Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Challenges IT Instructors Face in the Self-Education Process

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Challenges IT Instructors Face in the Self-Education Process

Article excerpt

Introduction

Nowadays information technology is involved in virtually all aspects of our life. It affects the ways of business, communication, and education. IT offers many improvements to teaching and learning, including a wide market of teaching software, distance learning, etc. (McGill, 2003). Everyone must be prepared to learn new IT skills continuously, and this includes IT instructors.

While reviewing the related literature, we have found a gap in the research specifically related to the need for continuous self-education of IT instructors.

According to Turner (2005), there are about 20 basic technology skills that all educators should now have. They include word processing, spreadsheet, database, electronic presentation, web navigation, email management, and many other skills. For example, e-learning is becoming a popular means of education and teachers need to be able to use the software to manage it (e.g., WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle).

There is considerable research focused on applying information technology in teaching (Cromley, 2000) and training educators in using the new technologies (Cox, 2007; Cuban, 2003; Resta, 2002). For example, adopting information technologies allows publishing course material online, using online tutorials, etc. Therefore, all teachers should have basic IT literacy (Crawford, 2000). Cox (2007) emphasizes that teachers do not finish their education with graduation, but have to improve their skills and learn new technologies continuously. However, there are not many resources on continuous training of the IT tutors themselves, which is the focus of our research.

There are rich literature resources in the areas of teaching styles and pedagogy applied to teaching IT (Crawford, 2000). The material on training IT tutors often focuses on issues such as theory and practice, program design, and pedagogy. For example, Luger (2006) only mentions that ICT teachers have an especially high need for self-directed personal-development. Similarly, it is emphasized (Cohen, 2002; Dadashzadeh, Saber, & Saber, 2002) that IT educators have to change the ways in which students are taught as well as the syllabuses' content to match technology development.

The instructional content of IT courses should focus on the underlying theory, concepts, and principles, rather than on the specific details of the current technology. However, in order for an IT course to be enticing for the students and to effectively prepare them for work right after graduation, the theory and principles taught in the course should be anchored to the current technology and demonstrated using it (Helps & Renshaw, 2004).

Considering the speed of the information technology development that is emphasized throughout the literature and the need for IT instructors to constantly remain up-to-date with it, leads us to the following hypotheses:

[H1] The technology studied by the IT instructors when they were in school is not the one they must now teach.

[H2] The course syllabus of the introductory IT courses changes every two or three years due to the technology changes.

[H3] The instructors primarily self-teach new technologies by using textbooks.

[H4] The lack of time is one of the major challenges IT instructors face in their self-education.

In order to test these hypotheses, we have conducted a survey among IT instructors who teach at various colleges and universities in several countries. Specifically, our focus is on the experience of the IT instructors who teach introductory computer science courses, as they are often heavily affected by information technology changes.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows: We discuss the issues related to teaching introductory IT courses in the next section, and the issues related to the self education of IT educators in the following section. The survey and the analysis of its results are presented in the Research Methodology, Results Analysis, and Discussion sections. …

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