There are several barrier related to technology integration into studies. This literature review explores different aspects related to factors that affect technology integration into studies as well as the appropriate measures that need to be considered to address these underlying issues. This section has been put into four sections. The first section majorly focuses on current technology uses whereby it explores educational technology practices that affect technology integration. The second part of the literature review explores the best educational technology practices adopted to improve the achievement level of students in several aspects. The following section explains the effect of network on technology integration into studies. The last section explores in depth the effects of network infrastructure on Technology integration whereby it is noted that Network infrastructure and bandwidth issues in schools exist worldwide. The final part also summarizes the literature review and appropriate measures needed to be undertaken.
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An overview on the use of current technology
Technology practices in education which are considered to be the best should be able to enhance student –centered learning (Moersch, 2002; Berker, 1994; Coppola, 2004).These is because student –centered learning put more focus on new products creation, active learning promotion as well as authentic experiences (Jonassen, 2003).According to Jonassen (2003), the use of computer is very critical in enabling students attain a thinking that is of higher degree. In this case, the required cognitive load for visualizing and presenting problems is seen to be reduced (Janassen, 2003). Teachers should be open to the idea of using technology in their instructional practice and additional work must be done in the area of effective professional development, especially in the area of pre-service teachers. It can be asserted that schools have to consider the relationship between technology and pedagogy as well as the infrastructure required to support technology-enhanced pedagogies. The major issues to be emphasized include schools using technology need to change the physical infrastructure of the school, providing students with access to technology, allowing access to digital content, and encouraging the use of personal computing devices. It is seen that students could learn outdoors especially in science classes when wireless is available. In this way, learning could be “outside the four walls” of the traditional classroom. Basing on these, it can be suggested that (a) schools should use technology to support student-centered pedagogies; (b) student-centered learning means personalizing learning and technology can give learners choice and voice, and (c) technology can support personalized learning by going beyond the classroom walls.
Appropriate educational technology practices
Despite the fact that the use of technology by teacher basing on their own benefits, it might not be taken into consideration as the best practices. Instead of having expectations of technology shaping the learning and teaching nature ,it could be of benefit to assist teachers in terms of using technology in enhancing the curriculum appropriately (Hechter and Vermette, 20130). The way schools make strategic and effective use of ICT to improve educational outcomes as well as how school networks support best the use of technology in learning is very critical. There are several studies that have sought to explain the impact of ICT on students engaged in the teaching and learning process and their achievements, as well as the impact on teachers in terms of their own instructional practice and professional development (Sisman and Sahin-Izmirli, 2012).In this case, they have focused on studies that include national evaluations of ICT initiatives, ICT monitor reports, large and small technology implementations, national research reviews, international and European comparisons, as well as European case studies. Researchers concluded that ICT improves the achievement levels of students in science, design, and technology at age 7 through 16. In most cases, teachers’ training in the area of technology is inadequate and that they need more help with learning how to operate new technologies and how to incorporate them adequately in the classroom. This is especially true in pre-service and teacher training programs. It is suggested that both administrators and teachers should put major focus on the way of expanding benefits related to education in classroom through integration of technology.
Effect of network on technology integration into studies
Teachers exploring new technologies may find that the school network is unable to support them due to inadequate wireless access, firewall restrictions, lack of bandwidth, or other issues Greaves et al., 2010; Fox et al., 2012; Hechter and Vermette, 2013). In a recent study of 559 Ohio teachers, participants reported that restrictions on the school firewall filtered or blocked some Web 2.0 tools for the purpose of protecting students from unwanted or inappropriate materials (Fox et al., 2012). However, this action not only prevented students from accessing Web 2.0 tools but also prevented and discouraged teachers from adopting these tools in their classrooms. Participants reported that acceptable use policies should be reviewed before integrating Web 2.0 tools into instructional practice (Pan and Franklin, 2011). In an urban Canadian district piloting iPods and iPads, staff was not prepared for the difficulties in synchronizing, powering, maintaining, and managing the devices (Crichton, Pegler, & White, 2012). In a study of K-12 teachers and students surveyed about the possible replacement of traditional textbooks with electronic textbooks, one of the essential findings was that the infrastructure needed to be considered before implementation. Participants in this study were very positive about the conversion from traditional textbooks to electronic textbooks and they provided four suggestions for potential solutions to overcome the challenges of infrastructure issues: (a) multi-touch, (b) e-Paper, (c) Web 2.0, as well as (d) cloud computing (Lee, Messom, and Yau, 2013). When provided with a well-maintained network, teachers can explore technologies; successfully learn, thus building their knowledge base to become 21st Century teachers.
One of the most extensively researched topics in the literature is the barrier studies (Ertmer, 1999; Lloyd, 2012; Wastiau et al., 2011).These barriers were grouped into two, that is, intrinsic as the first order while extrinsic as the first order (Wastiau et al., 2011). On the other hand, extrinsic barriers consist of resource scarcity, technical support, professional development, as well as preparation time. Knowledge, technology integration vision, beliefs of teacher, teaching and learning are considered to be barriers that are intrinsic. It is believed that smarter students benefit from the use of technology. Technology enhances the academic needs of both challenged and gifted students. Students growing up in the digital age and who have become so accustomed to technology that it is no longer an important aspect of student learning, with the use of technology, they will show a higher degree of engagement in learning when compared to those who spend little time with technology in school.
There are several investigations on the challenges that school staff face in high schools while undertaking large-scale technology reform (Peck et al., 2012; Sisman and Sahin-Izmirli, 2012). The researchers studied an American comprehensive high school in southeastern United States (Peck et al., 2012). Due to a poor network infrastructure, school administrators and teachers used “workarounds” that alleviated technology problems while seeking to create innovative technology-infused instructional practices. The research team consisted of university faculty and graduate students with K12 administrative experience who were not staff at the study site. The study was conceived was non-experimental. The onsite research included observations of predominant technology practices in classrooms, media spaces, hallways, and large common spaces (e.g., library cafeteria, gymnasium).The researchers conducted interviews with classroom teachers, technology integration, and tech support staff (Peck et al., 2012; Sisman and Sahin-Izmirli, 2012).
Effects of network infrastructure on Technology integration
Network infrastructure and bandwidth issues in schools exist worldwide. In a recent study by the European Commission Directorate General Communications Networks, Content and Technology (2011), research showed that fourth and eighth grade students in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey had bandwidth speeds of less than 10 mbps. In many schools in Jordan, students access the Internet through phone lines (Al-Ruz & Qablan, 2011). Teachers in China report low to moderate Internet speeds (Spires, Morris, & Zhang, 2012). In some areas of Manitoba Canada, schools are installing wireless broadband and fiber optic networks increasing bandwidth and allowing teachers to be on the cutting edge with access to technology. However, in other areas of Manitoba, Internet access is available through dial-up phone connections, leaving teachers’ ability to integrate certain technologies limited by geography as well as infrastructure (Hechter & Vermette 2013). Fifty percent of teachers in six South African schools provided data on their perceptions of the challenges related to implementing technology reported that they needed faster Internet speeds and more equipment (du Plessis & Webb, 2012).
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Earlier in this literature review, the need for consistent Internet access was shown as an essential aspect of technology integration. Even in today’s world, there are examples of inadequate Internet in the United States. Several studies explain that many although some schools have greater Internet access than a few years ago, in many isolated or low-population areas, access to high-speed Internet remains limited (Howley, Wood, & Hough, 2011; Hechter and Vermette, 2013; Page and Hill, 2008).In relation to this studies, a lot of materials is available online. However, the limitation of bandwidth makes as to choose as well as picking (Page and Hill, 2008, pp. 63-64). In one Alaskan study, teachers’ perception of whether students would benefit from using technology as a part of daily instruction was directly connected to the availability of broadband access. Teachers living in communities with terrestrial broadband availability (fast speed) had the highest percentage, with 71% of the teachers believing their students would benefit, compared to 45% of the teachers living in communities with satellite broadband availability (moderate speed), and 24% of the teachers living in communities with no broadband access (Lloyd, 2012). A 2012 report prepared for the Ohio Digital Learning Taskforce asserted that access to the Internet can no longer been seen as a luxury especially in the field of education (Ohio’s K-12 Network Upgrade Analysis, 2012). Access to fast broadband speeds is necessary for learning in today’s schools. The primary goal of the research was to ensure that Ohio’s schools have fast bandwidth to enable student achievement in a 21st century learning environment. The report stated that 20% (approximately 700 buildings) are in need of a connectivity upgrade (Ohio’s K-12 Network Upgrade Analysis, 2012). While 20% is a relatively low figure, it represents approximately 300,000 Ohio students who either do not have, or soon will not have adequate broadband access.
With very little academic research in school networking, bandwidth, and infrastructure, researchers are forced to look to the private sector or government for information. Corporate sources such as the Cisco Corporation and Extreme Networks provide research through white papers and case studies on best practices for optimizing school network infrastructure for education. Organizations such as the Lead Commission as well as state and federal authorities provide survey data from educators on technology in schools. For instance, Lead Commission (2013) found out that 97% of public schools had access to the Internet that was basic, hence; it was projected by experts that a 100Mb+ bandwidth per school was good enough to support the content that was interactive, instead it is seen that most schools had 5Mb bandwidth which was less. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) (2012) reported that America’s K-12 schools need 100 Mbps (per 1,000 students/staff) of external Internet connectivity for the 2014-2015 school year and 1 Gbps (per 1,000 students/staff) by the 2017-2018 school year based on the bandwidth needs for current digital learning tools (e.g. streaming video and content).
Although much of the academic research regarding technology in schools centers on teachers’ perceptions of integrating technology in the classroom or instruction, there appears to be a missing component in the research. As it exists now, teachers, administrators, and curriculum coordinators plan to use technology as a part of their instructional practice but without a stable and robust school network to support their endeavors, successful technology integration cannot take place. Current academic research fails to take into account that a stable and robust network is critical to teachers successfully using technology in the classroom. Studies on barriers to technology integration, teacher comfort levels using technology, and the amount of teacher professional development is important, nonetheless research needs to done on how a strong network and adequate bandwidth is critical for technology to be viable in schools. If educational researchers continue to believe that teacher professional development, barriers, or comfort level is an indicator of using technology in the classroom, we will never understand the larger question of how the school network provides the ability for teachers to successfully use technology in the classroom.
In summary, while school administrators verbalized the possible uses of the school network, teachers do not understand them. School administrators need to provide additional professional development on the possible uses of the school network. In most cases, teachers’ training in the area of technology is inadequate and that they need more help with learning how to operate new technologies and how to incorporate them adequately in the classroom. This is especially true in pre-service and teacher training programs. It can be suggested that the administration and teachers must consider expanding the benefits related to education through integration of technology. It is pertinent to note that students, teachers, and parents should understand that ICT has a positive impact on student learning. In the European Schoolnet for instance, researchers found that 90% of teachers use ICT to prepare their lessons. Additionally, teachers use ICT to collaboratively prepare lessons with colleagues (Pan and Franklin, 2011; Page and Hill, 2008). A major 21st Century challenge for schools is to provide a school network infrastructure that can support up-to-date applications that require fast synchronous bandwidth speeds. This is seen to be a major challenge as it was noted that for instance, teachers exploring new technologies may find that the school network is unable to support them due to inadequate wireless access, firewall restrictions, lack of bandwidth, or other issues. Researchers found that although school districts exist mainly as self-governing stand alone institutions, collaboration between districts may provide high-speed networks as a shared resource, which will provide educational and economic opportunities. In the case of technology finance and procurements, this was particularly true of sharing servers to store resources but also minimizing the risk of making bad technical decisions that could prove costly. It can be noted that urban and rural schools may need to collaborate so their students are working in an open online learning environment with the flexibility of anytime; anywhere learning provides a wide range of academic opportunities. The future organization of school networking lies in aggregated networks, not competition between autonomous institutions.
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