Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Introducing 1 to 1 in the Classroom: A Large-Scale Experience in Chile

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Introducing 1 to 1 in the Classroom: A Large-Scale Experience in Chile

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Chilean ICT in education policy (Enlaces) started in 1993 and has equipped schools with computers, local networks, educational resources, productivity software, free or subsidized Internet access, as well as providing technical and pedagogical support in partnership with 24 universities from across the country. Computers have been placed in special rooms called Computer Labs and, since 2007 classrooms have been equipped with a multimedia package that includes a personal computer, audio equipment and a projector. By the year 2010 90% of students going to publicly financed schools had access to computers, 60% of schools had Internet access, 110.000 teachers (there are around 180.000 teachers working today in the system) had been trained to use computers as a part of their instruction process, and the Country reached a national average of 9,8 students per computer in schools (Donoso, 2010; Hepp et al., 2004; Sanchez & Salinas, 2008).

For the past few years, the primary concern in Chile has been investigating the effects of these policies. In particular, studies have looked at how these new resources are being used and whether or not there has been any impact on student learning. In Chile, the evidence is consistent with other international studies and reports which show that the frequency of ICT use in teaching and learning activities in schools is relatively low (Cuban, 2001; Hinostroza, et al., 2005; Plomp &Voogt., 2009; OECD, 2010) and that they are mostly used to support "traditional" teaching practices (i.e., instruction based lessons) (Plomp & Voogt, 2009; Trucano, 2005; Balanskat et al., 2006). In fact, data collected through a 2009 national survey of all state-subsidized schools and a sample of private schools showed that ICT is not frequently used in teaching and learning in the classroom. When used, it is to support teacher's current practices instead of changing or revolutionizing them (Hinostroza et al., 2010).

In terms of the impact on student learning, international and national research has not been able to provide conclusive statements about their positive or negative effects. On the contrary, findings are most often inconsistent between studies or difficult to generalize. These studies are commonly country-specific or developed under particular conditions; such is the case with pilot projects or case studies. Additionally, there are very few experimental studies that allow for empirically sound conclusions related to causality between ICT and student performance (Balanskat et al., 2006; Kozma, 2006; Ungerleider & Burns, 2003; McFarlane et al., 2000; Cuban & Kirkpatrick, 1998). Where evidence seems to converge is in indicating a non-linear and complex relationship between ICT and learning.

The lack of impact of ICT in schools has been explained in different ways by educational researchers and experts. One such explanation is related to the inability of technologies and technological school settings to adapt to real educational needs (Means, 2000; Watson, 2001). As previously mentioned, in Chile ICT resources are found mainly in computer labs, which implies that activities built around these technologies change the natural context of classroom teaching and tend to focus on the purely technological aspects. In this sense, the technologies "(...) are not truly integrated into the classroom teaching dynamic, which may limit their impact on teaching styles traditionally used in schools" (Nussbaum et al., 2009, p. 295). As Watson (2001) argues, having to book a timetabled fixed resource and moving the class to a separate room for a limited time does not allow for open-ended exploratory work, which the technology could facilitate. Software is increasingly seen as having the potential to support and enhance curriculum initiatives based on a conceptual understanding and the development of process skills. Nevertheless, hardware's physical location and management threaten this potential benefit. …

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