Learning and computers : a study of proficient computer-using teachers : a thesis submitted as partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master Education [sic], Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Author(s)Brown, Mark E.
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AbstractThis thesis examines how primary school teachers use computers to create conditions for
better learning in the classroom. The claims about computers and learning are reviewed and
teachers are shown to have a crucial role in realising the potential benefits of educational
software. In the past there has been a tendency to ignore the voice of teachers in their efforts
to integrate the computer into the curriculum. The study addresses the problem that without
documenting the experiences of teachers in the regular classroom, many assumptions about
the computer may become uncritically enshrined in both theory and practice. A number of
methodological issues related to the area of educational computing are considered and a
strong argument made for a multi-dimensional research paradigm.
The research is designed over three phases to identify and systematically investigate a
purposive sample of proficient computer-using teachers. The first phase of the study
involves a survey method in which a questionnaire is used to document the background
characteristics, experiences and practices of teachers 'nominated' as proficient at using
computers in the classroom. In the second phase, the survey method is extended through an
informant interview. A sample of 'perceived' proficient computer-using teachers are
interviewed on their beliefs about teaching and learning and the ways the computer supports
these processes. The final phase culminates with microethnographic case studies on two
teachers 'judged' to be proficient at using computers within the classroom programme.
An analysis of data shows that the computer is perceived to be a social experience. It is
predominantly used for word processing, but there are a diverse range of teaching practices
and the computer is not a uni-dimensional machine. The participating teachers have
considerable teaching experience and many are frustrated in their attempts to successfully
integrate the computer into the classroom. Lack of resources, time and teacher education are
key inhibitors of computer use. There appears a second wave of proficient computer-using
teachers who are enthusiastic beginners, and largely women, confident in their ability to use
educational software for learning. Although the common orientation of teachers is towards a
learner-centred philosophy, a considerable gap remains between theory and practice. The
thesis concludes that theory needs to be more responsive to the demands of using the
computer in the classroom, but also that teachers have much to gain from a better
understanding of contemporary educational theory.