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'Teacher Education Tutors' Practice in ICT: North and South' study shows attitudes on ICT vary greatly between ages, locations and subjects

Professor Roger Austin and Dr Stephen Roulston from Ulster University’s School of Education, along with colleagues from QUB and Dublin City University have been awarded the Inaugural John Coolahan Award for their research report on ‘Teacher Education Tutors’ Practice in ICT: North and South’.

The team received the prestigious award at the 2018 Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (ScoTENS).

The research, Teacher Education Tutors' Practice in ICT: North and South', explored teachers and educators use of ICT on the island of Ireland. It was conducted between 2016-2018 and comprised a comprehensive survey, lecture observations and a series of interviews.

Key findings derived from the research suggest that:

    • Female tutors who lecture students in teacher training institutions in Ireland are more positively disposed to using ICT than their male counterparts (Whereas Females had a mean score of ~= 3.8 for Optimism and 3.4 Innovativeness, males had a mean score of 3.2 for Optimism and 2.8 for Innovativeness. Also, Females had less discomfort with use of technology than Males. Whereas Females had a mean score of ~=2.7 for discomfort, Males had a mean score of ~= 3.0.);
    • Broadband connectivity for tutors and students differs greatly between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, impacting directly on teaching and learning;
    • More mature tutors appear to be overwhelmed by the pace of change of ICT;
    • Youngest tutors (1-3 years' experience) expressed lower levels of innovation than 'mid-career' tutors (4-20 years' experience);
    • Tutors working in STEM subjects scored higher for Optimism and Innovativeness (and lower for Discomfort) in using ICT, compared to non-STEM colleagues;
    • Geographical location of many student teachers' placement determines the extent to which they can embrace technology;

SCoTENS is a network of 37 colleges of education, university education departments, teaching councils, curriculum councils, education trade unions and education centres on the island of Ireland with a responsibility for and interest in teacher education.

Professors John Coolahan from NUI Maynooth and Harry McMahon from Ulster University established SCOTENS in 2003 to create a safe space for teacher educators – North and South – to come together and discuss issues of common interest and to explore ways of co-operating closely together. A part of the broader peace dynamic that was gathering momentum on the island of Ireland at the time, it has always been rooted in the deepest commitment to quality teaching and learning for all.

The SCoTENS Seed Funding Programme promotes and funds a range of research-based initiatives with a view to establishing sustainable North-South partnerships and projects. Since 2003, 114 projects have been supported. The research by Austin, Roulston and colleagues has the accolade of being the first to win the Inaugural John Coolahan award as being most in line with the values and ideals of SCoTENS.