2013. Vol.4, No.9, 22-28
Published Online Septe mber 201 3 in SciRes (http ://www.scirp.org /journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2013.49B006
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Evaluating Cultural and Technical Obstacles in School-Based ICT
Programs: An Analysis of Two Case Studies
Department of Communications, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
Received June 2013
The emergence of a knowledge-based economy has been identified as a central trend in modern econo-
mies as a result of the increasingly important role of information technology and learning in economic
performance. In recognition of this most governments throughout the developed world have responded
with a series of policy initiatives since the late 1990’s to either introduce or significantly increase infor-
mation technology provision in schools to prepare students for life in the twenty first century. Ireland,
with its growing reliance on the knowledge economy sector for employment and continued economic
prosperity, developed its own policy initiative for computerizing the nations’ schools known as “Schools
IT 2000: A Policy Framework for the New Millennium”. It was an ambitious programme with high ex-
pectations for the integration of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in education. This
paper examines two longitudinal educational ICT projects in Ireland in the first decade of the new millen-
nium to query how far schools have travelled along the information superhighway and to ponder how well
the catalytic capabilities of ICT have become embedded in the realities of classroom life and teachers pe-
dagogic practices, with attendant implications for Ireland’s economic development.
Keywords: Knowledge Economy; ICT Infrastructure; ICT Integration; Change in Schools; Thin Clients
During the 1980’s the term “Information Society” replaced
the long established and familiar term “industrial society” as the
more common descriptor of the Age. Popularised by theorists
such as Daniel Bell (1974), Peter Drucker (1969) and Alvin
Toffler (1980), the information society thesis argued that new
technology, i.e. the computer, was the key driver behind the
shift from an industrial to an information society which in many
ways paralleled the change from an a gricultural to an industrial
society during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe
and North America. It was envisaged that this paradigm shift
from an industrial to an information society would have lasting
and far reaching implications for all sectors of society in par-
ticular economic activity and the global economy.
These early information society theorists, foresaw that new
information technologies would give rise to a new kind of
economy, t he knowledge economy, in which a growing number
of people would be involved in an unprecedented variety of in-
formation related to jobs and services. The emergence of a
knowledge-based economy has been identified as a central
trend in modern economies, in recognition of the increasingly
important role of information, technology and learning in eco-
nomic performance (OECD 1996, cited in Flew, 2002). The com-
plexity and increasing sophistication of this new knowledge
economy has altered not only the type of work which people
are engaged in but the means and methods by which work is
achieved. It has also led to a rethinking of the nature of knowl-
edge where “know-how” and “know-where” has replaced “know
that” (Tuomi, 2005) as a core skill. This has also been accom-
panied by a growing recognition of the need for long term in-
vestment in people who lie at the heart of the knowledge
economy where intangibles such as ideas, creativity and new
ways of doing things, as opposed to the production of material
goods (Romer, 1995), has taken centre stage.
This rethinking of the nature of knowledge and the role of
“people talent”, facilitated by new information and communi-
cation technologies, as a key driver of the global knowledge
economy, has profound implications for educational institutions
across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. In recogni-
tion of this most governments throughout the developed world
responded with a series of policy initiatives throughout the
1990’s to either introduce or significantly increase information
technology provision in schools to prepare students for life in
the twenty first century. Ireland, with its growing reliance on
the knowledge economy sector for employment and continued
economic prosperity, developed its own policy initiative for
computerising the nations’ schools. Launched in 1997 “Schools
IT 2000: A Policy Framework for the New Millennium”, was
an ambitious programme with high expectations for the integra-
tion of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in
education. The rhetoric of the knowledge economy imperative
is clearly discernible on the opening page of this policy docu-
ment which states that “the need to integrate technology into
teaching and learning right across the curriculum is a major
challenge which must be met in the interests of Ireland’s future
economic wellbeing”. This theme is further developed by the
catalytic rationale for increased ICT deployment in schools
which saw ICT integration as a way of reducing the traditional
emphasis on the memorising of facts, as information handling
and problem solving skills became more central to the learning
process. It was also envisaged that increased use of ICT would
lead to more collaborative work environments in schools for
students and teachers alike.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
With the passage of time it is perhaps timely to pause and re-
flect on what has been achieved in terms of ICT integration in
schools since the launch of “Schools IT 2000”; to query how
far schools have travelled along the information superhighway
and to ponder how well the catalytic capabilities of ICT have
become embedded in the realities of classroom life and teachers
pedagogic practices. The remainder of this paper will explore
some of these issues through an examination of two key school
based technology projects which the author has been involved
in evaluating and researching over a number of years, namely
The Wired for Learning Project which lasted for four years
from the early to mid 2000’s and The Hermes Project which
commenced in the mid 2000’s and ran for five years. The lon-
gitudinal nature of these projects which has enabled the re-
searcher to engage with teachers and schools over a prolonged
period has yielded some valuable and interesting insights into
the process of ICT integration and the many challenges faced
by schools at the infrastructural, organisational culture and
change management levels when it comes to ICT deployment.
More often than not it is these “soft” issues and not just the
“hard” technology issues themselves which act as barriers in
implementing technology based initiatives in schools. Unfortu-
nately it is the “soft” issues, so frequently ignored by policy
makers and techno-enthusiasts alike, which are often the hard-
est nuts to crack.
Research and Da t a Collection
The pre-dominant research orientation and background train-
ing of the author is as a qualitative researcher. Because both the
topic and the research paradigm influence the design of any
research study, the research methodology employed is funda-
mentally qualitative in nature, although a significant amount of
quantitative data has also been gathered as part of the Hermes
Project research process.
One of the hallmarks of qualitative research is that it is con-
ducted in natural settings. The natural setting is the place where
the researcher is most likely to discover, or uncover, what is to
be known about the phenomenon of interest (Maykut & More-
house, 1994). Through prolonged engagement in the field of
study, the researcher comes to understand the experience of
people in context. Driven by its philosophical underpinning,
phenomenology, qualitative research attempts to get to the truth
of matters by describing phenomena as it manifests itself to the
consciousness of the experiencer. Researchers using the pheno-
menological approach are concerned about how individuals and
groups perceive their worlds (Stevens et al., 1993) and there-
fore a key research tool is the in-depth ethnographic interview
which enables the researcher to “focus on exploring how hu-
man beings make sense of experience and transform experience
into consciousness, both individually and as shared meaning”
(Patton, 2002: p. 27).
As formulated by Spradley (1979) the ethnographic inter-
view is a way of getting people to talk about what they know, a
way of getting inside people’s heads, so that we can “ente r into
the other person’s perspective” (Patton, ibid.: p. 341). It is also
a means through which we can come to grasp what Schein
(1992) calls those “basic assumptions”, which guide peoples’
culturally determined thoughts and actions. In all the author has
conducted interviews with almost 140 mainstream teachers,
ICT Co-ordinators and School Principals across both the pri-
mary and second level sectors in both the WFL and Hermes
The ethnographic interview was by no means the only re-
search gathering instrument deployed in these studies. Other
“human to human” and “artifactual” (Lincoln, 1992) data gath-
ering tools were also used such as observation studies, exami-
nation of project documentation material, surveys, focus groups
and researcher attendance at project strategy meetings and staff
ICT training courses. In this way the interview data has been
“triangulated” (Cohen & Mani on, 2000) to ensure the “authen-
ticity ” (sic. reliability), “trustworthiness” (sic. validity) and ro-
bustness of the research studies (Erlanderson et al., 1993; Lin-
coln & Guba, 1985).
In each study the author has focussed the bulk of the research
attention on teachers and how they react to and engage with
innovative technology initiatives through their adoption, adap-
tation, use and non-use of new technological tools to support
their professional practices and pedagogy. Traditionally, as
Knupfer (1993) reminds us, proponents of instructional com-
puting have given “short thrift to the role of teachers” (p. 173),
focussing their attention primarily on student benefits, while
paying scant attention to the teacher’s role in the acceptance,
implementation and outcome of educational computing. This is
despite compelling evidence of the centrality of teachers in the
implementation of educational innovation. Furthermore as far
back as 1995 the American Office or Technology (OTA, 1995)
called for a change of focus in the research agenda for educa-
tional technology so that research attention is directed as the
“chief agents of change”, the teachers, and how they view the
technology and the learner. It is this spirit of enquiry which
informs the author’s research agenda and the remainder of this
paper will now focus on some of the key issues which have
emerged from the author’s empirically based studies on the
deployment of technology innovations in schools participating
in both the WFL and Hermes projects in Ireland.
The Wired for Learning Project
The Wired for Learning Project (WFL) began as part of the
SIP (Schools Integration Project) strand of ‘Schools IT 2000’.
This partnership project between IBM and the Department of
Education and Science (DES) initially comprised five pilot
schools, three primary and two post primary [sic secondary]
schools in the cities of Dublin and Cork. A second phase of the
project known as the Dundalk Learning Network (DLN) WFL
Project commenced in March 2000, involving a total of seven-
teen schools. From 1999 to 2003 the author conducted a longi-
tudinal study of the five pilot WFL schools initially as part of a
PhD programme of research (Judge, 2002) and subsequently as
a final programme evaluation on behalf of the National Centre
for Technology in Education (NCTE)/DES and IBM (Judge,
The overarching aim of Wired for Learning was to improve
Ireland’s education system through the use of new technologies.
The project’s name was derived from the Wired for Learning
application itself, a web based communications and collabora-
tion system, developed by IBM as part of its global IBM Rein-
venting Education programme. The aim of this programme was
to promote school reform and improve education achievement
by increasing parental involvement and information flow be-
tween the home, school and community. Made up of a suite of
applications that support communications, collaboration and
learning for the entire community, i.e. teachers, students, par-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
ents and mentors, WFL is one of the earliest examples of a
VLE/LMS (Virtual Learning Environment/Learning Manage-
ment Sy stem) specifically targeted at schools.
While participation in WFL brought many benefits to
schools, which have been documented elsewhere (Judge, 2003,
2004), the project also highlighted a number of more problem-
atic and challenging issues concerning educational technology,
change and the school and teaching culture.
Technology, School Culture and Change
Educational technology and change are intricately linked.
Just as the introduction of new technology has brought about
changes in society and in the workplace, the introduction of
computers to schools is also laden with change implications,
although this relationship is rarely acknowledged. Knupfer
(1993) makes two important points about the relationship be-
tween computers, schools and change. Firstly she argues that
the successful implementation of computers into education re-
quires an understanding of the process of educational change
and that this understanding must precede the actual implemen-
tation of the innovation itself. Secondly the teacher’s role must
be seen as central to any change because successful educational
change depends on what teachers do and think (Sarason, 1982).
Ultimately it is the teacher who must adopt computers and then
adapt them to curriculum goals and classroom needs (Cuban,
1986; Fullan, 1991).
Because the Wired for Learning project was designed to
promote school change using technology as a medium to facili-
tate the change process, both schools and their teachers faced
many challenges as they strove to come to terms with both the
vehicle of change, i.e. the WFL platform and change itself.
While different change writers have proposed different theore-
tical models to explain the change process as it affects schools
and organisations (Hall & Hord, 1987; Herriot & Gross, 1979;
Leavitt, 1965) on e of the most comprehen sive theories of chan ge
as it applies to schools was provided by Fullan (1982) and sub-
sequently refined by him in 1991. Fullan defines change as a
“multi-dimensional” process in which at least three components
are at stake: (1) changes in teaching materials such as the in-
troduction of new curriculum materials or new technologies, (2)
changes in teaching approaches such as new teaching strategies
or activities, and (3) changes in teacher’s beliefs (i.e. what peo-
ple do and think).
For change to be successfully implemented it must be im-
plemented at all three levels and in the process take account of
both the “objective reality of the innovation and the subjective
reality of individuals”. Fullan maintains that many change ef-
forts in schools fail because there is an overemphasis on the
objective realities of the innovation without due acknowledge-
ment of the subjective realities for teachers caught up in the
change process. As a result new programs are frequently intro-
duced and described in terms of program goals and supposed
benefits rather than in terms of how the changes will affect
teachers personally when it comes to their classroom activities
and the amount of extra work that will be required of them
outside of class. In other words “change is not usually intro-
duced in a way which takes into account the subjective reality
of teachers”, (Fullan, 1991: p. 29) resulting in at best, superfi-
cial change, and at worst, no change.
The crucial issue of the time required to do extra work out-
side of class loomed large in the WFL project and was fre-
quently cited by teachers in the course of the research as a rea-
son why they were not engaging with some of WFL’s tools
core tools such as the “Instructional Planner” and “Private Con-
ferencing” on a regular basis:
“Very few of us have put in lesson plans. I don’t think
teachers will be willing to input them into a computer
themselves in their own time. Teachers get into routines
very easily. I don’t think they would be willing to come in
earlier or stay later or work through their lunchtime. I
think the perception is that this is good for the govern-
ment. It’s good for the kids. Why should it be costing
teachers time and effor t?”
“I think time is the big problem People wouldn’t be happy
with having to do lesson plans in the evening time from
2.30 till 5.30.”
The experience of the WFL participants as illustrated through
the above comments indicates the extent to which the subjec-
tive reality of individuals impinges on the implementation of
innovative projects. Furthermore even though the research stu-
dy revealed that teachers were using some of WFL’s other tools
such as Home Page Designer, Team Projects and to a limited
extent, Teacher’s Lounge, to support their teaching, very few
teachers reported that this usage was changing their teaching
style or approach to teaching. This is consistent with Fullan’s
theory of the conception of an innovation “as a set of materials
and resources as the most visible aspect of change, and the
easiest to employ. Changes in beliefs are much more difficult to
achieve because they challenge the core values held by indi-
viduals regarding the purpose of education” (Fullan, 1991: p.
23). We know from cultural theory that beliefs are culturally
conditioned and therefore difficult to change because they are
buried at the level of unstated basic assumptions (Schein, 1992).
Unlocking this bolt is the key to meaningful change and the
most difficult to achieve because it involves some very deep
changes that challenge both the culture of teaching and the
structure of schools.
Nowhere was this more evident than in teachers’ reactions to
the instructional planner application in WFL. By and large, tea-
chers were uncomfortable with the instructional planner which
facilitated the preparation and sharing of structured lesson plans.
A deep analysis of much of the data emanating from discus-
sions around this core WFL application revealed that the in-
structional planner confronted teachers’ professional practices
in terms of how they planned, managed and organised their tea-
ching as well as challenging some deeply held beliefs about the
craft of teaching as an art form rather than a science. Apart
from the time required to produce their lesson plans in electro-
nic format, many teachers had philosophical objections to, and
deep-rooted fears about making lessons and the process of les-
son planning available online. A frequent response was “lesson
plans are such a personal thing, they are unique to each teacher,
so you couldn’t possibly share them with someone else”, or,
“After 20 years of teaching I am not going to change to writing
out lesson plans… I know in my head what I am going to
Issues also emerged in relation to the absence of a culture of
sharing in schools, fear of peer criticism and accountability:
“I’ve heard it said I’m not willing to do that—why should
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
I put hours of work in for it to be shared out. That seems
to be the attitude. I don’t know what it would take to
change that attitude. How do you change the way people
think. A lot of teachers are in the system and teaching a
very long time. Maybe with newer and younger teachers it
Post Primary Teacher
There was a deep suspicion in some quarters that the intro-
duction of WFL was an attempt to bring in greater teacher ac-
countability through the back door. Some teachers were quite
defensive on this issue, arguing that the public examination
system is the norm through which their professional accounta-
bility is maintained, and by which they are judged, and they
wanted to keep it that way. There was a reluctance to accept a
widening of the concept of accountability to include other areas
of their professional life in areas such as lesson planning and
communicating with parents, principals and their peers. As one
“I feel that it is actually in some kind of deep down way a
system of making teachers accountable. It’s a way of get-
ting at teachers. A form of public accountability if you like.
But I think that is coming anyway, whether teachers like it
or not. Things are changing and it’s all about transpa-
rency, openness, accountability and new education acts.
So WFL would fall into all of that.”
Primary School (Vice-Principal)
It has long been acknowledged that teaching can be quite an
isolated profession (Lynch & Lodge, 2002; Maeroff, 1988) and
that the nature of teaching means that teachers do not have the
same opportunities for interacting with their peers as is the
norm in most other adult occupations. Unlike most other or-
ganisations operating within the knowledge economy frame-
work, where teamwork and daily—almost hourly professional
communication mediated by information technology is the
norm, teachers traditionally do not operate in this way. The
predominant organisational form in schools tends to be indi-
vidualistic where teachers work in isolation from their col-
leagues with little opportunity to work together or exchange
ideas on a sustained basis. Consequently when new technolo-
gies, particularly something as ideologically sophisticated as
WFL comes along, which facilitates and almost demands pro-
fessional cooperation, collaboration and communication, it cre-
ates a certain amount of dissonance because it challenges many
deeply held beliefs about what teachers do and how the school
and teaching culture operates. Changing this culture is a long
and complex process which technology alone cannot address.
This largely explains why teachers involved in the WFL project
struggled to identify with the instructional planner from the
outset although all schools tried very hard to get their teachers
to use it, particularly during the project’s initial operation phase.
However it encountered too much opposition from teachers and
consequently by the end of the project it was no longer being
actively used as a vehicle for lesson planning in the WFL pilot
Infrastructural and Technical Co nstraints as
Revealed though the Hermes Project Lens
If Wired for Learning revealed some of the more culturally
embedded and deeply held beliefs about the nature of teaching
and learning, and how these can impede the widespread adop-
tion of ICT in schools, research conducted for the Hermes pro-
ject illustrated some of the more basic infrastructural and tech-
nical issues that have affected ICT usage in many Irish schools.
This section will concentrate on discussing what the early re-
search data from the Hermes project revealed about the state of
computer facilities in Irish schools, almost six years after
“Schools IT 2000” had finished.
The Hermes project invol ved a cluster of nine primary schools
based in North County Dublin who agreed to work together to
trial and test bed thin client technology using a broadband
wireless network. The project was managed by a full time cen-
tral co-ordinator, a seconded teacher who had successfully in-
stalled and managed a single site thin client platform in his own
school from 1999-2001 (which will be referred to from here on
out as the original thin client school). Encouraged by the suc-
cess of this initiative, which brought a robust, reliable infra-
structure to one school in which technical issues were minimal,
many local schools were keen to adopt a similar model and the
schools came together to investigate how this might be achiev-
ed. As a result the Hermes project got underway.
The Hermes project was a combination of two technologies,
made up of (1) thin clients and (2) a broadband wireless net-
work. Thin client technology is basically a network based ser-
ver solution in which Network Computers (NC’s) act as termi-
nals providing access to applications and data held on servers.
Approximately 30 NC’s were installed mainly in computer la-
boratories in each Hermes school, supplemented by at least one
NC installation in every classroom. Using a broadband wireless
connection to facilitate connectivity all the machines across all
participating schools were remotely attached to a server farm
based in the central co-ordinator’s school. This sever farm host-
ed all core system resources for the project including educatio-
nal software, broadband Internet access, de s ktop applications
and administrative resources. The major advantage of this sys-
tem was that it removed all major housekeeping and adminis-
trative tasks from the local schools, thereby freeing up ICT co-
ordinators from the drudgery of technical support to concentrate
their efforts on developing and encouraging ICT pedagogy in
their respective schools.
Immediately prior to the installation of the thin client net-
work in schools a baseline data survey was administered to the
participating schools. The survey was designed to capture, among
other things, core data about the existing ICT infrastructure and
ICT integration levels in schools prior to Hermes’ commence-
ment. Of the 120 questionnaires delivered to teachers, ICT co-
ordinators and Principals, 119 questionnaires were returned, re-
presenting an almost 100% response rate. Furthermore during
the project’s first year of implementation a number of in-depth
interviews were conducted with a representative sample of tea-
chers, and each of the nine ICT Co-ordinators and school Prin-
cipals (n = 60). The survey data was analysed using SPSS while
all interviews were transcribed in full and t he matically analy sed.
Both the qualitative and quantitative data provide some inter-
esting insights into infrastructural and technical barriers affect-
ing ICT integration.
Technical Facilities and Support
To benchmark the quality of the schools’ IT infrastructure
prior to the commencement of Hermes the Central Co-ordinator
performed an inventory of each schools computer set-up. This
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
revealed that the computer infrastructure in the majority of
schools was very basic and in some cases, completely inade-
quate. While most schools had a dedicated computer room, six
of the nine schools had an unacceptable student computer ratio
(SCR) of 15 or more with just two schools with an SCR of 5.
Furthermore when teachers were asked to rate the existing IT
set-up on a four part likert scale the only school which did not
give any form of negative rating to its computer facilities was
the original thin client school where the IT set-up as rated by
teachers ranged from excellent or good. The responses from the
remaining eight schools were varied with the majority of staff
in three schools in particular, giving a complete negative rating
to their facilities. Interviews conducted with a representative
sample of teachers within the first year of Hermes’ operational
phase reveal quite clearly how compromised their IT facilities
were, as these comments illustrate:
“We got involved in the project because we have had a
computer room for years but because of a total lack of
technical support it never functioned properly. You’d go
over there with your class and only some computers
would be working or some would crash while you were
there and it was a disaster—a real headache and really
the feeling among the staff was that when you were there
you would waste more time than you’d gain. So when
Hermes came along with the promise of this complete
package—new computers, tech support, training etc. we
were more than willing to embrace it”.
Teacher, School C
“With the old system I must have been called upon twenty
times a day because this machine wouldn’t start, this ma-
chine wouldn’t close, this machine wouldn’t save—oh it
was dreadful. Actually it literally got to the stage where
we just closed down the computer room completely and
said we are not coming up here anymore. So we just clos-
ed it down and said to the staff don’t come up here any-
more it’s pointless. As a result for six months the com-
puter room was closed down until the Hermes system
came along. So this is bliss by comparison”.
Principal, School E
“Oh yes, the Hermes system is a lot more reliable. I fre-
quently remember the old computers either the mouse or
just something would be wrong or the machines would
just freeze and then for a long time while it looked great
because we had plenty of computers most were broken so
we couldn’t use them and those that were working weren’t
connected to the printer and the children couldn’t print
off stuff which was frustrating for them. So it’s a huge
Teacher, School B
While the survey data revealed that 55% of teachers used the
computer room once a week it also revealed that 40% of teach-
ers used it in a more ad-hoc manner, if at all. This high level of
ad-hoc usage was largely attributable to the poor state of com-
puter facilities as revealed though the interview data as well as
inadequate levels of technical support. Prior to Hermes the pro-
vision of technical support was a major headache for most
schools as ICT co-ordinators were also full time class teachers
which made it very difficult for them to provide technical sup-
port in an efficient and timely manner. For teachers this acted
as a deterrent in terms of using the school computer room as
they felt they had no immediate help available to them if things
went wrong. For ICT co-ordinators it was a source of frustra-
tion as most of them felt that ‘keeping things running smoothly
was a job that could never be done properly’:
“Before Hermes the idea of a computer room didn’t ap-
peal to me at all and even though I was timetabled to
come down I never did because there was no backup if
something went wrong, so there was no way I’d go down.
But this year with the new system I said I’ll give it a go
and I’ve been delighted with it, absolutely delighted with
it. So where there’s a back-up, a sever farm thing, I think
it’s fantastic, you can’t do anything wrong”.
Teacher 4, School E
“There used to be a huge amount of work fixing things
which meant staying late most evenings trying to fix ma-
chines and sort out problems but since Hermes that’s all
stopped. It’s great that it has taken the technical end of
things away from us because now if there is a problem
you can just contact the central co-ordinator and he sorts
it out as usually it’s a server issue which means the prob-
lem lies elsewhere rather than in the school, which is
ICT Co-ordinator, School F
Given the server centric nature of the Hermes thin client
system which meant that all system resources and applica-
tions were installed on the server farm located in the central
hub school, all system administration and housekeeping
tasks were performed centrally rather than locally. This was
a huge change for most schools as effectively it removed re-
sponsibility for day to day running of school networks away
from individual schools, a development which was welcom-
ed wholeheartedly by everyone. This change was best sum-
med up by one teacher who said:
“Before Hermes if somethi ng went wrong, everything col-
lapsed and we had to wait until we could get somebody to
come along and look at the system and fix it and that
could take a week, even two weeks. Nowadays we tend to
make a phone call and things are fixed straight away and
that has made a huge difference, it has made using the
computer room so much easier.”
Teacher 8, School H
Given the poor state of schools computer facilities and the
absence of adequate technical support and backup, it is hardly
surprising that teachers gave themselves very low scores on
ICT integration with the majority (51%) indicating that they did
not integrate technology well into their teaching and a further
35% indicating that they integrated ICT only “fairly well”.
The Hermes project provides an interesting insight into the
state of ICT provision in Irish schools. From the research data it
can be seen that most of the participating schools were strug-
gling with many basic and fundamental issues in relation to
ICT infrastructure which in many ways illustrates much of what
is currently amiss with IT provision in Irish schools and the
attendant implications for ICT integration.
When these findings are combined with those from the WFL
project it is easy to see how both at a systemic and more prac-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tical level there are a number of barriers operating on both the
technical and organisational culture fronts, which have slowed
down the assimilation of ICT into the daily routines and norms
of the teaching day thereby thwarting the ambitions of “Schools
IT 2000”. Ad-hoc exposure to ICT—maybe for one hour a week
if you are one of the lucky students attending a school which
has a fully working and well maintained computer facility, and
where the school culture is supportive of ICT, is hardly the
ideal preparation for life in an increasingly “global, networked
and informational” (Castells, 1996) knowledge society.
While not intended as a representative study nonetheless the
Hermes schools illustrate the infrastructural and technical bar-
riers to ICT integration which many Irish schools have to strug-
gle with on a daily basis. As discussed earlier only one school
(the original thin client school) had a well run, well managed
and well supported infrastructure in place prior to the project’s
commencement. Five schools had at best mediocre facilities
which acted as a constraint on ICT usage, while in three schools
facilities were very poor resulting in a somewhat problematic
and patchy engagement with ICT. I think anyone familiar with
how ICT in Irish schools has evolved since ‘Schools IT 2000’
would recognise this scenario as pretty typical. The question
therefore that must be asked is why? Why does the ICT land-
scape in Irish Schools resemble a patch work quilt?
The answer in many ways is quite simple—Ireland does not
have a coherent policy in relation to ICT in schools. Since the
launch of “Schools IT 2000”, which at the time was recognised
as a fine policy initiative that was leading the way forward in
Europe, Ire land appears to have lost its way. Significant ly since
then only one further ICT policy initiative entitled “A blueprint
for the future of ICT in Irish education” has been initiated and
that was launched way back in 2001. Consequently many coun-
tries such as Britain, Northern Ireland, Finland and even former
Eastern bloc nations such as Estonia have leapfrogged ahead of
Ireland in this critical arena as they continue to develop new
policies in relation to educational ICT every three to four years
to take account of new developments in technology and educa-
tional thinking. Given this scenario it is hardly surprising that
the “OECD Education at a Glance Report” (2006), observed
that a lack of sustained investment in ICT infrastructure has
resulted in Irish schools falling far behind their European peers.
In the globalised knowledge economy of the 21st century this
has to be a cause for concern.
If Ireland as a nation is serious about moving up the food
chain of the knowledge economy, and attracting higher value
added jobs in order to sustain and further develop national
well-being, it cannot allow ICT provision in schools to develop
in the ad-hoc manner as has happened to date. This ad-hoc ap-
proach has resulted in a situation where pupils in some schools
benefit more than others because the school culture is favoura-
bly disposed to the integration of ICT, or a school is lucky
enough to have an innovator on staff who can galvanise support
for ICT development, or happens to be located in a well off
community who can be relied on to fund additional equipment,
technical maintenance and support.
As the second decade of the new millennium reaches its mid-
point, perhaps the time is now right to launch a new and invi-
gorated “Schools IT 2020” which will map out a visionary ICT
Education policy for the next decade in Ireland. Despite the pat-
chy nature of the overall development of ICT in Irish schools to
date, many worthwhile and innovative ICT projects have been
supported by the DES, the NCTE and industry partners such as
Microsoft, IBM, Intel, HP, Citibank and Diageo, among others.
While too numerous to individually mention here, each of the se
projects in their own way has thrown a different light on the
process of ICT integration and what hurdles and obstacles need
to be overcome in order to move the ICT agenda in education
forward. There is an urgent need for joined up thinking, to use
the lessons learned from these projects as the backbone upon
which to build a new, forward l ooking, y et grounded ICT poli-
cy framework. There are many exciting developments and
changes currently underway in the Irish education system as a
result of programmes such as Whole School Development,
(www.spds.ie/) the Schools Leadership Development Pro-
gramme (http://primary.lds21.com/) and the reform of the Ju-
nior Certificate Curriculum. Any new ICT policy framework
will need to be linked to these initiatives so that ICT policy is
seen not as a stand-alone , isolated programme, but rather as
something that is centrally affiliated to the whole process of
transformation and reform in schools over the longer term. Ire-
land’s economic future and well being depend on it.
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