Education Issues In The Information Technology Age

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Nowadays, people are witnessing a rapid development of information technology. Technology has been affecting every aspects of social life. In education, it has both positive and negative influences on teaching and learning as well as schools' performance. On the one hand, it is drastically changing the way we teach and learn. Technology can be used as a wonderful tool to assist or even enhance teaching and learning (Schulman and Sims, 1999; Radhakrishnan and Bailey, 1997). Many people argue that classes that rely on lectures and blackboards as the primary way of teaching are not well accepted by students of the internet generation and this traditional teaching method will be replaced by a new method that base on technology. On the other hand, technology also has adverse effects on education. For instance, students can use mobile phone, while learning in their classroom, for playing game or chatting. Also, they can watch excessively violent films on the internet. These are very harmful to their outcomes and their personality development as well.

There are many researches studying these important problems in education in many countries throughout the world. However, there is a dearth of research on this area in Vietnam. In this paper, I will describe and justify the methodologies for two research proposals examining this topic. Firstly, with a post-positivistic perspective, the first research will examine the effects of technology on the mathematics achievement and attitudes of secondary school students in Hai Phong city in Vietnam. Secondly, with an interpretive perspective, the second research will discover the beliefs of teachers and administrators regarding the rationale for banning students from using mobile phone in their classroom at secondary schools in Haiphong city as well. Finally, I will put forward a critique and evaluation of these two methodologies.

PROPOSAL 1

STUDY AIMS

The major goal of this study is to evaluate an innovative teaching-learning approach based on using electronic lesson plans in mathematics education. This approach was designed to improve thinking skills by incorporating the major educational initiatives of innovation and information technology. In the study, the teaching approach that teachers use electronic lesson plans will be compared with one that uses only the traditional (lecture-based) lesson plans. The two types of approaches will differ only with respect to whether they are applied information technology. Of special interest in the study will be the impact of electronic lesson plans on mathematics achievement and attitudes. This research study will be highly significant in that the findings may have national implications for the enhancement of mathematics education.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The primary research question to be addressed in the study is: What are the effects of using electronic lesson plans on mathematics achievement and attitudes?

RESEARCH APPROACH

In the book Developing Effective Research Proposals, published in 2000, a central issue in the whole field of empirical social research is the amount of structure and specificity planned into the research study. Studies may vary from tightly pre-planned and pre-structured to almost totally unfolding, with many positions between the continuum of the varying degrees of pre-structuring or unfolding. One of the key differences between the two types of research approaches (quantitative and qualitative) is the amount of pre-specified structure in the strategy used. Quantitative research approaches are generally used to address questions of effect (e.g., program evaluation studies). In this light, such studies are usually highly pre-structured, with clear and specific research questions, a clear conceptual framework, a pre-planned design and pre-coded data. On the other hand, qualitative research approaches generally focus on addressing questions of peoples' perspectives. As such, these tend not to rely heavily on pre-structured questions, pre-planned designs and pre-coded data. In light of the fact that the major goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the information technology on mathematics achievement and attitudes, a quantitative approach with a post-positivistic perspective was considered most appropriate.

RESEARCH DESIGN

Independent variables

(1) Type of teaching method: There will be two levels of this independent variable: electronic lesson plans and traditional lesson plans.

(2) Ability level: There will be two levels of this variable, based on the aggregate score.

Dependent variables

(1) Mathematics Achievement: This refers to the scores of the students based on a 20-item, researcher-developed multiple-choice test.

(2) Mathematics Attitudes: This refers to scores on a researcher-adapted attitude survey comprising 20 statements to examine students' attitudes towards mathematics.

The study will use an experimental design, with stratified random assignment of participants to conditions. Stratification variables will be ability level. The design used in the study is represented in the following figure.

Experimental group (100 participants with 50 from each school)

Pre-test of Attitudes and Achievement

Treatment

(with electronic lesson plans)

Post-test of Attitudes and Achievement

Control group

(100 participants with 50 from each school)

Pre-test of Attitudes and Achievement

No treatment

(with traditional lesson plans)

Post-test of Attitudes and Achievement

For each school, using the aggregate scores, 100 students in the same level mathematics subject will be randomly selected. Then, they are assigned to either the experimental group or the control group (50 for each group). The total number of the participants in the study will be 200.

The following variables will be held constant across the two groups:

(1) Age: Same age group of 14 year olds secondary school students taking the same mathematics syllabus

(2) Curriculum Content: Same selected topics on Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic.

(3) Teaching approach: In both conditions, the same modified Predict-Observe-Explain

(POE) strategy will be used. The lesson plans used will be equivalent in terms of (i) the mathematics principles applied, (ii) application to real-life scenarios, (iii) basic structure and pedagogy, and (iv) difficulty level. The only difference between the conditions will be that the control condition will use traditional lesson plans, whereas the experimental condition will use electronic lesson plans.

(4) Number of enrichment sessions. In both conditions, students will all receive either five or six enrichment sessions, depending on the constraints of the school timetable.

(5) Timing of tests: Pre-test to be taken one month before the first lecture to minimise the practice effects. Post-test to be taken immediately on the day after the last lecture.

METHODS

Participants

The population from which the sample of two schools will be taken is the fifteen secondary schools in Hai Phong. In the Hai Phong system, all students receive an aggregate score on which decisions regarding school entry are made. These scores give an indication of the intake quality of a secondary school and its ranking position. Based on the annual school ranking of the fifteen schools in academic performance, a purposive sampling of two schools, one among the top five ranked schools, and one among the bottom five ranked schools, will be chosen. This is to ensure two groups of highly different ability students for maximum variation in the study.

A formal visit will be made to obtain the support of the principals of the two selected schools for both the pilot study and the actual study. An information sheet and consent letter for Mathematics Heads and the participating students in this research study will be provided through the principals. No reference will be made to individual results in the analysis of the data. To safeguard the confidentiality of the participating schools, the names of the schools will be coded as school A and school B.

Instruments

Mathematics Achievement

To gather data for the evaluation of the effectiveness of two types of teaching method in improving achievement in mathematics among secondary school students in Hai Phong, a Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT) will be used. Two sets of alternate or parallel forms of the MAT that will be developed to be piloted for validity and reliability with the aim of selecting the best items to construct the final MAT. 'Alternate forms' are simply different versions of a test that are constructed so as to be parallel. They are designed to be equivalent with respect to variables such as content and level of difficulty. 'Parallel forms' of a test exist when for each form of the test, the means and variances of observed test scores are equal. The format of this final MAT written test will comprise 20 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ). These mathematics questions will be chosen or modified from previous year questions and textbooks to test conceptual understanding, thinking skills and application to real life situations. To ensure content validity in the construction of the MCQ items in the Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT), the questions will be constructed based on the learning outcomes of the mathematics topics in the syllabus. The professional judgement of the senior mathematics teachers of the two participating schools as well as content experts from the Hai Phong Department of Education will also be sought.

To test for reliability, the 'parallel-forms' or 'alternate-forms' with a time interval of 1-4

week(s) together with split ordering will be administered to two groups of 20 participants from schools A and B respectively. In addition, the conduct of the pilot study at both the participating schools will ensure that the succeeding batch of 100 students who will participate in the main or actual study have undergone the same instructional programme and school environment. The purpose of the 1-4 week(s) test-retest is to check the instrument's reliability across time.

General Attitudes Towards Mathematics

A version of the Test of Mathematics-Related Attitudes questionnaire (TOMRA) will be used to assess general attitudes towards mathematics. The TOMRA includes items which measure an important facet of Mathematics-related attitudes that is the enjoyment of mathematics lessons. This test will be designed to reflect students' responses to the two different teaching methods used in this study in terms of facilitating understanding of the mathematics matter and enhancing enjoyment and interest in this matter. The enjoyment of mathematics lessons scale will be used because this is a scale deemed to be relevant given the content of the interventions used. Each item will have four-scaled options: SA strongly agree, A agree, D disagree and SD strongly disagree.

Data Collection

For the purpose of the pilot study to test the validity and reliability of the instruments, the required number of 20 participants from each college will be randomly chosen. For the actual study involving the 100 succeeding batch of students from each school, based on the pre-test scores, stratified random assignment into the experimental and control groups with equal number of participants from each school will be carried out. An analysis of variance on pre-test scores will be made to ensure that the participants in both the experimental and control groups are not different. As the pilot study is targeted at the prior batch of students, a good period will be before their final examinations. For the actual study which is targeted at the succeeding batch of students who are new to the lecture tutorial system, it is important for them to get inducted into this mode of learning and to have completed those topics that are selected for this research study before taking the pre-test. A sufficient time lag of a month between conducting the pre-test and the post-test must also be factored in to minimize the practice effect. In the light of the above considerations, a good period for the pre-test would be sometime after their promotional examinations. The conduct of the two week intensive mathematics as enrichment lessons can be carried out and it will be immediately followed by the post-test. There will be a fixed time used to construct and test the lesson plans followed by a training session to equip the two mathematics teachers from each school on the teaching approach in the conduct of the mathematics lectures with and without the electronic aid. To remove the teacher effect in the study, both the teachers will lecture half of the control group and half of the experimental group.

Data Analysis

As indicated, the content validity of the two parallel forms of the Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT) will be evaluated through expert panels. The psychometric properties of the instrument will be further examined and improved through the pilot study. On the basis of the 40 students who complete the two parallel forms of the test during this phase, the characteristics of each multiple choice item and the overall structure of the test will be examined using Rasch methods. This process will be used to examine whether any items should be excluded in either of the final forms of the instrument. Based also on the pilot study data, the reliability of the instrument will be estimated using test-retest indices based on the correlation between scores from the first and the second test administrations. If either index suggests a low reliability, the test forms will be reworked prior to use in the final study.

In addition, a version of the Test of Mathematics-Related Attitudes (TOMRA) will be used both at the pre-test and at the post-test. To determine whether there is a significant difference in the post-test achievement of the experimental and control groups or whether there are significant attitudinal differences between two these groups after the intervention, t-test will be employed.

PROPOSAL 2

STUDY AIMS

By exploring the perspectives of teachers and school administrators on banning students from using mobile phone in their classrooms (UMPIC), this study aims to provide answers to some of the questions that ask why mobile phone continues to be used or banned in schools when there appears to be little evidence of its efficacy. Therefore, the proposed study aims to collate the beliefs of teachers and administrators in regards to banning students from UMPIC and to discover themes that could enable schools to make better use of this disciplinary practice and improve the outcomes of the students concerned.

RESEARCH QUESTION

The central question that will be addressed by this study is as follows:

"What do teachers and administrative staff believe is the rationale for banning students from using mobile phone in their classrooms at secondary schools in Hai Phong city in Vietnam?"

There are some guiding questions that will shape the study. These are: What are the perspectives of teachers and administrative staff on the use of this ban as a behaviour modification tool? And why?; What do teachers and administrative staff believe are the students' perceptions of ban? And why?; What do teachers and administrative staff believe is the parents'/community's perception of this ban? And why?; What impact do teachers and administrative staff believe this ban has on student behaviour? And why?

RESEARCH APPROACH

As the aim of the proposed research is to understand how teachers and administrators

make meaning pertaining to ban, the type of inquiry needed lens itself to a qualitative

approach that is aligned with interpretive theory. The interpretivist looks to understand the meanings that constitute the actions (Schwandt, 1994) and this is the core of the proposed research. When using this approach the emphasis is on the importance of the processes which lie between social structure and behaviour. The central character in these processes is the person who is active in the construction of social reality (Reid, 1986).

It is anticipated that by utilising this theoretical perspective more relevant themes will emerge that both address the central research question and give light to alternative or improved practices in Hai Phong secondary schools.

RESEARCH DESIGN

To maximise richness and accuracy of data, as well as transferability of the findings, case studies will be carried out at two different school sites. Case studies are an excellent method to use when endeavouring to understand the phenomenon being studied in depth.

They allow the researcher to become familiar with the data in its natural setting and fully appreciate the context (Punch, 2005). In regard to this study, to understand why ban is used, it is necessary to understand the viewpoint of the school and how it fits within the context of discipline in that school.

Each school site will be approached as a separate case study with the following characteristics, consistent with Punch (2005):

1. The boundaries of the case will be defined as the schools themselves and the teaching and administrative staff who work there. Even though the wider community (such as parents) have some influence on how schools operate and students are obviously central to the school environment, only teachers' and administrators' beliefs will be examined throughout this study. This boundary has been created for two reasons. Firstly, there is a dearth of research in the area of teachers' and administrators' perspectives on ban and secondly, to assist in creating finite boundaries to make the research manageable.

2. Each case is about the beliefs held by teachers and administrators within that particular school. All phenomena that either influence or reflect these beliefs that are controlled will be examined, such as each school's behaviour management policy, classroom management policies, alternatives to ban and allocation of staff to pastoral care.

3. In order to preserve the unity of the case, the data from each school will be analysed with the unique context of the school in mind, including location, socio-economic factors, the number of students who use mobile phone in their classrooms and alternative programs. Cross-case analysis will formally occur only after the individual site analyses are complete.

4. Multiple sources of data will be accessed, not the least of which is the interviewing of staff with different duties at the school, from classroom teachers to principals. In addition, school records pertaining to effects of UMPIC, socio-economic standing and general discipline records will be collected in order to gain an overall perspective of the ban and behaviour management in the school.

Secondary schools have been chosen due to the fact that the majority of students who are using mobile phone excessively and inappropriately are in many Hai Phong secondary schools.

METHODS

Participants

Kien An and Hong Bang districts each have secondary schools that will pilot programs concerning the ban. These schools can be considered special cases (Punch, 2005).

One school is piloting a program to ban students from UMPIC is located in Kien An district. This program will be in its infancy, therefore the opinions and beliefs of the staff will be interesting to examine, especially considering the changes to discipline that will evolve in the school due to the program's implementation.

The second school that allow but control their students to use mobile phone in their classrooms will be selected as a direct contrast to the first school. The beliefs of this school's staff will be interesting to compare with the first school that will be undergoing changes in their disciplinary practices.

Teachers from different learning areas will be interviewed from each site to maximise variation. It is anticipated that at least five will be interviewed. Teachers who are team leaders or are involved directly in the pastoral care of students but also carry a teaching role will make up the second group of participants. It is anticipated that there will be at least two of this type of participant from each school. These people are involved with the students at the most base level - in the classroom - and must contend with disciplining as well.

Finally, the representatives from the administration team will comprise the final group. These representatives will very much depend on the structure of the school but it is probable that they could include the Principal, the Deputy Principal in charge of Student Services. The only stipulation of these participants is that they have been delegated the power to ban. The beliefs of these people will be valuable as they choose the final consequence for the student's behaviour, regardless of the teacher's preferences. They are also primarily responsible for any alternatives to ban that the school offers.

The school which agree to be a pilot school will refine the data gathering process. It may also be possible to include this school in the study if relatively little modification of the processes has to be made.

Confidentiality will be assured to all participants. All transcripts, notes and audiotapes will be stored in a lockable cabinet at the researcher's home. Names of schools will be disguised, as will names of participants.

When the principals have consented, permission will be sought to address a staff meeting or other gathering to explain the research and ask for volunteer participants. These volunteers will be contacted either via email or phone and interview times will be finalised.

Data Collection

There will be two stages of data collection. The first stage will consist of interviewing the participants. Participants who consent to be interviewed will be given the opportunity to view the basic interview schedule prior to the interview in order to have time to consider their responses, with the explanation that this schedule is a guide for the interview and questions may not necessarily be asked in that order. It is hoped that this will encourage more meaningful replies, which, in turn, will provide richer data. Spontaneous replies will be able to be included by asking clarifying questions. Thus, it will be possible to elicit both planned and unplanned responses that will again aid in gathering meaningful data. It is intended that the interviews take no longer than thirty minutes and permission will be sought from each participant to use a recorder to record the interview.

It is anticipated that most interviews will take place at the participant's place of work and at a time that is most suitable for them. The interview itself, although based around the guiding questions, will be conducted in a more conversational manner in order to place the participant at ease and to aid rapport.

The type of interview technique that will be employed is that of the semi-structured or focused interview. Minichiello, Aroni, Timewell and Alexander (1995) argue that this style of interviewing allows researchers to use both a structured approach as well as a more 'conversational' style in order to answer the research questions. This style of in-depth interviewing - "conversations with a purpose" (Burgess, 1984) - is appropriate for this study as the purpose is to glean as much information pertaining to the participants' perspectives on banning students from UMPIC. The researcher will be familiar with techniques in creating rapport, which is expected to be substantially aided by the fact that the researcher is a member of the teaching profession. At the conclusion of the interviews at a school, each participants will each receive a written transcript of their interview and will be invited to make any changes they deem to be necessary.

The second stage of data collection will occur once the initial data has been analysed and themes emerged. It is intended that a focus group interview will take place at each site to confirm or refute these themes. Those who had participated in the one-on-one interviews will be invited to take part. The raw data itself will not be discussed but any other information that is revealed during these sessions will also form part of the final analysis.

Data Analysis

As the purpose of this study is to develop themes regarding the beliefs of school staff, it is necessary to choose the most suitable methods of data analysis to ensure that the data is treated thoroughly and the conclusions drawn can be substantiated. Miles and Huberman

(1994) developed a model of data analysis that assists the researcher by providing a visual reference as to how data can be tackled.

This model presents analysis as a continuous, iterative process that involves four phases that constantly impact upon each other and are carried out simultaneously. These four phases will be integral to this study and their application is outlined as follows:

1. Data collection: As described in the previous section, data for this study will be collected by building a profile of the behaviour management at the schools through examining their processes, procedures and alternatives to ban students from UMPIC; and interviewing those who participate in the teaching, pastoral care or disciplinary roles.

2. Data display: When dealing with the data from schools such as the number of incidents relating to mobile phone that have occurred over one school year, tables will be constructed to facilitate cross-case analysis and to be able to determine the policies and practices regarding behaviour management that a school employs. This will assist in profiling the school and will give context to the beliefs held by the practitioners there.

Interview data and school's behaviour management policies will be transcribed firstly into a Word document with margins down either side for future analysis. Inductive coding techniques will be employed, aimed at discovering the codes from within the data itself. The reasoning behind not creating a database of codes prior to analysis is to eliminate as much researcher bias as possible. As the researcher currently works with at-risk students, it can be assumed that some bias and preconceptions may infiltrate the process so taking precautions is logical. Codes will be written in the left hand margin and memos in the right, in different colours, so as to aid the visual representation of the data.

3. Further into the analysis, these codes will be displayed without the transcripts in order to group together like-phenomenon and begin to advance the analysis conceptually to the level where themes can be crystallised. Visual displays such as matrices, concept maps and spreadsheets will assist in formulating the concepts as connections are made. Continually re-displaying the data visually will assist in a stronger, more meaningful analysis.

4. Conclusions - drawing/verifying: As the displays of the data are constantly being refined, it will be possible to begin to draw conclusions. These conclusions will be verified by looking back at earlier stages of the data analysis, including the raw data, and confirming the significance of the suppositions.

During each of these stages, especially as data is being coded, the researcher will check for consistency by taking random pages of the transcripts or policies and re-coding them. In addition, the central and guiding questions will always be displayed so as to reiterate the focus of the study and prevent the analysis from straying.

CRITIQUE AND EVALUATION OF THE TWO METHODOLOGIES

Doing quantitative or qualitative research does not mean the researcher's perspective is positivistic or interpretive. The researcher's perspective depends on their research philosophy, epistemology and technique. As indicated, I do my first study by quantitative approach with post-positivistic perspective and the second by qualitative approach with interpretive perspective. Therefore, in my own view in this paper, to criticise and evaluate these two methodologies, quantitative research and qualitative research are the researches with post-positivistic and interpretive perspective respectively.

There are some differences between quantitative and qualitative research. Firstly, in quantitative research the researcher's contact with the people being studied is fairly fleeting or even nonexistent. For example, in my questionnaire surveys or in my experimental study, I may simply observe while others conduct the experiment. By contrast, qualitative research entails much more sustained contact. The qualitative researchers have to contact with their subjects closely because they need to see the world through their subjects' eyes (Bryman, 1993), especially in the interviewing in my above study. In addition, the quantitative researchers adopt the posture of an outsider looking in on the social world. They apply a pre-ordained framework on the subjects being investigated and are involved as little as possible in that world. While, for qualitative researchers, it is only by getting close to their subjects and becoming an insider that they can view the world as a participant.

Secondly, the model of quantitative research implies that theories and concepts are the starting point for investigations carried out within its framework. By contrast, qualitative researchers often reject the idea of using theory as a precursor to an investigation because it may not reflect subjects' views about what is going on and what is important. In other words, the purpose of the qualitative research is to discover theory rather than verify theory. Punch (2005, p. 235) states that "quantitative research is thought to be more concerned with the deductive testing of hypotheses and theories, whereas qualitative research is more concerned with exploring a topic, and with inductively generating hypotheses and theories".

Thirdly, quantitative research tends to adopt a structured approach to the study and its samples are typically larger than in qualitative studies. "It is well developed and codified methods for data analysis" (Punch, 2005, p. 238). For example, in my above experimental design, independent and dependent variables, experimental and control groups are all part of the preparatory stage. By contrast, qualitative research tends to be more open and flexible. Prestructuring of design and data is less common. The practitioner can encounter the unexpected and possibly change the direction. Its methods in general are more multidimensional and more variable than quantitative methods.

Fourthly, the data emanating from quantitative studies are often depicted as hard, rigorous, and reliable. They are collected by systematic procedures and are more persuasive. The results of the analysis do not depend on the researcher doing the analysis and it brings objectivity to the research. However, these data also tend to be depicted as superficial. By contrast, the qualitative data are described as rich and deep although they can be influenced by the particular emphases and predispositions of the researcher. Because qualitative methods are flexible, they are well suited for studying naturally occurring real-life situations including people's meanings and purposes (Punch, 2005).

According to Punch (2005), despite the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches to research, the two approaches also share many similarities. While quantitative research is the most favoured approach for testing theories and qualitative research is mostly be used for generating theories, "both types of data can be productive for descriptive, reconnoitring, exploratory, inductive, opening up purposes. And both can be productive for explanatory, confirmatory, hypothesis-testing purposes" (Miles and Huberman, 1994, p. 42). This means that each approach can be used for various purposes.

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