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Generally, computers do not only play an important part in society, but progressively schools are obtaining computers as an aid to facilitate learning. Nonetheless, in order for learning to be effective within schools, computers have to be integrated into the curriculum (Richards and Nason, 1999). This means that computers should not only be used as an instrument for obtaining skills, but should also be used as an instructor (Taylor, 1980). Taylor writes that learners use computers in the tutor mode by responding to preset programs that were programmed by specialists in the field (1980). Good examples of a computer being used in this mode can be word processors and spread sheets (Heukelman, 1994). To utilize computers in the tutee mode means that the learner should be able to instruct the computer, in other words the learner should be skilful in programming the computer (Taylor, 1980) in order to execute the desired outcomes.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) has already played and will continue to play a significant part in all scopes of society in the future. ICTs are already broadly used in banking, commerce, agriculture, government, and education. These are the economic sectors that will in future employ many school leavers. Cook and Finlayson (1999) argue that without ICT skills and knowledge, many young adults may lose out. It is therefore vital to look at the role of ICT in education, and more specifically in schools.
ICT in Education
ICT's progressively important role in the current world is most observable in the commerce, banking and the media sectors, to name a few. Cook and Finlayson (1999) note that with the rapid advancement of technology in the modern world it is important to be acquainted with the use of ICT. From their perspective, access to ICT will determine who will be part of the world of technology in the future. The educational concern we must address is: are we satisfactorily preparing students for this world? This is particularly vital in the light of amplified criticisms that suggest ICT in schools has not significantly contributed to pupils' scholastic improvement (Hokanson and Hooper, 2000).
Importance of Computers in Schools
Although computers are seen as essential in the world today, the significance of computers in schools needs to be examined. As noted by Hokanson and Hooper: "Despite a history of achieving only marginal benefits from using technology in education, many schools and other educational organizations are investing heavily in computer technology" (2000:537). Even though there are challenges and doubts surrounding the implementation of ICT in schools, in my opinion, computers are seen by many as important because of their continued implementation in schools. I agree with Chapman's argument concerning the importance of computers in a child's education: Computers are altering communications and the economy, and every child should be exposed to this technology to understand the significance of this technology. Every graduate should know how to use a computer and the Internet, understand how a computer work, and generally know how computers are used by the businesses, the government, educational institutions and people in their homes. At a bare minimum, students should know how to type, how to use a word processor, and how to navigate the Internet (Chapman, 1998).
The Uses of Computers in Schools
Stevenson (1997) provides a few examples of how computers may be used in schools:
to administer schools;
to train students in skills which they will need in further education and on-going learning throughout the rest of their lives and for their future jobs, e.g. word-processing, computer programming, etc.;
to provide access to information and communication outside the classroom walls, e.g. video conferencing with students in other countries, using the internet, etc.;
to support teacher development, e.g. through external networks;
to support and potentially transform the learning/teaching process in many and diverse ways.
Methodology and Method
The aim of this research is to provide insight to the benefits of integrating ICT in schools. Also, this study aims to determine what ICT strategies, recommended by government and local schools could inform the formulation of an ICT policy in schools. The research looked at how schools with computers or a computer laboratory implemented ICT into their school curriculum.
For this purpose, both qualitative and quantitative methods of research will be adopted.
The participants in this study will be chosen to provide a local perspective of ICT implementation in schools. The research sample will be small. This is what Cohen et al. (2000) describe as a non-probability sample. They write that this type of sampling is sufficient if the researcher does not use the information to generalize on the wider population, but simply use the information to inform the research. However, I hope that the information may be relevant to other schools and institutions with similar interests. The selection of participants will be informed by Kumar's judgmental or purposive (1996) sampling method. Kumar writes that within this sampling method, the researcher chooses the participants carefully to provide the best results for the research (Kumar, 1996).
From a governmental perspective, one government official will be interviewed.
Data Collection Method
I will use several data collection procedures that include the case study method, interviews, and transcript analysis.
The case study method: The approach for this research is in the form of what Merriam (1998) terms an interpretive case study. She points out that the interpretive case study is used to develop data into theoretical categories in order to expand one's initial understanding of a topic. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000) point out that the interpretive researcher focuses on theparticipant's point of view rather than his/her own analysis of the situation.
Data Collection Tools
The case study approach is particularly useful because of its combination of qualitative and quantitative methods (Bell, 1987). These qualitative and quantitative methods include the use of documents and interviews (Leedy and Omrod, 2001) in this particular case study. The following section discusses the research tools, including interviews and document analyses that will be used to gather data.
Interviews: The main purpose of the interview is to elicit responses from the interviewees by directing questions to them. This research made use of semi-structured interview schedules.
A tape recorder, as opposed to writing notes, will be used to capture data. Although interviewees, according to Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (1996), may feel at ease when the researcher writes down the responses from the interviewees instead of using a tape recorder, this process is slow and might result in the researcher missing out vital information while writing. This may lead interviewees to feel that their contributions were not valuable enough. By contrast, a tape recorder is faster, thorough and easier to manage.
Documents: In order to gain a broad insight into ICT implementation and integration in schools around the world, I will analyze documents emanating from four perspectives: (a) international policy documents and papers; (b) national governmental documents; (c) provincial governmental documents; and (d) local school ICT .
Data from the interviews will be analysed using a system called coding schemes (Nachmias and Frankfort-Nachmias, 1996). The purpose of coding schemes is to categorize the data into smaller clusters of similar content to allow simple analysis of the data (Lazarsfeld and Barton, cited in Nachmias and Nachmias, 1987). A computer word program will be used to categorize and group this data into smaller clusters according to the questions that will be asked.
A spread sheet computer program will be used to organize the data into coding schemes.
It is my intention to uphold to all rules regarding the code of conduct. The following include some of the ethical issues that I anticipate during the research period and how I will resolve them.
Access to resources is enshrined in various guidelines and coded of ethics. It is a person's right to withhold any information and he/she should not be coerced to provide any information.
Consent is the provision of approval on a certain matter. Therefore, one should not gain access to information without the consent of the concerned person or authority.
People's rights should be respected for example, during the interview process.
Confidentiality is a set of guidelines or a promise that places limitations on certain types of information. I intend to keep some of the information that I obtain confidential if the respondent has requested.
Right to withdraw. A person, during an interview may feel like he/she is not willing to respond to the questions. I will therefore not use force to obtain any data.
Anticipated Practical Issues
The problem with the tape recorder is that non-verbal communication for example the interviewees' facial expressions and body movements that might be useful for the interview, is eliminated to a greater extent. This might result in vital information being lost during the transcription process.
There is a scarcity of schools with computers and separated by great distances making the sample size to be small.