School based ict policy plans in primary education
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School based ict policy plans in primary education School based ict policy plans in primary education Document Transcript

  • School-based ICT policy plans in primary education: Elements, typologies and underlying processes_1191 505..519 Ruben Vanderlinde, Sara Dexter and Johan van Braak Ruben Vanderlinde is a research assistant at the Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, Belgium. His research focuses on the influence of school level conditions on the integration and implementation of ICT in education. He is currently finishing his PhD study on school-based ICT policy planning in primary education. Dr Sara Dexter is an associate professor at the Curry School of Education’s Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the University of Virginia, USA. Her research and teaching focuses on the development of effective school leaders, particularly as it pertains to the effective integration and implementation of ICT. Dr Johan van Braak is professor at the Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, Belgium. He coordinates the research group “Innovation in Compulsory Education.” Address for correspondence: Mr Ruben Vanderlinde, Ghent University, Department of Educational Studies, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. Email: Ruben.Vanderlinde@UGent.be Abstract Schools are more and more encouraged to write a school-based information and com- munication technology (ICT) policy plan. In such a plan, a school describes its expecta- tions, goals, content and actions related to the future role of ICT in teaching and learning. Although this is encouraged by researchers and policy makers, the literature on ICT policy plans and ICT policy planning is rather general and underdeveloped. In this study, the content of school-based ICT policy plans and underlying policy processes is explored. Data were gathered in 31 primary schools in Flanders: the schools’ ICT policy plan was submitted to a content analysis, and a semi-structured interview was administered to the school leader or the ICT coordinator. Using a framework of ICT leadership practices to guide the analysis (setting direction, developing people and making the organization work), we identified three types of ICT policy plans: (1) an ICT policy plan as a vision blueprint, (2) a technical inventory and (3) a comprehensive ICT policy plan. Although the last type takes into account all ICT leadership practices, we found a variety of different approaches in the processes used to create and execute such plans, such as the support of ICT training activities, data-driven decision-making pro- cesses and monitoring activities. Practitioner notes What is already known about this topic • Different conditions situated on different levels support the integration of ICT in teach- ing and learning. School-based ICT policy planning is considered as one of the school- level conditions influencing the integration process. • School-based ICT policy planning is the underlying school process leading towards the ICT policy plan. • ICT leadership must be considered as a school-level property rather than associating it with any one particular leadership role. ICT leadership is described in terms of the leadership practices, carried out collectively by the school staff members, of setting direction, developing people and developing the organization. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 505–519 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01191.x © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
  • What this paper adds • School-based ICT policy plans contain a broad spectrum of different components, which can all be organized under the ICT leadership practices of setting direction, developing people and developing the organization. These categories aid how schools might analyze the process of creating their ICT policy plans and their content. • A typology is made of three kinds of school-based ICT policy plans: (1) an ICT policy plan as a vision blueprint, (2) a technical inventory and (3) a comprehensive ICT policy plan. • A comprehensive ICT policy is defined as a policy plan grounded in a vision on edu- cation and ICT integration with implications for how the school organization should provide supportive conditions for teachers’ classroom practices and pupils’ learning activities. • Different underlying processes are found in schools (eg, data-driven decision making, teachers’ participation in decision making, monitoring activities) influencing the content of the school-based ICT policy plan, which are also tied to these categories of effective leadership practice. Implications for practice and/or policy • Schools should elaborate comprehensive ICT policy plans. These plans should reflect all ICT leadership practices, and as such have the greatest chance of being successful. • Schools should use specific school data to develop their ICT policy plan; they should involve all teachers in the process of policy planning managed by an ICT coordinator with a clear leadership role. • Policy makers should be aware of the multiplicity of the content of ICT policy plans, and could make use a broad range of actions to promote the development of ICT policy plans in schools. ICT integration One of the central activities in information and communications technology (ICT) research is the investigation of conditions that support the integration of ICT into schools (Hew & Brush, 2007). In this context, many researchers have presented overall frameworks or models illustrating con- ditions that can have an influence on ICT integration into teaching and learning. These frame- works are based on literature reviews (eg, Hew & Brush, 2007), qualitative research methods (eg, Lim, 2002) or quantitative research methods (eg, Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010a). All the these frameworks have in common that ICT integration is described from a holistic point of view influenced by conditions situated on different levels (pupils, teachers, schools, policy makers). A condition situated on the school level, next to conditions like “ICT infrastructure” or “ICT schools’ support,” that recently gains attention is school-based ICT policy planning. Hew and Brush (2007) speak about “having a shared vision and ICT policy plan.” ICT policy planning ICT policy planning or technology planning exists on different levels (Fishman & Zhang, 2003; Jones, 2003). Whereas nations, states, districts and schools can all write an ICT policy plan, which serve as blueprints for how education with ICT should look (Fishman & Zhang, 2003), their specificity will vary in accordance with the policy level. Recently, from both a research and policy perspective attention has been paid to ICT policy planning at the school level. Several authors have argued that working out a school-based ICT policy plan is a crucial step towards integrating ICT in education (eg, Baylor & Ritchie, 2002; Bryderup & Kowalski, 2002; Tondeur, 506 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • Van Keer, van Braak & Valcke, 2008). For instance, Tondeur et al (2008) found that teachers in schools which have an explicit ICT policy plan that stresses shared goals use educational tech- nology more regularly in their classroom. Jones (2003) found a relationship between ICT school policies and changes in the classroom and Gülbahar (2007) found that the process of developing an ICT policy plan is important for using technology in an efficient and effective manner for teaching, learning and administrative purposes. ICT policy planning is considered as the underlying school process leading towards a school-based ICT policy plan. This conceptualization encompasses what Fishman and Zhang (2003) call a narrow and deeper definition of ICT policy planning. According to Fishman and Zhang (2003), a narrow definition of ICT policy planning refers to the outcome or a result in an official docu- ment. A deeper definition of ICT policy planning refers to the process of developing, revising and implementing ICT plans in order to guide organizations towards their broader goals. An ICT policy plan is then a document that describes technical and infrastructure specifications, but particularly describes the learning objectives for ICT use as well as strategies of its implementa- tion (including professional development). Such a document needs regular formative evaluations to ensure that the plan is being met. In this study, a school-based ICT policy plan is defined as a school document containing different elements of the integration of ICT in education (van Braak, 2003). In an ICT policy plan, the school describes its expectations, goals, content and actions related to the use of ICT in education (van Braak, 2003).The plan contains strategic elements (eg, what are the schools’ ambitions?) as well as operational elements (eg, which steps should be taken to realize these ambitions?). Baylor and Ritchie (2002) state that the content of an ICT policy plan acts as a blueprint for the sequence of events a school hopes to achieve, describes the overall philosophy of ICT and explores how ICT would improve teaching and learning.The plan therefore includes elements such as a vision for using ICT in classrooms, the provision of professional development, ICT skills expected of teachers and students, ICT curriculum, hardware and soft- ware to acquire and support, funds to allocate, etc. Furthermore, school improvement literature draws our attention to several processes that influence the success of ICT policy plans (see also Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010). First, an ICT policy plan should be grounded in a shared vision of teaching and learning on the one hand and ICT integration on the other hand (Fishman & Pinkard, 2001). The point of departure should thus be the schools’ vision of good education. Second, an ICT policy plan needs to be frequently updated (Fishman & Pinkard, 2001) following the monitoring of the implementation of the plan. In other words, an ICT policy plan is a dynamic document (van Braak, 2003) subject to continuous improvement and revision. Third, an ICT policy plan should be jointly constructed. ICT policy planning requires collaboration of teachers during the process of policy planning and decision making (Fishman & Pinkard, 2001). Fourth, schools need someone that guides them in the process of ICT policy planning, like the school leader (Hayes, 2007) or the ICT coordinator (Devolder, Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010). Specifically, in this study ICT policy planning refers to the underlying school process leading to a school-based ICT policy plan. While “ICT policy planning” refers to a process dimension, “ICT policy plan” refers to an outcome or product dimension. Therefore, the process dimension is described using a verb, and the outcome dimension is indicated as a noun. These two dimensions are what Fishman and Zhang (2003) defined as narrow (ie, outcome) or deeper (ie, process) ICT policy plans. In Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, school-based ICT policy planning is a hot item on the educational agenda. In 2007, the Flemish Government administered a compulsory ICT curriculum to primary schools. The ICT curriculum is written in terms of ICT attainment targets or minimum objectives, which describe the ICT knowledge, skills and attitudes viewed by the government as necessary for and attainable by all students in compulsory education. The ICT School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 507 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA. View slide
  • attainment targets do not focus on technical skills, but emphasize the integrated use of ICT within the teaching and learning process (Vanderlinde, van Braak & Hermans, 2009). The Flemish Government expects that schools implement the ICT curriculum into practice and translate the broadly formulated ICT attainment targets into concrete teaching and learning activities. Within the context of this ICT curriculum reform, Flemish schools are strongly encouraged to work out an ICT policy plan. The Flemish Government believes ICT policy planning will facilitate the process of ICT integration in general and the realization of the ICT curriculum in particular (Vanderlinde et al, 2009). Moreover, the encouragement of ICT policy planning resulting in an ICT policy plan fits within a broader governmental movement of stimulating the ‘policy making capacity of Flemish schools’ (Van Petegem, Devos, Warmoes & Dang Kim, 2006).This means that educational policy is being decentralized in favor of local school autonomy and responsibility for educational reform and curriculum implementation. Although ICT policy planning is encouraged by researchers and policy makers, research on ICT policy plans and ICT policy planning is rather general and underdeveloped, both from the per- spective of the ICT integration and the leadership literature. To further our understanding of this topic, the present study examines—using ICT leadership practices as a lens of analysis—the content of ICT policy plans in the context of Flemish ICT curriculum reform. The extent of how ICT leadership practice is associated with specific ICT policy plan characteristics is explored, that also play out in the processes of the plan’s development at the school. ICT leadership is thus understood as a necessary precondition for ICT policy planning (Tondeur, Coenders, van Braak, ten Brummelhuis & Vanderlinde, 2009). ICT leadership Dexter (2008) argues that ICT leadership must be considered as a school-level property rather than being simply associated with a particular leadership role because of the multiple leaders— such as the school leader or principal, the ICT coordinator and teacher leaders—typically involved in a school’s ICT leadership. Distributed leadership theory (Spillane, 2006) emphasizes a similar organization-level way of viewing leadership through focusing on leadership practices, which encompasses the interactions both among multiple school leaders and between them and their followers, and altogether how these interactions give shape to, and are shaped by, the situation (eg, school or organization) itself. In the situation, tools, routines and structures that are created by leaders in order to accomplish programs or tasks organize the interactions between leaders and followers (Spillane, 2006). As externalized representations of leaders’ intentions, such tools, routines and structures serve as an analytic window into the extent of the scope and aims of leadership practice (Halverson, 2003). An ICT policy plan is an example of such an artifact and illustrates this study’s outcome dimension, whereas the leaders’ practices for ICT policy planning and the interactions they engender illustrate its process dimension. Analysis of research on leaders’ impact on teaching practice and student achievement conclude that effective leaders employ three broad categories of leadership practices: (1) setting direction, (2) developing people and (3) making the organization work (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstrom, 2004; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003, 2005). According to these researchers, the leader- ship practices for (1) setting direction are about fostering the development of a shared vision, meaning and organizational goals, involving teachers in decision making. It is about fostering the acceptance of group goals, where teachers know which procedures they are expected to follow. The leadership practices associated with (2) developing people include providing well-designed professional development that models desired knowledge and behaviors. It provides individual- ized support and encourages data-driven decision making that relates current and desired prac- tices to student learning goals. The leadership practices associated with (3) making the organization work include understanding and facilitating the change process and modifying the 508 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA. View slide
  • use of time and other resources to aid successful change. They also include continuous monitor- ing and evaluation of progress and needs, building positive relations with school stakeholders and collaborative processes among staff. Dexter (2008, 2011) applies these three categories to describe ICT leadership practices in terms of the elements that affect the level of teachers’ ICT integration. These include attending to (1) the vision for ICT (eg, Dawson & Rakes, 2003; Flanagan & Jacobsen, 2003; Testerman, Flowers & Algozzine, 2002); (2) ICT teacher development, including instructional support and professional community building (eg, Dexter, Seashore & Anderson, 2002; Dexter, Seashore Louis & Ander- son, 2009; Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon & Byers, 2002); and (3) ICT access and technical aid, and supportive policies and other conditions (eg, Dexter, Anderson & Ronnkvist, 2002; Zhao & Frank, 2003). We believe that this complete range of ICT leadership practices is a necessary precondition to create a complete ICT policy plan in a school (Tondeur et al, 2009), and positively influence relationships among the school staff and the general school climate (Hadjithoma, 2009), and as such, indirectly affects the integrated use of ICT for teaching and learning. In this study, we use these three categories of leadership practices to analyze both the outcome dimensions (ie, the schools’ ICT policy plan) and the process dimensions (ie, the leadership practices that encourage interactions among ICT leaders and the teachers who integrate ICT). This way we can infer the intentions of the ICT leaders and the scope and aims of their ICT leadership practices. This analysis scheme also allows for discussing the quality of leadership practices for ICT policy planning and ICT plans in the same terms as many general leadership studies. Purpose In this exploratory study, we aim to use ICT leadership practices to examine the content of school-based ICT policy plans in primary education. The main questions in this study concern (1) how the three categories of ICT leadership practices (setting direction, developing people and developing the organization) are represented in ICT policy plans, and (2) whether it’s possible to identify different types of ICT policy plans. Furthermore, we also aim (3) to examine the devel- opmental process underlying the actual content of the school-based ICT policy plan. The first and second research questions have a clear focus on the outcome dimension (the ICT policy plan as a product), while the third research question has a focus on the process dimension (ICT policy planning). Procedure and method Together with the introduction of the ICT attainment targets in primary education, a survey study (Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010b) was carried out in 62 Flemish primary schools to examine teachers’ perceptions of the new ICT curriculum. The 62 schools included are repre- sentative of province and educational network or umbrella organization. Of these, 40 schools were selected and invited to participate in the study on ICT policy plans. These schools were selected as they had the highest aggregated score on the measurement scale “Schools’ ICT vision and policy” (see Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010a). This scale assesses the extent to which a school has a clear vision on the place of ICT in education, and the extent to which a school has a policy and policy plan concerning the integration of ICT in education. Of the 40 schools, 31 schools agreed to participate in this study. Staff turnover and alternative research commitments were the main reasons for the non participation of the other nine schools. The ICT policy plans were collected from the remaining 31 primary schools and submitted to a comparative document analysis. This is a systematic procedure for reviewing documents in order to elicit meaning, gain deeper understanding and develop empirical knowledge (Bowen, 2009). School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 509 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • Given the exploratory nature of this study, the initial coding scheme was adapted several times during the analysis. In addition, a semi-structured interview was administered to the person with the final responsibility for the ICT policy plan in order to gather information about the underlying processes of the policy plan development (eg, teacher involvement, time span of the policy plan, etc.). Overall, 26 ICT coordinators, four school leaders and one person who combine both posi- tions were interviewed.The combination of a content analysis and an in-depth interview with the ICT coordinator is important from a triangulation methodological point of view when conduct- ing document or content analysis (Hodder, 1994). Constant comparative analysis (Kelchtermans, 1994) was used for the data analysis. For all schools (cases), the coded ICT policy plans and interview protocols were systematically compared for similarities, differences and recurring patterns. A structured coding scheme was used for the analysis containing three main coding areas. The first set of codes focused on the background information of the school and the interviewees. The next set of code contained content elements of the ICT policy plan and the third set of codes contained the ICT leadership practices. All interpretations were discussed among the researchers in order to safeguard the validity of the interpretative data. NVivo 8.0 (QSR International) was used for the qualitative data analysis. Results of this study are presented in two main sections. First, we present results on the content of the ICT policy plans, secondly the results on the underlying processes. Results on the content analysis are mainly based on the document analysis; results on the underlying processes are mainly based on the semi-structured interviews. Based on our distinction between “ICT policy plan as a result” and “ICT policy planning as a process,” the first section has a focus on the outcome dimension; the second section on the process dimension. Findings: Content and typology Schools without an ICT policy plan Although all schools were selected on the basis of their score on a specific measurement scale assessing their ICT vision and policy, we found that of the 31 schools, six did not have an ICT policy plan and 25 schools did. Not surprisingly, the six schools without an ICT policy plan were also the schools with the lowest score on the selection variable “Schools’ ICT vision and policy.” An analysis of the interview data of these schools revealed that three schools had already started the ICT policy planning process. This means that these three schools previously had team meet- ings to discuss how the school would elaborate their school-based ICT policy plan, which indi- vidual should be mandated for this process and what the ICT policy plan should contain. These schools had started the process of ICT policy planning following the advice of the school inspec- torate. Two ICT coordinators testify: Last year the school inspectorate evaluated us. They were very positive about the way we use ICT in the classrooms, and about my work as an ICT coordinator. On the other hand, they advised me to translate everything in an ICT policy plan, that was the only remark they had (CT coordinator—School 57). The other ICT coordinator was more skeptical about the school inspectorates’ advice to work out an ICT policy plan: To be honest, I don’t understand them (the school inspectorate). We do a lot of good things with ICT with our kids in the different classrooms. We are a school supporting ICT integration in education, and now, suddenly, everything has to be put on paper. Why? I really don’t know ... But we don’t have an option, so we will put everything on paper (ICT coordinator—School 30). While of the six schools without an ICT policy plan, three schools had already started the process of ICT policy planning, the three other schools had no intention of creating an ICT policy plan. The main arguments for not doing so were a lack of time and a lack of governmental pressure. An ICT coordinator of one of these schools argues: 510 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • As long as having an ICT policy plan isn’t forced by the government or school inspectorate, we don’t do it (ICT coordinator—School 58). Schools with an ICT policy plan A content analysis was carried out on the ICT policy plans of the remaining 25 schools. In the first step, we clustered—based on the constant comparative data analysis of the interpretative codes as described above—all elements described in the different ICT policy plans into three categories of ICT leadership practices and then further differentiated the elements into 15 subcategories. All elements placed under these categories were discussed between the researchers to improve content validity. These subcategories are shown in Table 1 and outlined below. When it comes to (1) setting direction, we found three subcategories of an ICT plan’s elements that might foster shared goals and meanings for the role of ICT among the school staff: Table 1: Content of the ICT policy plans: Listing per school and type of ICT policy plan Category of ICT leadership practice/content ICT policy plans Typology of ICT policy plan Vision blueprint (6 schools) Technical inventory (3 schools) Comprehensive ICT policy plan (16 schools) Listing per school* 1. Setting direction 1.a. General vision on education 6, 21 5, 7, 11, 26, 31, 36, 39, 49, 50, 51, 59 1.b. Vision on ICT in education 6, 21 5, 7, 11, 14, 26, 31, 32, 36, 38, 39, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 59 1.c. Description ICT- enriched activities 12, 23, 24, 56 5, 7, 11, 14, 31, 32, 36, 38, 47, 49, 51, 59 2. Developing people 2.a. ICT professional development 5, 7, 11, 14, 26, 31, 32, 36, 39, 46, 49, 50, 51, 59 2.b. External ICT training activities 7, 32, 46, 47, 51, 59 2.c. ICT support for teachers 7, 11, 36, 38, 51, 59 3. Developing organization 3.a. Descriptions of hardware 20, 40, 55 7, 11, 14, 26, 31, 32, 38, 39, 47, 50, 51, 59 3.b. Descriptions of software 20, 40, 55 7, 11, 14, 26, 36, 31, 32, 38, 39, 47, 50, 51, 59 3.c. Safe use of the Internet 5, 14, 38 3.d. Job description ICT coordinator 20 5, 7, 11, 14, 26, 31, 32, 36, 38, 39, 47, 50, 51, 59 3.e. Role school network 5, 7, 14, 32, 38, 50, 51 3.f. School website 55 26, 38, 49, 51 3.g. ICT steering committee 26, 46, 49, 59 3.h. Collaboration other organizations 5, 7, 11, 14, 31, 32, 36, 46, 47, 51, 59 3.i. ICT budget plan 20 7, 32, 26, 47, 49, 59 3.j. ICT code of behavior 14, 38, 51, 59 *Numbers in the table refer to the school number of the initial teacher sample (n = 62). School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 511 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • a. A description of the schools’ vision on education as well as teaching and learning; b. A general description of the place for ICT in teaching and learning; c. A detailed overview of the ICT activities schools want to organize with their pupils in the different classrooms or teaching grades. For the ICT leadership practices concerning (2) the development of people, we found three subcategories that would increase the opportunities for school staff members to learn about ICT: a. ICT professional development activities organized within the school for teachers; b. Description of training courses teachers will attend externally; c. ICT support (technical and educational) for teachers. For ICT leadership practices that (3) develop the organization, we found content referring to a broad spectrum of features related to the organization that potentially increase enabling condi- tions for and remove barriers to the use of ICT, such as a. Descriptions of in-house hardware; b. Descriptions of in-house software; c. Guidelines concerning the safe use of the Internet; d. The job description of the school’s ICT coordinator; e. The role of the school network in ICT policy planning; f. Descriptions of the role of the school’s website; g. Composition and setting of tasks of the ICT steering committee; h. Collaboration with other organizations; i. The school’s ICT budget plan; j. An ICT code of behavior for teachers and pupils. Table 2 presents these subcategories more in depth by presenting specific contents found in the studied ICT policy plans. This table is based on the concrete content found in the policy plans, and provided by the NVivo data analysis program. In the second step, we looked for patterns within the 25 ICT policy plans and identified three types of ICT policy plans (seeTable 1): six ICT policy plans only paid attention to issues related to setting direction, three ICT policy plans only stressed issues related to developing the organization and 16 ICT policy plans referred to all three of the categories of ICT leadership practices. In the final step, we combined this typology of ICT policy plans with the content we found in the first step of our analysis. Table 1 shows the type of plan together with the content of the different schools’ ICT policy plans classified by the subcategories of ICT leadership practices. The first category of ICT policy plans (n = 6) is labeled as “an ICT policy plan as a vision blue- print,” because it only emphasizes the first category of ICT leadership practices (seeTable 1). Such an ICT policy plan only presents a description of the schools’ general vision on education and ICT integration. These plans are mostly short documents (one or two pages), and are seen as blue- prints for how education with ICT should look. Schools which have developed “an ICT policy plan as a vision blueprint” state that they do not feel the need to spend time working out a more elaborated ICT policy plan. One school leader argues: I don’t like comprehensive policy plans. Therefore, our ICT policy plan is rather concise and only describes our vision on ICT. I felt that it was important to express our engagement when it comes to ICT integration stating that our school will prepare children for the knowledge based society by using all kinds of new media and information and communication technologies (School leader—School 21). The second type of ICT policy plan (n = 3) is described as “a technical inventory.” Schools which have developed such a plan only present issues related to developing the organization in that most simply presented descriptions of hardware and software (see Table 1). This limited discussion of 512 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • Table 2: Illustrations of content per subcategory Category of ICT leadership practice/content ICT policy plans Illustrations of content for the subcategories 1. Setting direction 1.a. General vision on education eg, Preparing students for a knowledge-based society, promoting self-regulated learning, promoting digital literacy in education, promoting pupil-centered education. 1.b. Vision on ICT in education eg, ICT as a means to achieve teaching objectives, ICT as a mean to develop pupils’ communication skills, descriptions of the influences of the new ICT curriculum on teaching and learning activities. 1.c. Description ICT-enriched activities Detailed overviews of the ICT activities schools want to organize with their pupils in the different classrooms or teaching grades. 2. Developing people 2.a. ICT professional development Descriptions of a broad range of ICT professional development activities organized within the school for teachers, mostly initiated by the schools’ ICT coordinator. 2.b. External ICT training activities Descriptions of specific ICT in-service teacher-training courses, both technical (eg, PowerPoint courses, software application trainings) and didactical (eg, how to use an interactive white board in the classroom) 2.c. ICT support for teachers Information about the organization of technical (what to do and who to contact when encountering these problems?), and educational support (from the ICT coordinator, from colleagues, etc.) for teachers. 3. Developing organization 3.a. Descriptions of hardware eg, Number of computers (with or without Internet connection), equipment of the computer classroom, digital white boards, security of the ICT infrastructure, other ICT equipment (eg, digital cameras). 3.b. Descriptions of software eg, Educational software packages, the use of instructional website or web quests, web sharing for teachers, descriptions of the available software. 3.c. Safe use of the Internet Enumeration of guidelines for pupils to make safe use of the Internet (eg, do not give any personal information during chat sessions, watch out when using a webcam), violating and discriminating communication. 3.d. Job description ICT coordinator eg, Responsible for the schools’ ICT policy plan, organization of school-based ICT training courses for teachers, maintenance of the schools’ computer infrastructure. 3.e. Role school network eg, Joint buying of computer infrastructure, common server use, collaboration meetings for ICT coordinators of different schools. 3.f. School website eg, Content of the school website, weblogs of classrooms, communication with parents, update of the website, documents placed on the school website. 3.g. ICT steering committee Composition (eg, teachers, parents, IT experts) and responsibilities of the steering committee (eg, website support, technical support, network maintenance, IT fundraising) 3.h. Collaboration other organizations eg, Teacher training institutions (traineeship), secondary schools in the neighborhood (school computer classroom), IT companies (network maintenance). 3.i. ICT budget plan eg, Allocation of the schools’ budget to purchase hardware and software, spreadsheet files of the phased buying of ICT equipment, fundraising activities. 3.j. ICT code of behavior Guidelines for teachers (how to make safe use of the Internet, web sharing, web space on the server, use of the schools’ email address, information for the schools’ website), guidelines for pupils (see 3c). School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 513 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • leadership practices to make the organization work for ICT thus leaves out the key issues of providing teachers with technical and instructional support and establishing a shared vision. An ICT coordinator explains: Actually, our ICT policy plan does not contain new information. We’ve just put on paper our hardware infrastructure and what kind of software packages we use in the classrooms (ICT coordinator—School 55). The last category (n = 16) is labeled as “a comprehensive ICT policy plan.” These ICT policy plans are grounded in a vision of education and ICT integration, and address the capacity of the school as an organization to support the development of teachers’ classroom practices and pupils’ learning activities. As such, they stress all three categories of ICT leadership practices (see Table 1). Only this last type pays attention to both strategic and operational elements. As illus- trated below, schools have different reasons for working out a comprehensive ICT policy plan, reporting that both external forces (ie, the school inspectorate) and internal school improvement goals influence this process: Since ICT is compulsory in the primary school’s curriculum, there will be a formal evaluation by the inspectorate. And then, we will be able to prove we are working on ICT integration in education, and we will be able to show that we can put the ICT curriculum into practice (ICT coordinator—School 32). ICT is at the top of our reform agenda. Working out an ICT policy plan with all my teachers was impor- tant because I feel we need a shared vision and we need to do it together (School leader—School 59). In these 16 schools, most of the ICT policy plans were single documents (n = 12), others were integrated in a more general school improvement document (n = 4). The average length of the ICT policy plans was 28 pages, with a minimum of seven pages and a maximum of 107 pages. The differences between schools in terms of the length of their ICT policy plans are shown in Table 1. For instance, schools 51 and 7 have the most categories of the content analysis noted in their ICT policy plan, and were also the two schools with the longest ICT policy plan. In contrast, the ICT policy plans of schools 46 and 49 were rather short, containing fewer content areas. All 16 comprehensive ICT policy plans present a vision of ICT integration (category 1.b), and almost all of them present ideas about ICT professional development (category 2.a.), hard- ware and software specifications (categories 3.a and 3.b), and a job description of the ICT coor- dinator (3.d). These schools were least likely to discuss the role of the school’s website (3.f) or the ICT steering committee (3.g). Categories mentioned here refer to the categories (ICT leadership and 16 subcategories) presented in Table 1 and Table 2. The average number of sub- categories of content within the plans of these 16 schools was 8.75, with a median of 8.5 and a mode of 7. While the ICT coordinators’ task description (category 3.d) was present in 14 of the ICT policy plans, they differed in terms of how comprehensive that information was. For example, schools 14, 26, 38, 39 and 47 presented a detailed list of all tasks the schools’ ICT coordinator was to fulfill (eg, maintenance of computer infrastructure, technical support for teachers). Other schools (ie, 5, 7, 11, 31, 32, 36, 50, 51 and 59) presented a more general mandate, such as being responsible for the schools’ ICT policy or the implementation of the Flemish ICT curricu- lum. In this latter category, the more broad mandates describe the ICT coordinator as a ‘change agent’ in the school. Interestingly, ICT coordinators with such a mandate situated themselves in a middle management position in their primary schools as the following two quotations illustrate: I’m like the assistant school leader. (ICT coordinator—School 11). I’m a policy advisor. I see myself as being on the same level as our school leader (ICT coordinator—School 31). Conversely, ICT coordinators with a detailed job description list situated themselves at the same level as the classroom teachers: 514 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • I’m equal to the other teachers. I don’t see myself as more important than others (ICT coordinator—School 47). I think I’m like the other teachers. An ICT coordinator isn’t that important (ICT coordinator—School 14). Analysis: Processes underlying the creation of comprehensive ICT policy plans During the interviews, the ICT coordinators and school leaders provided further insight into the ICT leaders’ concerns during the planning process. In doing so, differences were found between schools in the processes used to create the ICT policy plans. These differences provide further insight into the degree to which the ICT policy plans meet the recommendations for effective leaders attending to an entire range of practices that not only set direction, but also develop people and make the organization work. Underlying process differences were found in (1) the amount of teacher involvement in the process of ICT policy planning, (2) the type and extent of the planned ICT professional development activities, (3) the nature of data-driven decision making and (4) the attention to monitoring progress during implementation, from which we infer their attention to the leadership practices of making the organization work. As such, the results presented in this section focus on ICT policy planning as a process. Teacher involvement Similar to the schools without an ICT policy plan, some schools (5, 11 and 14) had worked out an ICT policy plan just to please the school inspectorate. In these schools, the ICT policy plan was compiled by the ICT coordinator individually and teachers were not involved. In comparison, eight schools (7, 31, 36, 38, 47, 50, 51 and 59) involved teachers in the process of ICT policy planning. Teachers in these schools regularly discussed the content of the ICT policy plan (eg, during the weekly scheduled team meetings) and the strategic decisions the school must make (eg, vision on ICT integration, task description of the ICT coordinator). One ICT coordinator stated how teachers are involved in this process: If we put something on paper, we always do it with the whole school team so everybody agrees with the content (ICT coordinator—School 50). In the other four schools (26, 46, 49 and 59), the structure of an ICT steering committee (see category 3.g in Table 1) guided coordinated interactions about the ICT policy planning process among teachers, parents and sometimes information technology engineers. In this context, teachers and other groups have representative membership and the ICT steering group acts as a go-between, taking input from the different groups and presenting it to leaders regarding ICT planning. Our ICT steering committee has worked out the ICT policy plan of the school. We meet monthly and the group consists of teachers and parents. I think we are the pivot when it comes to ICT, because we commu- nicate upstairs to the school leader and the school community, and downstairs to the other teachers (ICT coordinator—School 26). Three of the four schools with ICT steering groups (schools 26, 46 and 49) had relatively short ICT policy plans with most of the content focused on the ICT steering group (ie, their composition, responsibilities and meetings). An exception to this pattern was school 59, which also detailed most of the other subcategories. This school was the only one to use an online planning tool to create their ICT policy plan development, as described below. Professional development We found that the overall content of the “developing people” leadership practice is rather weakly elaborated in most of the ICT policy plans, especially when compared to the other two leadership categories. This means that all comprehensive ICT policy plans presented issues concerning teachers’ ICT professional development (see Table 1, category 2.a), but do this by describing School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 515 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • general ideas about ICT training (eg, we will assess teachers’ ICT training needs, the ICT coordi- nator will organize ICT training courses), by presenting basic assumptions (eg, ICT professional development needs to be school based), or by presenting basic ICT competencies teachers need to possess. Among the 16 schools, only four (schools 7, 31, 51 and 59) formulated concrete actions for “developing people.” These were the four schools that collected school-based data by admin- istrating a teacher survey to guide their policy development (see below). In three of these four schools (the fourth school, 59, used the online tool pICTos), the surveys assessed teachers’ ICT competencies or teachers’ ICT training needs, paying attention to technical and didactical aspects. Based on this school-specific data, the three schools formulated clear actions concerning teachers’ ICT professional development. First, actions are presented as an overview of external ICT training that teachers will attend (category 2.b), or internal ICT training the ICT coordinator will organize (category 2.a and 2.c). Second, some actions are concerned with the establishment of an ICT professional community (category 2.c) and stress the importance of ICT peer support, ICT peer coaching or ICT open classroom door policy. One of the ICT coordinators of these schools illustrates this point of view: What’s of interest for one individual teacher is usually of interest for all teachers. So, when teachers have questions or problems with ICT, we try to handle and fix it as a team (ICT coordinator—School 7). Data-driven decision making Four schools (7, 31, 51 and 59) based the content of their ICT policy plans on specific data that have been collected with the teachers. In these schools the teachers were involved in the process of ICT policy planning (see above). Three schools (7, 31 and 51) administrated a teacher survey as a tool to guide interactions between ICT leaders and teachers and inform their policy develop- ment; school 59 used the online tool described below to guide them. The teacher survey that was administrated in the three schools assessed current ICT use by teachers (see category 1.a), teach- ers’ ICT competencies and their ICT training needs (see categories 2.a and 2.b), and paying attention to technical aspects as well as didactical aspects. We first started with our vision and tried to formulate an answer to the question ‘What is it that we want to realise with our pupils when comes to ICT integration?’ then we studied the new ICT curriculum. To do that, I made a short survey for the teachers, asking what they already do with ICT and their pupils. These data were then used to work out our ICT future (School leader—School 51). The online tool used by school 59 for their ICT policy plan development is called pICTos (Planning for ICT in Schools) and has been recently developed by order of the Flemish Government. The main idea behind the tool is to offer schools a platform for the development of their ICT policy plan within the context of implementing the new ICT curriculum (see Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010) for a detailed description of the tool). The tool consists of five different steps: (1) gaining insight into teachers’ vision on education; (2) making an inventory of the actual use of ICT; (3) setting ICT priorities; (4) considering new ICT activities; and (5) drawing up an action plan. Every step is supported by specific software that collects and present school-specific data. Monitoring activities Following the previous point, we found that most of the ICT policy plans did not map out the implementation of the plan. For 10 of the schools, the content of the ICT policy plan suggests that establishing an ICT policy plan was a “once-off” activity. Only six schools (5, 7, 31, 32, 51 and 59) paid explicit attention to how the plan would be put into action, including clear actions, deadlines and expectations concerning how its implementation would be monitored and revised. Most of these details were related to the specific ICT classroom activities teachers should perform (cat- egory 1.c) and the ICT professional development activities teachers should receive (categories 2.a and 2.b). In all six of these schools, the ICT coordinator is seen as a “change agent” (see above) who potentially has familiarity with the additional leadership practices of evaluating and moni- 516 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 43 No 3 2012 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
  • toring progress. Additionally, among these six schools were the four that based their policy on school-specific data (7, 31, 51 and 59). The other ICT plans only presented general information about monitoring activities, ie, “once a year we will evaluate the ICT policy plan,” or information about the phased purchase of new hardware and software. Conclusion and discussion Given the multitude and complexity of conditions supporting the integration of ICT in teaching and learning (see ICT integration paragraph), this study explored the leadership practices involved in the process of ICT policy planning and the ICT policy plan as an outcome of this process. More concretely, this study analyzed the content of 31 ICT policy plans in primary schools to better understand the role of an ICT policy plan when implementing ICT for teaching and learning in education. By applying three categories of recommended ICT leadership practices (setting direction, developing people and making the organization work) as an analytic lens, we identified three types of ICT policy plans: (1) an ICT policy plan as a vision blueprint, (2) an ICT policy plan as a technical inventory and (3) a comprehensive ICT policy plan. The last type takes into account all three categories of ICT leadership practices and has been defined as a policy plan grounded in a vision on education and ICT integration with implications for how the school organization should provide supportive conditions for teachers’ classroom practices and pupils’ learning activities. Viewing the ICT policy plan as an artifact of the leaders’ understanding of the activities required to fully support teachers’ integration of ICT in the classroom, the third type of plan illustrates how leaders are planning for a greater range of functions and responsibilities for teachers and leaders. It stands to reason that a school that is prepared to carry out aspects of all three leadership practices is more likely to have leaders who will act on these plans and as a result may have the greatest chance of being successful with ICT implementation. Among the schools with a comprehensive plan (outcome dimension), we identified differences in the underlying processes (process dimension) used to create them. While overall, the ICT policy plan documents a direction that a school sets for ICT integration, only some schools carried out the full range of activities regarding what it means to set direction. Only half of these 16 schools collected the input of teachers and only a handful used data in the creation of the plan. Both of these leadership practices could foster the development of shared meanings and the acceptance of group goals. Only six schools created the means to monitor the feasibility of the plans they were developing. These additional practices related to setting direction often all occurred in the same school, and always in a school where the ICT coordinator is seen as a leader instead of a helper. The use of data along with the involvement of teachers in the creation of the policy plan tended to result in a more complete (eg, greater detail regarding developing people) and a more elaborate plan (ie, schools with a dozen or more of the 16 subcategories). This indicates that in some schools, leaders—or leadership teams—have a greater understanding of the variety of ICT lead- ership practices required for success, and suggests that these leaders may in fact be the ICT coordinators who are acting as change agents. This study adds to the research literature by discerning what types of ICT policy plans are currently being used. It also outlines the relations between underlying policy planning processes, particularly the relationship between data-driven decision making, monitoring activities and authorizing the ICT coordinator as a leader. It also has implications for guiding school leadership practices about policy plan development. These findings extend for practitioners’ recommenda- tions about distributed leadership practices from the literature into the realm of ICT policy planning and illustrate key elements of plans as well as key interactions among leaders and followers leading to their creation. In addition, this research has also implications for policy makers. Policy makers should do more than just expect schools to have an ICT policy plan. Possible actions are, for instance, disseminating ICT policy plans, which can be labeled as “good School-based ICT policy plans in primary education 517 © 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2011 BERA.
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