Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Developing Technology Needs Assessments for Educational Programs: An Analysis of Eight Key Indicators

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Developing Technology Needs Assessments for Educational Programs: An Analysis of Eight Key Indicators

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The push for technology's integration and innovative classroom use is pervasive, but the reality is that today's teachers represent a diverse cohort with varying degrees of facility when it comes to effectively deploying technology tools. Whether deciding to upgrade technology infrastructure or allotting funding for professional development programs, resource allocation effectively begins only after establishing what our teachers need. This article identifies and analyses eight major indicators commonly included in technology surveys designed for teachers: self-assessed skill level, technology use and integration, teacher beliefs, barriers to access, professional development resources, leadership, needs and wants, and demographics. These indicators emerged after comparing surveys designed for use at the national, regional, and institutional levels, and they have proven useful in the needs assessment phase of an internal program review. Regardless of the specific context, educational programs involved in strategic planning can adapt or build on these indicators during the needs assessment process to enhance the effectiveness of technology support and integration.

This paper first presents a brief literature review on technology adoption in the field of education and on the needs assessment process. This is followed by a description of the present study's context, methodology, and findings. Next, the paper includes a discussion of each indicator as well as considerations for adapting survey items. The paper concludes by situating the survey's role in the needs assessment process and a recommendation for ongoing research.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Barriers to Adoption

The early argument on 'digital natives versus digital immigrants' outlined by Prensky (2001a, 2001b) contended that the individual's chronological age played a critical role in his or her innate digital literacy. Those teachers who were educated prior to the ubiquitous access to personal computers and their integration into teacher training programs would need to re-educate themselves. Those teachers who were fortunate to be born and/or go through their formal education in the information age would enjoy a greater facility with information and communication technology (ICT). Since Prensky's writings, the demographic question has received additional attention. Findings from research by Inan and Lowther (2010) suggest that years of teaching and age negatively affect ICT adoption and integration. Conversely, researchers have found that chronological age does not always correlate to degrees of digital literacy (Xiaoqing Guo et al. 2008). Indeed, a myriad of factors, both internal and external to the teacher, affect successful ICT adoption.

The complex interplay between the individual teacher's attitudes, beliefs and ICT adoption is well documented (cf. Sang et al. 2011; Aldunate & Nussbaum 2013). Existing models and frameworks reflecting teachers' ICT adoption processes underscore the cost-benefit interplay at the individual level. Teachers must be willing to invest limited time resources to acquire new ICT skills often risking unknown returns. The more complex the technology, the more time invested, and the greater the possibility of failed adoption. These theoretical models are tangibly visible in second language classrooms, where ICT adoption has lagged in part due to a resistance to the use of technology in the classroom (many equipped classrooms go unused) coupled with a common belief held by many language teachers that learning requires physical interaction (Hampel & Stickler 2015).

The various external factors affecting adoption are no less multifaceted. Hohlfeld et al. (2008) proposed a tri-level pyramid framework depicting the digital divide within schools. The first level outlines the need for equitable access to ICT as well as technical support personnel within the school. The second level addresses teachers' use of ICT. …

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