Classroom management issues in information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated learning environments: back to the basics.
Amidst the emphasis on developing educational use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools, classroom management issues have been somewhat assumed to have been addressed. Moore, Laffey, Espinosa, and Lodree (2002) have pointed out that there is a need for teachers to learn new models of classroom management before they can harvest the technological affordances to address curriculum issues. Drawing upon the "successful" and "unsuccessful" ICT-mediated lessons of a case study, the article aims to identify classroom management elements that facilitate or hinder the creation of a conducive learning environment that provides the necessary condition for the effective integration of ICT in primary schools.
RESEARCH ON CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT ISSUES IN ICT-MEDIATED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Classroom management usually encompasses teachers' actions that aim at managing students behaviors to engage students in learning. Specifically, it includes actions such as establishing and maintaining order, providing effective instruction, handling of misbehaviors, attending to students' emotional and cognitive needs and managing group processes (Emmer, 2001). Kounin (1970, p.63) defined effective classroom management as "producing a high rate of work involvement and a low rate of deviancy in academic setting." It focuses less on overcoming discipline problems and more on the creation of a positive environment that is conducive to student involvement, satisfaction and learning (Fraser, 1983).
Research studies have shown that effective classroom management is a necessary condition for the creation of a conducive learning environment (Hilary, 1991; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993). By creating a conducive learning environment that is task-oriented and predictable, "students know what is expected of them and how to succeed" (Sanford, Emmer, & Clements, 1983, p.56). Students can then be consistently engaged in the learning tasks without interference. Many research studies have also shown that a conducive classroom environment promotes students academic achievement (Wong & Watkins, 1998; Griffith, 2002). In addition, there is a positive correlation between engaged time, appropriate academic activities, and high achievement; thus classrooms must be structured to promote on-task behavior (Brophy, 1979; Good, 1982).
Although the classroom management principles used in the traditional classrooms appear to be applicable to any instructional approaches, Brophy (1998) argued that there is a need to adjust the particulars of implementation. The experiences shared by the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) project echoed Brophy's assertion. Many teachers who participated in the ACOT project did not anticipate the range of student misbehavior, shifts in teachers' roles, and technical problems that would accompany the introduction of ICT into the classrooms (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997).
Teachers should adapt established classroom management principles by determining what students will need to do in order to maximize their engagement in an ICT environment, then working backward to determine the managerial instructions needed. This provision ensures that the potential effects of an instructional system designed to promote active learning, higher order thinking, and the co-construction of knowledge, will not be undercut by the management system that orients students toward passivity and compliance with rigid rules (McCaslin & Good, 1992).
Five elements of classroom management issues are identified and discussed in the following sections. They are the supporting activities for ICT tools, role of teacher (with-it-ness, overlapping, smoothness of lesson pacing and transitions), role of student helpers, technical support for teachers, and establishment of rules and procedures.
Supporting Activities for ICT Tools
Like their teachers, students are faced with technical difficulties that commonly accompany ICT-mediated activity (Selwyn & Bullon, 2000) and they have to possess the right skills to use a computer on their own (Tanda, 2002). Richards (1999) observed that students who are less advanced in using computers could be overwhelmed by the ICT-mediated activity and they are likely to be turned off. Teachers should therefore model the process and develope the product together with the students. Providing step-by-step printed instructions for frequently performed tasks such as saving to a disk, printing, and importing graphics can help in this aspect (Lowther & Morrison, 1998). Teachers can demonstrate one or two, necessary new skills before the start of each lesson (Hudson & Notman, 2001).
Role of Teacher
ICT provides opportunities for students to work individually or in small groups at their own pace rather than working in unison on the same material at a pace set by the teacher. This shift in classroom dynamics brings about changes in the teachers' role and management style (Tiene & Luft, 2002). The traditional role of teacher as information provider may have to be changed to the "guide on the side" (Frand, 2000). Although, this new classroom dynamic reduces some of the pressures associated with managing student behavior, teachers have to constantly monitor the ICT environment to ensure order and task accomplishments. This can be achieved by exhibiting qualities of effective classroom managers and practicing some of the strategies that Kounin (1970) discovered.
The effective managers are constantly aware of what is happening in the classroom and they communicate this awareness to students (Kounin, 1970). Teachers achieved with-it-ness by monitoring the classroom regularly; stationing themselves physically so that they can see all the students and scan all parts of the classroom continuously. Practicing "with-it-ness" in ICT-mediated lessons is crucial because the computer monitors can block the students from the teacher's view (Wong, 2000). To enhance with-it-ness, overlapping strategies should be employed (Brophy & Putnam, 1979). Teachers should give guidance to groups experiencing difficulties while ensuring the rest of the class is on-task. As there are different groups of students doing different activities, smoothness of lesson pacing and transitions become critical for an orderly environment. This implies that the teachers need to establish routines that promote efficiency in changing activities. The teacher may use a designated signal that reminds students who are still working on their task that they have a few minutes to end their activity and they should put all materials from it away and get ready any needed material for the next activity (Doyle, 1986). This will prevent any discontinuities during transition that may ruin the flow of the lesson and give rise to restlessness, confusion, and other problems in the class (Brophy & Putnam, 1979).
Role of Student Helpers and Technical Assistants
Feedback from teachers in the ACOT project revealed that numerous technical problems were encountered because of the amount of equipment such as the printer and scanner they dealt with every day (Sandholtz et. al, 1997). These technical problems upset both their daily and long-range plans. Another common problem faced by teachers when conducting ICT-mediated lessons is students encountering technical problems (Wong, 2000). Beside technical problems, routine procedures such as distributing and collecting materials could also slow down the pace of lesson. Randolph, Scolari and Bedient (2000) recommended that teachers assign students to take care of these routine tasks. Another useful suggestion is to enlist the knowledgeable students to provide technical or learning assistance to their peers. Students can also be trained to assist other students in solving simple technical problems (Marcovitz, Hamza, & Farrow, 2000).
In the Ameritech classroom project, participating teachers commented that the availability of a technical assistant in the room at all times had significantly improved the technological literacy of their students and their ability to work proficiently with the hardware and software (Tiene & Luft, 2002). Technical support helps teachers to focus on the lesson. The momentum and continuity of the lesson is thus better preserved.
Establishment of Rules and Procedures
According to Evertson and colleagues (1981), the primary function of rules is to set perimeters for behavior by clearly stating the expectation and using it as a cue or signal. They provide the context in which students can operate successfully or unsuccessfully in classrooms (Evertson & Anderson, 1979). Like rules, procedures or routines also communicate expectations for behavior. Usually they are applied in a specific activity and are directed at accomplishing something rather in an efficient way (Evertson, Emmer, Clements, & Worsham, 1997).
Many rules established in the traditional classrooms can be applied in the ICT learning environments (Wong, 2000). To cope with the complexities of ICT-mediated lesson, Hudson and Notman (2001) suggested having additional routines. They recommended that at the start of the lesson, teachers should exert greater control on entry to the computer room than in other subject areas because of the rush to get a computer. During lessons, students should move their seats away from their computers to encourage eye contact and listening. After initial instructions have been given, teachers should go round to each student to check that they understand what they are doing and ensure that they are engaged on task. This demonstrates with-it-ness. Routines that provide an orderly end to the lesson must also be established, which include, giving a short deadline for the students to save their work and log off, getting students to sit away from the keyboard in any question and answer session, and letting students exit the computer room in groups of five or six at a time with the best behaving group going first.
Although many studies have been conducted in the area of classroom management and organization, there needs to be more studies done to provide accounts of effective classroom management in the ICT-mediated learning environment. In this article, the following questions guide the investigation of how a conducive learning environment is created to support the effective integration of ICT in primary school classrooms:
1. What are the supporting activities for ICT tools that create a conducive ICT-mediated learning environment?
2. What are the roles taken up by the participants to create a conducive ICT-mediated learning environment?
3. How do the rules and procedures established mediate the creation of a conducive ICT-mediated learning environment?
To study the elements that facilitate the creation of a conducive ICT-mediated learning environment the case study approach is adopted.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The case for the study is a primary school in Singapore. To ensure confidentiality, pseudonyms are used. The school is referred to as Central Primary School. This school was selected based on its high degree of ICT integration reported in a questionnaire survey of all Singapore schools conducted by National Institute of Education (Singapore). A total of 328 schools (87.2% of the target population) responded to the questionnaire, out of which 168 were primary schools.
Background Information of the School
The study in Central Primary School was carried out from 17 September to 2 October 2001. There were 2118 students, consisting of boys and girls with ages ranging from 7 to 12. Most of the students were from lower to middle income families. The average class size was 40. Students learn subjects such as English, Mathematics, Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay, or Tamil), Science, Health Education, Social Studies, Arts and Crafts, Music, and Physical Education.
The school had a staff strength of 80 teachers and 10 support personnel. There were two fully air-conditioned computer rooms and a music laboratory. Certain areas in the school were converted to free access corners with a total of 12 computers for students to engage in independent learning during breaks. A technical assistant was available to address technical problems in the computer rooms. Some of the ICT learning packages that were used in Central Primary School included Midisaurus for Music, I-Micro and Robo-Lab for Science, Crayola for Art, and CD-ROMs such as Curriculum Alive for English and MathBlaster for Mathematics.
To provide triangulation of the data in the case study, multiple methods of data collection were used. Methods such as observation of ICT-mediated lessons, face-to-face interviews with teachers, and focus group interviews with students were used to gather accounts of different realities that have been constructed by various groups and individuals in the school. The use of multiple strategies improved the accuracy of the conclusions drawn and hence, enhanced reliability and validity of the study.
Observation of ICT-Mediated Lessons
Fourteen ICT-mediated lessons were observed over two weeks. The ICT-mediated lessons were in different subject areas. A semi-structured approach towards observation was adopted to enable a more open exploration of the learning environment. The lesson observations focused on the elements highlighted in the literature review that included the roles of the participants, the rules and procedures established and the ICT and non-ICT tools employed. In addition, an observation checklist that comprised of the layout of the computer room, lesson objectives, lesson sequence, types of ICT and non-ICT tools used, rules and roles of the participants were used during observations to record events.
The analysis of data took place alongside the data collection and data processing. The observer's own feelings, reactions to the experience, and reflections about the meaning and significance of what has occurred were included. These preliminary analytical notes acted as a reminder for future inquiry and were used to develop the analysis and provided a structure for future observations. Additional references were collected such as lesson handouts and worksheets.
Face-to-Face Interviews with Teachers
An unstructured interview format was adopted to allow for narrative recounting by the teachers to encourage meaningful discussion. The focuses were similar to that of the observations with the addition of reasons for using ICT and non-ICT tools for the ICT-mediated lessons. The interviews were conducted in a conducive environment without interruption. Three teachers were interviewed after the observation of their ICT-mediated lessons during their free time. Each interview session lasted 45 minutes.
Analysis of data was carried out alongside transcription. The interview data was interpreted and analyzed against the background of the context in which the interview was conducted. The data from the interviews were compared against, and analyzed alongside, that of other sources.
Focus Group Interviews with Students
The focus group interviews were conducted in the classrooms or the computer rooms as these places were familiar to the students. These rooms provided a comfortable physical setting and put the students at ease. The students in the focus group interviews were briefed about the purpose of the discussion. Three groups of six students, grouped according to their levels (primary two, three, and four), were interviewed. Jargon that was specific to their age group and cultural domain was used to clarify student's comprehension of terminology and concepts developed for the study. For example, the term "computer lesson" instead of "ICT-mediated lesson" was used during the discussion.
The foci of the group interviews were similar as the observation. We began with more general questions before inquiring about specific areas. Interview notes were reviewed immediately following the interview so that data collected could be used for later expansion into more comprehensive detail of what was said in the interviews. Data were transcribed immediately after the discussion. Data collected were analyzed alongside the other data sets. In conducting the analysis, the body language, the emotional level associated with responses, intensity of comments, the choice and meaning of words, the context that gave rise to these words and whether participants' responses were consistent throughout the interview were taken into consideration.
The procedure for data analysis was an adaptation of naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Data were analyzed inductively to identify recurrent themes and patterns. The data collected were continually subjected to a filtering system. From the data collected, units of information that would later become the basis for defining categories were identified. Only information that met the criteria of better informing the research question was considered to be a unit. The size of a unit of information could vary from a phrase to a sentence or a paragraph.
Several copies of the transcript from interviews and observations were made. The relevant information units, which formed the basis for defining categories, were then highlighted for easy identification. The units were coded to record the relevant subject and transcript location information. Next, they were then sorted according to categories or recurring themes. Categorizing brought together the information units that were related to the same content. Rules that describe category properties were defined to justify the inclusions of units into that category. When all information units that were directly related to the category had been identified, they were carefully reviewed against the rules or criteria for inclusion into that category to ensure accuracy. As the analysis was ongoing, new categories were identified, developed, redefined, or redeveloped from the analysis of each observation and each interview. Once all of the information units have been exhausted, categories were reviewed for overlap and completeness. Categories that had similar properties were collapsed into a broader category that included all of the information in the previously separate categories. Thus, the categories generated were then examined to establish the extent to which they fitted into the research design and literature review.
Supporting Activities by ICT and Non-ICT Tools
Tanda (2002) commented that students have to possess the right skills to use a computer on their own. It is thus essential to provide supporting activities to ensure that the students possess the necessary skills to operate and navigate through the ICT packages and the learning skills to learn in the ICT environment. In addition, Lowther and Morrison (1998) suggested that non-ICT tools such as worksheets and handouts can guide students in accomplishing the assigned instructional tasks and ensure that they are able to carry out the frequently performed tasks such as saving their work to a disk.
Most of the teachers observed in the study employed ICT and non-ICT tools to support ICT-mediated activities. Such practices were observed at the various stages of the ICT-mediated lessons: preinstructional activities, instructional activities and postinstructional activities.
Preinstructional activities. Twelve (12) out of 14 teachers started their lessons by reviewing previous concepts and making links to the concepts to be covered in the ICT-mediated lessons. Before getting the students to work on the computers, teachers demonstrated the key features and the navigation buttons. In addition, ICT and non-ICT tools such as the whiteboard, visualizer, teacher's computer, overhead projector, and data projector were also employed to facilitate the demonstration to ensure that students acquired the basic skills to navigate through the ICT learning package. For example, during a mathematics lesson, the teacher demonstrated the ICT learning package and briefed the students on the ICT-mediated activities using PowerPoint slides at the teacher's computer and projected onto the screen. The teacher, mediated by these tools, created a conducive environment for learning.
To help students accomplish the assigned tasks, handouts that contained step-by-step instructions for carrying out the ICT-mediated activities were usually provided. Moreover, teachers were observed going through these instructions with the students by having PowerPoint slides projected onto the screen by the teachers' computer. In addition, they set aside a question-and-answer time for the students to clarify their doubts before they were allowed to work on the computers. By so doing, students were observed to be task-oriented and motivated as they were clear about the tasks. By communicating information and directions in a clear, comprehensible manner, students would understand the instructions and expectations for behavior more readily, and this in turn, ensured that the momentum of the lesson is not lost and some degree of orderliness were maintained. The findings of the study were consistent with the findings of the studies discussed in the literature review (Brophy & Putnam, 1979; Doyle, 1986).
Two out of the 14 lessons observed were found to lack a conducive learning environment. Students in these two lessons were found to display deviant behaviors. In one of the lessons, the deviant behaviors might have stemmed from unclear instructions during the preinstructional phase. In this lesson, the objectives of the ICT-mediated lesson as well as the number of activities the students had to accomplish were not mentioned. Hence, the students were not clear about the tasks they had to complete. In addition, the learning was not progressive as the students were allowed to start off with any of the activities in the software. At any point in time, different students were working on different activities. In between the lesson, the teacher would demonstrate to the class on how to handle these activities. These interruptions resulted in further confusion in the students as they might not be working on the activity that their teacher was currently demonstrating.
Instructional activities. In addition to the preinstructional activities, most teachers provided scaffolding activities for their ICT-mediated lessons. To guide students through the activities, worksheets were distributed to them. Worksheets were used as a scaffolding tool to ensure that students were able to successfully engaged in the tasks and complete them. For example, in one of the science lessons, the teacher employed the "learning station" strategy whereby students had to complete different activities at different learning stations within a stipulated time. At each station, students were required to search for and analyze information based on the questions on the worksheet to construct their own meaning of scientific concepts. Besides worksheets, the teachers also posed many guided questions verbally to scaffold students' learning processes.
Besides scaffolding tools, a red cup was placed next to the computer for students to signal for help when they encountered technical and instructional problems. The teacher or the technical assistant (if present) would then assist them accordingly. The purpose of having this "red alert" cup was to ensure that students' learning processes would not be disrupted and the completion of their tasks would not be delayed. Students from the focus groups interview revealed that they were well-informed about the function of the red cup. In three of the 14 lesson observations, the red cup did not help some students who were seeking technical assistance because (a) the position that the cups were placed might not have been obvious and (b) the teachers might lack with-it-ness. However, in most of the lessons, it had served as an effective tool for students seeking help. Therefore, the red cup mediated between the rule and the participants and that created a conducive environment.
Postinstructional activities. In all the 14 lessons observed, the teachers carried out postinstructional activities to round up the ICT-mediated lessons. They provided links for the concepts learned to the next lesson. For example, one teacher used a concept-mapping software, Inspiration, to engage her students in the reflection of the concepts learned in the science lesson. She constructed the concept map on her computer, had the data projected on the projector screen, together with her students. In instances where students could not accomplish the assigned task within the ICT-mediated lesson, the teacher would provide clear instruction on the tasks to be completed by the next lesson.
Most of the tools used during postinstructional activities were similar to those used in the preinstructional activities. Employing ICT and non-ICT tools in the ICT-mediated activities ensured that students were task-oriented and motivated and thereby engaged in their learning processes. These tools, employed by the teachers to support the ICT-mediated activities, facilitated the creation of a conducive environment for learning.
Different Roles of Participants
Literature on effective classroom management has identified the "with-it-ness" skills, the overlapping skills and skills that ensure smoothness in lesson pacing and transition as the necessary classroom management skills that teachers should possess in order to effectively manage the ICT environment. In addition, effective classroom management is facilitated by a system whereby teachers enlist the help of students and technical assistant in everyday housekeeping tasks and providing technical support respectively. When these resources are used efficiently, the momentum and signal continuity of the lesson are not disrupted; teachers can then concentrate on conducting the actual lessons. The study had revealed that although teachers played a crucial role in orchestrating and managing the ICT-mediated activities, the student helpers and the technical assistant also played crucial roles in establishing a conducive learning environment.
Role of teacher. Most of the lessons observed were student-centered with little direct teaching. Some of the activities for these student-centered lessons included students working with CD-ROMs, using PowerPoint to create repeated patterns in an Art lesson, composition writing and editing using Word, and searching for information from the Internet and presenting their findings. The teachers were observed to be facilitators, helping and guiding their students in their learning. Teachers were able to spend more time working with the weaker students, guiding them and providing them with more scaffolds. About 60% of the ICT-mediated lessons observed involved pair work or group work.
Besides being facilitators, teachers were observed to orchestrate and regulate the activities in the ICT environment to ensure that students were on task. For example, to ensure that students were task-oriented and be able to carry out the activities in the "learning stations" during the science lesson, as well as the smooth running of the different ICT-mediated activities, the teacher made the necessary preparation and coordination in advance. An informal interview with her revealed that before the students were brought to the computer room for the ICT-mediated lesson, they were briefed on the ICT-mediated lesson activities and were divided into six groups. Then the respective groups were briefed on the movement from one learning station to another and the activities involved for each learning station. These rules and procedures, which were communicated clearly, ensured a smooth transition from one activity to another and kept students on task. In addition, student helpers were engaged to ensure that the learning stations were ready. During the instructional activities, clear signals were given when the students were required to proceed on to the next learning station; in-time help and guidance were also provided when needs arose.
Besides orchestrating and regulating the activities, the teacher also made conscientious efforts to maintain orderliness to ensure that the environment was conducive for learning. Consistent with Kounin's (1970) findings, most of the teachers who had effectively managed their ICT-mediated lessons were observed to display high degree of "with-it-ness," overlapping skills, and skills that ensure smoothness in lesson pacing and transition. These skills were essential for the creation of a conducive learning environment for ICT-mediated lessons.
From the lesson observations, it was noted that teachers encountered some difficulties practicing "with-in-ness" in the ICT learning environment. The problems posed by the computer monitors further intensify the existing management problems. For example, during an ICT-mediated lesson observation with a primary two class, about half the class had problems following the teacher's demonstration on the projector screen as the computer monitors were blocking their view. When "lost in cyberspace," students were observed to be approaching their neighbors for help or displaying the red cup to signal "help." As a result, other students' concentration and the teacher's demonstration were disrupted. These off-task activities escalated into disruption eventually.
"With-it-ness" skills were more successful when applied to the students nearer to the front than to students at the back of the computer room. For example, a group of students who were seated at the far end of the computer room carried on with their task while the rest of their classmates were with their teacher in front of the computer room without their teacher's awareness. The computer monitor might have effectively blocked the view of the teacher. Subsequently, when she realized that this group of students was inattentive, she instructed them to shut down their computers. But two students carried on with their work as they realized that the teacher was not "with-it."
As noted by Brophy and Putnam (1979), "overlapping" helps to promote "with-it-ness" in the classroom. The two examples illustrated the importance of overlapping skills in managing the ICT-mediated lesson. While delivering the ICT-mediated lesson to the whole class, teachers need to monitor the class regularly, stationing themselves where they could see all of the students (with-it-ness) and at the same time, continue to monitor events going on in the rest of the computer room (overlapping). Thus, teachers should possess the necessary overlapping skills to ensure that ICT-mediated lessons were manageable. From the lesson observations, it was noted that teachers who better managed the ICT-mediated lessons were those who kept students attentive by posing stimulating questions to different students at different corners of the room and placing students who usually misbehaved near them.
In addition, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement were consistently administered. These teachers acknowledged students' effort through the use of praises which appeared to encourage further responses. Any misbehavior was addressed by verbal warning or through the use of eye contact to communicate disapproval. In the group work setting, situations of misbehaviors were minimized by holding the group accountable for the action of any misbehaved members. For example, when a group told their teacher that they had not received the activity worksheets after she had begun briefing the class on the activity, the group was reprimanded for its members' inattentiveness.
These teachers were also observant and sensitive to any form of distraction in the environment. They would ensure that the students were comfortably seated and the computer monitors or their classmates did not obstruct their view. Some of the students sitting at the back of the computer room were asked to sit in front. In instances where the sound generated from the computer was too distracting, they would adjust it to an acceptable volume so that both the students and teacher could be heard and by so doing, the learning environment was again conducive for the instructional activities.
The teachers in the study employed a variety of instructional strategies to ensure smoothness in the transition from one activity to another. For example, to keep the student audience occupied during the transition between individual group presentations, one teacher requested her students to write down their feedback on a prescribed feedback form after every group presentation. When one of the groups presenting needed more time to get ready, the teacher, who possessed good overlapping skills and the flexibility in managing activities, initiated some general discussions with the student audience. The students were invited to share their feedback of the previous presentation with the class while waiting for the presentation group to be ready. This also provided an opportunity for the teacher to check and ensure that the student audience was attentive during the presentation, thereby establishing "with-it-ness."
Most of the teachers were observed placing a great emphasis on time management in their ICT-mediated lesson. These teachers informed the students the time they had to complete the tasks so that they could move on to the next instructional activity briskly. To keep students task-oriented when working at their computers, they provided constant reminders of the time at various points. However, in most of the ICT-mediated lesson observed, students were not able to complete their tasks within the given time. This could be due to teachers having unrealistically planned too many activities and the occurrence of unanticipated noninstructional activities such as technical problems.
In essence, as noted in the literature review, classroom management skills such as "with-it-ness," overlapping and smoothness of lesson pacing, and transitions are the essential management principles that a teacher should possess when managing the ICT environment. These principles form an integral part of effective classroom management that creates a conducive learning environment for ICT-mediated lessons.
Role of students. Most of the teachers had student helpers to assist them in housekeeping tasks. Besides housekeeping tasks, some teachers also involved their student helpers in providing simple technical support such as loading the software, navigating the screen to the required one, and adjusting the volume of the computers so it would not cause a distraction.
These student helpers were seated at the first row of the computer room. Besides seeking help from the teacher and the student helpers, it was observed that most students approached their classmates nearby for help when they encountered problems, including the two lessons that lacked conducive learning environment. The close proximity of their classmates helped to address their problems promptly, especially when they were seated at the extreme end of the computer room where raising of hands or putting up the red cup might not capture the teacher's attention.
As noted in the literature review, these student helpers facilitated the smooth running of the lesson. They helped relief some of the burden of the teachers, thus enabling them to focus their attention on the conduct and management of ICT-mediated lessons. Besides appointing student helpers to perform housekeeping tasks, teachers also defined roles for individual students when pair work or group work was involved. When students were clear about their assigned role during group work and the expectations and the tasks they needed to perform, they were more likely to be engaged in their learning process. When students engaged actively in their learning, the tendency for misbehavior would be minimized. This in turn facilitated the creation of a conducive learning environment.
Role of technical assistant. The technical assistant was present in most of the lessons. Teachers who were interviewed acknowledged the crucial role of the technical assistant in ICT-mediated lessons. One teacher stated that "full time lab technician (technical assistant) helps to make sure that all computers are working when I am teaching." Another teacher mentioned that when the technical assistant was not around, the momentum of the ICT-mediated lesson was interrupted: "(when computers are) not working properly,... the children will (approach the teacher),... (which) sort of disturb the lesson." Thus, the role of the technical assistant was crucial for the smooth running of an ICT-mediated lesson. The presence of technical assistant freed the teachers from attending to technical problems, the momentum of the lesson was not disrupted, and they could then concentrate on conducting and managing the ICT-mediated lesson.
Although the presence of the technical assistant helped relief the teachers from attending to technical-related issues, most of them would try to attend to the technical problems themselves or enlist the help of their students when simple technical support such as loading the software and adjusting the volume of the computers was needed. One teacher commented that her IT monitors (student helpers) helped to prepare the logistics for the ICT-mediated lessons. However, when everything else failed, they would still need the support of the technical assistant. This finding is consistent with the findings in the ACOT and Ameritech classroom projects discussed in literature review.
In brief, the division of labor among the participants (the teachers, students and technical assistant) helped to define the roles of the participants in the ICT-mediated lesson. With these well-defined roles, teachers were then able to achieve the object of managing the lesson. When the ICT-mediated lesson was well-managed, a conducive learning environment was created and that provided the necessary condition for the effective integration of ICT in the primary school classroom.
Establishment of Rules and Procedures
Classroom rules and procedures are vital for conducive and manageable classroom learning. Teachers apply specific rules and procedures at different stages of their lesson to deal with the characteristics of the ICT-mediated lesson. These practices were observed in most of the ICT-mediated lessons. Most teachers in the study established both the discipline-specific rules and procedures and the educational ones for use in the ICT-mediated lessons. Discipline-specific rules and procedures included rules and procedures for room use, moving in and out of the room, teacher-led instruction and house-keeping tasks such as distribution of CD-ROMs and the collection of work-sheets. Educational rules and procedures were rules and procedures for educational activities such as group work and the completion of tasks.
Discipline-specific rules and procedures. The discipline--specific rules were clearly displayed on the wall in the computer rooms. They included no water bottles, no running about in the computer room, no playing games unless the teacher gave permission, and no unauthorized installation of programs. Most of the students in the focus group interviews were familiar with these rules and commented that such rules ensured that "we pay attention and learn well."
Besides setting rules, procedures were also established to keep students on task and minimize the occurrence of misbehavior among students. Some discipline specific-procedures were observed in the 14 ICT-mediated lesson observations. These procedures could be broken down into three stages of an ICT-mediated lesson: (a) procedures for preinstructional activities, (b) procedures during instructional activities, and (c) procedures for postinstructional activities.
Procedures for preinstructional activities. The start of the lesson began outside the computer room. Students entered the computer room in an orderly manner according to their index number. As all the computers were indexed with the index number of the students, the student with index number 1 would work on the computer indexed by the number 1, and so on. This facilitated the procedure of entry into the computer room, as each student knew their assigned seats and there would not be a need to rush. In addition, the indexing also facilitated the monitoring of the ICT tools, as one teacher during the interview commented:</p> <pre> Every computer is labeled with index, and the student of that index number will use that particular computer ... even the CD-ROMs are also tagged with numbers, so that we can check any breakdown, or any mischief done to the computer. And before they [the students] leave, they have to turn the mouse over, so that the track ball ... you can see that the track ball is still inside. </pre> <p>Besides using the index numbers, some classes entered in groups of three or five. Once seated, the teacher would call out for the next group to enter. In all the lessons observed, students were reminded of the discipline-specific rules such as "no touching of the computers, mouse or keyboard" and "keep quiet."
Procedure during instructional activities. Teachers walked around the computer room before the start of their ICT-mediated lessons to make sure that all the students were ready. During activity time, they made routine checks on the students to ensure that they were on task and did not encounter any problems. To ensure that the students were attentive to the instructions and explanations, some teachers would remind their students to fold their arms when they were explaining a concept or giving instructions. Students seated at the back of the room were asked to move to the front of the room and away from the computers. Some teachers would tell the students to turn off their computer monitor. Computers were turned on only when the teacher gave instructions to do so.
Besides stated rules and procedures, cues such as a raise of hand or a hand clap was commonly used as a signal to gain students' attention. These were proven to be useful in the computer room because it was much larger than the traditional classroom and with different activities bustling at the same time (a characteristic of ICT-mediated lessons), it might be difficult for the teacher to be heard. One teacher effectively made use of hand signals to manage the ICT activities, which involved moving different groups of students to different learning stations. With a hand clap, every group proceeded on to the next designated learning station for the next instructional activity in an orderly fashion.
When pair work or group work was involved, an arrangement was made to pair or group students who needed more support in using ICT with those with ICT skills. For example, in a primary four Mother Tongue (Malay) lesson, the teacher paired students who were weak in typing with those who could type well in a composition writing lesson. This arrangement minimized the frequency for these students who were weak in ICT skills to interrupt the teacher for help and at the same time facilitated the learning process. With peer support, students were better engaged in the task.
Procedure for postinstructional activities. In terms of procedures at the end of the lesson, students were given a short deadline to wrap up their work and log off. To ensure that everything was in place, student helpers were instructed to help out in some housekeeping tasks such as checking that the ball track in the mouse was intact and ensuring all ICT resources such as CD-ROMs were accounted for. Like the procedure for entry into the computer room, teachers let their students exit in an orderly fashion.
Out of the 14 ICT-mediated lessons observed, there were two that lacked a conducive learning environment. In the first case, there was a lack of discipline-specific rules and procedures to guide the students. For example, upon reaching the computer room, many students were seen rushing for a seat and they were not seated according to their index numbers. In the other case, the problem stemmed from the lack of educational rules and procedures for carrying the instructional activities. This would be discussed in the next section.
Educational rules and procedures. Besides the establishment of discipline-specific rules and procedures, educational rules and procedures should be established to facilitate pair work and group work and ensure that the students completed their instructional task. For example, in one of the two lessons that lacked a conducive learning environment, educational rules and procedures were not communicated to the students for their group work activity. As a result, one or two students dominated the discussions and tasks. The rest of the group members displayed off-task behaviors such as talking among themselves, walking to other groups to find out what they were doing or engaging in another task other than the task at hands.
This example illustrated the importance of establishing educational rules and procedures to facilitate group work. They included assigning roles such as group leader, recorder, and computer person to every member in the group, and clearly defining their duties to ensure individual accountability. In one of the lessons, a leader whose duties included collecting worksheets for the group was inattentive when instructed to do so. As a result, the group could not proceed with the ICT activity. Basic social rules and procedures for group work such as "one person talk at a time" and "pay attention when others talk" were also observed during group discussion and presentation.
In addition to the establishment of educational rules and procedures for group work, it was also necessary for teachers to have rules and procedures to facilitate the completion of tasks. These rules and procedures were in the form of step-by-step instruction found in handouts and guided questions on the worksheets.
In brief, rules and procedures, both discipline-specific and educational ones are essential for the creation of a conducive learning environment. These clearly defined rules and procedures mediated between the participants and the objective of a well-managed ICT-mediated lesson.
The summary of the key findings will be discussed with respect to the issues raised in the literature review, namely, the role of the teacher, ICT and non-ICT tools employed, rules and procedures established, and the roles among the participants in the ICT learning environment. Based on the research analysis, it is suggested that a conducive learning environment is the necessary condition for an effective integration of ICT in the computer rooms. In particular, the whole configuration of the classroom management-related activities during ICT-mediated lesson is the key to the creation of this conducive learning environment. The essential elements in the classroom management-related activities include supporting activities by ICT and non-ICT tools, establishment of the rules and procedures to facilitate the smooth running of the instructional and management activities, and division of labor among teachers, students and technical assistant.
The teacher, as a facilitator for learning and an executive in the classroom, plays a crucial role in the creation of a conducive environment for ICT-mediated learning. A conducive ICT learning environment is a by-product of a well-managed ICT-mediated lesson, which is characterized by students consistently engaged in their learning tasks and classroom activities that their teachers have set for them and very few student behaviors interfere with those tasks and activities (Emmer & Evertson, 1981). In this conducive ICT-mediated environment, besides helping and guiding the students in their learning, the teacher is also consistently and actively involved in orchestrating and managing activities to ensure that the students are actively engaged in their learning tasks. As there are many activities going on at the same time in the ICT learning environment, management skills such as the "with-it-ness" skills, overlapping skills, and skills that ensure smoothness in lesson pacing and transition, are essential for the effective management of such environment.
To facilitate the effective management of the ICT-mediated lessons, teachers employ ICT and non-ICT tools such as computers, educational software, peripherals such as earphones and digital cameras, data projector and whiteboard to support the ICT-mediated activities. As it cannot be assumed that students are "expert" learners in the ICT learning environment, that is, they are able to engage in their learning using ICT independently, supporting activities are provided to ensure that the students have the necessary skills to operate and navigate through the ICT learning package and the learning skills to learn in the ICT-mediated environment. In addition, scaffolding tools in the form of worksheets and checklists are used to guide the students to complete their tasks.
Besides the scaffolding tools, to maintain the momentum of the ICT-mediated lesson and ensure that the students' learning processes will not be disrupted and the completion of their tasks will not be delayed, a red cup is introduced to the students. Students who encounter technical or instructional problems use the "red alert" cup to provide signal to their teacher or the technical assistant (if present) who will then assist them accordingly.
In the process of managing the ICT-mediated lesson, rules and procedures, both the discipline-specific and the educational ones are established by the teacher. The discipline-specific rules and procedures aim at keeping students on task and minimizing the occurrence of misbehavior among them while the educational ones are used to facilitate collaborative activities such as pair work or group work as well as to guide and ensure that the students complete the assigned tasks. These rules and procedure must be communicated clearly to the students, routinized and enforced to achieve students' work accomplishment and therefore the teacher's object of a well-managed lesson that creates a conducive environment for learning.
Although teachers play a crucial role in ensuring a conducive learning environment, the students and the technical assistant must also play their part well to make the ICT-mediated environment conducive for learning. To effectively manage the ICT learning environment, there is a division of work among the teacher, the students, and the technical assistant. Student helpers, guided by rules and procedures to carry out their roles, are appointed to assist the teachers in housekeeping tasks while the technical assistant is employed by the school to provide the necessary technical support. They relieve some of the burdens of the teachers, enabling them to focus on the conduct and management of ICT-mediated lessons and therefore facilitate the creation of a conducive learning environment.
In essence, all these elements, namely, the planning and implementation of supporting activities by the ICT and non-ICT tools, the establishment of the rules and procedures to facilitate the smooth running of the instructional and management activities, and the division of labor among teachers, students, and technical assistant, form an integral part of effective classroom management that creates a conducive environment for learning.
Managing ICT-mediated lessons is not very different from managing non-ICT based ones. Principles of good classroom management developed for use in the traditional classrooms appear to be just as applicable to the ICT learning environment. However, the particulars of their implementation may need to be adjusted to take into account the establishment of rules and procedures, supporting ICT and non-ICT tools for the ICT-mediated activities, and the division of labor among the teachers, students, and technical assistant. These elements are essential in a well-managed ICT-mediated lesson. When the ICT-mediated lesson is well-managed, a conducive learning environment is created that provides the necessary conditions for the effective integration of ICT in the classroom.
The findings will be useful to teachers who will be embarking on the journey of integrating ICT in education and managing the ICT learning environment. Reaping the benefits of using ICT in education, such as higher order thinking skills and collaborative learning, will entail teacher management effectiveness. In essence, effective classroom management that created a conducive ICT learning environment will set up the necessary condition and provide the foundation for the effective integration of ICT in schools.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
In this article, the context is primary schools. The classroom management style of the teachers and the management issues that they encounter may be different from their teacher counterparts who are teaching in the secondary schools and junior colleges. Comparison can be made between the classroom management style of teachers teaching in the primary schools and teachers teaching in the secondary schools and junior colleges.
Currently, all the lessons are conducted in a physical classroom. With the advancement of technology, students no longer need to be in the classroom physically; they may be learning in a virtual classroom. It will be interesting to embark on a study into classroom management in a virtual environment. Further studies can also be conducted to find out which classroom management model, the physical classroom or the virtual classroom can produce a better environment for in developing skills such as higher-order thinking and collaborative learning.
With the emergent of new technologies and small devices such as the handheld computers, research can be done to explore the potential of using handheld computers as a teaching (as well as classroom management) and learning tool in the primary schools. In addition, we can also examine the benefits and limitations of handheld computers in the classroom.
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This case study is part of a grant-maintained project on the "Effective Integration of ICT in Singapore Schools: Pedagogical and Policy Implications." It is funded by the Ministry of Education (Singapore). The first and third authors are education researchers from the National Institute of Education. The former is the principal investigator of the project. The second author is a research student attached to the project, and is now a teacher at a primary school in Singapore.
CHER PING LIM, MEOW SIEN PEK, AND CHING SING CHAI
National Institute of Education Nanyang Technological University Singapore
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|Author:||Chai, Ching Sing|
|Publication:||Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2005|
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