Individual case study analysis  


Results of the project with respect to the innovations

The EMILE project was not indented to introduce or study innovations in education.

New teacher and student roles associated with ICT based innovative pedagogical practices

The EMILE project suggests that in many countries there has been a shift from technology-centred towards a teaching–learning centred approach to ICT in education. According to EMILE project, collaboration and good relationships among colleagues had an impact on how teachers effectively introduced ICT in their curricular activities. Good networking and productive relationships among teachers enticed sharing of ideas and practices that improved teachers' confidence in, and attitude towards ICT (Hungary, Sardinia, Scotland). Another finding is that primary school teachers tend to collaborate among them easier than high school teachers do. Moreover, it seems that in different countries there are different school cultures, which foster different behaviors regarding the issue of collaboration among the teachers. For example, in less centralized school systems, such as the Scottish and the Hungarian, a lot of decisions have to be taken at the school level, which gives ground for the formation of groups of teachers with certain responsibilities. As the EMILE project suggests, the main way to diffuse ICT use in a school is to have ICT skilled teachers to frankly cooperate and support their less skilled colleagues. If this is not the case, that is the school environment does not encourage this kind of exchange and collaboration, then it is most probable that the ICT will remain at the margin of the school life and will be used by a minority, who will attract the jealousy of the other members of the staff.

Main points:

1.     There has been a shift from technology-centred towards a teaching–learning centred approach to ICT in education.

Provisional qualitative indicators

·         Increased collaboration and rich interpersonal relationships among the teachers has a positive impact on the effectiveness of the introduction of ICT in curriculum-based activities.

·         Decentralisation of decision making encourages the formation of informal “decision-making” groups of teachers.

·         Teachers as trainers of less skilled colleagues.

Changes in patterns of teacher-student and student-student interactions as a result of it

According to EMILE, the location and arrangement of computers in a school significantly influence how they will be used for educational purposes. Different arrangements in the same computer lab encourage different types of use (traditional class, small group projects, or working individually). In the computer rooms, the pupils are often co-operating two and two or in a small group. They learn to listen to each other and to discuss the findings from internet etc. The teachers put emphasis on co-operation and social and ethical skills as positive effects of the uses of ICT (Italy, Norway, Greece). However, these are also countries with few computers in the classrooms, small computer rooms and fewer computers than pupils. Working together is both a necessity and has pedagogical reasons.

The limited access to computers, computer rooms, software and internet seems to produce different control systems in the schools. Opposite, project based assessment, cooperation between pupils seem to produce more flexibility in the every day schooling. This seems to produce ambivalence between control and flexibility regarding ICT in the countries involved in this study. The strategies for controlling the pupils working with the computers are different, and related to cultural traditions for schooling. Control is often a result of the structure and organisation and not necessarily meant to be control. In Norway there is a tradition for “unified” schooling focusing individual needs and possibilities. The pupils are therefore less restricted in behaviour than e.g. in Greek schools. When the every day structure is loose and prolific, the lessons in the computer rooms are experienced by teachers and pupils to be restricted. Reasons for this are the restrictions in use of computers and the demand for effectively work due to the limited access to this room. This is contrary to the teachers in the Greece schools observed, who say they find the lessons at the computer room looser and relaxed than in the class room. These teachers gain the experience that need for co-operation, flexibility and communication during the lesson produces a good atmosphere between teachers and pupils.

Main points:

1.       Teacher-student and student-student interactions are influenced by computer-lab arrangements and in particular how computers are arranged in the lab space (traditional class, small group projects, or individual work).

2.       Teachers encourage co-operation for both pedagogical reasons and reasons related to scarcity of resources.

3.       Pupil to pupil interactions are often based on small group co-operation, collaboration and shared construction of meaning.

4.       The strategies for controlling the pupils working with the computers are different, and related to cultural traditions for schooling.

Provisional qualitative indicators

· based assessment and cooperation between pupils seem to produce more flexibility in the every day schooling.

Attitudes of teachers and trainers towards ICT

The key findings of EMILE were that attitudes towards ICT among teachers varied enormously from fear, skepticism and indifference to wild enthusiasm and excitement. Three interrelated issues are affecting teachers’ attitudes towards ICT: a) collaboration vs power exertion, b) quality of ICT training provided in relation to teachers’ actual level of knowledge and experience in the use of ICT, and to a minor degree c) teachers’ age.

According to the EMILE project, differences in attitudes of teachers towards ICT depended on their possibility to engage in peer-to-peer networking and to exchange knowledge and experiences. In relation to age differences, the new generation of young teachers presented a more homogenised level of ICT skills since their educational background and training path included ICT training (Scotland, Sardinia, Greece). However, although younger teachers were generally likely to have received training in ICT there was no clear age division regarding teachers’ attitudes towards ICT. Older teachers could be the most enthusiastic and younger teachers the most fearful. Although it was true that some older teachers considered themselves too old to be learning new tricks and some stuck doggedly to old methods, it was nonetheless also found that older teachers could reveal greater patience and tenacity in the acquisition of new skills. At the same time some younger teachers could feel overwhelmed by the expectation that they should be more knowledgeable about ICT because of their age. In all schools participating in the Emile project old teachers were more willing and eager than young teachers to show their ICT skills and engage with them creatively. Indeed, old teachers either loved or hated ICT, in contrast to young teachers who often regarded ICT with boredom or did not show any enthusiasm for ICT. This attitude emerged in Sardinia and France. Particularly in these two countries, some old teachers were absolutely brilliant with ICT although they had not received proper ICT training in school and were mainly self-taught people.

In some cases, teachers take lack of ICT knowledge and improper ICT training by local authorities as an excuse not to engage with computers. This occurred in Sardinia, Scotland and Hungary. Particularly in the case of elementary school teachers, motivation and incentives to work with ICT were quite low if they were not guaranteed proper ICT training and technical assistance (Hungary, Scotland). In France the question of independence and autonomy of teachers in deciding about their professional training (l' honneur) constituted a relevant issue when teachers were offered ICT courses. In some cases, French teachers' attitudes did not entice a homogenised level of computer skilled teachers in school.

Power was another issue that emerged throughout the inquiry about age. In other words, ICT became the status symbol of a power position for those who managed ICT well and had good computer skills. According to EMILE, the likelihood of using ICT as a power game in a school increases considerably when you have all these factors working together: location of computers in labs, low teacher expertise in ICT, lack of teacher cooperation in the school environment and ICT coordinators who don’t have clearly specified duties and status. Power games in the ICT territory have serious consequences regarding the diffusion of the ICT in a school and to the school climate. The results of the present study, as well of other studies support the claim that in schools where ICT coordinators exert on their colleagues the power deriving from their know-how, there are tensions among the members of the staff and even conflicts, which put ICT in the margin of the school activities.

Main points:

  1. Attitudes towards ICT among teachers varied enormously from fear, scepticism and indifference to wild enthusiasm and excitement.
  2. Three interrelated issues are affecting teachers’ attitudes towards ICT: a) collaboration vs. power exertion in schools, b) quality of ICT training provided in relation to teachers’ actual level of knowledge and experience in the use of ICT, and to a minor degree c) teachers’ age.
  3. Some teachers take lack of ICT knowledge and improper ICT training by local authorities as an excuse not to engage with computers.
  4. ICT became the status symbol of a power position for those who managed ICT well and had good computer skills.
  5. In schools where ICT coordinators exert on their colleagues the power deriving from their know-how, there are tensions among the members of the staff and even conflicts, which put ICT in the margin of the school activities.

Provisional qualitative indicators

Quality training on ICT increases teachers’ motivation to work with ICT in schools.

·          Collaboration, good interpersonal relationships among teachers and shared responsibility decrease power and status-related conflicts in schools and increase the possibilities for ICT to integrate in school activities.

Affective and socio-cultural factors that influence learning processes

ICT functions as a system that shapes students’ lives, learning styles, fashion concepts and social relations and produces a multiplicity of technologies of gender, social class or national identity. According to the EMILE project, ICT is more than a system of communication and production tools, it is a culture with rules, genres and consumption patterns of its own.

Hungarian report findings related to socio-cultural factors that influence learning processes: the Net Generation

The Net Generation can be identified as a social entity that has important characteristics to be considered both by parents and teachers. We also found that this generation possesses new learning potentials and ways of self-expression and creativity.

·          A series of interviews with students and their parents about the use of ICT in learning and work revealed that the digital divide was in fact age-related. Students engage in playing games and spend very little time with ICT-supported studies.

·          An EMILE finding was that the older a student is, the more he or she uses the Internet for study purposes. Apparently, the utility of online information resources are more evident for experienced users.

·          Equity is the issue at stake here – village kids who have no direct access to information on good grammar schools as well as secondary school graduates living in a country town -hours away from desirable universities-, can and actually do get help to prepare for entrance exams through the Internet.

·          In all the four Hungarian EMILE schools, ICT-savvy teenagers formed interest groups, exchanged knowledge and software and extended this friendly, sharing attitude towards their teachers and less competent peers as well. Independence, home-based work in virtual teams and originality of task solutions are among the features that characterises the Net Generation. ICT-based project work seems to be the most appropriate form of study for them. The success of the digital projects reported in the National Study shows how authentic tasks and real communication options increase interest in and develop skills of ICT.

·          “Cyberculture”, -ICT-based forms of expression- differs basically from other, traditional mass media. The Net Generation seems to enjoy a range of virtual encounters: chat groups (among them, high level special interest or campaigning forums) are perhaps the most widely studied among them. ICT competence increases the number of “traditional” relationships – specially for older teenagers (ages 16-18). Those who are able to maintain friendships online can engage on more conversations, receive more attention and invitations to “real world” activities than those who rely on the telephone or face-to-face encounters. Computer games and MUDs (Multiple User Domains or "virtual worlds") are new playing activities we have to consider when describing the Net Generation.

·          Comparative studies conducted in the framework of the EMILE project suggest that the Net generation is global but it maintains national features that ensure the survival of a closely networked but multicultural Europe.

Main institutional changes described as a result of the introduction of ICT into the existing structures

The EMILE project did not introduce ICT or related practices into schools and therefore no institutional changes were observed. However, the EMILE project put emphasis on the study of institutional factors affecting the introduction of ICT in schools. The institutional context of schools was an important factor affecting the use and implementation of ICT. The technical support and assistance as well as the level of ICT training afforded to teachers constituted the main source of appreciation or rejection of ICT by teachers, particularly by teachers who did not have computers at home and therefore could not improve their ICT skills easily in their own time. Furthermore, lack of ICT coordinators was also a fundamental a problem because teachers did not have a knowledgeable institutional figure to rely upon to seek ICT assistance.

Main actors, adopters and resisters to the adoption of the innovation as identified in the projects

The Main actors were teachers, students and parents, the regional and national school administrations, political authorities at the local, national or European levels, and various “pressure” groups.

·         Parents: According to EMILE, although parents who lack ICT equipment at home would be justified to worry that their children might be deprived of learning what are considered to be essential skills, they tend to intervene very little in the area of ICT on an individual basis; as for the others, ICT is rarely a priority for them. This is worth stressing, because it is what differentiates Europe and the United States where parents, either individually or collectively, exert a sometimes considerable influence in the school. In European countries, parental pressure regarding ICT is manifested especially through the representative parent associations at a local or national level. How these demands are taken into consideration depends on local conditions and how good a relationship parents have with teachers in the school.

·         Students: Young people are aware that the technology has great power and will have significant presence in their future lives. The acquisition of computer expertise as ‘social currency’ is an activity in which some sub-groups – usually male – invest significant time and energy. This aspect of the enthusiastic appropriation of technology by young people has little resonance with the formal uses of ICT in schools, where the teachers’ purposes and aims in acquiring skills and in teaching their pupils these skills are so very different. In every country we found examples of enthusiastic pupils who knew more about the uses of technology than their teachers.

·         Administrators: pressure from the administrations that manage education systems for schools appears to be universal, systematic, and strong. It shows up in all EU countries in three main forms: the equipping of schools; teacher training programmes; and the development of educational applications. Rather paradoxically, in countries with a centralised national education system, such as France, Greece, or Italy, the administrative pressure on schools can appear weaker than in a more decentralised country like Norway. There, the administrative authority is very close to the schools and can also be more restrictive. School directors play an intermediary role here: the administration depends on school directors to present its ICT strategy and put it into application. At this point the school autonomy parameter is very important, because it determines the director's freedom of action. Of the six countries visited, Scotland appears to be the one where school directors have the most autonomy and France, where they have the least. In the first case, the director receives the administrative pressure, reformulates it, and passes it on the teachers; in the second, the director merely communicates the directives received from administrative superiors.

·         Political Authorities: national policies have been in favour of the introduction of ICT in schools for many years in each of the six countries observed. National ICT policies include the standard components: equipping schools with computers and Internet access; training teachers and encouraging utilisation; occasionally supporting the production of multimedia content. In some countries (France, Norway, and Scotland in our sampling), ICT policy is also expressed through independent regional policies, especially where equipping schools is concerned. In France and Norway, decisions on spending and choosing equipment are made by the local political authorities. As the centre of decision-making gets closer to the place where decisions are applied, their efficiency increases, along with the pressure exerted by the local authorities on the players in the schools. The content in the messages conveyed by political authorities at both national and regional levels often refers to global objectives in connection with modernizing education and bringing the population into the information society. Purely pedagogical considerations usually are secondary. This tendency is even exaggerated in statements issued by the European Commission to promote elearning, since the Commission is not directly confronted with the implementation of its own directives. When they reach the schools, these political orientations give rise to controversial debates. The teachers find that the political authorities have given them the responsibility for a mission that only some of them fully subscribe to. Others either consider the mission to be unjustified, or feel incapable of taking it on, or that that they have not been given the necessary means to accomplish it.

·         Other pressure groups: we need to distinguish between the economic agents who defend specific interests with no direct bearing on education, and groups whose action takes place at the level of public debate - even if the two categories do overlap. Non-economic lobbies that voice their opinions on ICT outside the school do not always share positions. Some - even if they are in the minority – are against the computerisation of schools and the teaching practices and tendency for commercialising education that they believe go along with it. On the other side, groups such as educational research scientists who work in the area of ICT usage exert pressure on teachers. The research community in Europe and elsewhere tend to develop arguments that place sometimes heavy responsibility on teachers - for example, when they suggest that efficient use of ICT presupposes a radical reassessment of the teaching methods that are generally practised in schools. This type of analysis is often echoed by the representatives from other lobbies, in particular computer firms, and even by political authorities, e.g., within the European Commission.

·         Teachers: Teachers seem to take full advantage of the degree of freedom they are given by choosing to use ICT or not - based on personal choice, their taste for technology, their aptitude for computer literacy, and/or their convictions relative to the teaching effectiveness of such technology. The result is that the significant pressures exerted on all the players in schools, appear to have a relatively limited effect on the teachers themselves. This observation is even more worthy of note, given that outside pressures in favour of ICT often are passed on to the teaching staff by individual teachers who are interested in and even enthusiastic about ICT. These teachers accept responsibility for managing the equipment and actively try to convince their colleagues to use ICT. Nevertheless, the presence of these go-betweens in the schools does not seem to sway the overall tendency; we have even noted that in some cases they have a reverse demotivating effect.

Organisational conditions that are (un)supportive to new learning processes

Regarding the “computer lab vs. computers at the back of the classroom” alternative, the (local and national) administrative authorities in all the countries represented in the EMILE project, tend to favour the computer lab solution. The reasons behind this choice are mostly practical. Grouping the PCs has many technical and economic advantages when it comes to Internet access, peripheral sharing, acquiring software licences, etc. There are also organizational advantages, such as genericity, easy maintenance and supervision of pupil activity, limiting cabling to a single room and, especially, the possibility for having a whole class work on the computer. However, there is little discussion among the teachers about the organisation of the computers in the schools. This is generally decided for other than pedagogical reasons, e.g school buildings, economy, need for technical support and controlling the use of the machines. Interviews with teachers in several different countries (France, Scotland, Italy, and Norway, in particular) indicate that, although educational criteria may not play a large role when the equipment is set up, they do tend to resurface over time as more and more teachers develop use, and as collective experience accumulates. According to EMILE project, it is not certain that the computer lab solution has a long future in front of it, however, because there are a number of arguments (notably pedagogic ones) in favour of the classroom PC solution. PCs in the classroom allow more profitable educational activities than those held in the computer lab, where there are schedule-planning constraints.

Provisional qualitative indicators

·          Placing PCs in classrooms allow more profitable educational activities than those held in separate computer labs.

Other issues relevant for the evaluator related with the project:

What was considered innovative?

The EMILE project did not offer a definition for innovation in the use of ICT in schools