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Internet and teacher trainers in Europe
by Mr Harry Svensson
Since Internet will probaby play an important role in the further process of "sharing and creating knowledge on a European level" an inquiry was made into the access to, and use of Internet among the participants of the workshop by Harry Svensson, staff member of the Tomteboda Resource Centre (TRC) in Sweden (email@example.com).
Internet and Teacher Trainers in Europe:
A survey of access to Internet and desire for ICEVI actions
A questionnaire was distributed at a European workshop on training of teachers of the visually impaired. The purpose of the survey was to find out how widely spread the use of Internet is, if there is a need for an ICEVI Europe Website, and if it is possible to replace printed information with electronic publishing. The questionnaire was answered by 80 percent of the participants in the workshop.
Almost 80 percent have access to E-mail and Internet at work and 42 percent uses it daily or weekly. A smaller group (26 percent) also subscribes to one or several mailing lists. The ICEVI information presently available on Internet has been seen by less than 1/3 of those answering the questionnaire. This shows the importance of marketing a Website to make it known among the intended target group.
More than 90 percent want an ICEVI Europe Website. The majority of these want a site with a general content and not only dedicated to teacher training only. Training of teachers of the visually impaired is, however, the most wanted content area. Within this area presentation of teacher training programmes in Europe is an information area in great demand. The site shall be open (71.1 percent agree) and published in English (55.6 percent agree).
As yet, a Website will not reduce the need for proceedings, newsletters and journals in print. One out of four persons at the most are ready to accept Internet publishing.
A questionnaire was given to all participants in the Second European Workshop on Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Bratislava in September 1999.
The purpose of the questionnaire was threefold:
When interpreting results of a questionnaire you should never forget the importance of WHO, HOW and WHEN.
WHO - This questionnaire was answered by persons involved in one way or another in training of teachers of the visually impaired. Their working situation and their preferences may be different from the larger community of ICEVI members in Europe working in special schools or mainstream education as teachers.
HOW - In order to make it easy for the respondents as well as for the data processing a highly structured questionnaire with response alternatives was used. Such a design has several restrictions as it directs the respondent in a certain direction and gives few opportunities for "independent thinking".
WHEN - the questionnaire was distributed at the beginning of a conference at which the use of Internet and flexible learning was not only the theme for one workshop but also formed a topic for discussion during the last two days. This may have had a certain impact on the participants and their answers to the questions. However, it was not possible to see which forms were handed in early so that they could be compared to the forms returned later.
To summarise the questionnaire - almost 90 percent of the participants have access to the modern communication technology at work, at home or at both places. More than 90 percent of the participants also want an ICEVI Europe Website but the time is not ready to stop producing printed conference reports and newsletters.
45 Questionnaires were returned. As the list of participants includes 56 names (except for the representatives of the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education) it means that 80 percent of the participants have answered the questionnaire. This must be considered very good. Furthermore, the number of answers on individual questions is very high.
Access to E-mail and Internet
Almost 80 percent of the participants have access to E-mail and Internet at work. The access rate is even higher if you consider those who have access to a computer at home. Those who have no access to IT are not living in a specific region but are spread all over Europe.
|Internet / WEB|
This questionnaire does not answer the question whether the respondent has immediate access to a personal computer at work, i.e. in the own office room, which is of importance for an effective use of at least E-mail.
The Internet environment
39 Of the 45 respondents answer they are working for an organisation or university that has a Website, and 23 say they have information about teacher training on the site. As there are several participants coming from the same organisation/university the actual number of sites is about 25 percent lower.
How often Internet is used
More than 40 percent are using Internet daily or weekly to search for professional information.
|A few times a year||12||26.7|
Subscription to a discussion group or mailing list is also a good indicator of how Internet is used.
The results show that approximately one out of four is using discussion groups/mailing lists as a source of information. If you are using this kind of information you are likely to be a subscriber to several lists.
The information shows that those who have access to Internet at both places (home and work) are keener to use it daily than others are. Subscription to mailing lists, on the other hand, does not depend on the location of the computer.
Not surprisingly, those who have access to World Wide Web both at home and at work are those who use the WEB daily, while subscription to mailing lists seems to be less dependent on where the computer is located.
Use of ICEVI information on Internet
On the site of Overbrook School for the Blind (Philadelphia, USA) there is an ICEVI section containing general information about the organisation as well as The Educator, ICEVI's official magazine, the March 1999 issue of the ICEVI European Newsletter, and most of the papers from the 10th ICEVI World Congress held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1997. (www.obs.org/icevi.htm)
13 (28.9 percent) Of the 45 respondents have visited the ICEVI Website. Of these 13 persons all but one thought the site was useful (9 persons) or very useful (3 persons). The remarks of the person saying that the site is "not so useful" refer to update of information, information from the executive committee and layout.
Attached to a conference calendar on a Swedish site called Macula Lutea there is a presentation of the next ICEVI European Conference in Cracow, Poland, in July 2000. Only 5 persons (11.1 percent) have visited this site. (home.swipnet.se/macula-lutea/icevi.htm)
The results of these two questions show how important it is to "market" a Website to make people aware of its existence as well as having a site hidden behind another name.
The need for an ICEVI Website
There is an overwhelming support for an ICEVI Europe Website - 42 persons (93.3 percent) an-swer "Yes".
With regard to the question if this site should be a general Website covering all the areas ICEVI Europe is in-volved in or a site emphasising teacher training, two out of three are in favour of the first alternative.
What should the site contain?
Those in favour of a general Website covering all the areas in which ICEVI Europe is involved were asked to rank the five most important areas the site should contain (weighted relative rank score in brackets):
Teacher training, research & development, and information & communication technology are the three most wanted areas among those who prefer a general ICEVI Website.
Those who prefer a Website with emphasise on teacher training have made a similar ranking of the four most important areas (weighted relative rank score in brackets):
Presentation of teacher training programs is the most wanted information followed by literature reviews and information of literature used in teacher training around Europe.
As information about teacher training is the most wanted among the 30 who prefer a general Website, and is chosen as the most urgent by another 13 it is worth looking at the preferred content in this larger group.
The main difference between those in favour of a teacher training Website and the total group is that the latter gives research & development projects a higher priority.
Open or closed Website
Asked if the Website should be closed for outsiders, i.e. people not involved in teacher training, more than 70 percents of the respondents answer "No".
|Yes, whole site||5||11.1|
|Yes, part of the site||2||4.4|
Asked if a Website published only in English will reduce its usefulness, slightly more than half of the respondents say "No". The most frequent other languages mentioned are French, Spanish and Russian.
To the question "Are you willing to take responsibility for a specific section" 12 persons answer Yes. Among the 29 saying no, there are a few who have added "not now but perhaps later".
ICEVI has three major types of publications; conference proceedings, regional newsletters (e.g. the European Newsletter) and a journal called The Educator.
When asked if publishing the proceedings from the Bratislava workshops on Internet will be enough, the great majority says no.
More than 90 percent of the participants in the Bratislava workshop receive the European Newsletter but only 33 percent receive The Educator.
When asked if the printed version of the European Newsletter and The Educator could be replaced by an Internet version the answers are quite similar - more than half of the respondents say No. ("Both" in the table below means that a printed as well as an Internet version is wanted).
The access to E-mail and Internet among teacher trainers in Europe is high, but not complete. Those who today do not have access to E-mail or Internet at all or only at home are spread all over Europe, i.e. no single region can be regarded as being at a disadvantage. Unfortunately this survey cannot answer the question how close those who have access to Internet at work are to the information highway, i.e. if there is a personal computer in the office, if you have to share it with others or if the computer is placed in another part of the institution. We know from research that physical nearness is an important factor for frequent and efficient use of information technology.
Although access and nearness are important factors they do not automatically imply a high degree of technology use. About 40 percent can be regarded as frequent users, i.e. they use Internet daily or weekly to search for information they need for their profession as teacher trainers. However, there are also about 25 percent who are using Internet only a few times a year. The answers to the two questions about the European Newsletter and The Educator show that we have not yet reached a situation where digital information can replace the printed information. Less than 30 percent are in favour of such a shift while the majority still prefers the printed word.
The reluctance to switch over to digital information does not hamper the enthusiasm for an ICEVI Europe Website - more than 90 percent of the respondents say there is a need for such a site. A good indicator of the interest in an ICEVI Website is also that 1 out of 4 is prepared to get involved in the work with the site.
The majority (2 of 3 persons) prefers a general Website containing information on all the areas ICEVI Europe is involved in. The three most wanted areas of information are teacher training, research & development and information & communication technology. Important content areas in a teacher training section are presentation of teacher training programmes in Europe, review of and information about literature available. The majority also thinks the site should be open to everybody.
Slightly more than half of the respondents think a site in English will be enough. This opinion is especially wide-spread among the participants coming from the smaller European countries who cannot communicate with the rest of Europe in their mother tongue.
The survey also shows the importance of marketing regardless of the fact whether it is a Website or a journal. The ICEVI site at Overbrook has been visited by less than a third of the participants. The fact that the site is not known and visited by many more may be a result of lack of marketing. The importance of marketing or information can even better be observed in the case of my own site Macula Lutea. Only 5 persons knew that the site contains information about the next ICEVI European Conference in 2000. After the site was mentioned in the autumn issues of the European Newsletter the number of visitors increased dramatically.
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