fjarkennslu við Kennaraháskóla Íslands (KHÍ) í samvinnu við Rannsóknarstofnun KHÍ, [ khi_2001/fjarkennslasskyrslanetutgafa.pdf].

[13] Reid, K. A. (1997). Students’ Attitudes Toward Distance Learning, on the Internet 1997. []

[3] Ásrún Matthíasdóttir (2002). Attitudes of students in the Iceland University of Education toward distance education. Two surveys 1999 and 2001. Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Systems and Technologies (e-learning).

[14] Riel, M. and Fulton, K. (1998) Technology in the Classroom: Tools for Doing Things Differently or Doing Different Things. [On the Internet: -fulton.html]

[4] Blustain, Harvey, Philip Goldstein, and Gregory Lozier 1999. "Assessing the New Competitive Landscape," in Dancing with the Devil, Editors: Richard N. Katz and Associates, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.

[15] Schank, R., and Jona, K. (1999). Extracurricular as the curriculum: A vision of education for the 21st century. Paper commissioned for the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology.

[5] Collis, B. and Wende, M. (2002). Model of technology and Changes in Higher Education. An international comparative survey on the current and future use of ICT in Higher Education. Report, p.7.

[16] Weinstein, R. S. (1998). Promoting positive expectations in schooling. In N. Lambert & B. L. McCombs (Eds.). How students learn: Reforming schools through learner-centered education. New York: APA Books.


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