A capacity study into ICT classrooms in secondary schools

Author/Producer Dr Pat Jefferies
Published in Newsletter No 10, Spring 2008
Date Published 28 February 2008
Pages 2

Summary

The university of Bedford are undertaking a pilot study for Becta

Description

This pilot project, funded by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), is currently being undertaken by Faculty staff and students within the University of Bedfordshire. For the study 40 PGCE (14-19) trainee teachers were asked to collect data from their placement schools (October 2006-April 2007). Initially there were four elements to classroom provision that were to be studied: hardware, software, operating systems and classroom layout. Trainees were also asked to identify whether equipment and software was actually working when they collected the data. Finally, because the design of ICT classrooms has been identified as an important factor in the successful delivery of ICT lessons (Becta, 2006a,b; Logan, Crump and Rennie, 2006; Eadie, 2001), the trainees were asked to produce a plan of the room layout identifying the location and number of computers and other equipment.

It should be noted, however, the trainees only gathered data on classrooms where Years 10 and 11 were being taught ICT at KS4. Sampling for the data collection by trainee teachers was also opportunistic, and to some extent, biased, in that we were only able to collect data from schools where the trainee teachers were placed, which tended to be reasonably successful. Because of this, the research team liaised with a Local Authority’s ICT consultant to determine a more strategic sample for interview. Research team members then visited a wider selection of schools (including one in special measures) to talk with teachers and heads of ICT about issues affecting performance in KS4 ICT. This informal data was then used to supplement or verify the results that were found from the trainee teachers’ data collection.

Main findings

There appeared to be a surplus of seating in all computer suites, although few classrooms were designed with tables and chairs away from computers where students could write or read alone or be taught in groups. In terms of Interactive Whiteboards it was discovered that 62 per cent of ICT rooms had these installed but that more often than not, they were simply used as projector screens with very little interactivity being witnessed.

Other findings were that 80 per cent of all rooms had a computer-linked projector installed which were, in the main, fitted and static as were the screens for projection. This is an important feature, as the line of vision for many students was extremely poor. Ninety-four per cent of rooms had at least one printer available. Twenty-six per cent had 2 printers available and 42 per cent of these were colour printers, although the use of colour printers appeared to be strictly controlled. Overall 40 per cent of rooms offered peripheral resources/facilities to enhance or extend their IT provision, with scanners available in 60 per cent of rooms. However, none of the rooms were bespoke in terms of design. Generally they had been converted for teaching ICT and often the prior purpose for which they had been used imposed significant constraints on the layout. For example, rooms tended to be square and, in most cases, contained a wall of windows although few offered an operational method for cutting down on glare. There were also relatively few significant variations in terms of design layout. Generally computers were located around the edge of the room on either two or three walls, forming a corridor or ‘U’ shape. As a consequence the teacher’s delivery tended to be from one side of the room looking out and facing the students. Based upon this core design, the Interactive Whiteboard and projector were located and fixed. It appears that the computers were laid out purely for ‘working at’. However, it was almost impossible for 30 per cent of a group to synchronize their activity with that of the teacher on a task. For example, they were unable to see the instructions or demonstration on the Whiteboard whilst, at the same time, attempting to carry out the task from their computer position. Only two rooms offered ‘work stations’ where it was possible to see the demonstration/instructions, attempt the tasks and write up notes without moving position.

Another of the themes was the quality and quantity of consultation between technical support staff and network managers and the ICT departments in terms of the provision. For example, a number of Heads of Department reported that they were never consulted about equipment or software purchases and none reported being consulted about the room design. Higgins (2005) notes the importance of consultation and a sense of ownership in contributing to morale – ‘good communication within schools seems to be part of creating an environment that is conducive to success’ (p.7). Evidence to support this view was provided by the highest achieving school visited, where 98 per cent of the Year 11 cohort had achieved an ICT qualification. Decisions were made through weekly team meetings. The team, which administered an annual budget of £130,000, consisted of the Head of Department, Network Manager, Assistant Head responsible for ICT and members of the technical support staff. In contrast, the lowest performing school at KS4 ICT was in special measures. The Head of ICT was given a budget of £500. There were no meetings to determine how funds should be distributed and he was not consulted about decisions related to hardware, software, network management or classroom layout.

Findings from the pilot study have raised many issues that now frame the next stage of the project currently being undertaken.

References

Becta (2006a) The Becta Review 2006 Evidence of the Progress of ICT in Education. Coventry. 2006

Becta (2006b) A Survey of LAN infrastructure and ICT equipment in schools. Coventry 2006

Eadie, G. M. (2001) The Impact of ICT on Schools: Classroom Design and Curriculum Delivery. A Study of Schools in Australia, USA, England and Hong Kong, 2000. Available at: www.tki.org.nz/r/ict/pedagogy/churchillreport.pdf (Accessed 10/08/07)

Higgins, S., Hall, E., Wall, K., Woolner, P., McCaughey,C. (2005). The Impact of School Environments: A literature review. Design Council

Logan, Keri; Crump, Barbara; Rennie, Léonie (2006) Measuring the Computer Classroom Environment: Lessons Learned From Using a New Instrument, Learning Environments Research 9, no. 1 (2006): 67-93

Moss, G., Jewitt, C., Levacic, R. Armstrong, V., Cardini, A. and Castle, F. (2007) The Interactive Whiteboards, Pedagogy and Pupil Performance Evaluation: An Evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion (SWE) Project: London Challenge. Institute of Education: London