Jingxian Wang, PhD at ICLON, examined technology integration in primary and secondary education. Defence on 6 July.
The integration of technology in schools has been recognized as critical in achieving digital equity in education as well as school improvement, high-quality teaching and learning. However, we still see inadequate or ineffective use of technology in teaching and learning. There are several gaps in how technology integration can be approached in policy plans, implemented in pedagogical practices, and adopted by teachers and students.
Rural schools in China
One of the aims of this dissertation is to examine technology integration in the context of rural schools in China. For a long time, there have been significant educational gaps between eastern and western areas and between urban and rural schools. The Chinese government has therefore provided special funds and projects for schools located in western and rural areas since the beginning of the 21st century, with the hope that technology can support disadvantaged groups and equalize educational opportunities.
Mobile learning environments and student outcomes
In the last decade, many schools have integrated mobile technology into daily teaching practice. But when and how can those mobile devices be used to maximize their potential best? To gain a more comprehensive picture of the diverse conditions for improving student outcomes in mobile learning environments, this dissertation combines three research approaches (a mixed-method explorative study, a systematic review study with meta-analysis, and a multilevel exploratory study) to evaluate the effects of mobile technology usage on student outcomes.
Role of teachers
Findings from empirical studies show how different variables from different levels influence teacher practices in the rural school context. Most importantly, more attention must be paid to teacher-related factors, such as expertise, self-efficacy, knowledge and skill, motivation, attitude, and teacher degree. Moreover, the role of these variables may differ in different contexts. Teacher practices are also influenced by school context or ICT policy plans, although their effects seem to be relatively small.
Although teachers’ practices heavily depend on their motivation, self-efficacy, knowledge and skills, their pedagogical practices are also influenced by school or system level factors. Moreover, we cannot assume that every teacher uses technology in different contexts in a similar way.
Effects of mobile technology
Findings from a systematic review study with meta-analysis suggest that students with middle or high socioeconomic status gain higher cognitive learning outcomes when they use multifunctional mobile devices on their own. In respect to student engagement within tablet-integrated classrooms, results indicate that not only the use of technology, but also instructional quality (i.e. connectedness and cognitive activation) and background factors of teacher and student can influence student engagement.
In addition, the effectiveness of mobile technology in schools tends to show positive learning outcomes for both primary and secondary students compared with traditional technology (e.g. desktop computers and whiteboards) and non-technology (e.g. pen and paper) groups. However, the main effects of mobile technology are not the same for all student groups and learning contexts.