The Role of ICT in Education – Romanian Experience

Abstract

The rapid evolution of ICT in recent years has an important impact on the whole society, and also on the education system. The current article aims to look to the current state of integration of ICT in the school education in Romania in order to determine its role in educational activities. The research was conducted on a sample of 538 people (school principals, teachers and students) selected from four schools in Ilfov county, Romania, two urban and two rural. The methods and data collection tools were: survey-based questionnaire, interview and analysis of documents. The results of this research provides insights into the opinions of teachers and students regarding the use of new technologies in education, the extent to which the new technologies are used in the education process, the training of teachers and students in the use of multimedia, the modalities of integration of new technologies in teaching, the degree to which teachers and students use online sources of information and educational software. The conclusion is that although the use of new technologies in teaching is beneficial for both students and teachers there is no relation between 1) the level of how much IT equipment exists in schools (in Romania this level varies significantly between schools) associated with the level of the training of teachers in informatics (not every school in Romania has well trained teachers) and 2) the willingness of students to use new technologies in their learning activity.

Keywords: ICTEducationICT Skills

Introduction

The rapid evolution of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in the last two decades

is reflected in the whole society, including the pre-university educational system in Romania. The most important changes are determined by the rapid evolution of technology in the world and in Romania. For

the new education of 21 centuries, ICT is one necessary component. It is good this education to be

reconsidered in relation to: 1) the new technical possibilities and 2) the requirements of the companies

(that may use this technology). The main challenge of ICT in schools in Romania is to create an

environment for learning in which those technologies to play a crucial role in the transition from a

classical learning environment towards a student-centered environment.

Romanian school reflects the society in which it operates. The current student is a future citizen. In

this context, it is important that school next to the academic, moral and civic skills helps children to

acquire ICT skills. The ICT equipment and software should be integrated in the teaching of the different

disciplines that will lead to a better teaching and learning. The teacher will be transformed from an

information transmitter into a learning facilitator by reinventing his/her teaching strategies through ICTs.

There are few studies in Romania regarding the use of ICT in education. Therefore, more research

is needed in this respect. The current article aims to look to the current state of integration of ICT in the

school education in Romania in order to determine its role in educational activities. The results of this

research provides insights into the opinions of teachers and students regarding the use of ICT in

education, the extent to which the new technologies are used in the education process, the training of

teachers and students in the use of multimedia, the modalities of integration of new technologies in

teaching, the degree to which teachers and students use online sources of information and educational

software.

Paper Theoretical Foundation and Related Literature

ICT in Education - ICT can motivate children to learn and make the connection between school

education and practices. It is a factor that can lead to a changed and better education. It can enrich,

accelerate the acquisition of skills (Yusuf, 2005).

According to Stevenson (Stevenson, 2008) there are at least four metaphors attributed to ICT: a)

resource for teachers and students in teaching and learning process; b) tutor - ICT is designed to meet the

learning needs of students; c) environment - a small universe where students and teachers can explore the

information; d) tool - which is used to perform a certain learning task.

The teachers should be well prepared to integrate ICT in educational process. It is well known that

teachers' attitudes and use of ICT in teaching and digital skills influences significantly student

achievement. To achieve successful integration into the educational process there are at least two

solutions, namely: a) postgraduate courses for teachers, and b) short in service courses focused on specific

integrated uses on ICT.

ICT in Education in - Globally, efforts to integrate ICT in education vary. The degree of

integration is different from North America to South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Australian

Pacific region (Whittier & Lara, 2006). In a study conducted in EU countries in 2012 on the integration of

ICT in schools, it was found that there are between three to seven students per computer (Wastiau et al.,

2013). In the same study (Wastiau et al., 2013), the researchers discovered that in the schools there are

used interactive boards, data projectors, laptops, tablets, and laptops. We have to mention that the

percentages regarding how well are equipped the schools in EU countries are very different. Whether for

countries as Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, France, schools are highly equipped, there are countries such as Romania, which are less than 20% equipped with the new technology in the schools. Globally,

there are many countries where schools are well equipped with ICT equipment, such as US for example

(Mulkeen, 2003). Schools that are highly equipped with ICT tools have a tendency to integrate more ICT

in learning and teaching.

ICT in Education in Romania - If before 1990 we could not any talk about the Internet in

Romania, after this period of isolation, things have changed so much that, after 25 years - more precisely,

at the end of 2015, at a population of 19.861.408, the Internet usage rate was 56.3%. Although the number

of Internet users increases every year, the opportunity to learn ICT remains an elusive target for many

schools in Romania, especially in the rural areas. The positive impact of ICT programs in Romania

depends on the degree to which teachers, students, researchers, and decision makers will collaborate to

implement these technologies in the educational process (Istrate, 2010).

In Romania, as in any European country, the social, political, and economic context influences the

educational process, not only on infrastructure but also in terms of ICT in the education used in schools

both in urban and rural areas. Development and use of ICT in schools is a challenge but also a cultural

phenomenon for the teaching, learning and assessment processes. Thus, the digital competencies are part

of the set of the eight competencies that will lead to useful skills for today pupils and tomorrow citizen,

proposed by the European Community (Otten & Ohana, 2009).

Programs like SEI (The IT-based Educational System) and AeL (Advanced eLearning) are a good

help for teachers in the educational process. A study conducted in 2008 in Romania (Potolea et al., 2008)

regarding the implementation of SEI program showed that new technologies in education are of a great

help both for teachers (96,3%) and students (95,1%). At the same time the use of computers and related

software is more useful for teaching subjects that are not related directly to computers – such as

Geography, History , etc. (in rural areas - 59.1%, in urban area - 62.6%) than for the disciplines related

directly to computers (rural - 23.9%, urban - 39.3%). Results of this study show that 78.7% of teachers

use ICT in lessons at least once a semester - similar rural and urban.

Similar results are shown in another study. Intel Teach study, conducted in 2009 in Romania

(Toma et al., 2009), highlights a number of changes in educational practices in the pre-university

education system of this country in recent years. It notes that over 50% of teachers say that they in

preparing lessons and in the class often use this technology. ICT makes presentations more attractive and

it facilitates the approach of an active, participatory teaching-strategy. A percentage of 70% from the

respondents mention the student active involvement in solving homework of the lessons related to ICT,

and 75% from teachers appreciate that ICT influence their professional development facilitating the

development of the digital competences used in the teaching – learning process (Toma et al., 2009).

Methodology

The research aimed to identify how ICT was used in the pre-university education in Romania for

determining its role in the learning and teaching process. It looked especially to: What is the opinion of

teachers and students on the use of this new technology in education? To which extent the schools are

equipped with this new technology? How ICT can be integrated into teaching? Are Romanian teachers

prepared to use ICT for educational purposes? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this

new technology in education? The study was done in 2016. It used purposive sampling. The research was conducted on a sample

of 538 participants selected from four schools in the county of Ilfov / Romania, two urban (Voluntari,

Schools no. 1 and 2) and two rural (Dascălu and Ştefăneştii de Jos). The sample consisted from 480

students, 54 teachers and 4 head teachers - 51% urban and 49% rural. The methods and data collection

tools used were survey-based questionnaire, interview and analysis of documents.

Results

The use of ICT in education - teachers 'and students' vision - Teachers from our study know

the benefits of the ICT integration in education - 83% are very interested or interested enough in this

field. Meanwhile, it was found that 61% of teachers think that school today is not in agreement with the

society it serves. The main reasons are related to the fact that schools are not sufficiently equipped with

modern technology. At the same time 100% teachers from the schools consider that the use of ICT in

education facilitates the relationship with the new generation of students, as confirmed by the large

number of students (85%) who wish to use the school computer. The results show also that almost half of

the students do not know how to select the information found on the Internet. This result is alarming and

shows that many students do not know how to use Internet.

Not all schools in Romania are equipped with sufficient ICT equipment for educational purposes.

Some rural schools have ICT equipment only in certain places, for example in the computer lab. On the

other hand, urban schools are equipped with computers and projectors in every classroom, which allow a

good use of ICT in the education process. It was also found that secondary-level students are already very

familiar with new technologies. At this level, less than half of the teachers (43 %) are willing to use ICT

in the classroom. At the primary school level, teachers have different attitude, 95 % of them using ICT in

education, especially in urban schools.

Figure 1: Figure 1. The practice of using ICT in the classroom
Figure 1. The practice of using ICT in the classroom
See Full Size >

Not all schools in Romania are equipped with (sufficient) ICT equipment for educational

purposes. Some rural schools have ICT equipment only in certain places, for example in the computer

lab. On the other hand, urban schools are equipped with computers and projectors in every classroom,

which allow a good use of ICT in the education process. It was also found that secondary-level students

are already very familiar with new technologies. At this level less than half of the teachers (43 %) are

willing to use ICT in the classroom. At the primary school level, teachers have different attitude, 95 % of

them using ICT in education, especially in urban schools.

Usage of ICT - The equipment that is used the most by teachers is: computer, laptop and

projector. Regarding ICT software, the first is PowerPoint followed by Internet. Educational software’s is

not in the top of the list. Both teachers and students showed preferences for the usage of information

resources in teaching and learning. Thus, in the first places the following are listed: Facebook, YouTube,

Google and didactic.ro. Another aspect of this research was investigating the extent to which teachers use

educational software. Although study shows that there are enough resources in urban schools, only 12%

of teachers reported using educational software.

Figure 2: Figure 2. Using New Technology
Figure 2. Using New Technology
See Full Size >

Advantages and disadvantages of using ICT in education Following responses from interviews,

the advantages / disadvantages of using ICT in education are outlined below. Among the advantages

mentioned we highlight a few: strengthen students' motivation in learning because the computer provides

learning through play - learning new things without the student to make a special effort and without

getting bored or distracted easily; ICT facilitates the understanding of difficult concepts because the use

of ICT can provide visual aids and support auditory learning, and it can model and simulate phenomena

that cannot be observed in reality; ensure active participation of students in learning; supports students in

enhancing their knowledge and practice their skills; offers the possibility of testing the level of

knowledge reached by a student - the test results are provided in seconds and usually they are

accompanied by recommendations on how a child can improve performance; supports students with

special educational needs by adapting learning activities; access to information is much faster; allow

differential treatment of students and it offers respect for their own learning pace; curbs absenteeism by

rapid parents information through the online catalog; offers attractive activities for pupils; enable

collaboration between schools, at home and abroad through social networks; it offers possibilities for

promoting the image of the school.

On the other hand, excessive use of technology in education can have a number of disadvantages

such as: the trend of the students to call the computer for any activity and retrieve information from

Internet, without them passing through the filter of their own thinking can lead to passivity in thinking, superficiality, the temptation to copy-paste; decreased interest in reading books; Excessive computer use

both at school and at home can lead to addiction; human relations are affected, students may come to

prefer communicating in the virtual environment to the detriment of face to face communication; surfing

the Internet without adult supervision or guidance can be dangerous; not all information published on the

internet is true and this can lead to misinformation; the long time spent at the computer, to the detriment

of play and movement activities can lead to health problems; ICT cannot solve the socio-emotional needs

of students.

Level of teacher training in using ICT - Research shows that 95% of teachers attended at least

an introductory course in ICT and 75% of them consider that such a training is useful. Half of the

teachers, especially those falling after the age of 35, believes that students know more about using ICT

than them and this can be considered one of the reasons why teachers do not feel comfortable with the

usage of ICT in their classroom.

How to integrate the new technologies in school - The majority of the teachers consider that

modern media can be integrated in all disciplines and in any type of lesson (teaching, review or

assessment). ICT is often used in disciplines such as language, geography, physics and primary

education. Whether or not teachers use technology in the classroom, surely students will use computers

and Internet at home for homework - 80% of them confirming this.

From the qualitative study it can be concluded that although the use of new technologies in

teaching is beneficial for both students and teachers there is no relation between 1) the level of how much

IT equipment exists in schools (in Romania this level varies significantly between schools) associated

with the level of the training of teachers in informatics (not every school in Romania has well trained

teachers) and 2) the willingness of students to use new technologies in their learning activity.

Discussions

In the last decade, the interest of teachers in the Romanian schools to integrate new technologies in

education increased. It was found that modern ICT tools significantly enhance the attractiveness of the

educational process. In Romania, ICT in primary education is more used than in secondary education. In

Romania, recently digital textbooks at primary level1 were introduced, this being a reason to use ICT at

primary level. At middle school level, teachers from the schools participating in our study are using ICT

in disciplines such as Foreign Languages, Geography, and less in mathematics and Romanian Language.

Those data correspond to those observed in the 2009 - study EduTic in which ICT usage in Foreign

Languages and Geography was rated at more than 50% (Făt & Labăr, 2009). On the other hand, it

contrasts with some studies from other countries (Li et al., 2013) where teachers used successfully

mathematical games in math.

The level of ICT equipment in school is slightly different from urban to rural. Although Internet

connection exists in all schools, not all rural halls are equipped with video projectors that facilitate the use

of ICT in the educational process. The levels of the 1) teacher motivation and 2) teacher skills of ICT in

rural and urban areas are not significantly different. The difference is given by their practice in using ICT

1 http://www.elearning.ro/etichete/manuale-digitale

in teaching. This conclusion is similar to the one drown by an US study on the use of ICT in schools in

rural and urban environments (Goh & Kale, 2016).

The level of training of teachers in ICT is average. Students often have superior skills in this area.

Advantages of modern integration are numerous, but disadvantages cannot be neglected. School libraries

have basic educational software, sometimes being acquired from teacher contributions. Integration of ICT

resources in education is beneficial and leads to an increase in school performances, provided that

students and teachers have sufficient ICT knowledge. However, as a general conclusion, it can be said

that schools do not fructifies all the advantages of using ICT. This conclusion is similar to a study

conducted in Finland (Niemi, 2003).

Conclusions

The use of ICT in education brings substantial benefits for the Romanian education system.

However, the present study shows that there are factors that hinder this as: a) endowment of schools due

to lack of financial funds or managers uninterested in this field; b) insufficient training of teachers in the

use of ICT in the classroom; c) reluctance by teachers in using ICT in education d) lack of people in

schools that can solve technical problems.

There is a limitation of the possibilities for using ICT that can be bypassed only by maintaining an

important role for the teacher in 1) the acquisition, processing and use of data, and 2) in building adequate

practical skills. Training based on student-computer interaction (man-machine) requires a redefinition of

the teacher's role and his/her proper preparation for this.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.122

Online ISSN

2357-1330