Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Exploring Teachers Perceptions of Web-Based Learning Tools

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Exploring Teachers Perceptions of Web-Based Learning Tools

Article excerpt

Literature Review

In the past 10 years, a concerted effort has been made to increase the presence of technology in K-12 classrooms. Many countries report average student-to-computer ratios at about 5 to 1 and Internet access in schools above 90% (Compton & Harwood, 2003; McRobbie, Ginns, & Stein, 2000; Plante & Beattie, 2004; US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). However, a number of researchers have argued that the mass infusion of technology in the classroom has had a minor or negative impact on student learning (e.g., Cuban, 2001; Roberston, 2003; Russell, Bebell, O'Dwyer, & O'Connor, 2003; Waxman, Connell, & Gray, 2002). Part of the problem stems from a considerable list of barriers that a number of teachers face, even when computers are available. These barriers include a lack of time (Eifler, Greene, & Carroll, 2001; Wepner, Ziomek, & Tao, 2003), limited technological skill (Eifler et al., 2001; Strudler, Archambault, Bendixen, Anderson, & Weiss, 2003; Thompson, Schmidt, & Davis, 2003), fear of technology (Bullock, 2004; Doering, Hughes, & Huffman, 2003), and a clear lack of understanding about how to integrate technology into teaching (Cuban, 2001). In addition, it is unclear how student-to-computer ratios translate into actual classroom use, as there are still reports of limited access to technology (e.g., Bartlett, 2002; Brush et al., 2003; Russell et al., 2003).

The Role of WBLTs

Web-based learning tools (WBLTs), also referred to as learning objects in the literature, are defined in this study as "interactive web-based tools that support learning by enhancing, amplifying, and guiding the cognitive processes of learners" (Agostinho, Bennett, Lockyer, & Harper, 2004; Butson, 2003; McGreal, 2004; Parrish, 2004; Wiley, et al. 2004). WBLTs offer two noteworthy features that can reduce the impact of potential obstacles teachers face when using technology. First, typical WBLTs are designed to focus on specific concepts, making them easy to learn, easy to use, and more attractive to busy educators who have little time to learn more complex, advanced software packages (Gadanidis, Gadanidis, & Schindler, 2003). Ease of use also makes WBLTs more palatable to teachers who are apprehensive about using technology (Kay, Knaack, & Muirhead, in press).

Second, a wide range of WBLTs exist including drill-and-practice assessment tools (Adams, Lubega, Walmsley, & Williams, 2004) or tutorials (Nurmi & Jaakkola, 2006), video case studies or supports (Kenny, Andrews, Vignola, Schilz, & Covert, 1999; MacDonald et al., 2005), general web-based multimedia resources (Van Zele, Vandaele, Botteldooren, & Lenaerts, 2003), and self-contained interactive tools in a specific content area (Bradley & Boyle, 2004; Cochrane, 2005). Furthermore, in contrast to other learning technologies burdened with implementation challenges and costs, WBLTs are readily accessible over the Internet and teachers need not worry about excessive costs or not having the latest version (Wiley, 2000). It is speculated that the broad selection of readily accessible WBLTs will make it easier for teachers to integrate WBLTs into a classroom environment.

In summary, barriers to using technology reported by teachers such as time, limited skill, fear of technology, and limited access to technology are partially addressed by easy-to-use WBLTs that are readily accessible in a wide variety of pedagogical formats.

WBLT Research in Middle and Secondary School Classrooms

Existing WBLT or learning object research is limited to the domain of higher education. Out of the 41 empirical studies reviewed for this paper, 29 (70%) focussed on WBLT use in higher education, whereas only eight (20%) examined WBLT use in middle or secondary school classrooms (Brush & Saye, 2001; Ilomaki, Lakkala, & Paavola, 2006; Kay & Knaack, 2007a; Kong & Kwok, 2005; Liu & Bera, 2005; Lopez-Morteo & Lopez, 2007; McCormick & Li, 2006; Nurmi & Jaakkola, 2006). …

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