16 SES 03 B, Current and Emergent Theoretical and Ethical Perspectives in Research on ICT in K-12 Education and Teacher Education
Over the last decade there has been an increase in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in European K-12 schools (Author 1, Author 2, Author 3 & Colleague, 201*); Ekberg & Gao, 2018). Laptops, digital tablets and learning management systems (LMS) are examples of ICT tools that are now commonly used in everyday educational practices (Håkansson-Lindqvist, 2015; Jahnke et al., 2017). However, research reports that this movement has not only failed to make a substantial impact in the way that was expected at a policy level (Almerich, 2016; Vrasidas, 2015), but has also resulted in a number of challenges for teachers (Tondeur et al., 2016). One example is Author 2 et al., (201*) who report that it is difficult for teachers to find time to learn to use and integrate ICT tools in their teaching and that there are numerous shortcomings in schools’ LMS. Another example is Scherer and colleagues (2015), who report that teachers need to be convinced that ICT can improve their work if their intention to use this tool in teaching and learning activities is to become a reality.
In parallel with the introduction of ICT in K-12 schools, an increased interest in the concept of digital competence has become evident. For example, Pettersson’s (2017) recent research review on digital competence in educational contexts shows that, at a general level, digital competence “often refers to the skills and literacies needed for the average citizen to be able to learn and navigate in digitalized knowledge society” (p. 2) (cf. Krumsvik, 2012). At the same time, Pettersson stresses the complexity of digital competence when applied in educational contexts and the challenges for teachers in terms of their own level of digital competence (cf. Sipilä, 2014) and when organizing learning activities so that students can develop these competences (cf. Voogt et al., 2013).
Today, digital competence is highly visible in the national educational policies of many European countries and often with a more or less explicit rational of ICT as catalyst for enhanced teaching and learning (cf. Hammond, 2014). For example, in Norway, digital competence has been included in the primary and secondary school curriculum since 2006 (Hatlevik, 2017). In Finland since 2014, and with an expectation in curricula that ICT will be integrated and digital competence targeted in K-12 school (Niemi et al., 2014; Valtonen et al., 2014). In Sweden, a new national strategy for the digitalization of the K-12 school system (Government decision I:1) was launched in the autumn of 2017. In the strategy, the concept of ‘adequate digital competence’ is said to frame future work in school. The strategy consists of three focus areas: (1) digital competence for all in the school system, (2) equal access and use and (3) research and follow-up of the possibilities of digitalization.
In this paper, the aim is to relate the concept of ‘adequate digital competence’ as it is described in the strategy’s second focus area to what teachers say about the existing local practices in three upper secondary schools as preconditions for the possible integration and enactment of the concept in teaching and learning. The four sub-targets in the second area are of special interest. These are: (1) that children, students and the staff who work with them should have access to digital tools according to their needs and preconditions, (2) the provision of appropriate infrastructure and technological pedagogical support, (3) that the digital learning resources used in teaching should be appropriate and ensure an effective use of the possibilities with technology and (4) that digitalization should make the staff’s teaching and administration work easier.
The description of ‘adequate digital competence’ in the second focus area of the Swedish national strategy for the digitalization of the K-12 school system was analyzed by means of a qualitative content analysis (Miles, Huberman & Saldaña, 2014). The result was then related to interview data collected during a 4-year research project exploring how ICT is used in three one-to-one upper secondary schools ‘known’ for their advanced use of ICT for teaching and learning. However, and also as reported in Author 1 et al., (201*), the narratives of advanced use have been projected on all three schools. Different specific contextual circumstances can be traced for each school. In school A, this refers to the reputation of the municipality regarding the uptake and use of ICT in its K-12 schools, in School B to a specific Centre of Technology within the school, and in School C as being known for its remote teaching and mixture of educational on-site and distance practices. In the three schools (A, B and C), interviews were conducted with a total of 25 teachers. Most of the teachers either taught the school’s theoretical programmes or vocational programmes, while some of teachers were involved in both programmes. Their special subject orientations ranged from civics, English and mathematics to programming and automatization. Semi-structured interviews focused on issues such as the current possibilities and challenges of using ICT in teaching and learning, the teachers’ professional development, ICT support and infrastructure and the future use of ICT in school. Depending on the teachers’ answers, various follow-up questions were asked to help the respondents to develop and deepen their responses in connection with each local educational practice. The teachers were interviewed individually, with either one or two of the three researchers in the project present during the interview. The interviews lasted between 38 and 110 minutes, with an average of 60 minutes. All 25 interviews were conducted in the respective schools and were first recorded digitally. The interviews have been transcribed verbatim. All the 25 interviews were coded and qualitatively analyzed with the aid of NVivo11® software.
‘Adequate digital competence’, as described in the second strategy area, is here reflected in the light of the teachers’ voices about their current digitized local practices. This is to exemplify the preconditions for an enactment of ‘adequate digital competence’ in teaching and learning. Children, students and the staff who work with them should have access to digital tools according to their needs and preconditions. Access at all three schools was found to be acceptable, although some of the teachers raised concerns about it the difficulty of defining sufficient access if you did not really know which ICT tools could be used. ICT also provided possibilities for individualization, although there was a need for collective resources that could be accessed by all. Further, the ICT tools that were accessible did not always match the digital technologies used in working life. The provision of appropriate infrastructure and technological pedagogical support: The teachers wanted to learn how to use ICT more effectively. Here, the differences between the schools was determined by the level of support that was provided for professional development when using ICT for teaching and learning. At school C, the unstable internet connection was highlighted as an impediment. The digital learning resources used in teaching should be appropriate and ensure an effective use of technology: Here, resources such as websites and specific software (e.g. GeoGebra) were found to be useful. Resources for visualization and the recording of communication exercises were also positive examples. The internet and the smartphone were regarded as distractions for students. Digitalization should make the staff’s teaching and administration work easier: LMS played a central role in teachers’ work, although many complained about its functionality. The use of the LMS was also found to be time consuming. Further, digitalization necessitated additional documentation and administration for the teachers.
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