Factors impacting the integration of one-to-one computing initiative into learning and teaching in Azerbaijan
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During recent decades the educational community around the world has witnessed an increasing interest in programmes aiming at providing teachers as well as learners of all ages with direct access to personal computing devices and the vast amount of information such provision enables. These types of programmes are known as “one-to- one computing”, a term that indicates a very widespread distribution of computers in educational settings. Research into such patterns of provision has accordingly become a priority. Understandably, the realities of one-to-one programme implementation vary considerably across the nations, since cultural setting, educational system, customs of technology use and teachers’ experiences are all significant aspects that influence the process. However, there can be certain commonalities across all these aspects in countries whose educational systems have a largely shared history, as is the case in the former Soviet Union states. Azerbaijan’s experience in the field, as one of the countries with a post-soviet educational system going through curriculum reforms, was very attractive for a comprehensive study with the primary focus on identifying the factors influencing the infusion of one-to-one computing into learning and teaching. The research question developed for this study was: “What factors influence the integration of one-to-one computing into teaching and learning?” Qualitative research methods were used to gather data at three purposively selected schools, two in the capital city of Baku and one in a provincial town. The research data were collected by conducting classroom observations, interviews and focus group discussions with main stakeholders of the programme allowing for investigation of students’, teachers’ and parents’ experiences throughout the implementation process. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach the gathered data were analyzed in two major stages: the first one employed the ‘helicopter view’ approach to attain a preliminary picture, followed by the process of coding, memo-writing and analysis. The second stage of the analysis resulted in a thematic summary into teacher, student and classroom-dynamics-related categories. The findings revealed that the students were the most enthusiastic about the changes brought to the learning process with the introduction of the lightweight, small and inexpensive devices, commonly known as netbooks. The students improved their technological skills and knowledge and applied these skills in acquiring domain knowledge. By providing students with netbooks, the one-to-one programme introduced anytime, anywhere, and individualized learning opportunities. The study also revealed that the introduction of netbooks was leading to students developing collaborative learning skills. In addition, the study found that most of the teachers were developing new teaching methods to continue the programme implementation. They invested extra time and worked hard, notwithstanding the lack of guidelines both on the integration of technology with pedagogy and on meeting newly-set National Curriculum standards. Some teachers overcame the technological challenges that arose along the way eagerly, while others used them as an excuse to discontinue the programme implementation. The parents’ opinions varied considerably, some of them supported the innovation, while others considered the frequent usage of technology excessive, unnecessary and potentially damaging to their children’s health. The latter group of parents expected their children to be taught similarly to them, with a primary focus on the development of handwriting and speaking skills as well as the habits of reading printed books. The research has identified eight major factors influencing the integration of one-to-one computing into teaching and learning: embedding ICT in the curriculum, fostering of exploratory learning, student satisfaction, new learning practices, professional development, school leadership support, teacher beliefs and parental support. Most importantly, the findings have revealed the importance of addressing teacher professional development in terms of integrating technology with pedagogy and meeting curriculum standards through technology-infused teaching methods. These factors indicate the improvements needed for successful programme implementation. It is hoped that the results can be adopted by educational leaders to inform their decisions on one-to-one programmes, thereby contributing to successful integration.