Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Critical Thinking and ICT Integration in a Western Australian Secondary School

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Critical Thinking and ICT Integration in a Western Australian Secondary School

Article excerpt

Introduction

The International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE, 2002) generated over 400 papers. Many of these detailed how ICT can be applied to higher order thinking skills, including Agnew (2002), Lee (2002) and Thomas (2002). Agnew (2002) iterated that researchers have tried to evaluate whether or not the use of technology has a major impact on student learning. Agnew (2002) continues by explaining that students are encouraged to develop higher order thinking skills, and that the results have been significant. However, no formal statement about how the achievement of these skills have been observed or measured has been made. While the application of notebook and/or hand-held computers within the learning environment has been examined at the tertiary level (Hewlett-Packard, 2004; Edith Cowen University, 2005) this area of research is in its infancy in secondary education, and little has been conducted within Western Australian secondary schools. Sherry and Jesse (2000) suggested that while educators seem to inherently 'know' that technology increases student achievement, measuring the increase is challenging. Branigan (2000, in Sherry & Jesse, 2000, p. 2) reported that in cases where teachers have applied a high degree of technology within the classroom, standardized test scores also were high. Trucano (2005) supports this argument, reporting that the application of Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) packages has resulted in improved test scores for mathematics and reading. However, he queries that these increased scores are indicative of a general increase in student learning. As schools have a far more important role than simply producing good test scores these results do not necessarily provide insight into overall student development. Trucano (2005) continues by arguing that, despite the results of many studies, the influence of ICT on student achievement is still difficult to measure.

This argument is reinforced by Sharma and Haigh (2008) who conducted a case study to examine how ICT is used to develop pedagogy. They concluded that the overall effect of ICT was difficult to isolate, due to the influence of other learning environment factors. Other studies have incorporated learning environment factors. Wanpen and Fisher (2004) used qualitative and quantitative techniques to assess the extent to which constructivism has been incorporated within computer classrooms, and to provide goals for further development. They concluded that it is possible to manipulate factors of the learning environment to make it more conducive for study in computer classes. Student reflections suggest that they found small group work helpful, demonstrating the value of a collaborative approach to learning.

Whilst examining the qualitative elements of a technology-rich environment, O'Dwyer, Russell, Bebell and Tucker-Seeley (2008) argued that traditional methods of assessing student performance may not be valid when technology is used. Existing instruments tend to measure critical and/or creative development in general terms, whereas technology is usually applied to specific learning areas (Russell, 2002, in O'Dwyer, Bebell, & Tucker-Seeley, 2008).

A similar argument was forwarded by McNabb, Valdez, Nowakowsk, and Hawkes (2004). In their study of the application of technology to the development of mathematics and science education, the use of standardised testing is criticised. Instruments such as the California Achievement Test and Illinois Measure of Annual Growth Exam do not evaluate higher order thinking or technology skills, or the context in which these skills are developed.

To determine the relationships between ICT application, and other factors within the learning environment, and the development of higher order thinking skills, this paper examines the questions:

1. To what extent is computer-based technology integrated in the teaching-learning environment? …

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