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J. EDUCATIONAL COMPUTING RESEARCH, Vol.

34(3) 281-317, 2006

LISTENING TO STUDENTS VOICES ON LEARNING


WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES IN A
RICH TECHNOLOGY-BASED CLASSROOM

TAMAR LEVIN
Tel Aviv University
RIVKA WADMANY
Teachers College of Technology

ABSTRACT

This study explores the views on learning, technology and classroom prac-
tices of both students and teachers in a technology-enriched classroom
environment. It examined the characteristics and uniqueness of 4th-6th
grade students views and the changes in their teachers views as result of
longitudinal experiences of an innovative approach to learning and teaching
that focused on learning through information rich tasks in a technology
rich environment. The main findings show that in almost all participating
classrooms, students views were aligned with constructivist ideologies and
mainly emphasized the characteristics of authentic and social-dialogical
learning and its contribution to their cognitive development. The findings
also express three key views regarding learning in an information-rich
environment: learning from ICT, about ICT, and with ICT. The findings
demonstrate the multi-dimensional nature of teachers beliefs, and reflect
the complex nature of the relationship between students views and teachers
educational beliefs and practices.

INTRODUCTION
Acknowledging the importance of students and the validity and reliability of
their perceptions as the ultimate insiders and experts on their own experiences
(dApollonia & Abrami, 1996; Doyle, 1986; Shuell, 1996), and recognizing the

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2006, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.
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significance of listening to students as learners in order to discover how they


interpret their learning experiences in order to empower classroom processes
(Cook-Sather, 2002; Mitra, 2004; Oldfather, 1995), this study explores students
views on learning with information-rich tasks in a technology-enriched classroom.
It also examines the relationship between these views and the changes in teacher
perceptions and classroom practices that both students and teachers constructed
and engaged in.
Information technologies have become increasingly universal, powerful, and
adaptable, and challenging the educational field and educators who seek to harness
the new opportunities they offer in order to enhance teaching and learning.
Specifically, new technologies and conceptions of learning along with each
schools educational vision, policies, and strategy, present a new and tough
challenge to the traditional use of information technology in the classroom.
However, these technological innovations have left the educational systems
largely unchanged (Mann, 2000; Newhouse, 1998), and powerful technologies
are often used in a limited way that sustains rather than transforms educational
practice (Cuban, 2001).
Where it has been integrated, there is no clear evidence that it has affected
teaching approaches or enhanced desired learning modes (Alexander, 1999).
Moreover, teachers have only superficially accepted technology into their work,
even when technology is available in their school for students to use (Cuban,
Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001; Ertmer, Addison, Lane, Ross, & Woods, 1999; Leach
& Moon, 2000). Thus we can say that there is no universally accepted con-
ceptualization of the integration of technology in the classroom.
Furthermore, educators and researchers seeking to develop student dis-
positions toward learning and to empower students to become lifelong learners
who proactively and mindfully seek and construct knowledge (Dearing, 1997;
West, 1998) acknowledge that using information technologies and inte-
grating then into schools and schooling is a highly complex task (Lemke &
Coughlin, 1998; Mills & Tincher, 2003). They also acknowledge that there
are still many unanswered questions regarding the effective use of information
technologies.
It is generally agreed that the human aspect of the school-technology equation
is responsible for both encouraging and limiting the meaningful use of infor-
mation technologies in schools (Deaney, Ruthven, & Hennessy, 2003; Dede,
2000; Gibson, 2001). It is also agreed that the successful integration of tech-
nology requires change in teachers educational perspectives and teaching and
learning strategies (Wadmany, 2004; Wadmany & Levin, 2004). Moreover,
effective change in schools involves just as much cognitive, affective, motiva-
tional, and behavioral change from the student as it does from anyone else
(Fullan, 1993). Therefore, it is argued, our understanding of the implementation
process is currently incomplete because we havent listened sufficiently to the
students voice.
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 283

Interestingly and counter-intuitively, most research on the integration of ICT


in schools has mainly focused on the relationship between teachers views and
behaviors and students learning outcomes. This traditional research orientation
has tended to overlook the majority in any classroom, namely, the students, and the
way they see innovations like technology. In fact, such a traditional perspective
actually ignores the constructivist orientation of learning and research, which
recognizes students as active agents who are involved in, and impacting on,
the educational process. That is, the constructivist perspective does not view
student learning as a direct result of the teachers actions but of each students
active interpretation and response to the teachers actions and classroom events
(Wittrock, 1986). It also sees student learning as responsible for regulating
students own beliefs about learning situations. Thus, students are considered a
learning partner in the teaching-learning process, a partner capable of helping
in the adoption of new ideas, methods, and even beliefs (Levin, 1999).
Shuell (1996) takes the argument further, contending that in terms of deter-
mining what the student learn, how students view and interpret information in
the learning-teaching situation (both content learned and the social context of
teaching), is more important than the teachers actions. Shuell (1986, 1996) also
claims that ultimately, it is the students perception and what the student does, not
the intent of the teacher that controls the impact of teaching on student learning.
Specifically, regarding information technology, McLoughlin (1998) maintains
that we know little about students perceptions of their own learning. Scaife and
Rogers (1999) further argue that children are aware of aspects of the use of
technology that we are not sensitive to and that we need to be told of. Moreover,
there is evidence that an important part of successfully introducing instructional
technology into schools is user acceptance, which is strongly influenced by user
attitudes and user perceptions (Njagi, Smith, & Isbell, 2003). There is also
evidence that the meaning students ascribe to classroom processes is an important
factor in determining their satisfaction and learning (Cothran & Ennis, 1998).
Indeed student perceptions of learning involving learning technologies can
influence technology integration, technology usage, and teachers expectations of
learning (Parr, 1999). Students can embrace or resist teachers efforts toward
instructional change since they have their own knowledge and views about
learning and instruction. According to Levin (2000), understanding student per-
ceptions and involving students in discussions about education can teach
us a lot about changing classroom and school processes and encouraging
improvement, and help us determine whether students are committed to a given
classroom reform. More specifically, it has been shown that student beliefs affect
their use of educational technology: students who see technology positively,
because they trust the technological tools, are able to fully exploit these tools
for autonomous learning, whereas students who hold negative views about
technology-supported learning may be reluctant to use these tools for fear of
failure (Cotterall, 1995).
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It is actually quite surprising that research on the technology-enriched class-


room mostly utilizes the teachers view rather than the students. Furthermore,
although researchers have paid unprecedented attention in recent years to
students views, we still suffer from a lack of research into the students view of
the processes and products associated with learning and information technology
(Bergen & Kingston, 1994; Deaney, Ruthven, & Hennessy, 2003; Dhaif,
1990; Neal, Ramsay, & Preece, 1997; Valenta, Therriault, Dieter, Mrtek, 2001;
Zhang, 1998).
What studies there are show that students do not always perceive computers
as generally helpful, and that other variables are important, e.g., access time,
location, and the need for face-to-face interaction influence their sense of
computer usefulness (Guernsey, 1998; Lewis, Ashton, Haapa, Kieley, & Fielden,
1999). Other studies have observed generally positive attitudes toward computers,
for example, in distance education classes (Barbrow, Jeong, & Parks, 1996;
Foell & Fritz, 1995). Research has also reported high levels of satisfaction in
technology-based environments where ICT is used extensively and promoted,
supported and financed, as in the ACOT program (Fisher, Dwyer, & Yocam,
1996). In other, more general populations, there is less evidence that technology
changes teaching practice or empowers students (McLoughlin 1998).
Research also suggests that student acceptance of technology-based teaching
depends on several factors such as change process management (Akerlind &
Trevitt, 1995), student characteristics, including approach to learning (Shaw &
Marlow, 1999), previous experience with technology-based teaching, and demo-
graphic and psychographic factors (Spennemann, 1996). Students views are also
affected by contextual factors, such as the instructional and learning orientation,
and teacher and student variables (Levy, den Brok, Wubbels, & Brekelmans,
2003; Rickards & Fisher, 1997; Fisher, Fraser, & Rickards, 1997).
The literature review demonstrates that studies tend to focus on student atti-
tudes and satisfaction with technology-based learning, or evaluation of computer
usability. Most have not examined student perceptions of the nature of the learning
process or the learning role of information technology in rich information tech-
nology classrooms, in which perceptions are viewed as individual constructions
relating to the different ways that students experience, understand, and make sense
of the learning process (Boulton-Lewis, Willis, & Lewis, 2003). Therefore, the
picture of student views of learning in a technology-rich classroom gained from
existing studies is inconsistent because of the diverse points of focus. Concepts
such as perspectives, conceptions, views, attitudes, values, judgments, opinions,
as well as satisfaction, evaluation and learning style are used interchangeably,
despite referring to different aspects of the learning process.
Also, student views on information technology do not always relate to their
direct technology-based experience. This means that insight cannot be gained
into students views about the contextual or situated characteristics of learn-
ing with technology, just their general opinions on technology-based learning.
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 285

Moreover, the research has mainly studied college students, which clearly con-
tributes nothing to our understanding of the cognitive, affective, and motivational
perceptions of younger students, whose learning and development are those
largely affected by technology-based classrooms.
The present study, on the other hand, explores the views of elementary school
students regarding their learning through information-rich tasks, and separately
examines their attitudes toward learning in a technology-enriched classroom.
Viewing the integration of information technology from an ecological per-
spective (Zhao & Frank, 2004) implies that in order to understand the use of
information technologies in the classroom and the consequences of this use, we
must also examine the complex interactions between teachers, students, and
technology in the classroom (Honey, Culp, & Carrigg, 2000). This idea is also
supported by Fullan (2001), who noted that when introducing innovation into
organizations, it is not enough simply to encourage the development of individuals
in the organization, it is important also to consider the relationship between social
organization members that affects the creation and sharing of knowledge between
them. Similarly, albeit from a different perspective, Salomon (1990) concludes
that the introduction of information technologies into the classroom requires
changes in almost every sphere: from new learning activities, teachers behavior,
and social interactions to learning goals and means of evaluationmelding them
all into a newly orchestrated, interwoven whole.
However, as the literature review has shown although many studies have
examined the teachers view on ICT and its role in using information technology
in the classroom, few have also explored student perceptions of learning in
a technology-based classroom (Deaney, Ruthven, & Hennessy, 2003), or the
students role in the success or failure of ICT. Fewer studies still (Parr, 1999)
have examined the relationship between teacher and student views on classroom
learning in the context of computer-supported learning. Responding to this lacuna,
the present study focuses on the relationship between student and teacher views
on learning using information technologies and classroom practices and their
mutual experiences in a technology-rich classroom environment.
The study has two aims, which are based on two assumptions. The first
assumption is that change is not generated by the technology, but by the restruc-
tured, collective vision of the students and teacher, after experiencing new
modes of learning in a rich, technology-based environment (Adamy, 2000). The
second assumption is that students and teachers, who in effect are partners in the
classroom, need to be aware of each others views on the teaching and learning
processes they share (Baker & Moroz, 1996). The studys twofold aims are
(1) to explore students views on learning via information-rich tasks in a
technology-based environment, and (2) to examine the relationships between
students perceptions and attitudes toward learning and engaging in information-
rich tasks in a technology-based environment, and their teachers educational
beliefs and classroom practices.
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THEORETIC BACKGROUND

The Unique Contribution of Student Views


Although student views are rarely used in research on the subject of ICT
integration in schools, they do have several important features that make them the
most valid and reliable indicators of classroom practices and their consequences
compared to teacher views or external observer views (Cook-Sather, 2002).
According to den Brok (2001) who has focused on student views of teacher
behaviors, student exposure to any given teacher behavior is typically based on
a large number of lessons, whereas observers often only observe a small number
of lessons. Student perceptions can therefore account better for the specific
characteristics of the classroom context (Doyle, 1986; Shuell, 1996). Moreover,
since students are involved in many different situations and contexts in the
classroom, they can offer both a differentiated picture of the classroom environ-
ment and a more generalized, holistic one (Wubbels & Brekelmans, 1998).
According to dApollonia and Abrami (1996), student perceptions are highly
reliable because of their advantages over outside observers.
Researchers can also gain a composite picture from all the students in a class,
whereas the typical observation or individual teachers description of her or his
perceptions is very limited (den Brok, 2001). Naturally, when an average is taken
of student perceptions for an entire class, the effects of mood, personal preference,
and personal situational factors are far less pronounced then when using teachers
perceptions alone. Furthermore, in terms of the constructivist approach, which
argues that individuals construct their own knowledge and view of reality, each
students perceptions of learning are very important for both researchers and
teachers who are sensitive to the variety found in students views.
Indeed, according to Shuell, not only does the students behavior affect learning
outcomes more than the teacher (Shuell, 1986), but the way students perceive
interpret, and process information has more impact than the teachers decisions
regarding what the student will learn (Shuell, 1996). Therefore, in order to enrich
our understanding of learning in the rich-information and technology-based class-
room, it is very important to examine student views on their learning processes
as indeed this study does.

Student Views On and Attitudes


Toward Learning with Technology
Although students views provide insights into their knowledge and reasoning
(Brooks & Brooks, 1993), and although student perceptions are important in
explaining their cognitive and affective outcomes (Brekelmans, Wubbels, &
den Brok, 2002; den Brok, 2001; Rickards, 1998; Wubbels & Levy, 1993),
relatively few studies have investigated student beliefs regarding learning with
information technology, or presented findings that aid our understanding of
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 287

learning in a technology-rich classroom. Most such studies examine student


attitudes, beliefs, satisfaction, and opinions regarding learning with educational
technology in the classroom, and focus on how students respond to and are
reshaped by novel learning experiences. They also explore how students views
affect the structural and cultural processes and relationships in their technology-
enriched classrooms.
According to studies examining how students view learning and informa-
tion technology (King, 1995; Kinnear, 1995; Lewis, Ashton, Haapa, Kieley,
& Fielden, 1999; Proctor & Burnett, 1996), students do not always perceive
computers as generally helpful, and other variables such as access time and
location influence perceived computer usefulness. They also show that greater
computer access and use of computers is linked to more positive attitudes to
computers, and that students attitudes to computers are related to how highly
they rate the importance of computers. For example, Olivier and Shapiro (1993)
discovered a very high correlation between actual use of information technology
and computer efficacy among students.
Moreover, studies examining college students attitudes and satisfaction with
using Web-based tools have shown that under certain circumstances students
report positive learning experiences and high levels of satisfaction with online
tools, emphasizing that online learning does not necessarily place an excessive
time burden on students, who strongly support its continued use (Kendall, 2001;
Morss & Fleming, 1998; Wegerif, 1998). On the other hand, some studies have
shown high levels of student dissatisfaction with technology, highlighting student
frustration with learning in a technology-based environment, and high levels
of anxiety and confusion caused by ambiguous instructions (Burge, 1994; Hara
& Kling, 1999).
When asked about their specific views on distance learning using the Internet,
college students indicated that they saw learning processes as satisfying and
effective when their learning allowed them to form constructive working relation-
ships, feel equal opportunities to contribute and feel encouraged to produce
high quality projects (Barreau, Eslinger, McGoff, & Tonnesen, 1993). Student
views also reveal student satisfaction with small group discussions or interactive
question and answer sessions, compared with passive listening at lectures (CEDL,
1999). More generally, several studies have shown that students have positive
overall attitude toward computers in distance education classes (Barbrow, Jeong,
& Parks, 1996; Foell & Fritz, 1996; Hiltz, 1998).
Very positive though generalized views were also reported in a survey of
college and city high school students (STCC Starr), in which students noted the
usefulness of technology. Although the results varied depending on which college
department the student belonged to and the type of software used, the vast majority
of students believed that computer-based tools help them to learn and that the
more they used such tools the better. The students surveyed also tended to view
educational technology in global terms: the more they thought one technology tool
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helped, the more likely they were to think that another tool would help. Moreover,
students in class settings who had not been exposed to educational technology
felt that they were not receiving as good an education as students in classrooms
with technology.
Research has also shown that student perceptions of learning using learning
technologies can also influence technology integration, the nature of technology
use, and teachers expectations of learning (Parr, 1999). Students can embrace or
resist the teachers efforts toward instructional change since they have their
own unique knowledge and views on learning and instruction. Studies have shown
that the meaning students assign to classroom processes is a crucial factor for
determining student satisfaction and learning (Cothran & Ennis, 1998). Cotterall
(1995), for example, has demonstrated that students beliefs affect their use of
educational technology: students who regard technology positively because they
trust the technological tools fully exploit these tools to support their autonomous
learning, while students with negative views of technology-supported learning
may be reluctant to use these tools for fear of failure. Cope and Ward (2002)
also show that student perceptions are influenced by teachers perceptions and
teachers use of learning technologies.
Based on studies of student beliefs in areas such as epistemological beliefs
(Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Tolhurst, 2004); beliefs on the nature of teaching and
learning (Gravoso, Pasa, & Mori, 2002), studies examining the nature of the
learning environment (Levy, den Brok, Wubbels, & Brekelmans, 2003), teachers
behaviors (den Brok, Bergen, Stahl, & Brekelmans, 2004), and learning via
information technologies (Deaney, Ruthven, & Hennessy, 2003; Parr, 1999), it
is assumed that students views of learning in the technology-based classroom
are not consciously learned or taught, but are mainly the outcome of the learning
environments they participate in and the type of tasks that students are required to
engage in. Moreover, since most students have not accumulated much learning
experience with information technology in a rich technology-based environ-
ment, their beliefs concerning ICT are most likely based on direct and relatively
immediate sources and recent encounters with ICT in school.

Interrelations between Student and Teacher Views

Much of the research on educational beliefs has typically examined either


teacher beliefs about teaching (Dunkin & Precians, 1992; Kember, Kwan, &
Ledesma, 2001) or student beliefs about learning (Chapple, 1999; Nicholls, 1992).
Only a small proportion of belief studies have investigated the relationship
between student and teachers beliefs (Chan, 2000; Peterson, 1988; Tavares,
Brzezinski, & Silva, 2000; Wilss, Boulton-Lewis, Marton, & Lewis, 1999). It is
therefore hardly surprising that Baker and Moroz (1996) recommended further
research on the relationship between teacher and students views, since students
and teachers are partners and should be more aware of their partners different
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 289

perspective on the teaching/learning environment they jointly experience


and create.
Existing studies have shown that student perceptions differ from teacher
perceptions. For example, Cullingford (1991) and Farrell, Peguero, Lindsey, and
White (1988) have demonstrated discrepancies in teacher-student perceptions
of the same teaching-learning experience. Farrell et al. (1988) have also argued
that students are more influenced by classroom process than content. Classes
considered good by traditional educators have been described as boring by
students. Similarly, Cothran and Ennis (1997, 1998) found that the meaning
students assigned to class processes differed from the meaning their teacher
assigned to them, and that students views are crucial in determining student
satisfaction and learning. Similar findings were obtained for college students
(Goulden & Griffin, 1997; McCargar, 1993). Regarding technology-based class-
rooms, the findings of Hennessy, Ruthven and Brindley (2005) showed consensus
in student and teachers desire to protect core elements of conventional classroom
practice and their concern that certain technology usages might hamper their
thinking processes.
Contrary to studies demonstrating differing student and teacher perspectives,
some studies demonstrate similar teachers and student perspectives. Zeidner
(1994), for example, found that teachers and students share similar views on
several critical dimensions of classroom testing. Trigwell, Prosser, & Waterhouse
(1999) also found that student approaches to learning are congruent with or at least
related to their teachers approaches to teaching. Thus, students whose teachers
orientation to teaching sought conceptual change, were more likely to report a
deep approach to learning. Indeed, in many empirical studies, deep learning
approaches have been strongly associated with conceptual change learning
outcomes (e.g., Marton & Saljo, 1984). In contrast, teachers who demonstrate
an information delivery orientation to teaching are more likely to be teaching
students who report using surface learning approaches, focusing on imitation and
memorization of content in isolation, with the intention of recalling content in
assessment situations.
An explanation of the link between teacher and student approaches was
proposed and supported empirically by Prosser and Trigwell (1999). They
contended that the learning context a teacher engenders is a practical appli-
cation of the teachers perceptions of learning and teaching. Students, they
argued, adapt their learning strategies and views on learning to factors perceived
in the learning context. Parr (1999) and Cope and Ward (2002) support this
explanation and suggest that students perceptions are likely to be influenced
by teachers perceptions and use of learning technologies.
Since past studies have demonstrated diverse patterns of relationships between
teacher and student perceptions, and since many of the existing studies have
been conducted at the college level, the present study has chosen to address the
question concerning the relationships between students views on learning
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via ICT and teachers beliefs and classroom behaviors when using ICT, with
elementary school teachers and students in a rich-technology classroom.

Method

This study was conducted in one school in a city in central Israel and initiated
by university researchers in collaboration with the local municipality education
department, and the Ministry of Education. The article documents a longitudinal
study, which lasted for 3 years (1997-2000). It is reported as a case study,
mainly utilizing the principles of qualitative methodology (Lincoln & Guba,
2000). Since its purpose was to study teachers and students beliefs and the
relationship of these beliefs to classroom practices, when teachers and students are
exposed to a technology-based learning environment, we chose to combine an
exploratory case study with a collective case study (Yin, 1992). Thus, we treated
each teacher as an individual case study and at the same time related to all the
teachers, holistically, as a group. Six teachers and 164 of their students in grades
4 to 6 participated in the study.
Various research tools were used to gain a rich and comprehensive description
of the processes experienced by each teacher. These tools were developed specif-
ically for the study and most were open-ended. The tools comprised personal,
partially structured interviews with teachers, open questionnaires for teachers
and students, and classroom observation. The questionnaires and interviews were
mainly used to study explicit educational beliefs and knowledge. Classroom
observation and weekly meetings with teaching staff were used to study teachers
practices in teaching and learning situations and to provide indirect or
implicit measures of teachers beliefs. Note that the terms beliefs, views,
conceptions and perspectives are used interchangeably throughout the article
(Pajares, 1992), whereas the terms satisfaction and attitudes are conceived and
measured differently.
The student questionnaire contained 13 open-ended questions concerning
student perceptions and attitudes toward their learning experiences in a
technology-based environment, their experiences in their regular learning
environment, and changes following their experiences. Two 5-point Likert scale
questions were included to examine student attitudes and satisfaction with the
new learning environment (the higher the score the more positive the attitude
or degree of satisfaction). The students questionnaire were administered at the
end of the third year of the project (Wadmany, 2004).
The questionnaires exploring teachers beliefs were open-ended and con-
tained eight questions relating to the meaning of six concepts: teaching, learning,
student role, teacher role, curriculum, and technology. Teacher questionnaires
were administered in each year of the project.
The study used the phenomenographic (Marton, 1986) approach to data
analysis, in which subjects expressions were grouped according to similarities,
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 291

differences and complementaries. Teacher and student responses to the open


questions were regularly analyzed for commonalities. Data were thus acquired
cumulatively throughout the study. This allowed the data to be constantly reorgan-
ized and reinterpreted according to the dimensions derived from the studys
raw data. These dimensions were compared and refined to reveal important
similarities and differences and produced several qualitative dimensions reflecting
different levels or modes of change.
The dimensions derived from the students responses to the questionnaire ques-
tions regarding their views on learning in a technology-rich environment were:
Dimension Alearning as a social process,
Dimension Blearning as an explorative-thoughtful process,
Dimension Clearning as a life-long process.
The dimensions derived from the students responses to questions relating to their
own perceptions of the role of technology in classroom learning were:
Dimension Atechnology as a technical instrument;
Dimension Btechnology as an instrument that supports learning;
Dimension Ctechnology as an intellectual partner.
Further classification into sub-dimensions appears in the Results section.
Two measures were used to quantify the results of the students views: 1) Means
indicating the number of student statements on a particular dimension divided
by the number of students. These demonstrate the average weight of the different
views in terms of the mean number of students statements, and, 2) the frequency
of students whose statements referred to a particular dimension. The relationship
between the students and teachers views was determined first by analyzing each
teachers definitions of the investigated concepts at the beginning, middle and end
of the study, and then by interpreting these definitions in light of learning and
teaching theory. The direction of change consisted of a transition from beliefs
reflecting behaviorist-positivist views to beliefs reflecting more contemporary
views, i.e., beliefs reflecting constructivist principles (social and individual). The
numbers in Tables 1 and 2 refer to the weight assigned to a category after results
quantification. This allowed us to compare the changes in the various change
dimensions and in teachers beliefs. Three levels of belief change were found
a) partial or no change (1); b) significant change (2), and c) radical change (3).
Classroom practices were evaluated according to the following dimensions,
which reflect lesson qualities: (a) lesson structure and lesson planning
flexibility; (b) type and diversity of learning activities, and (c) nature and diversity
of teachers behaviors (actual practice). The study identified three patterns
of change in the teachers instructional approach: a) partial (minor) change
(1)only minor changes in the teachers classroom practices. These primarily
concerned the useof learning activities requiring greater student involvement,
though this was mostly technicalgreater use of data bases and more printing of
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Table 1. Pattern of Change for Each Teacher and


Index of Change by Dimensions

Teacher's Educational beliefs Classroom practices


name and index of change and index of change

Zipi Partial 1 Partial 1


Zipora Significant 2 Remarkable 3
Gila Significant 2 Remarkable 3
Anat Partial 1 Significant 2
Pnina Partial 1 Remarkable 3
Hadasa Very significant 3 Remarkable 3

Mean 1.7 2.5


SD 0.87 0.76

data; b) significant change (2)this type of change was also characterized by an


authoritative climate, in which the teacher had the key role of preplanning lessons.
At this level of change, however, the teacher encouraged students to play an active
part in the learning discourse, arranged more frequent group work and classroom
discussion, and accepted more varied and creative solutions from students, and
c) radical change (3)this type of change was characterized by a very high
degree of flexibility in classroom practices, and by student-centered, collabor-
ative, inquiry-based learning and teaching processes. Learning was typically
interactive and authentic.

Procedure

This study introduced an approach to teaching and learning, which focused on


Information Rich Tasks (IRT) in an information-rich environment. The IRT could
only be undertaken using a wide variety of information and advanced information
and communication technology tools (Lepani, 1995). The tasks offered significant
freedom for individual and team interpretation. They were cognitively challeng-
ing, required thought and creativity, and involved deliberation and information
exploration. As such, they demanded a structured, stimulating, and cooperative
technology-rich learning environment, which extended beyond the classroom to
the world outside the school.
Before the action research, the school agreed to support the needs of a
technology-based teaching and learning environment, and the instruments needed
for the implementation phase were developed and tested. The preparatory phase
lasted about six months, during which (1) Technological equipment, including
Table 2. Pattern of Change for Each Teacher and Index of Change by Sub-Dimensions

Teacher's name Learning Teaching Student Technology role

Zipi (1.16) Partial 1 Significant 2 Very significant 3 No change 1


Zipora (1.50) Significant 2 Significant 2 Very significant 3 Significant 2
Gila (1.33) Significant 2 Significant 2 Very significant 3 No change 1
Anat (1.33) Significant 2 Significant 2 Very significant 3 No change 1
Pnina (1.16) Partial 1 Partial 1 Very significant 3 Significant 2
Hadasa (1.66) Significant 2 Significant 2 Very significant 3 Very significant 3

Mean 1.66 1.83 3.0 1.66


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computers, multimedia, and a variety of software were placed in classrooms,


which constituting the communication network Akavish (Hebrew: Spider);
(2) Professional development strategies, curricular contents, and workshops
were tentatively planned, and a plan drawn up for mentoring teachers class-
room practices; (3) Learning activities to be used with both students and
teachers, and research tools were developed and tested on samples of teachers;
(4) Advisory teams and mentorsboth educational technology experts and
subject specialistswere trained to assist teachers with their classroom work.
The advisory teams included school personnel and experts from the university
and the software development company. A group of students was also trained to
provide computer assistance in their own classrooms.
During the subsequent school year, teachers introduced various new ideas
concerning student learning following a brief workshop before the school year
began. They also received ongoing assistance on request and attended weekly
in-school workshops as a group. The workshops addressed two different kinds
of activities (1) activities initiated by teachers based on their experiences with
their own students in the classroom, (2) activities planned by the project leaders
dealing with the basic concepts and structure of the information-rich tasks, uses
of information technology, general software capabilities, and providing examples
of problem-based learning situations involving learning by the teachers as a
learning group (simulating the learning their students would later experience).
Although the workshops were planned prior to the study, they naturally incor-
porated spontaneous activities exploring teachers queries, interests, dilemmas,
and specific needs relating to classroom experiences pertinent to the study.

RESULTS

I. Student Views on Learning


1. Table 3 presents the students views on learning in a technology-supported
environment. The results reveal that the students views are multidimensional.
As noted above, the three general views of learning emerged from the students
responses to the open questions in the questionnaire may be divided into three
distinct dimensions:
Alearning as a social process;
Blearning as an explorative-thoughtful process; and
Clearning as a life-long process.
The results also show differences between the classrooms in terms of the
percentage of students who reflected on the different learning dimensions and
the mean number of statements relating to each learning dimension. More specif-
ically, the results show that the percentage of students who reflected on the
social nature of learning ranged from 80% to 95% across the classrooms; the
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 295

Table 3. Mean Number of Statements per Student (MSTA) and


Frequency of Students (STU) Relating to Learning Dimensions

Learning as an
Learning as a exploratory-thinking Learning as a
social process process life-related process

Teacher's name MSTA STU MSTA STU MSTA STU

Zipi (N = 34) 0.91 (91%) 1.65 (81%) 0.74 (71%)


Zipora (N = 27) 0.96 (88%) 2.07 (82%) 1.52 (100%)
Gila (N = 26) 1.54 (100%) 2.81 (92%) 1.31 (92%)
Anat (N = 23) 1.22 (95%) 1.83 (75%) 1.13 (100%)
Pnina (N = 28) 1.04 (80%) 1.61 (68%) 1.00 (96%)
Hadasa (N = 26) 0.92 (84%) 1.96 (77%) 1.15 (96%)

Mean 1.10 (88%) 1.99 (79%) 1.14 (93%)

percent of students who reflected on the explorative-thoughtful nature of the


learning process ranged between 68% to 92% across the classrooms, while the
percent of statements expressing that learning is a life-long process ranged from
71% to 100%.
The results also showed that despite differences in the six classrooms, in the
frequency distribution of the three views on the nature of learning via IRT in
ICT classrooms, the view of learning as an explorative-thoughtful process was
dominant in all classrooms, and on average, its frequency was almost twice the
other two dimensions. However, the percentage of students who held this view
was smaller than the number of students holding the other two views. This means
that students who identified the exploratory and thinking nature of learning using
IRT described it in more detail than when they wrote about the other two
dimensions of learning.
It was also found that students from different classes in the same grade level
held different views on learning. This was most likely because each teacher had a
different way of using and conceiving the technology and it was less likely due
to the students age.
2. Each conceptual dimension concerning the view of learning was further
elaborated to reveal differences in perceived sub-dimensions or more specific
aspects of learning. Table 4 shows that children interpreted learning as a social
process as a process that helped classmates become better acquainted (60.1%);
as a process acknowledging variability among students (11.2%); as appreciating
collaboration (24.7%) and as facilitating friendships between classmates (3.9%).
The results show variances in the distribution of perceptions between classrooms.
296 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

Table 4. Frequency (%) of Students' Statements Concerning


Dimensions of Learning as a Social Process

Knowledge Appreciation
of of class Development
Teacher's name classmates diversity Collaboration of friendship

Zipi (N = 34) 90.3 3.2 6.5 0


Zipora (N = 27) 80.8 3.8 15.4 0
Gila (N = 26) 45.0 12.5 35.0 7.5
Anat (N = 23) 50.0 17.9 32.1 0
Pnina (N = 28) 55.2 10.3 27.6 6.9
Hadasa (N = 26) 41.6 20.8 29.2 8.4

Total 60.1 11.2 24.7 3.9

For example, the statements of most of the students in Zipis class reflect a view of
learning as a social process in terms of getting to know their classmates, whereas in
Gilas, Pninas or Hadasas class, the distribution of views was wider. In the latter
classes, students views were spread across the four sub-dimensions.
Examples of students statements about their classmates: I learned that
my friends know certain things like how to conduct a survey or use a computer;
I learned that my classmates are very special and smart; I got to know the
children in my group much better, and I now know who cares and likes to help
and who is reachable; I discovered hidden talents in my friends that I had
not realized in other classes; I found out what my friends know, and what
they are like.
Examples of student statements on discovering variability in their classroom:
I realized everyone in my class sees the same subject differently; I learned that
everybody knows different things and some are on a high level and others are on
a low level; Everyone in the group has different ideas which is interesting;
Some children understand what they learn, some children are active, and some
children need help; Each person in the group knows something else and that
helps the whole group.
Examples of student statements showing appreciation of collaboration:
Working with my friends is really helpful; Group learning is important. It
helps me understand things better when I talk with my friends about different
aspects of the subject; When learning with IRT we listen to each other and
work together; It is interesting to learn with a group; My partners and
friends contributed to the discussions and arguments with data and ideas;
It is helpful to learn in groups.
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 297

Examples of statements about facilitating friendships: We became good


friends; We are a special team, a very close team, and thats great; The
members of our group became very good friends; When I learned with my
group I felt I was learning and having fun with friends which was nice.
A similar analysis of the interpretation of student views on learning as an
explorative-thoughtful process shows (Table 5) that students expressed learning
as: an activity involving complex inquiry (34.1%); a process requiring examina-
tion of a phenomenon from several viewpoints (40.8%), a process where infor-
mation is obtained from different resources (4.7%); a process where information
is presented and organized in different ways (11.5%), an enjoyable process
(8.9%). It was also found that students from different classrooms expressed
different views. Here, a broad distribution of responses across the various
sub-dimensions was evident for all classrooms. Different frequencies were
also found, mainly for the enjoyment and knowledge organization in learning
as an exploratory process. Interestingly, in the classes taught by Anat, Pnina,
and Hadasa, a higher percentage of students reflected on the enjoyment aspect
and the involvement of knowledge or information organization in learning
as an exploratory process. Equally interesting is the fact that in these three
classes a smaller percentage of students viewed learning as an exploratory
process (75%, 68% and 77%, respectively according to Table 1) than in the
other classes.
Examples of statements relating to leaning as an activity involving complex
inquiry: It was research, we were always aware that we were not dealing with
simple problems, but with complex ideas and problems; Learning with IRT
is a creative process involving comparisons, questions and discussions; We

Table 5. Frequency (%) of Students' Statements Concerning


Dimensions of Learning as an Process

Multiple and Using Enjoyment


Complex different information Organizing and
Teacher's name activities viewpoints resources information satisfaction

Zipi (N = 34) 33.9 46.4 3.6 12.5 3.6


Zipora (N = 27) 41.1 42.8 1.8 10.7 3.6
Gila (N = 26) 32.9 47.9 9.6 4.1 5.5
Anat (N = 23) 30.9 28.6 4.8 21.4 14.3
Pnina (N = 28) 28.9 33.3 4.5 13.3 20.0
Hadasa (N = 26) 35.3 39.2 1.9 11.8 11.8

Total 34.1 40.8 4.7 11.5 8.9


298 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

Table 6. Frequency (%) of Students' Statements Concerning


Dimensions of Learning as a Life-Based Process

Authentic Knowledge of Personal


Teacher's name experience new tools interest

Zipi (N = 34) 8.0 60.0 32.0


Zipora (N = 27) 43.9 39.0 17.1
Gila (N = 26) 64.7 11.8 23.5
Anat (N = 23) 57.7 19.2 23.1
Pnina (N = 28) 53.6 32.1 14.3
Hadasa (N = 26) 83.3 3.3 13.4

Total 52.7 27.2 20.1

were very inventive: Learning with IRT is like building; There is no one
answer to a question.
Examples of statements relating to learning as requiring multiple viewpoints:
Not every problem has a single solution. Everything depends on the nature of
the problem; Everyone solves problems his or her own way and finds different
solutions to other people; We all solve problems in many different ways because
we are different and have different ideas.
Examples of statements relating to learning as obtaining information from
different resources: To solve a problem you might need to refer to sources
such as an Encyclopedia, or computer database; Learning occurs when involv-
ing in different modes of tasks such as exercises, games, questions, computer
courseware, etc.; When you learn, you need to look for data and proof and
you mainly do that with the computer.
Examples of statements relating to the presentation of knowledge aspect
of learning include: You can present you solution to a problem in a variety
of ways: graphically or verbally; We are very involved in the learning
when we use tables, computations and graphs; Sometimes you find
different ways of solving a problem and different ways of presenting a par-
ticular solution.
Views of learning as an enjoyable process are demonstrated in the following
examples: Learning through information rich tasks involves many interesting
things and it is fun; Learning via IRT is different from learning other subjects
because it raises interesting issues; The variety of problems and viewpoints
makes learning fun.
Finally, the analysis of students interpretations of learning as a real-life
process revealed three sub-dimensions:
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 299

1. Learning as an authentic experience (52.7%). For example, Learning in


the technology-based classes involved using authentic material whereas
in other classes we use booklets and written material that deal with
artificial issues; Learning in these classes dealt with issues relating to
real life: real issues, moral, economic issues;
2. Learning as a process in which tools are acquired (27.2%). For example,
In learning via IRT we acquire new learning tools like using surveys;
We learned to use different tools to increase our knowledge, such as
surveys, problems, dilemmas, drawing diagrams, and
3. Learning as a process that arouses personal interest (20.1%). For example,
In these classes we dealt with creative topics that appealed to me and
which I found very interesting; I felt that we dealt with important issues;
We dealt with topics we like (see Table 6).

It was found that the distribution of responses attributable to these three


sub-dimensions varied greatly between classrooms. The most notable variation
was the difference in frequency distributions between Zipis, Hadasas, and
Ziporas classes. It was further found that each class had a different focus. In each
the focus differs: in Zipis class, most students (60%) interpreted learning as
acquiring knowledge of new tools. In Hadasas class, about 84% of the students
stressed the authenticity of the task, and in Ziporas class a more balanced
distribution was found across the three aspects of learning viewed as a life-long
process: about 40% as acquiring knowledge of new tools; about 44% emphasized
the authenticity of the task, and about 18% mentioned personal interest.

II. Student Views on the Use of Information


Rich Tasks (IRT)

1. When students were asked specifically how they perceive Information


Rich Tasks (IRT), it was found that they not only perceive educational technology
as a learning tool that helps them to learn, or as a technical, authoritative,
informational base, which helps them with a given task, they also see it as a
medium through which they can negotiate meaning through interaction, inter-
pretation, and collaboration. When asked directly about the role of technology in
learning via IRT tasks, three categories emerged from the analysis of students
responses (Table 7):

A. Technology as a technical instrument (percent of statements ranged from


35.3%69.7% across classrooms);
B. Technology as an instrument supporting learning (percent of statements
ranged from 15.4%29.4% across classrooms);
C. Technology as an intellectual partner or cognitive tool (percent of state-
ments ranged from 6.1%35.3% across classrooms).
300 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

Table 7. Frequency (%) of Students' Statements Concerning


the Role of Technology and Personal Change

Role of technology Personal change

Technical Learning Intellectual Tools Reflective


Teacher's name instrument aid partner and skills thinking

Zipi (N = 34) 68.7 18.8 12.5 30.8 69.2


Zipora (N = 27) 69.7 24.2 6.1 37.0 63.0
Gila (N = 26) 36.8 21.1 42.1 20.0 80.0
Anat (N = 23) 44.5 25.9 29.6 28.0 72.0
Pnina (N = 28) 69.2 15.4 15.4 26.7 73.3
Hadasa (N = 26) 35.3 29.4 35.3 20.7 79.3

Examples of viewing technology as a technical instrument: to use technology


for calculation; use technology for doing calculations and drawing graphs
and pictures.
Examples of viewing technology as a learning aid: Computers allow us to
retrieve and verify data; Computers allow us to process and search for data
from different sources; We see examples of things we have learned in class
on the computer and it explains things to us.
Examples of viewing technology as an intellectual partner or cognitive tool:
Computers complement the human brain and do what the brain cant do or
what it cant do quickly; The computer is like a partner or a team member;
A computer is like a learning partner, it helps us learn; Computers explain
things to us and relate to what and how we think.
From Table 7 we see that the distributions of students views on the role of
technology can be divided into two sets of classrooms: classrooms where more
than two-thirds of the students emphasized the technical aspect of technology
(Zipi, Zipora, and Pninas classrooms), and classrooms in which the students
views on technology were not limited to any particular function (i.e., students
reflected on all aspects of technology) and about 30% of the students or more
see technology as an intellectual partner.
2. When asked to evaluate the personal effects of learning via IRT in a
technology-supported environment, the students reported two important personal
changes that followed the learning. The focus of the first personal change is
the students reflective capabilities and practices. This related to heightened
self-knowledge and awareness of the self as a person who can think, who develops
as an inquirer, who can communicate with friends, and who grasps the role of
motivation in overcoming obstacles, etc. Changes of this nature were reflected in
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 301

about 73% of the students statements, and ranged from 63% to 80% across
the various classrooms.
Examples of students statements: I learned things about myself I could
never have imagined; I learned what things I like and what I dont like; I
realized that I can take responsibility for my own learning; I learned about
myself that I can invent new ideas; I learned that even if I am not so creative I
can learn via IRT; I learned that in order to learn and get to know things you
have to ask questions and talk to people.
The focus of the second personal change is the acquisition of specific skill and
tools, which the students developed and enhanced, e.g., the skill of conducting
surveys or the disposition to present data visually.
Examples of such views are: I learned how to use the computer to represent
knowledge with diagrams; I learned that I am quite good at using calculation
tools; I learned that I can solve complex and difficult problems; I learned
how to conduct a survey and analyze its data.
Students referred to these skills in 27% of the statements, ranging from 20%
to 37% across classrooms. Moreover, there appear to be some differences in
the distribution of student views regarding the personal changes they identified
as a result of learning in a technology-rich environment, for example, between
students views in Ziporas class and those in Hadasas class. However, for all
classrooms, students indicated more changes in their reflective abilities than in
their technology-related skills.
Interestingly, in three of the classrooms (Gila, Anat, and Hadasa) 100%
of students described personal change, whereas in Zipi, Zipora, and Pninas
classes fewer students mentioned personal change (76.5%, 77.8%, and 85.7%,
respectively).
3. The assessment of students satisfaction from classroom learning in general
and learning via information rich tasks in a technology-based environment
in particular (see Table 8) revealed that in Zipis class, students preferred tradi-
tional learning to IRT learning in a technology based environment, in Ziporas
and Anats classes, students enjoyed traditional learning and IRT learning in
a technology-based environment equally, and in Gilas, Pninas and Hadasas
classes, students enjoyed learning via IRT in a technology-based environment
more than traditional learning.

III. The Relationship between Students


and Teacher Views

1. The findings indicate that during the three-year period of teaching and
learning in a technology-based environment, changes occurred in the teachers
educational beliefs and practices. The changes in the teachers educational beliefs
are evident from the changes in their views regarding basic educational concepts
(Wadmany & Levin, 2004). These changes may be divided into three main groups,
302 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

Table 8. Means and SD of Student Enjoyment in Learning

Enjoying learning Enjoying learning via IRT in


Teacher's name generally technology-rich class

Zipi (N = 34) 3.18 (1.04) 2.47 (1.09)


Zipora (N = 27) 4.11 (1.03) 3.96 (1.07)
Gila (N = 26) 3.88 (0.97) 4.42 (0.79)
Anat (N = 23) 3.74 (1.32) 3.87 (1.08)
Pnina (N = 28) 3.18 (1.13) 3.89 (1.17)
Hadasa (N = 26) 3.73 (0.70) 4.00 (1.00)

Total 3.64 (1.03) 3.77 (1.03)

each involving a different kind of a conceptual change: 1) Teachers who experi-


enced superficial change or no change at all held mainly behaviorist-based
pedagogical views. They believed it was their job to explain and show students
how to do their schoolwork; 2) Significant changeteachers experienced a pro-
found transformation, moving from a positivist to a relativistic ideology for most
of the concepts examined; and, 3) Radical changeteachers experienced the
most significant change, moving from a positivistic to a constructivist educational
ideology. These teachers came to conceive learning as an infinite process of
renewal that is undertaken collaboratively with students through understanding
and experimentation.
2. Three patterns of change in teacher classroom practice were also found:
1) Partial or no change: significant emphasis on centralized, rigid management of
each lesson; the teacher inflexibly follows a preplanned route and goals; emphasis
on specific contents rather than skills or mental processes; use of low level
questions to elicit a specific response; perception of computer as a technical tool;
2) Significant change: the teacher has a central role in the classroom (pre-planned
lessons, well-defined, unified learning activities), but also encourages students to
take an active role in the classroom discourse, mainly in class discussions; allows
students greater freedom to choose their mode of learning and classroom engage-
ment. Such teachers were totally dependent on the computer-expert students
to guide their peers in using the computers. However, they also encouraged the
students to use the computer software as a supplementary learning tool; and
3) Remarkable change: high level of flexibility in classroom practice, curriculum
planning, and curriculum implementation; teacher acts as a learning facilitator
rather than instructor; learning is mainly collaborative, and learning activities
are authentic, creative, and varied; the learning environment extends outside the
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 303

classroom walls. Both teacher and students use the computer in a variety of ways
as a communicative, research and learning partner.
The results in Table 1 show that conceptual changes in teaching practices are
more difficult to achieve than actual changes. It also shows that teachers differ
in their patterns of change.
3. Although teachers beliefs differed regarding learning in general, teaching,
and technology use (Table 1), they all in fact changed their views of the students
role in the classroom and most either used the help offered by the assistant
student or heavily relied on the assistants support for helping other students
with the information technology environment. Their eventual view of their
students indicates a change from perceiving students as passive learners to seeing
them as self-regulated learners capable of making decisions concerning their
learning process, planning their own activities, and monitoring and reflecting on
their own learning. This reflects a shift from an authoritative perception of the
teacher-student relationship to a more humanistic and interactive view.
The results also show (Table 2) that Zipis and Pninas change indices are the
smallest, while those for Hadasa, Anat, and Gila are larger, indicating greater
change in educational views. Further analysis of the teachers statements regard-
ing technology use demonstrates that Zipi and Anat view technology mainly as a
technical tool (it enriches instruction; Computers can be used to solve technical
difficulties); Gila and Pnina conceive of technology mainly as a learning aid
(Computers help to develop our thinking, they introduce a new conceptual
world into a subject domain; Using computers changes our thinking); and
Hadasa and Zipora view technology mainly as a learning and teaching partner
(An important partner for learning and teaching; The computer is an intel-
lectual partner, which helps to extend human capabilities; The computer
make you think.)
4. When comparing the views of teachers and students overall, the results
show that the students and teachers in Zipi and Hadasas classes hold differing
views reflecting two distinct conceptual profiles. As for the relationship between
students and teachers views in the other classes, the results are more complex
and less clear-cut. We also found discrepancies between student and teacher views
for some educational concepts, particularly regarding the use of information
technology. One such example is Zipora who conceived technology as an intel-
lectual partner capable of enhancing student capabilities. In contrast, 70% of
her students perceived technology as a technical instrument and only 25% saw it
as an instrument that supported learning. The opposite was found in Gilas class,
where Gila, unlike her students, saw technology as a learning aid, but not as
learning and teaching partner. About 37% of Gilas students saw technology
as a technical instrument, about 42% saw it as a learning partner, and only about
21% saw it as a learning aid.
Interestingly and maybe not at all surprising is the fact that students views on
learning in a technology-rich classroom were more diversified than their teachers.
304 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

Also interesting is the fact that the multiplicity of students conceptions was
found mainly in classrooms of teachers like Hadasa and Gila whose beliefs and
practices showed significant change. Students views were less diversified in
classes of teachers such as Zipi and occasionally, for certain concepts, Zipora
or Pnina, who underwent less significant change following their experience of
technology-based teaching.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS


The study shows that following three years of studying in a technology-rich
learning environment the students educational views had become aligned with
constructivist thinking. They pinpointed the important role of the social context of
learning, particularly emphasizing the role of social interaction in enhancing their
cognitive development (Woolfolk, 1995). They mainly emphasized meaningful
processes and consequences of learning with new technologies that foster social
interaction and interpersonal support, thus expressing ideas akin to Vygotskys
social constructivist theory and the dialogical perspective (Nystrand, 1997) of
learning. Thus, students perceived learning as socially constructed through discus-
sion and negotiation of meanings. These results concur with Jonassen (2000)
who believe that ICT is an ideal vehicle for supporting collaborative learning.
Students views on learning with IRT focused on the characteristics of working
and socially interacting in groups in order to negotiate opinions and alternative
solutions for dealing with specific tasks. They emphasized the importance of a
learning process that fosters collaboration, and especially valued discussions that
enabled them to not only get to know their friends better, but also to talk among
themselves in order to test, clarify, refine and construct new knowledge. Students
views thus described learning in terms of knowledge construction processes that
are not developed in isolation, but within a social and cultural context, thereby
expressing ideas concerning the situated perspective of learning as discussed by
Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989).
Student views on the authentic nature of learning when engaging in information
rich tasks support Jonassens (2000) view that authentic learning experiences are
the key to effective use of ICT. They also support Eadies contention (2000) that
in schools where ICT is used successfully, students have access to a wider range
of information sources and learn new strategies, which encourage higher-order
thinking. In the present study, the students placed strong emphasis on the think-
ing processes involved in learning via IRT, which, specifically entailed search-
ing and organizing information, justifying and presenting knowledge, viewing
phenomena from multiple viewpoints, and less emphasis on enjoyment from
the learning process.
These results agree with Jonassen (2000), who claimed that the most successful
use of ICT occurs where learners are perceived as constructors of ideas and
defenders of those constructions (p. 272), or in other words, when students take
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 305

responsibility for their own learning. Constructivists firmly believe that making
meaning arises through problem-solving in an attempt to bridge the dissonance
between the known and the unknown. Indeed, a large percentage of students in the
present study expressed the importance of the opportunities they had to discuss
their learning with others, and to refine their knowledge.
The study also sheds light on students views regarding the role of information
technology. Particularly, it shows that students not only see educational tech-
nology as a learning tool, i.e., something to help them learn, or as a finite,
authoritative informational base, which helps with a given task, but also as a
medium through which they must negotiate meaning through interaction, interpre-
tation, and collaboration. The results support the conceptions and theories,
which consider technology a medium for learning, and distinguish between the
learning effects of computers vs. the learning effects with computers (Salomon,
Perkins, & Globerson, 1991). The former refers to the effects of computers on
the student, as if the student had no input into the process, in contrast to learning
with computers, which describes students entering into intellectual partnership
with the computer.
In this study, however, students views point to an even finer distinction
that represent three aspects of ICTlearning in ICT (concerning technological
knowledge and capability), learning about ICT (covering the relationship
between ICT and society), and learning with ICT (relating to technology as a
learning tool or intellectual partners). The students views reflected the following
conceptions: learning from technology (Maddux, Johnson, & Willis, 1997),
learning about technology (Jonassen, 1995) and learning with technology
(Boethel & Dimock, 1999). These views, together with the personal change
that students experienced, demonstrate that information technology can engage
students as partners in their own education, and that the meaning constructed,
which concerns their learning and development, is also valuable outside the
immediate classroom. Moreover, the distinctions that students made indicate
that information technology can both support new ways of learning and reinforce
old ways.
The students views on computer technology as a cognitive tool represent
a significant departure from the traditional conceptions of technologies. With
cognitive tools, traditional instructional and learning design and development
processes are minimized. Students use technology as a tool for analyzing the
world, accessing information, interpreting and organizing their personal knowl-
edge, and representing what they know to others. As such they feel that cognitive
tools require them to think mindfully and stretch their thinking capacities.
The students in this study perceived learning in a rich technology-based class-
room as a process that not only transformed their knowledge but also developed
their meta-cognitive capabilities. According to Norman (1993), this indicates
their realization of the potential of computer technologies. Norman believes that
when enabling students to restructure their knowledge by adding new
306 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

representations, modifying old ones, and comparing the two, information


technologies as cognitive tools require reflective thinking and therefore can
enhance these capabilities in students.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the results of the study reveal differences
between the classrooms in both the changes that the teachers underwent and in
their classroom practices. It also revealed that the different classroom processes
used by teachers, with their varying degrees of pedagogies based on behaviorist
and constructivist orientations, are reflected in the various dimensions identified
in students views on learning and the role of information technologies in learning.
It is worth noting, however, that in almost all classrooms, students expressed a
spectrum of views on the meaning, roles, and function of information technology
in the learning process. Yet, the distribution of student responses indicate clearly
that in the classes of teachers with a more constructivist inclination toward
teaching, learning, and technology use, students reflect a more constructivist
orientation of learning and viewed the potential roles of information technol-
ogies quite evenly. In contrast, in classes of teachers with a lower constructivist
inclination, more students saw technology in a mechanistic role than as an
intellectual partner.
Regarding teachers views, the study showed that three years of experiences
in a technology-rich learning environment produced relatively substantive change
in classroom practices reflecting their educational beliefs. It also shows that
processes of change are highly personal, and dynamic, and that although a belief
system involves interconnections between specific beliefs, there are indications
that some beliefs are easier to change than others.
In a technology-rich environment wherein students are constantly challenged
by open-ended rich information tasks and resources, it seems easier for teachers
to change their views of students and the students role in the learning process.
Moreover, in a learning environment where students assume the role of tutors to
their peers and teachers in operating and communicating with computers, it also
seems easier for teachers to perceive students as capable, self-regulated learners
whose voice in the teaching process should be heard and whose mastery of the
computer, appreciated. These results, which were evidenced even for teachers
whose relatively traditional conceptions of teaching and learning remained intact,
support the findings of Fulton and Torney-Purta (2000), who suggest that the
use of technology in the classroom offers a natural framework for increasing
student responsibility, and affects not only student roles, but also teachers
mindset and trust in student knowledge and capabilities. In contrast, it is not
as easy to encourage teachers to see learning as knowledge transformation as
opposed to knowledge accumulation, and to see technology as a mind tool
rather than an authoritative, clear-cut, mechanistic device. These results concur
with Rokeach (1972) who argued that beliefs differ in intensity and power
and vary along a central-peripheral dimension, and that the more central this
dimension, the greater the resistance to change.
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 307

The present study is significant and relevant for several reasons. First, it offers
an important contribution toward amplifying the students voice in classroom
research in general and in the information technology classroom, in particular. It
backs the findings of Cope and Ward (2002) by showing that teachers beliefs and
actual classroom practices influence their students views regarding the meaning
of learning and the use of technology in the classroom. The results of the study
also support and expand on the findings of Tynjala (1997) and Roschelle, Pea,
Hoadley, Gordin, & Means (2000), and suggests that changes in the learning
environment, as evidenced by the teachers practices and beliefs, actually influ-
ence student views concerning their conceptions of learning as well as their
attitudes toward learning in a technology-based environment.
The study also points to a mixed relationship between changes in teachers
educational views and changes in their students views: in some cases, changes
in both the teachers and the students views were consistent or congruent, e.g.,
when a teacher demonstrated a constructivist approach to learning, the students
tended to express a similar view of learning. In other cases, however, a mismatch
was found between the teachers and the students views. For example, a teacher
might exhibit a constructivist ideology, while her students expressed mixed
constructivist-behaviorist views. Thus, the study shows that when a congruent
relationship between views held by teachers and their students exists, it does not
apply to all dimensions of the teaching and learning process. Thus, while there
may be congruency between students and teachers regarding their views on
learning, there may not be agreement on the use of technology in the classroom.
The results also underscore the need to differentiate between student views
regarding learning and their satisfaction from learning and attitude toward it.
This was evidenced by the data showing that although students in different
classrooms may both view learning as a thought provoking and social learning
process, they may not feel similar satisfaction with these learning processes or
may voice contrasting attitudes, as exemplified in Zipi and Hadasas classes.
The results of the study imply that students who experience learning via
information-rich tasks in rich technology-oriented classrooms are one of the
best sources of information for understanding the processes involved in rich-
technology classrooms, and even for designing meaningful teaching and learning
processes. The results reiterate the fact that students are an under-utilized
resource that educators should refer to in all their research and evaluation of
educational processes whether traditional or novel. This receives added reinforce-
ment when we recall that the student views in this study were highly coherent
and consistent within each classroom, which demonstrates that students as
a group construct holistic perceptions of their classroom and are therefore
trustworthy. This supports Nicholls (1992) conception of students as active
educational theorists, since the present students provide critical insights
into learning in general and into learning in a technology-rich environment
in particular.
308 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

This study demonstrates a unique feature of students views, namely that they
can differ from their teachers views and thus influence educational innovation
in a distinct and unique way, one that is not necessarily implied by their teachers.
This contrasts with Czerniak and Lumpe (1996) who have argued that teachers
adequately represent their students needs and can be considered as reflecting the
views of two major stakeholder groups instead of one. The present study also
shows that teachers are important users of ICT in an interactive culture that
integrates information technologies into the school. For this reason, the study
values the opinions and views of both teachers and students, and, as Baker and
Moroz (1996) also suggest, that both should be heard.
Second, the study demonstrates that educational change involving information
technology is a multidimensional and individual process, that is unique to each
teacher, and which from the students point of view, introduces a distinctive array
of cultural characteristics. It underscores that each teacher responds individually
to given innovative ideas relating to information technology in a rich-technology
classroom, and that in turn, this affects student perceptions of learning. These
results concur with the findings of other studies demonstrating the diversified
experiences of teachers and the difficulty of meaningfully changing beliefs in
teaching, learning processes, and classroom skills, even when teachers firmly
believe that change is necessary and positively seek to change their professional
work (Clandinin & Connelly, 1996).
The present study also demonstrates that the constructivist approach to learning,
which conceptualizes learning as a complex, interactive, changing, active, and
situated process that allows learners to individually construct their knowledge
in a unique and meaningful way while confronting challenges and dilemmas,
fears and excitement, is not only applicable to students but to teachers as well
(Levin, 1999). It also confirms the view of learning as a function of the activity,
context, and culture in which it occurs (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999;
Clandinin & Connelly, 1996).
Third, the finding, which suggests that change in classroom practice might be
a precursor to change in teachers beliefs, contributes significantly to the theory
of teacher thinking and teacher change and the way that they relate to teacher
practice, since it points to a reciprocal rather than a unidirectional link between
teacher classroom practice and change in teachers educational beliefs. The
present study does not then support the claim that significant changes in teaching
must be preceded by changes in teachers beliefs. Rather, this research demon-
strates that changes in teaching can take place without concomitant change in
expressed teacher beliefs. Teachers knowledge and beliefs indeed influence and
underpin their classroom practices, but at the same time, classroom experience
also influences the way their educational beliefs and knowledge are shaped.
Fourth, although it is limited to exploring six teachers and their students for 3
years, the study shows that the use of information technology can indeed change
how teachers and students function, live and feel in their classrooms. It allows us
LEARNING WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES / 309

to see that not just computer technology, but a complex web of interrelated factors
and expectations, a didactic and pedagogical, task structure, and an organizational
and educational mindset, are needed to support the successful implementation
and impact of computer technology in the classroom. It is indeed the dynamic
interplay among students views and their actions; teachers beliefs, goals, expec-
tations and practices; the structure of the learning tasks and the kind of infor-
mation technology available that create a particular learning environment and
learning culture in each class. The study shows that Cuban (2001) is only
partially right, and supports Salomons (1992) view that an effective technology-
based learning environment is a new environment in which computer-afforded
activities are fully integrated into other activities, affecting them and affected
by them in turn.
Finally, the study demonstrates that we cannot and should not rely simply on an
examination of teachers explicit statements regarding their beliefs or practices. In
a period of transition, as teachers face new classroom practices and aims, and
educational ideologies, they may nurture simultaneously multiple conceptions
that seem contradictory. The presence of multiple beliefs may suggest that con-
sciously or not, the teachers in this study express beliefs regarding two different
perspectives: the perspective of teachers required to function in a new role and
instructional environment. The second perspective is that of the learner facing
new ideas and strategies in her or his professional learning environment. However,
it is also likely that teachers hold seemingly contradictory multiple beliefs during
their transition from beliefs reflecting traditional or behaviorist-oriented views
to those reflecting constructivist-based views (Gunstone, 1994). This being the
case, there is no reason to expect teachers to relinquish their old ideas and replace
them with new ones. Rather, presenting them with new ideas will broaden their
ideological horizons and help them to refine their organization and coherence
(Caravita & Hallden, 1994).
The implication of all this is that for professional guidance to be effective in
restructuring teachers educational perspectives in a context of school change, it
must explore the thoughts, feelings, and actual practice of both teachers and
students in a variety of ways and using different means at different times during
the change. This data will provide teachers, educators, and researchers with a
snapshot of teacher and student insights and knowledge, help to explain their
actions or expectations, and assist in developing effective interventions.
Furthermore, whereas most professional development programs for integrat-
ing technology into schools are instructionist-transmissionist in character,
this study demonstrates that teachers professional growth can be effectively
achieved if teachers learn in the context of their regular classroom practice.
It also demonstrates that although teachers professional development should
follow the traditional cognitive approach to teachers learning, it is also equally
vital for teachers to gain contextual perspective by focusing on the interplay
between the elements of new educational experiences, namely educational
310 / LEVIN AND WADMANY

experts, learning resources (materials), representational systems, and most impor-


tantly, students.

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Tamar Levin
Tel Aviv University
School of Education
Ramat-Aviv, Tel Aviv
Israel 69978
e-mail: tami1@post.tau.ac.il