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Analysis of Computer Use in Developing Country Education

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Abstract

This study identified the extent to which Iranian secondary school principals used computers and explored the relationship between a numbers of variables related to ICT use. These factors included high level of computer access, strong perceptions of the attributes of ICT, high level of computer competence, as well as the high level of transformational leadership behaviours, all contributed significantly to the level of computer use by principals. All four constructs are equally important but have varying impact on computer use. Therefore, all four constructs should be viewed in an integrated manner in accordance to the conceptual model proposed in this study.

Keywords: - ICT, Secondary school principals, Computer use

Introduction

One developing country that is currently pursuing the technological track in education is Iran. Iran's National philosophy of Education calls for developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally balanced and harmonious. The catalyst for this massive transformation will be technology which will improve how the educational system achieves the National Philosophy of Education, while fostering the development of a work force prepared to meet the challenges of the next century. With respect to this vision, Ministry of Education provided ICT related workshops and courses for principals and teachers. The plan emphasized that they should acquire seven fundamental digital computing skills (Kousha & Abdoli, 2004). Although several institutions have completed the training programmes of their staff, research studies have not been done on the efficiency of this plan, knowledge, skills, and attitude that principals and teachers acquire during these courses. In fact, national programmes in developing countries are not based on research. Hence, successes of these programmes are limited (Albirini, 2006a).

In addition, the Ministry of Education in Iran has invested much more fund to facilitate integration of ICT in schools. In spite of this large expenditure of funds, the potential for ICT to alter how principals use computers for instructional and administrative purposes, how teachers teach and how children learn in Iranian schools has not been fully realized since many Iranian schools do not use ICT in their teaching and learning and administrative purposes (Jahangard, 2003). It displays that computer was provided with no supplementary measures to enable principals and teachers to develop positive attitudes toward ICT in education and to use them. Also, in exploring the literature about the implementation of ICT in schools, an area which is noticeably absent in research on ICT implementation and integration is the role of the school principals as technology leaders. Although, some research studies have demonstrated that ICT has a huge impact on the ways in which principals work (Yuen, Law & Wong, 2003; Schiller, 2003), the ICT research literature has tended to overlook the role of the principal as technology leaders (Schiller, 2003; Michael, 1998; Riffel & Levin, 1997). This gap in the research literature is rather strange because there is considerable literature relating to school effectiveness, school improvement and change which identifies the school principal as a key factor in bringing about successful change in schools (e.g. Hall & Hord, 2001; Fullan, 2002).

According to Schiller (2003), school leaders are key factors in implementation ICT in schools. They have a main responsibility for creating school change through use of ICT and facilitate complex decisions about integration of ICT into learning and teaching. Although the role of the principal in supporting technology integration is very important there are little Iranian researches on the role of the principal in the implementation of ICT. Also, little is known about the use of ICT by principals and factors that are related to their level of computer use. This article will report on these issues from an analysis of data gathered from secondary school principals in Tehran, Iran.

Review of the literature

Effective leadership is an important element in the success of schools seeking to implement change (Calabrese, 2002). Anderson and Dexter (2005) reported on the analysis of data from the 1998 Teaching, Learning, and Computing survey of more than 800 schools in the USA and concluded that "although technology infrastructure is important, for educational technology to become an integral part of a school, technology leadership is even more necessary" (p. 74). Without the support of school leaders the educational potential of information and communications technology may not be realized. They play various roles such as change agent, lifelong learner, main supporter, and resource provider in relation to ICT implementation in schools (Han, 2002). If principals want to lead effectively their school in technology integration, they should embrace technology and realize the role that technology can play in the teaching-learning process. In fact, "it is difficult to imagine a leader who does not use technology trying to convince teachers that it is important" (Cafolla & Knee, 1995, P.3). Therefore, principals need to understand the capacities of the new technologies, to have a personal proficiency in their use, and be able to promote a school culture which encourages exploration of new techniques in teaching, learning and management (Schiller, 2003).

According to Albirini (2006a), access to computer resources has often been one of the most important barriers for the integration of technology in both developed and developing countries. Norris, Sullivan, Poirot and Soloway (2003) reported on the analysis of data from the snapshot survey of more than 4,000 K-12 schools in the USA and concluded that there was a significant and substantive correlation between level of access to computer and level of computer use. Also, Rogers (2003) stated that the perceived attributes of an innovation are one of the important factors in explaining the rate of adoption of an innovation. A large amount of the variance in the rate of adoption of innovations, from 49 to 87 percent, is explained by five attributes: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability (Rogers, 2003). The five attributes refer respectively to: (1) the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes; (2) the extent to which an innovation is perceived as consistent with the existing values, past experience, and needs of potential adopters; (3) the degree to which an innovation is perceived as relatively difficult to understand and use; (4) the extent to which the results of an innovation are visible to others; and (5) the degree to which an innovation is experimented with on a limited basis. Regarding the relationship between perceived innovation characteristics and computer technology adoption, Al-Gahtani (2003) conducted a quantitative research in Saudi Arabia and found that relative advantage, compatability and observability were positively related to the adoption of technology, whereas complexity was negatively correlated. Hence, innovations that are perceived by individuals as having greater relative advantage, compatability, observability, and less complexity will be adopted more rapidly than other innovations (Rogers, 2003).

Principals' attitudes toward ICT have been recognized as an important factor for the success of technology integration in education (Han, 2002; Mooij & Smeets, 2001; Rogers, 2003). Attitude is defined as a positive or a negative feeling associated with performing a specific behaviour (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005). In fact, an individual will have a favorable attitude if he or she believes that the performance of the behaviour will lead to mostly positive results and vice-versa (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005). Ajzen and Fishbein (2005) indicated that attitudes consist of three elements: affect, cognition, and behaviour. The affective element refers to the individual's emotional feelings or liking of a person or an object. The cognitive element refers to the person's knowledge about a person or an object. The behavioural element refers to the person's overt behaviour towards a person or an object. A complete description of attitude requires that all three components be assess by obtaining measures of all the three response classes (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005).

Han (2002) conducted a case study on pre-school leaders' practices in the use of ICT and found that principals who have positive attitudes toward technology are very helpful and supportive in introducing these new technologies into the school. For example, they encourage their colleagues to have ICT training, equip the school with sufficient computers and ensure staff has access to relevant technology. Apart from that, Liaw (2002) stated that no matter how capable the technology is, the effective implementation of technology depends upon users' positive attitudes towards the technology. According to Noraini Idris et al. (2007), individuals with positive attitudes will have positive feelings about people and situations; have a sense of purpose, excitement, and passion; approach problems in a creative manner; make the best out of every situation; realize that attitude is a choice; feel that they have control of their thoughts; and feel that they are making a contribution through their work. Therefore, principals who have positive attitudes toward ICT feel more contented using it and regularly incorporate it into their tasks (Kersaint, Horton, Stohl & Garofalo, 2003).

According to Rogers (2003), innovation-decision process consists of five steps which are knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation. These five steps usually follow each other in a time-ordered manner. Knowledge is the first stage of the successful adoption of computer technologies and it is essential for other steps in the innovation-decision process. If principals do not have enough competent in computer use, they cannot be expected to adopt computer technologies into their instructional and administrative tasks. Without the knowledge and skill of computer technology, principals might have a high level of uncertainty that influence their opinions and beliefs about the innovation (Rogers, 2003). In line with this idea, Felton (2006) stated that competence is a key to the use of computers by principals on a daily basis. In fact, competence in operating a computer and in utilizing software may improve the quality and efficiency of administrative performance in schools. Improved quality could lead to improved decision-making. In order to achieve high levels of principal's competence in ICT, there is a need to provide training, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a great deal of literature evidence to suggest that effective training is crucial if principals are to use ICT effectively in their work (Kirkwood, 2000). If training is inadequate or inappropriate, then principals will not be sufficiently prepared, and perhaps not sufficiently confident, to make full use of technology. Hence, lack of principal's competence and lack of quality training for principals can be barriers to principals' use of ICT.

Many technology experts have indicated that the integration of ICT in education should occur in the light of the cultural conditions of the country and the prevailing school culture (Albirini, 2006b; Govender & Govender, 2009). In fact, cultural barriers, either societal or organizational, are very important among the barriers to the adoption of technology. Societies and organizations can overcome most of the technical barriers through different means of support, but cultural barriers are harder to deal with. It is widely accepted that culture, within a society or an organization, shapes individuals' perceptions of innovations. In the field of education, it has been noticed that principals' reactions to technology innovations are mediated by their cultural perceptions (Felton, 2006). According to Rogers (2003), a cultural perception is a very general idea of social system norms. Also, it refers to the cultural suitability of computers (Thomas, 1987). Furthermore, Albirini (2006a) carried out a study examining the factors relating to the teachers' attitudes toward ICT. He collected evidence from high school English teachers about their perceptions of computer attributes, cultural perceptions, computer competence, and computer access. The sample consisted of 63 male and 251 female teachers. The results showed that computer attributes, cultural perceptions, and computer competence are factors that explain the greatest amount of variance in computer attitudes. Also, he stated that cultural perceptions toward different computer-related technologies are key factors related to both the initial acceptance of these technologies as well as future behaviour regarding their usage. Similarly, Lee, Choi, Kim and Hong, (2007) conducted a study on the relationship between users' cultural profiles and technology adoption in the context of the mobile Internet. Their findings of large-scale on-line surveys in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan indicate that cultural factors have a significant influence on users' adoption perceptions of mobile Internet services. So, they concluded that cultural differences are a contributing factor in the adoption of technology, particularly in third world countries.

According to Flanagan and Jacobsen (2003), leadership plays a key role in the success of technology utilization in education. Thomas (2001) stated that there is a strong link between educational technology and school leadership. Leadership style is exhibited by the leader could help or hinder technology infusion (Flanagan & Jacobsen, 2003; Thomas, 2001). One of the best styles of leadership that can change and transform individuals is transformational leadership (Northouse, 2001). Transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality (Bass & Riggio, 2006). In other words, transformational leadership is a process that both the manager and followers should change themselves (Northouse, 2001). Although the transformational leader plays an essential role in precipitating change, followers and leaders are inextricably bound together in the transformation process (Northouse, 2001). This type of leadership is becoming more and more important to organizations, as workforces become more diverse, technology improves and international competition heightens.

Transformational leadership is comprised of four distinct dimensions: charismatic leadership or idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Idealized influence (attributed) demonstrates attributes of principals that motivate respect and pride and display a sense of power and confidence; idealized influence (behaviour) refers to the principals' behaviour to communicate values, purpose, and importance of mission; inspirational motivation refers to leaders that motivate and inspire others by challenging them to exert effort; Intellectual stimulation stimulates followers' efforts to be innovative and creative by questioning assumptions, reframing problems, and approaching old situations in new ways; and individualized consideration focuses on development and mentoring of followers and attends to individual needs(Bass & Riggio, 2006).

Beatty and Lee (1992, as cited in Thite, 2000) conducted several case studies of the implementation of CAD/CAM systems in numerous British and Canadian companies in an effort to investigate the linkage between leadership and technological change in organizations. Through semistructured interviews and using a critical incident approach to assessing leadership abilities, the researchers tracked managerial involvement throughout the implementation process. The outcome of their qualitative research suggests that a transformational approach to leadership is likely to be more effective in overcoming barriers to change than a transactional leadership approach that concentrates on technical problem solving to the neglect of people and organizational issues.

According to Burns (2003), transactional leadership involves exchanging one thing for another. In fact, the effective transactional leaders are expert in giving and taking. This style is useful for stable situations but is less useful for organizations that are faced to environmental turbulence or rapid change (Kirkbride, 2006). Transactional leadership was measured by contingent reward and management-by-exception­ (active and passive). Contingent reward leaders explain the expectations of followers and the compensation they will receive if they meet their performance expectations. Management-by-exception-active leaders attend to followers' mistakes and failures to meet standards and management-by-exception-passive leaders react to correct action after problems become serious enough (Bass & Riggio, 2006).

Regarding the importance of transformational leadership as an influence on principals' use of technology, Christopher (2003) conducted a study at the University of Virginia. A self-designed instrument was used in this study. Leadership items were taken from Bass and Avolio's Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire Leader Form. Surveys were sent to a random sample of 397 principals throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, and 185 principals participated in the survey. Her analysis indicated that the overall extent that principals used decision support technologies was significantly correlated with their perceptions of all four transformational leadership behaviors (individual influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration). Also, she suggested that educational leadership programs should be provided to train principals to use technology as a management tool. If principals do not use technology on a consistent basis; the principal should not expect the faculty to use technology regularly. Modeling the use of technology provides an affective method for exposing teachers to new strategies and demonstrating to the staff that it is acceptable to take risks and make mistakes, without the fear of retribution (Dawon & Rakes, 2003)

The study

The purpose of this study was to identify the extent to which secondary school principals use computers in Tehran (a large province in Iran) and to explore factors related to level of computer use by principals. Selected factors used in this study were based on Rogers' (2003) diffusion theory, Technology Acceptance Model, and previous researchs which include perceived computer attributes; computer competence; computer access; principals' attitude toward computers; leadership style of principals; and cultural perceptions. Principals' profiles (gender, age, and administrative experience, type of school, and academic degree, as well as information regarding background in computer training) were also included in order to ensure maximum possible control of extraneous variables by building them into the design of the study (Gay & Airasian, 2000). More specifically, this study addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the level of computer use by secondary school principals?
  2. What are the principals' attitudes toward computers?
  3. What are the principals' perceptions of:
    • Computer attributes?
    • Their level of computer competence?
    • Cultural relevance of computers to Iranian society and schools?
    • Their level of access to computers?
  4. What is the leadership style (transformational and transactional leadership) of principals?
  5. What is the relationship between the level of computer use by secondary school principals and their perceptions of each of the above variables?
  6. What is the proportion of the variance in the level of computer use by secondary school principals that can be explained by the selected independent variables and the relative significance of each independent variable in explaining the dependent variable?

Methodology

This was a descriptive study of an exploratory nature. Creswell (2003) stated that exploratory studies are most advantageous when ''not much has been written about the topic or the population being studied'' (p. 30).The target population in this study was Iranian secondary school principals in the province of Tehran during the 2007-2008 school years. The list of principals was based on the secondary principals' Directory. The Directory is maintained and updated on a quarterly basis by Tehran Department of Education. The total number of secondary school principals was 1312 in the Directory of the Department of Education in Tehran.

Furthermore, a set of questionnaire was used to obtain the required data for this study. The questionnaire was divided into two parts. Part A measured the perceived level of computer use by principals. Factors that were related to it were measured in part B. Questionnaires were distributed to 320 sample principals selected randomly from the population. In this study, stratified sampling was used because Tehran is one of the biggest cities in Iran and consists of 19 educational areas. Also, the population to be sampled was not homogeneous but, in essence, consisted of several subpopulations (Wiersma, 1995). When sub-populations vary significantly, it is advantageous to sample each subpopulation (stratum) independently. Researcher used this stratified sampling method to have less variability in selection.

Two indispensable characteristics of measurement that must be considered in establishing the appropriateness and usefulness of measurement instrument are reliability and validity. Although theses instruments were valid, face and content validity of these instruments were established again by a panel of expert. To ensure that Iranian secondary school principals had a complete comprehension of the instrument used in the study, the survey was translated from English into Persian using the double back translation method to ensure the accuracy of the Persian version.

Furthermore, Cronbach's alpha was used to measure internal consistency and calculated via the SPSS 15 statistical package. Cronbach alpha is the most common form of internal consistency reliability coefficient. The Cronbach's alpha coefficients for these scales were: Computer Access Scale=0.867, Computer Attributes Scale =0.909, Attitude toward ICT Scale =0.92, Computer Competence Scale=0.97, Cultural Perceptions Scale=0.611, Transformational leadership style Scale=0.812, Transactional leadership style Scale=0.596 and Level of computer use Scale=0.917. To carry out this study, first, approval was obtained from the Ministry of Education and also contact was made with the research department of Tehran's Ministry of Education A meeting was arranged to discuss the proposed study. Furthermore, a letter of introduction and a questionnaire packet were delivered to the superintendent in the research department for review. Finally, approval was received from the superintendent and permitted the researcher to attend the principals' meeting in each educational area of the Ministry of Education.

A total of 350 pockets were distributed among all members of the sample in these sessions. In the packet, there were materials. These materials include a cover letter, the questionnaire, and a stamped, addressed return envelope was enclosed for some respondents' convenience in returning the completed questionnaires. The completed questionnaires were collected at the end of these sessions. Principals who could not fill their questionnaires completely were given approximately three weeks from that date to return the questionnaires by mail. In all, 350 surveys were distributed, 320 were returned, resulting in a return rate of 91.4%. All of the returned surveys, a total of 320, were used in the analysis. In this study descriptive statistics were used to describe and summarize the properties of the mass of data collected from the respondents (Gay & Airasian, 2000). Correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between each of the independent variables and the level of computer use by secondary school principals in Tehran. Furthermore, multiple regression was used to measure the degree to which the independent variables would explain the proportion of variance in the dependent variables and to identify the relative significance of each independent variable in explaining the dependent variable. By convention, an a level of 0.05 was established a priori for determining statistical significance.

Findings and Discussion

The findings indicated that about 51.6% of the respondents were males and more than half of the respondents (50.3%) were within the 45-54 age range. About 44.7% of the respondents had 21 or more years of experience. More than half of the respondents (53.1%) worked in private schools, and approximately 60.3% of the respondents held bachelor's degrees. Moreover, the majority of the participants (95.5%) reported that they had computer training, and 83.8% of them had more than 60 hours training. In terms of the type of training, more than half of the principals participating in the study (52.8%) reported that they received their training through in-service training.

Computer Use by Principals

The dependent variable, level of computer use, was quantified by the score of 39 items using a five-point Likert scale. Each item was rated by respondents from 1 ("Never use") to 5 ("use daily"). This scale was developed by Felton (2006). According to this questionnaire, four domains of computer use such as Internet use, hardware and software use, instructional use, and administrative use were measured.

Table 1

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Computer Use Scale

According to Table 1, the principals' perceptions of the level of computer use were moderate; with an overall mean score of 3.32 (SD= 0.76). Also, findings indicated that principals spent a few times a week working on their computers. It would seem that Iranian principals need effective and extensive trainings to raise their proficiency in computer use and integrate technology into their schools.

Moreover, analysis of collected data on the computer use scale showed that among the subscales of the level of computer use, Internet use had the highest mean (M = 3.49). Also, findings showed that nearly all the respondents used the Internet at home and at school , and the most frequent use of Internet was for sending and receiving e-mail (46.9% "2 or 3 times a week"). It would seem that e-mail was the most accepted application among principals who were surveyed. In fact, there may be several reasons for this—e-mail is efficient, widely available, and effective. Thus, it is not surprising that email was accepted and used far more by the sample population of this study.

Principals can increase their professional knowledge in the form of knowing current research, new technologies, and best teaching practices through the use of the Internet. Findings of this study showed that most of the respondents used a web browser a few times a week to explore professional and educational resources. Three reasons may underline the obtained results. The first possible reason is that low telecommunication density and very low bandwidth during peak hours sometimes makes it impossible to download files or software. Furthermore, most of the principals have little Internet experience; it was not comfortable for them to spend time on uses other than e-mail or some sort of urgent browsing. Lastly lack of knowledge and skill for searching and downloading the valuable professional and educational resources also limit the use of the Interne. In fact, the Internet can be an avenue for researching information and data. It helps principals to find information regarding their profession and educational subjects in order to develop processes for effective decision-making and problem solving which result in better accountability (Felton, 2006). Therefore, trainings should be provided for principals to learn all possible Internet resources with underlying techniques of strategic browsing to enhance their Internet literacy (Atkinson & Kydd, 1997).

As for the hardware and software use subscale, the main use for computers was in word processing, whereas construction of spreadsheets, databases and presentations (such as Powerpoint) was used "never" or "a few times a month". Only 2.5 percent of principals stated that they read spreadsheets "daily" at work with 20.0 percent indicating use 2 or 3 times a week, while 56.9 percent indicated that they had read "never" or "a few times a month" a spreadsheet. These results are consistent with Schiller's (2003) study. He found that the word processing was the most frequently utilized software among the principals and they used it to create documents and slides.

Regarding the instructional use domain, the majority of participants indicated that they two or three times a week used computers for recording observation; monitoring student achievement for specific objectives and grades; creating master schedules; recording discipline referrals; writing up classroom observations; monitoring achievement test data; locating curriculum resources; developing or write curriculum; and creating graphs and charts. Plomp and Pelgrum (1992) stated that one way in which computers might work their way into the school is through administrative use and that this might lead to the use of computers in instruction. An examination of data showed that mean score of the administrative use subscale was lower than another subscales, and computer use for instructional purposes was generally ahead of administrative uses. Moreover, findings indicated that within the area of administrative uses, communicating with staff, and members of the wider school, initiating and sustaining collaborative activities with colleagues within and outside their school were the areas of greatest use, while financial matters, maintaining of administrative records about students, using a programme to analyze information for solving problems, using technology to support levels of professional collaboration, and using technology to participate new kinds of professional development were the areas of least use. Therefore, the early assumption that the introduction of computers into schools for administrative purposes would spread to their use for instructional purposes was not supported by the data.

Principals' Attitudes toward ICT in Education

Attitude scale contained 23 items that asked respondents to describe their attitudes towards ICT. This scale was developed by Albirini in 2006a and comprised of three subscales: affective domain; cognitive domain, and behavioral domain. Respondents' attitudes were measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores indicated positive attitudes towards ICT while lower scores indicated less positive attitudes.

Table 2

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Attitude toward ICT Scale

As Table 2 illustrates, principals' attitudes towards ICT were positive, with an overall mean of 4.05 and a standard deviation of 0.44. Principals' positive attitudes towards ICT exhibit their initiation into the innovation-decision process (Rogers, 2003). It seems that Iranian principals have already gone through the Knowledge and Persuasion stages (Rogers, 2003) and are probably proceeding to the Decision phase. As many theorists have indicated, attitudes can often foretell future behaviours (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005). Thus, it can be concluded that principals who have positive attitudes towards ICT in education, use computer in their administrative and instructional tasks once computers become more available to them. At this stage, principals' expertise in computer use and the social support from others (colleagues, peers, etc.) might affect their attitudes toward computer use. Furthermore, findings of this study showed that the affective domain has the highest mean score (M= 4.11) among the three subscales of attitudes scale. This implies that principals had positive emotional feeling of computer in education. So, the majority of respondents reported that they like, enjoy, and feel comfortable using ICT in general and in education. This was followed by the cognitive attitudes (M=4.05, SD=0.45). The vast majority of principals stated that they have realized the impact of technology on their life and society in general. Regarding the behavioral subscale, participants showed that they have the intention to buy computers, to learn about them, and to use them in the near future.

Computer Attributes

This study examined key attributes of ICT to determine the extent to which it has successfully been diffused and adopted in the Iranian educational system by principals. Only four of the perceived attributes of ICT were examined among a sample of Iranian principals. These attributes were relative advantage, compatibility, simplicity (in this study non-complexity of ICT was measured), and observability. The Computer Attributes Scale was developed by Albirini in 2006a and contained 25 items. Since respondents rated their perceptions of computer attributes on each item from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (5), the range of possible mean scores was between 1 and 5, with higher scores indicating more positive perceptions of computer attributes.

Table 3

Distribution of Mean Scores on the computer attributes scale

As shown in Table 3, the respondents' perceptions of the attributes of ICT were somewhat positive, with an overall mean score of 3.82 and a standard deviation of 0.62. Principals' positive perceptions varied across the four computer attributes examined in this study. Among the different categories of computer attributes, observability has the highest mean value (M=3.95, SD=0.66), indicating positive observed advantage of ICT. This was followed by the relative advantage subscale, with a mean score of 3.85 and standard deviation of 0.62. Most of the principals taking part in this study believed that computers offer an advantage over previous ways of performing their task in that they can assist in acquiring and evaluating information to manage work-related problems. In fact, computers can lead to adequate and intelligent solutions for on-the-job problems (Felton, 2006). Also, they can have a positive impact on the productivity of principals as managers and instructional leaders and can be perceived as a valuable tool. They not only empower administrators by the information they can readily produce and communicate, but also empower the administrator who masters the tools and processes that allow creative and dynamic management of available information (TSSA, 2001).

The simplicity subscale had the mean score of 3.77 and the lowest mean score, 3.74, was from the compatibility subscale. These results showed that Iranian principals were roughly comfortable with using computers and easily made the transition to using one at school. Their level of comfort with the innovation was somewhat high which enabled them to adopt the innovation quickly. In fact, these two factors (the comfort level of the participant with the innovation and the compatibility of the innovation with the participants' values, beliefs, and educational background) have the most impact on adoption of the innovation (Rogers, 2003).

Computer Competence

The Computer Competence Scale was used to measure secondary school principals' beliefs about their computer knowledge and skills. This scale was developed by Flowers and Algozzine in 2000. According to this questionnaire, eight domains of the perceived ICT competencies of principals (basic computer operation skills; setup, maintenance, and troubleshooting of equipment; word processing; spreadsheets; database; networking; telecommunication; and media communication) were measured. Principals' computer competence was quantified by the score of the 34 items on a four-point scale, ranging from 1 (No Competence) to 4 (Much Competence). The responses were reduced to a mean score that demonstrated the level of each respondent's perceived computer competence, with higher scores indicating greater competence.

Table 4

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Computer Competence

As shown in Table 4, the mean score of the participants' responses on basic computer operation skills (3.60) was the highest among the eight subscales, indicating much competence in this skill. More than two-thirds of the respondents (72.8%) had much competence, 22.2% had moderate competence, and the remainder had little competence (5.0%) in basic computer operation skills. it seems that basic computer operation skills have not been the major educational needs among the principals. Furthermore, study results showed that most of the principals were competent in using basic word processing (M= 3.51) and a few of them were proficient in constructing spreadsheets, databases and presentation software (M= 2.44, M= 2.45). In fact, by increasing the availability of computers at school and home, it is not surprising that basic computer operation skills and word processing are skills that most principals are competent in. These skills are not seen as important for principals as other staff can assist them and therefore the principals can spend more time on other aspects of ICT. On the other hand, the relatively low proficiency of principals in creating and using spreadsheets and databases are essential for those in leadership positions where use and interpretation of data is increasingly becoming a critical skill. These findings confirmed Schiller's (2003) study.

In addition, principals taking part in the study stated that they have moderate competence in using telecommunication; networking; set up, maintenance and troubleshooting of equipment; and media communication. In Iran, these innovations were still new and only certain people knew how to operate the equipment. The development of Internet technology also might be the reason why principal did not have much competence in telecommunications system. Today, in Iran, the use of basic Internet skills has become more common especially in Tehran's schools. According to Starr (2001), competence in using computers requires a positive attitude, practice time, and staff development in computer use. Hence, considerable ongoing, professional development opportunities need to be provided for principals to fulfill their role as technology leader. Training should be ongoing so principals can continue to learn how to use hardware and software applications within the context of their administrative and instructional responsibilities. Consistent and continuous training can increase the proficiency of principals.

Cultural Perceptions

Principals were asked to respond to 16 Likert-type statements dealing with their cultural perceptions of computers and the impact of computer use on Iranian society and schools. This questionnaire was developed by Albirini in 2006a. Based on this questionnaire, respondents can rate their cultural perceptions on each item from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (5), the range of possible mean scores is between 1 and 5, with higher scores indicating more positive cultural perceptions.

Table 5: Distribution of Mean Scores on the Cultural Perceptions

As can be seen from Table 5, the overall mean on the cultural perceptions scale was 4.0, with a standard deviation of 0.53, indicating that principals' perceptions of the cultural relevance of computers were positive. In other words, principals had positive perceptions of the value, relevance, and impact of ICT as it relates to the cultural norms in Iranian society and schools. So, principals did not feel ICT as a threat for Iranian culture.

Computer Access

Respondents were asked to rate their level of access to computers. The access questions covered: (a) the location of computers used by principals (home, office, and school), and (b) the frequency of access (never, once a month, once a week, two to three times a week, and daily). Computer access of principals was represented by a mean score on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (Never) to 5 (Daily).

Table 6

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Computer Access Scale

According to Table 6, the mean score of the overall Computer Access Scale was 3.55 (SD = 1.05), which implies that, on average; secondary school principals had access to a computer almost two or three times a week. Furthermore, finding of this section indicated that only 30.9% of principals had access to computers daily. Many school districts communicate vital information daily to administrators, and they expect communications, reports, and other documents to be transmitted in the same way. In fact, frequent and immediate access to computer to get data (e.g. student files and grades, arrange class schedules, track discipline problems, and evaluate teachers) is important for principals. They can use these data to develop processes for effective decision-making and problem solving which result in better accountability (Felton, 2006). Moreover, principals reported high levels of computer access in more personalized spaces such as in their offices (M=4.12) and at their homes (M=3.53). The high level of computer access for administrators can be a positive sign. It shows that the importance of computers as management and instructional tool has been understood by decision makers.

Leadership Style

In this study, the leadership style of principals was measured by the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The MLQ5x was developed by Bass and Avolio in 2000. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire 5x is the most recent version of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, which is the instrument most commonly used to measure transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership. In this study laissez-faire leadership was not examined because this style is extremely passive, where a leader avoids decision making and supervisory responsibilities (Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 1939). Moreover, laissez faire leadership indicates a complete abdication of leadership (Bass, 1985).

    • Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership questions are in the questionnaire categorized as: idealized influence (attributed) idealized influence (behavior), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. The transformational leadership score is the average score of 20 items making up transformational leadership. The range of possible mean scores was between 0 and 4, with higher scores indicating a greater level of perceived transformational leadership.

Table 7

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Transformational Leadership Style

As a composite variable, transformational leadership received a mean rating of 2.83 (on a five-point scale). The findings showed that a representative sample of Iranian secondary school principals fairly often provided some elements of transformational leadership. Bass and Avolio (2003) suggested that ideal ratings for the transformational variables should be greater than three (>3.0). This benchmark shows that principals who have a mean score greater than three are very powerful in achieving the best outcomes. However, the principals surveyed as part of this research did not meet this benchmark.

Based on literature review, the level of transformational leadership in developed country is higher than developing country. In fact, in developed countries such as USA, educational master degrees are mandatory. School principals must complete the Principals' Qualification Programme (PQP) before being appointed as a principal or vice-principal (Bush & Jackson, 2002). In Hong Kong, there is a compulsory 30 hours training programme for potential heads but the master level courses run by three universities are not mandatory. Moreover, there are programmes for newly appointed principals in New South Wales and in New Zealand. In Ohio, new principals should attend a two-year curriculum to develop their knowledge, dispositions and leadership skills (Bush & Jackson, 2002). Conversely, in developing countries specifically in Iran, training is not a requirement for appointment as a principal and there is still an assumption that good teachers can become effective managers and leaders without specific preparation (Bush & Oduro, 2006). This may be a reason that principals surveyed as part of this research did not meet an optimal level of transformational leader.

According to Bamberger and Meshoulam (2000), the training and development of transformational leaders is the most viable route for organizations to pursue. Transformational leadership can be successfully taught. Hence, if leaders find that their behaviour or their leadership style does not fit with their workplace, they should change their leadership style (Kelloway & Barling, 2000). Then, decision makers should design programmes, such as leadership studies, in order to teach the components of transformational leadership to future administrators. Also, principals should be encouraged to understand that they do not have to be perfect leaders demonstrating total transformational leadership. Instead all that is needed is a subtle change of the balance of their leadership scores towards the transformational end of the scale (Kirkbride, 2006).

Among the different categories of transformational leadership, idealized influence (attribute) had the highest mean value (M=2.99, SD=0.67). This was followed by idealized influence (behaviour) (M=2.88, SD=0.71). These statistics suggest that principals are able to display fairly often charismatic leadership behaviours in their schools. In fact, idealized influence occurs when leaders engender the trust and respect of their followers by doing the right thing rather than ensuring they do things right. When they focus on doing the right thing, they serve as role models (Kelloway & Barling, 2000). These leaders are regarded as effective and influential. They have personal power, which is not a typical feature of an ''ordinary'' leader (Kent et al., 2001).

In most of the developing countries because of their general socio-cultural characteristics, charismatic leadership is considered as the most appropriate and the most critical manner of leading for organizational leaders (Tuomo, 2006). Organizational change is the essence of development, and there is usually an urgent need for change in the internal work cultures of these countries at all levels (Tuomo, 2006). According to Conger, Kanungo and Menon (2000), effective changes require the initiative, guidance, and effort of charismatic leaders. Thus, Iranian principals should posses the charismatic qualities, in managing their teachers in order to ensure that they are able to share similar idea and vision towards achieving the organizational goals. In addition, policy makers should provide training and education, in order to mould the charismatic qualities among the principals.

Respondents' third highest mean score came from individualized consideration (M=2.85, SD=0.69), implying that principals fairly often display individualized consideration leadership behaviours in their school. According to Avolio and Bass (2002), a large portion of individualized consideration is developmental, involving the diagnosing of followers' needs for growth and providing the mentoring or coaching required to both meet those needs for growth and expand them to higher levels of potential. Furthermore, the follower is transformed in the sense that as his or her needs are continuously addressed, a shift in perspective occurs from a short-term self-interested mutuality of rewards for performance, to an enlarged perspective involving a more careful analysis of the contributions that can be made for the good of the group, organization, or society (Avolio & Bass, 2002). Therefore, developmental orientation and individualized attention to followers are two important aspects of individualized consideration.

As described above, individualized consideration is important leadership behaviour in the workplace. Hence, principals should be trained to display more frequent individualized consideration by showing general support for the efforts of teachers, and by encouraging their autonomy and empowering them to take on more responsibility in line with their growing expertise and interest (Kelloway & Barling, 2000). Such principals structure the teacher's work to offer the follower developmental opportunities on a continuous basis.

Also, the finding of this study displayed that principals fairly often motivated and encouraged their teachers to envision attractive future states, as indicated by inspirational motivation mean score (M=2.74, SD=0.76). According to Bass & Riggio (2006), envisioning a desired future state and showing how to get there is a basic component of the inspirational process. In line with this idea, Ozaralli (2003) stated that envisioning is the creating of an image of a desired future organizational state that can serve as a guide to interim strategies, decisions, and behaviour. It is fundamental to effective leadership. Without the ability to define a desired future state, the executive would be "rudderless in a sea of conflicting demands, contradictory data, and environmental uncertainty" (Sashkin, 2000, p. 2). Envisioning integrates what is possible and what can be realized. It provides goals for others to pursue and drives and guides an organization's development (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Hence, principals should be trained to be able to communicate their visions in ways that are compelling, make people committed to it, and help make it happen. Also, they should look ahead optimistically despite the current uncertainties of internal and external threats and opportunities to the organizations. Moreover, they should be adaptable, keep their organizations adaptable to new conditions and to new problems, and also concentrate on the purposes of their organizations and on "paradigms of action". Furthermore, they should make extensive use of metaphor, symbolism, ceremonial, and insignia as ways of concretizing and transmitting their visions of what could be. Finally, they should picture what is right, good, and important for their organization, thus contributing considerably to their organization's culture of shared norms and values.

In addition to the other characteristics of leadership, transformational leaders can stimulate extra effort from their subordinates through intellectual stimulation. This leadership factor encompasses behaviors that enhance followers' interest in and awareness of problems, and that develop their ability and propensity to think about problems in new ways (Bass, 1985). The effects of intellectual stimulation are seen in increases in followers' abilities to conceptualize, comprehend, and analyze problems and in the improved quality of solutions that they generate (Bass & Avolio, 1990). Finding of this study indicated that the mean score on intellectual stimulation was the lowest among the five dimension of transformational leadership (M=2.69. SD=0.80). In all, the area where most improvement is needed is intellectual stimulation. In fact, the role of this aspect of leadership becomes more important with the increased emphasis on knowledge work in today's schools (Kelloway & Barling, 2000). Knowledge-based organizations require leaders who can create and maintain an environment where innovation thrives. Intellectual stimulation allows for long-term focus on strategy and intellect in addition to the short-term thinking involved with crisis control and immediate problem solving. The intellectual stimulation by the transformational leader is most often required when the organization faces poorly structured situations. Intellectual stimulation results in the transformation of structure into well-structured solutions for organizational problems (Bass, 1985). According to Bass and Riggio (2006), transformational leadership can be learned, and it should be the subject of management training and development. Intellectual stimulation also needs to be nurtured and cultivated as a way of life in the organization. Hence, the 'best and the brightest" principals should be hired, nourished, and encouraged. Besides, innovation and creativity should be fostered in the school and principals should be trained to be able to show their teachers new ways of looking at old problems, to teach them to see difficulties as problems to be solved, and to emphasize rational solutions.

    • Transactional leadership Style

Participants were asked to respond to 12 Likert-type statements dealing with their transactional leadership behavior. Based on this questionnaire, three dimensions of transactional leadership were examined which were contingent reward, management-by-exception-active and management-by-exception-passive. However, the transactional score is the average score of the 12 items encompassing transactional leadership. Based on this questionnaire, transactional leadership style was measured by a mean score on a five-point Likert scale, where 0 (not at all) represents the minimum score of the scale and 4 (frequently, if not always) represents the maximum score.

Table 8

Distribution of Mean Scores on the Transactional Leadership Style

According to Bass et al. (2003), transactional leadership is a necessary precondition for transformational leadership to be effective as it serves to develop the relationship between the leader and follower. It also provides direction and focus that, if lacking, would result in confusion and ambiguity from the use of transformational behaviors. In this study, descriptive analyses revealed that the respondents have a mean score of 2.31 (SD=0.34). It seems that principals sometimes display some elements of transactional leadership. In other words, this result indicates that principals sometimes tend to focus on task completion and teacher compliance, rely quite heavily on organizational rewards and punishments to influence teacher performance, and emphasize work standards, assignments, and task-oriented goals. The study result is not consistent with Gumusluoglu and Ilsev (2009), and Christopher's (2003) findings while the result of this section is in line with Jung et al.'s (2003) findings. This variation may be because of difference in cultural, geographic, or religious dimensions. This is supported by Ardichvili and Kuchinke (2002) who conducted a comparative study of four countries of the former Soviet Union, Germany, and the US regarding leadership styles and cultural values among managers and subordinates. Result of this study indicated that two dimensions, contingent reward and inspirational motivation, produced the highest scores in all four countries of the former USSR. Also, two less efficient leadership styles, laissez-faire and management by exception, have received significantly higher scores in the four former USSR countries, than in the US and Germany. It is clear that socio-cultural dimensions influence leadership style of managers.

Among the three components of transactional leadership, the contingent reward subscale has the highest mean score (M=3.02). This result shows that principals fairly often clarified role and task requirements, and provided teachers with material or psychological rewards contingent on the fulfillment of contractual obligations. Furthermore, they discussed with teachers what is required and clarified how these outcomes would be achieved and the reward they would receive in exchange for their satisfactory effort and performance. In general, these principals provided tangible or intangible support and resources to followers in exchange for their efforts and performance, defined rules regarding work duties, maintained standards, and determined the consequences of goal attainment. Bass (1998) notes that leaders who use this method are "reasonably effective, although not as much as any of the transformational components in motivating others to achieve higher levels of development and performance" (p. 6). Also, Bass and Avolio (2003) stated that for contingent reward the rating should be greater than two. In this study, the mean score of the participants' responses on contingent reward was 3.02. It meets the criteria of Bass and Avolio.

On the other hand, Bass and Avolio (2003) indicated that the mean score of the participants' responses on management by exception (active) subscale should be less than 1.5 and the rate of management by exception (passive) should be less than one. In this study, management by exception (passive) had a rating of 1.10 and management by exception (active) had a mean rating of 2.81 which exceed the benchmark set by Bass and Avolio. These rating were higher than what is considered ideal for a leader. In fact, optimally effective principals should use low level of management by exception (active and passive) behaviors. The management-by-exception factor emphasizes the controlling aspects of management, where leaders intervene only when things go wrong (Bass et al., 2003). The types of leader intervention in management-by-exception embrace correction, criticism, negative feedback, and negative contingent reinforcement. Hence, both passive and active forms of management-by-exception use more negative rather than positive reinforcement patterns and correspond to low satisfaction with leaders by their followers (Northouse, 2001). Therefore, it is clear that appropriate courses should be provided for principals to learn the necessary leadership skills.

The Relationship between the level of computer use by principals and the Independent

Variables

The association between computer use and independent variables were explored by using the correlation analysis. Correlation analysis was used to describe the strength and direction of the linear relationship between two variables. To run correlation analysis, preliminary analyses were performed to ensure no violation of the assumptions of normality, linearity, and homoscedasticity. The correlation matrix shows a number of significant relationships between level of computer use by principals and the independent variables (Table 9).

Table 9: Summary of the Correlation Matrix of Independent Variables and Computer Use

    • Principals' Profiles and Level of Computer Use

Findings of this study showed that by increasing age and administrative experience, level of computer use by principals may be decreased. This may be due to the fact that new and young principals have been exposed to computers during their training and therefore, have more experience using this tool. Moreover, study results showed that training hours have a significant relationship with level of computer use. It would seem that training can make a difference in the proficiency of principals in using hardware, software and in instructional, administrative proficiency. Furthermore, principals reported that they received training in four ways: in-service training, non-school computer classes, self-teaching methods, and short workshop. Although the vast majority of principals stated that they attended training programmes (95%), findings showed that they spent a few times a week working on their computers. It would seem that principals' training programmes have not been effective to increase the proficiency of principals in using computers for administrative and instructional purposes. Formal training seems to make a difference in the proficiency of principals in using hardware and software and in overall proficiency but not in instructional and administrative proficiency. This may be due to emphasis that formal courses place on hardware components and programme applications. In fact, technology training should improve management and administrative skills. In this way, principals become more organized and efficient. According to Peterson (2002), training in computer use should help principals become proficient users to meet the challenges they face in a changing technological society. Then, effective and extensive training must be provided for principals to use a new tool or strategy.

    • Computer Access and the Level of Computer Use

The relationship between computer access and the level of computer use was investigated using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. There was a strong, positive relationship between the two variables [r =0.78, n=320, p<0.05]. This result suggests that principals who had access to computers and the Internet were more likely to use them than those who did not have adequate access to equipment and network connections. Therefore, access to hardware and software is an influential factor related to computer use. This result supports previous studies (Albirini, 2006a; Felton, 2006; Guha, 2000; Knezek & Christensen, 2002; Norris et al., 2003; Pelgrum, 2001; Schiller, 2003).

    • Computer Attributes and the Level of Computer Use

principals' positive perceptions about the computer attributes had a very strong correlation with their level of computer use (r=0.77), indicating that as principals' perceptions of computer attributes improve, their level of computer use will be enhanced as well. This corroborates the proposition that the attributes of the technology itself play a major role in determining its receptivity (Rogers, 2003). The result of this section is consistent with prior theoretical arguments made by Rogers (2003) and previous studies in which Diffusion of Innovation examined (Albirini, 2006a; Al-Gahtani, 2003; Vishwanath & Goldhaber, 2003). Rogers (2003) stated that innovations offering more relative advantage, compatibility, simplicity, and observability will be adopted faster than other innovations. Rogers does caution, "getting a new idea adopted, even when is has obvious advantages, is difficult" (p.1), so the availability of all of these variables of innovations speed up the innovation-diffusion process. Therefore, it is crucial that secondary school principals were trained to improve their understanding about computer attributes since they are significantly related to individuals' adoption intentions.

    • Attitude toward Computers and the Level of Computer Use

According to Rogers (2003), people's attitudes toward a new technology are a key element in its diffusion. Furthermore, attitudes towards computers are thought to influence not only the acceptance of computers, but also future behaviours, such as using computers as a professional tool in administrative and instructional tasks (Becker, 2000; Braak, 2001; Christensen & Knezek, 2001; Earle, 2002; Kotrlik, Harrison & Redmann, 2000; Kumar & Kumar, 2003). Study result showed that there was a moderate and positive correlation between computer attitude and computer use [r =0.47, n=320, p<0.05. principals who have positive feeling; like; enjoy; feel comfortable about ICT in education and have realized the impact of technology on their life and society, use technology more in their administrative and instructional tasks. This symbiotic relationship between attitudes toward ICT and its use has been widely reported in the literature (Bai & Ertmer, 2008; Drent & Meelissen, 2007; Gilbert & Kelly, 2005; Han, 2002; Knezek & Christensen, 2002). Literature confirmed this finding that attitude is an important factor for using or avoiding computer-based technology (Albirini, 2006a; Ertmer, 2005; Snoeyink & Ertmer, 2001; Drent & Meelissen, 2007; Liaw, 2002; Noraini Idris et al., 2007; Zhao & Cziko, 2001; Teo, Lee & Chai, 2008).

According to Bai and Ertmer (2008), principal's positive attitudes toward technology impact on the effective use of computers in the s


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