THE INTEGRATION OF COMPUTER USE IN EDUCATION
JAN Department VAN DEN AKKER, PAUL KEURSTEN and TJEERD PLOMP
University of Twente, P.O. The Netherlands Abstract
Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede,
There is an increasing awareness that disappointing experiences with the introduction of computers in education are a consequence of insufficiently taking into account factors that are crucial when introducing change in educational settings. Many of the problems in the literature show great similarity with the kind of problems often experienced in curriculum implementation. In this context the endeavors to make computer use an integrated part of classroom activities are analyzed. Emphasis will be laid on the interaction between teachers and courseware; elements for a more effective strategy for the integration of computer use in educational practice will be presented, with special attention to the design of support materials as an essential part of courseware.
Introduction Despite many national and local initiatives, examples of successful computer use in classroom practice are still relatively rare. In many countries the number of computers in schools has considerably increased in recent years. However, little progress has been made: still few teachers are actual users; software use is often restricted to drill and practice type; the alignment with the curriculum pattern is poor. Research results (of both surveys and case studies) from many countries point to the conclusion that there is still a long way ahead before computer use will be effectively integrated in most classrooms (see e.g. Becker, 1986; Office of Technology Assessment [OTA], 1988, for the USA;, Chomienne, 1988; Olson & Eaton, 1986, for Canada; Cox, 1987, for the U.K.; Inspectorate, 1986; Plomp & Van den Akker, 1988, for the Netherlands). There is an increasing awareness that these disappointing experiences are a consequence of insufficiently taking into account factors that are crucial when introducing change in educational settings. Many of the reported problems that schools and teachers face when implementing computer use show great similarity with the kind of problems often experienced in curriculum implementation (cf. Fullan, Miles, & Anderson, 1987; Sheingold, Martin, & Endreweit, 1987; Walker, 1986). For that reason we would like to analyze the endeavor to make computer use an integrated part of classroom activities 65
from a curriculum implementation perspective. We shall start with an overview of the variables that can influence the process and outcomes of curriculum implementation. For the different categories of those variables we shall then discuss the literature on computer use in education. Emphasis will be laid on the interaction between teachers and courseware. Based on this problem analysis we shall present elements for a more effective strategy for the integration of computer use in the educational practice. Special attention will be paid to the design of (written) support materials as an essential part of courseware.
_ Drawing upon the work of Fullan (1982) and of Van Velzen, Miles, Ekholm, Hameyer, and Robin (1985), we propose a framework for discussing factors influencing the implementation of innovations in the educational practice by distinguishing four categories of variables: national (and/or state and/or district) context; characteristics of the school (organization); external support; characteristics of the innovation itself. Within each category several variables can be mentioned:
National context central legislation and regulations; system of policy formation and decision making in educational affairs; time, resources and facilities made available for an innovation; proclaimed values and aims about an innovation; attitude of politicians and (other) opinion leaders about an innovation....