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A Technology-overusing School? Research on the use of ICT in teaching and organization at a vocational school in the Czech Republic

24.8.2010 - Konference ECER 2010

Brief summary of the paper

(Authors: Michal Šimáně, Jiří Zounek)

The presentation can be downloaded here – presentation Zounek+Simane.

The paper presents outcomes of a research focused on the use of ICT in teaching and organization of work at a vocational secondary school and college (ISCED 3 and 4). The research was conducted at a joint business academy and vocational college in the second largest city of the Czech Republic. The institution provides training in the following fields: IT Economics, Foreign Trade, and Foreign Trade And Financial Management (ISCED 3), and in the fields Foreign Trade, and Economics And Law (ISCED 4). Thus, the students are being trained for performance of trading, business and administrative skills in companies of different legal forms and in other organizations (ISCED 3). The qualification can also lead to jobs in middle and higher management and in corresponding positions (ISCED 4). In the course of the training, students are encouraged to use information and communication technologies also outside the specialized subjects. The aim is to broaden computing skills and to improve the abilities to search, classify and process information from different sources. The students should be fully prepared to gain an internationally recognized ECDL certificate in computer literacy after three years of training, and the school enables their students to gain the certificate at a discount. The principal of the school, an IT graduate, exerts chief influence in this respect and leads the school towards use of ICT. Hence the school provides up-to-date equipment and teachers are required to pass courses focused on the work with ICT. The school has its own intranet network that its teachers are obliged to use not only as a means of communication but also for a whole range of administrative tasks. Therefore the learning environment of the school is presumed to incorporate different ICT. At this stage of our research, we are interested in the view of the teachers, whom we see as key participants in the process of development of such environment. Therefore we have posed ourselves the following central research question: In what ways do the teachers use ICT in their everyday work? We have been particularly focused on these questions: Which ICT do the teachers use while working (including e.g. social networks)? In what ways do hey use them? How do they perceive the potentials and, on the other hand, the limits of the ICT used? How do the teachers perceive differences between the ICT-supported teaching at the secondary school and the vocational college (i.e. also in the combined form of study)? How do they see the future of the school in this respect?    
The authors have used a qualitative methodology in their research, specifically a case study. The central methods of data collection included a series of half-structured in-depth interviews conducted with eight teachers. Among the respondents were science and vocational courses teachers as well as social studies teachers. The research interview was also conducted with the school’s board. Another important method of data collection was an analysis of all accessible school’s official documents (particularly the inspection report, the school’s achievements evaluation and the school’s long-term development plan). The case study included a whole range of observations of the teaching process as well as of the school environment and different out-of-class activities (styles of communication among teachers, school equipment, extracurricular activities etc.).
The authors are going to present some of the component outcomes of the research in their contribution, the use of ICT by teachers in the teaching process being one of them. The key topic of the research seems to be the e-learning system Moodle. The research indicates that the system has been reduced to “learning materials stock”. The interesting point is that the system is being replaced by other means of communication, e.g. simple email, shared school disk drives or social networks. Social networks in particular seem to bring teachers closer to students, making both the ICT and the teachers look more “human”.
Another topic is the role of ICT in the school’s work organization. The school uses commercial organization software along with a non-commercial system (Drupal) and other systems developed by the school itself. This diversity is perceived by a part of the respondents, even by some of the board members, in quite a negative way. The other part of the respondents sees this way of school organization as a very positive timesaving feature.
At the end of our contribution we are going to point out teachers’ perspectives on the future use of ICT at the school.