ICT as a Research Topic Within the PERFORMA Master Teacher Program
Over the years, PERFORMA has been developing courses on the integration of information and communication technologies into college teaching. A growing interest in these courses has become evident, but despite this recent popularity, only 6% of PERFORMA masters theses focus on the integration of ICT. Why? This question has no simple answers. Possibly, enthusiasm for ICT as a topic will also increase. For now, we can already establish some facts, notice certain trends and mark the progress in this direction, but change is slow.
The Changing Relationship Between ICT and Academia
Incontestably, the much pedagogical literature emphasizes the necessity of adapting and employing technology to enrich the academic environment or to aid students in actively cultivating their personal development. ICT is linked to participatory and cooperative learning. Thus, the trends which inspire this research focus on the characteristics of cegep students, on factors for success and on academic motivation. In the majority of the literature, a seemingly universal truth emerges that by combining ICT with active learning, a paradigm shift engendering a radical transformation of roles as they are defined in the traditional academic lecture model ensues. In effect, students become increasingly responsible for their own learning and must process information, determining what is important and interpreting content. The accompanying teacher becomes a facilitator, adjusting the conclusions or visions of students where required.
Besides the integration of ICT into academics, teachers must be aware of all the subtleties of its associated tools (equipment, media, network, etc.) that they use and consequently perceive a need to learn. Those who are the most reticent to include ICT in their classes are precisely those who are the most uncomfortable on a technical level. In addition, they are faced with students who are often extremely at ease in a technological environment. Some studies demonstrate a correlation between a feeling of personal competence, that is to say the judgment that a person makes about their own organizational skills to use various activities required for the realization of a task (Bouffard-Bouchard Pinard, 1988, p. 411) and the use of ICT. In one PERFORMA thesis, a courageous question asked whether there was a gender bias towards use of ICT. In effect, in that study, it seemed that male teachers had a greater affinity for ITC than their feminine colleagues!
A Shift of Attitudes
With respect to the necessity of ICT training, in two theses, the importance of demonstrating the benefits of ICT, in effect shifting attitudes, was suggested as a prerequisite before introducing the technology into the classroom.
Even if few PERFORMA theses deal with ICT at the present moment, it remains interesting to address the major issues that motivate researchers regarding these technologies, namely the need to integrate without changing everything, to most effectively achieve academic goals and finally to master ICT use. As a result of this research, the following conclusion has been drawn: the teacher must learn to become a facilitator, must adopt the new learning paradigm and change attitudes before improving their technical skills.
Research projects targeting ICT integration in the Master Teacher Program only deal with certain parts of a course and focus on a specific teaching method or technique. In all cases, the research shows increased student interest for ICT learning activities. In addition, most research projects recommended implementing a global teaching strategy which integrated ICT. Methodologically certain hypotheses about increased motivation and success couldn't be proven due to the length of the research or the nature of the sampling.
For the last two years, PERFORMA has provided pedagogical support through the services of Mr. Claude Martel to offer IT Representatives and middle managers in colleges frames of reference to foster ICT integration. You can see this information (in French) by following the link at http://www.gcmartel.com/performa. For information about this topic in English, consult the Profweb report: A Guide for Integrating ICT into a Program by Roger De Ladurantaye. Claude collaborated with the author in the writing of this report.
As for yourself, what have you remarked about ICT integration and the changes it has wrought in the classroom?