Multimedia: Perception and Use by Teacher Educators in Teacher Education Programs in Maldives

Introduction

More than ever before, there is the continued use of multimedia in the education sector. However, the perceptions that are often held by such scholars as teacher educators are quite varied and profound. On the one hand, there are those who have touted the incorporation of ICT into the teacher education program as an innovation geared towards the establishment of a responsive and fast learning environment. On the other hand, the perceptions and beliefs of those embracing ICT in schools, in this case, teachers and students, at times prove to be more of a hindrance to the continued use of available technology (Barskin & Anderson 2002).

In light of this, this study was aimed at exploring the perception and attitudes held by teacher educators; in as far s the use of ICT in the training of teachers is concerned. In addition, the study also attempted to evaluate the hindrances to the use of computer-based technologies while training teachers, in the Maldives. Finally, the study attempted to investigate the perceptions held by teacher educators as far as their preparation of students to embrace ICT is concerned. To achieve this, a qualitative research methodology was found useful, with the help of such tools as a research questionnaire and one-on-one interviews. The information obtained was held in the strictest of confidences and was only used for the purposes of this research.

Background study

ICT has had a profound impact on the education system, and the trend is poised to improve immensely (Jung 2005). As such, there is bound to be witnessed a shift from a scenario whereby we have passive learners, to an interactive one, with the teachers acting as facilitators to an interactive student body (Bransford, Brown & Cocking 2000; Jung 2005). According to McAllister and Deaver (2006), the integration of ICT into the classrooms is bound to reinforce the analysis, synthesis, and problem-solving and evaluation skills of the participants.

The integration of ICT into schools heavily relies on the beliefs and perceptions held by those embracing such a change (Tennent 2003).

To this end, this has been a major problem facing schools in the Maldives, despite attempts by the government to formulate ICT policies in the education sector (Pernia, 2008). According to Reddy and Singha (2005), a lack of actualizing of such policies in the education sector has been mainly attributed to a lack of ICT knowledge and skills, by the teachers. For this reason, there is a need to prioritize the use of CIT skills in teacher training programs (Tennent 2003).

In the academic world, ICT has found wide application in such areas as the provision of research deliveries to both students and teachers, as well as a reduction of paperwork for both. In addition, educational processes such as the provision of instructional materials, compilation, and computation of grades, as well as teacher-student communication have been greatly enhanced. at the same time, an embracing of ICT innovations has made open and distance learning not only relevant but also responsive (Kosakowski 1998).

At the same time, more students are now utilizing modeling and simulation software, and this has effectively enhanced their learning. According to Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (1999), although technology-based learning has an enormous potential to enhance both the achievement of students and the achievements of the teachers, this can only be achieved by the appropriate use of such technologies. Thus, the practice of integrating the appropriate ICT tools will lead to effective teaching. Berson, Diem, Hicks, Lee, & Dralle (2000) are of the opinion that besides equipping pre-service teachers with ICT skills, there is a need to also have them learn the importance of embracing such technology to improve their teaching.

Anderson, Baskin & Halbert (2002), have also shown that ICT is a useful tool for strengthening procedural knowledge. Newton and Rogers (2003) opine that the use of ICT in teaching is twofold; time-saving by virtue of its intrinsic properties, and the offering of potential learning benefits to students. Certain operational skills are however necessary if at all the full potential of ICT is to be exploited (Hu 2005). Consequently, there has resulted in a paradigm shift in both the process and manner with which education is imparted at schools. According to Pernia (2008), the integration of constructivist learning theories with an innovative learning environment is crucial for the learning of children.

(Hu 2005) has defined constructivism as a combination of learning theories that embrace humanistic and cognitive theories, with a bias towards psychology in education. Lua has further provided an insight into the constructivist view, by suggesting learning to be a construction procedure, whose meaning comes with continued learning (Hu 2005). In addition, learners are able to construct their own world following interactions with sensory data (Hein 1991; Pernia 2008). In totality, the theory of constructivist learning is a conglomerate of three other theories; namely Piaget’s theory of learning, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, and the constructivist theory provided by Dewey.

Piaget’s learning theory is concerned more with an individual’s cognitive abilities, with knowledge being depicted as the development of assimilations and adaptations (Valcke et al, 2007). According to Piaget, the contradictions between the known and the unknown are the premise of knowledge, and it is, therefore, crucial that children participate in learning. They should also be exposed to those activities that interest them. ICT integration then provides much-needed confidence (Chen 2008). On the other hand, the use of technology for pedagogical teaching tends to be more involving, compared to just a mastery of skills (Chen 2008). While training teachers, it is important to consider their beliefs and perceptions regarding the use of ICT in learning (Chen 2008; Dickey 2008).

Further, focused should be laid on didactical reflections that afford maximum benefits to both the students and the teachers, in line with Vygotsky theory (Osborne & Hennessy 2003). To this end, such ICT tolls as the internet, multimedia and spreadsheet, fulfils this purpose. According to Vygotsky, the learning and thinking process of an individual is usually affected by the social environment, with Hsiao pointing at modeling, peer interaction and scaffolding as important facilitators to an individual’s cognitive growth and development. These are also crucial elements of Vygotsky’s theory. Teacher training programs should explore the use of CIT in teaching creates an enabling environment for students to identify and solve their own problems (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).

Dewey’s theory of constructivism holds that knowledge can only surface in learners following their provision with such situations and experiences as will enable them to effectively draw out such knowledge, in the presence of a social context. According to Dewey, the aspect of ‘rote memorization’, alone, does not guarantee learning achievement. There is hence a need to embrace concrete activities that will help combine theory and practice, resulting in a successful and long-lasting impact in the minds of the learners. by reiterating on the importance of experience and social interactions, Dewy has also asserted that true education is achieved when a child’s powers are stimulated by the demands of the social situations under which they find themselves (Valcke et al, 2007).

In addition, Tennent (2003) has emphasized the crucial role that played by the environment under which ICT learning occurs, thus enabling a sharing of knowledge among the learners (Tennent 2003). The constructivist approach is thus an important pointer to the importance of ICT application in learning, and so the more reason why it should be incorporated into the education and training program of teachers.

Ultimately, the knowledge they acquire will be then forwarded to the students that they teach, thus enhancing and reinforcing student-centered learning. This then ensures that there is a didactic pedagogy shift from teacher-centered learning, to a constructivist pedagogy student-centered form of learning (Laborde 2002). However, an embracing of the constructivist theory does not guarantee a success per se, in a successful integration of ICT in schools (Brousseau 1997).

First, there exists a compartmentalized coursework that offer little connectivity between theory and practice in learning (Laborde 2002). Kuhn (1962) opines that teachers will always resort to a teacher-centered approach to learning, in the absence of a student-centered learning environment. Further, a partial understanding of ICT technology by teachers will result in its underutilization, and so the benefits will not be as profound. Larborde (2002) has also highlighted on how time consuming the integration of ICT into learning is.

At the same time, there are barriers that are encountered at the teacher level, such as a lack formal training on ICT (Simonsen & Dick 1997), deficiency in self-directed exploration of the ICT teaching methodology (Artigue 1998), time constraints for ICT resources preparation (Kelleher (1997), as well as lack of confidence (Monaghan 2005). When teachers lack both administrative and technical support, then the application of ICT in learning is also hindered (Goos 2005. Lack of institutional support will also result in teachers who are lacking in ICT training, meaning that they are only focused in the basic teaching skills (Valcke et al 2007).

Problem statement

Lack of ICT knowledge and skills by teachers has been a major problem that has thus far frustrated efforts to integrate the use of multimedia into mainstream learning. When teachers are lacking in these crucial skills, then the vital knowledge cannot be shared with the students. Given that most learning scenarios are normally teacher-focused, it is important then, that they are equipped with the necessary skills and expertise. To achieve this, is important that ICT training be incorporated into the training program of pre-service teachers, with an emphasis on hands-on experience by the individual teachers. Ultimately, such an initiative would act as a motivator to the pre-service teachers, as ICT is equipped with user-friendly software that would generate interest and consequently, learning.

Purpose of the study

This study was aimed at exploring the perceptions and attitudes held by teacher educator; in as far as the incorporation of ICT into the teacher training programs is concerned. At the same time, the findings generated by this study would also find a useful application, in the formulation of effective development programs for teacher educators, and whose focus would be an ultimate integration of ICT into the teacher training programs.

Research questions

The study mainly focused on three research areas; exploring attitude held towards the use of ICT, hindering factors to the use of ICT in teaching, and the perceptions held by teacher educators in as far as the preparation of student teachers to utilize technology in teaching is concerned.

Assumptions of the study

It was an assumption of this study that, the use of ICT in the education program of pre-service teachers would enable them to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge, which they would later on pass to the students. The basis of this assumption was the results of studies undertaken in developed countries, and which have since found effective ways of integrating ICT into schools. On the basis of the research questions and the problem statement, it was deemed necessary to formulate the following hypotheses:

H1: there is positive relationship between teacher educators’ attitudes towards technology and using it in their teaching

H2: the lack of exposure to the technology hinders teacher educators of using it in their teaching

H3: inadequate knowledge of ICT policies in education among teacher educators does not encourage them on using it in the teacher education programs.

Scope and limitation of the study

Although the Maldives republic is approximated to have 1190 coral islands that are grouped into nineteen atolls, this study was only limited to Male, the capital city, and in which Maldives College of Higher Education (the main education center for teachers) is located. The colleges train over 1500 teachers every year. Although Maldives also has two other teacher education centers in the north and south parts of this country, this study was however targeted at the central teacher training center located in Male. A more comprehensive survey would have shed more light on the issue of multimedia use in teacher training centers, but for the constraints of time and traveling costs this was not possible.

Methodology

Research design

The focus of this research was on the perceptions and attitudes held by teacher educators in as far as the incorporation of ICT in the training program of pre-service teachers is concerned. To this end, a qualitative research design was viewed at as the most ideal methodology that would aid in the interpretation of the research questionnaires. Denzin and Lincoln (2001) have argued that a qualitative research method has been found central to the pertinent research findings of various studies. In addition, a qualitative approach can highly be relied upon, in instances where the views of participants are being viewed (Creswell 2008).

Given that not enough studies have been carried out in the education sector in Maldives, the research was also geared towards shedding of light on the reasons behind a lack of ICT incorporation in the teaching, as well as Constructivist learning. Use of questionnaires and interviews were deemed as the best tools for the collection of the required data. In this case, open-ended questionnaires were deemed appropriate.

In terms of design, a grounded research theory was deemed appropriate. Creswell (2008) has opined that a grounded research theory is most applicable at such times as when either the existing theories fails to address the problem in hand, or that of the participants. This decision was also compounded by the fact that not enough studies have addressed the issues of attitudes and perception of teacher educators’ use of ICT in their teaching. Once data was collected, analysis was carried out by way of “layering themes” method, and one which has been found effective towards arriving at pertinent research findings. An effective sample size was arrived at, and was taken to include even the teacher educators in Male’s faculty of education centre.

Ethical consideration

Consent was sought from the faculty of education at Male, before administering of the questionnaires to the respondents. At the same time, the information obtained was only utilized for purposes of this research only, and was thus held in strict confidence.

Discussion and Conclusion

The research study showed that from a generalized perspective, the current pre-service teachers are endowed well with confidence in as far as the use of CIT is concerned, but differed significantly among these pre-service teachers. At the same time, this study established that male teachers are more confident in the use of CIT, compared to their female counterparts. In addition, experienced teachers tended to be more confident in the usage of ICT, more that the experienced ones. Hativa and Lausgold (2002) have argued on the importance of challenging teachers to make use of ICT in learning.

This however, can only be accomplished if and when such teachers have fulfilled a certain level of competence in the usage of ICT, and so the more reason why it ought to be integrated into the learning programs of pre-service teachers. However, this would not serve as a guarantee a change in the professional knowledge of teachers (Bai & Ertmer 2008). The ultimate outcome of such an undertaking will often be in the hands of individual teachers. According to Norton, McRobbie, and Cooper’s (2000), teachers are sometimes incapable of embracing the use of ICT in learning because of its lack of support on their pedagogical teaching strategies.

The research evaluation also indicated an exposure to the use of ICT has a real impact; in as far as the transformation of the positive attitudes of the pre-service teachers is concerned. The teacher educators were of the view that ICT should be incorporated into the nation al curriculum of the teacher training program, as this would lead to a synergistic growth in the use of ICT, in the education sector. In addition, it was a general opinion of the majority of the teacher educators that a holistic approach ought to be taken, in as far as the assessment and integration of CIT into the training schedule of pre-service teachers is concerned.

The survey tended to concur with the hypothesis that had initially been formulated. For one, those teachers who had the skills of using ICT were also more likely to be confident in its usage, and hence more likely to impart the desired knowledge to their students.

At the same time, those pre-service teacher who did not receive any exposure in the usage of ICT, were less likely to have a motivation to utilize the technology in their teaching, while those who had a prior experience with ICT tended not to have any hindrances in its usage, as long as the environment was conducive, and administrative support was accorded. It was also revealed that the teacher educators were not adequately aware of the ICT policies as applicable in education, and so this acted as a hindrance towards the implementation of the same in the teacher training centers (Barskin & Anderson 2002).

Without doubt, a concerted effort between the teacher educators and the education sector administrators in Maldives is needed; if at all a successful implementation of the use of ICT in schools is to be achieved. Such an effort should be one that will try to diminish the barriers that are often faced by pre-service teachers, such as a lack of training in ICT that will eventually lead to a lack of confidence in its usage. At the same time, support and tools should be accorded to teachers by the school administrators, so that the immense benefits of ICT may as well trickle down to the students.

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Appendix

Definition of terms

Information communication and technology (ICT) is defined as the use of a wide range of tools and resources of technology and which are normally utilized in the creation, storage and dissemination of information. Such would then include the use of computers, and the internet.

Constructivist learning theory is a reference to the idea that a learner will normally construct knowledge for their own self, as well as the meaning of such knowledge, usually as they learn. In addition, learning in this case is focused on the learner, rather than the subject.

Computer-based learning is a reference to the use of a computer as an aid to the dissemination of learning by an instructor to the student, or by students for their own self learning.

Multimedia is used in reference to a medium whose content is presented in a variety of forms.