By Kat Geuea
Barriers to Technology Use in Large and Small School Districts
Gregory M. Francom
The title of this piece is pretty self-explanatory. The author/researcher looked at five barriers to technology use: access to technology, technology training and support, administrative support, time to plan and prepare, and beliefs about the importance and usefulness of technology. I chose, read, and annotated this article before I wrote last week’s review, so it seemed of more value to me then than it does now (last week’s was the one about teaching pedagogy related to technology-enabled learning as opposed to technology integration). Today, I am less interested in barriers to technology. However, I was particularly interested in Francom’s research process. He appears to have crossed a lot of i’s and dotted a lot of t’s.
This research took place in an unidentified North Midwestern state of 150 districts ranging in size from 100 to 3,000 students. After doing an institutional IRB, 12,161 surveys were emailed to all staff for 3 times over a period of 3 weeks. If they blocked this first link, they were sent 2 more. I found that both amusing and annoying… Francom gave the survey to 4 teachers from the population as a test-run. I thought that was a pretty good idea, because he was able to feel out how the test would go and make improvements. 1,079 respondents ending up taking the 48-question, quantitative, educational survey that was developed by the researcher. He included questions about the teachers’ demographics, technologies in the classroom, barriers and factors that relate to technology integration, and student-centered uses of technology. Several months after the survey, Francom (2013) did follow-up, telephonic interviews with 11 teachers to “allow for in-depth responses to a small list of questions without reaching data/theme saturation.”
Eleven teachers?! Apparently they were from different schools (large and small), districts, grades, subjects… What? One of each? As far as I can see this is one of the only weaknesses of this research. The 1,079 respondents give plenty of good data, but the follow-up was pretty weak. The findings are not too surprising: time to plan and prepare for technology integration was the most significant barrier, with small schools having the biggest difficulties; the second most significant barrier was access to technology, with large schools having the highest responses; the least significant barrier in both large and small schools was the belief that technology is important. I was a little surprised by that. Even seasoned teachers valued technology in this study, but they did have the highest responses in regards to time.
Respondents in their 20’s are more likely to indicate that they have sufficient time to plan and prepare for technology integration than those in their 40’s and 50’s. Respondents in their 30’s are also significantly more likely to indicate that they have sufficient time to plan and prepare for technology than those in their 40’s. Age was not found to be a factor for any other categories in the survey for barriers to technology use.Francom, 2013
Francom admits that some school districts may have been underrepresented due to the original email having been blocked, but hopes that the following emails could be accessed by all respondents (could he not have contacted the school districts?). He also suggests that often “teachers report more positively on their classroom practices than is the reality.” That’s pretty skeptical… He recommends that more research is needed to find out why these barriers exist. The only ‘why’ I am interested in is why do young teachers have enough time when seasoned teachers do not? The rest of it would be a waste of time. Do we really need someone to tell us why we don’t have enough time to prepare and plan? Why we don’t have money for improving access to technology? How about solutions to the barriers? How do we get more time? Money? Overall, I thought Francom’s research methods were sound, however irrelevant his findings are to me at this point in time.
Francom, G. M. (2016). Barriers to Technology use in Large and Small School Districts. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 15, 577–591. doi: 10.28945/3596