This executive summary from the SITES 2006 study (the report on which was published this year in March) is worth a read. I’ll get the study itself, but check my red emphases! It confirms much of what I have observed personally and emphasises that it is not technical skill that is required but something more in line with the cultural basis of teaching.

Pedagogy and ICT use in schools around the world: Findings from the IEA SITES 2006 study

Executive summary

About SITES 2006
SITES 2006 is an international comparative study of pedagogy and ICT use in schools. The study focused on the role of ICT in teaching and learning in mathematics and science classrooms. It examined the extent to which pedagogical practices considered to be conducive to the development of “21st Century Skills” were present in comparison to traditionally important ones. “21st Century Skills” were defined as the capacity to engage in life long learning (understood as self-directed and collaborative inquiry) and as connectedness (communication and collaboration with experts and peers around the world). SITES 2006 also examined how teachers and students used ICT and whether ICT use contributed differentially to learning activities geared towards the development of 21st century skills. Analyses were also conducted to identify conditions at the system, school and teacher levels associated with different pedagogical practices and different ways of ICT use in teaching and learning.

The study collected information from principals and technology coordinators from roughly 9,000 schools and over 35,000 mathematics and science teachers in 22 countries/education systems. The National Research Coordinators of these systems also provided policy information on education and ICT use through a questionnaire. Fifteen of these systems also participated in SITES Module 1, a similar study conducted in 1998. Hence trend analysis could be done on a number of indicators, enabling the researchers to examine whether there is evidence of changes in pedagogy and ICT use since 1998.

The 22 education systems that participated in SITES 2006 were: Canada (2 provinces: Alberta and Ontario), Chile, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Russian Federation, Russia-Moscow, Slovak Republic, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain-Catalonia, South Africa, Thailand.

Major findings of SITES 2006
Of the 22 countries and education systems that participated in SITES 2006, 20 reported having a system-wide policy on the use of ICT in education, though their policy concerns differed widely. The majority of countries had at least slightly increased ICT spending during the past 5 years and some level of government funding for the provision of hardware and software was reported in nearly all of the systems. With the exception of South Africa, computers are available for teaching and learning purposes in nearly all schools in all participating countries. On the other hand, use of ICT in teaching and learning by mathematics and science teachers remained generally low and highly variable across countries, with reported adoption varying from 20% to 80%. Furthermore, there was no correlation between the level of ICT access (student-computer ratio) and the percentage of teachers reporting having used ICT in their teaching.
Findings indicate that the extent of ICT use does not only depend on overall national level ICT policies and school level conditions. For example, in Japan and Israel, the percentages of mathematics teachers reporting use of ICT (around 22.5% in both countries) are much lower than those reported by their science teachers from the same samples of schools (44% and 53% respectively). This indicates that national curriculum policies also have a major impact on ICT use in teaching and learning.

21st Century Skills and ICT use
There is a worldwide policy concern that schools should prepare students to undertake self-directed, collaborative inquiry and to communicate and collaborate with experts and peers around the world, which are capacities considered to be essential for the 21st century. The SITES 2006 study found that the impact of ICT use on students was highly dependent on the teaching approaches adopted when ICT is used. Greater student gains in 21st Century Skills were reported by teachers who provided more student-centered guidance and feedback and who engaged more frequently in advising students on group work and inquiry projects. On the other hand, higher levels of reported ICT-use did not necessarily equate with higher levels of perceived learning gains from ICT-use. No significant correlation was found between using ICT in traditional instructional activities and perceived students’ learning outcomes.

Trends in ICT provisions and priorities in teaching practice
Between 1998 and 2006, great improvements in access to computers and the Internet were reported, though considerable diversity in terms of ICT infrastructure available in schools remained. In most of the 15 education systems that took part in both the SITES M1 study in 1998 and SITES 2006, there was a general increase in teaching practices that involved information handling, which includes searching for information, processing data and presenting information.

On the other hand, considerable diversity in developmental trends across countries was observed. Marked changes were observed in the principals’ reports of the presence of lifelong learning oriented teaching methods in their schools over this same period. In most of the 15 systems that took part in both studies in 1998 and 2006, there was a general increase in the perceived presence of lifelong-learning pedagogy. Substantial increases were evident in some of the systems that reported the lowest presence in 1998 such as Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. Conversely, a decrease in presence was reported in the three European systems that registered the highest presence in 1998.

Factors influencing ICT use in teaching and learning
There was no evidence from this analysis, that age and gender per se were influencing teachers’ pedagogical adoption of ICT-use. However, academic and professional qualifications, technical and pedagogical ICT-competence, and attendance at ICT-related professional development significantly and positively correlated with adoption of ICT. Of all the personal characteristics of the teacher, pedagogical ICT-competence was the best positive predictor of teachers’ pedagogical adoption of ICT, a finding triangulating well with the observation that the teachers were more willing to attend pedagogical than technical professional-development activities on ICT-use.

Support as perceived by teachers emerged as the one most consistent positive predictor of teachers’ pedagogical adoption of ICT, a finding indicating that teachers are more likely to use ICT in their teaching if they feel they are receiving support from the school—support that provides them with technical and administrative support and that offers their students access to ICT outside of class hours. Shared decision-making followed by professional collaboration were also found to be positive predictors of pedagogical ICT-use

Investigations of school level factors influencing teachers’ use of ICT, particularly whether ICT was used to support the development of 21st Century Skills found that the principal’s vision for ICT use to support lifelong learning, technical support for ICT-use and the principal’s priority for leadership development were the most important positive contributing factors. This finding indicates that if a principal of a school has a strong vision of how and when ICT can be used to support lifelong learning pedagogy, if the technical support for ICT-use within that school is in general readily available, and if the principal gives relatively high priority to leadership development, then the teachers within that school will generally show a higher lifelong learning orientation in their ICT-using practices, and vice versa. The level of technical and pedagogical support for ICT use in teaching was also found to contribute significantly to increased use of ICT by teachers. Student–computer ratio per se did not have a significant association with teachers’ use of ICT. However, if the other school level factors such as leadership and support were held constant, improved computer access (i.e. lower student-computer ratio) was found to associate significantly with increased ICT use.