Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]

Flexible outcomes: Educating for the 21st century

Sue Trinidad
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology
    Technology is changing our world. The growing significance of technologies in Australia's economic, business and government community is beginning to impact on how people work and participate in the global economy. Therefore stakeholders have an expectation that tertiary institutions extend their capacity to produce graduates and teachers who are competent in the use of technologies. This paper looks at the development of technology units in a new four year course (one of which was chosen as an APEC case study example) and current research in the quest to produce such skills at the university and school level for students and more importantly, educators. While many students now have a high level of technological literacy as our schools become more technology orientated, many educators are slow to utilise technology in their own teaching. If Australia is indeed to achieve its national action plan for the Information Economy, personal competence and a positive attitude towards using technology are seen as desirable attributes for graduating students and teachers of the 21st century.
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Due to advancements in computer hardware and software and the connectivity of computers educators are now able to use technology to enhance their teaching and learning environment. It is no longer WHETHER we use technology but how WELL we use it in our teaching and learning environment. The National Statement on Technology and the Curriculum Framework (Curriculum Council, 1997) emphasises the development of a range of life skills involving Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Australian students. Educators regard these skills as fundamental to living successfully in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex society. The Western Australian government has spent $20 million connecting every school to the Internet and over the next four years will spend $100 million to increase technology in Western Australian schools. Every school will have funding to establish a ratio of one computer per five secondary school students and one computer per ten primary school students by the year 2002.

The National Standards and Guidelines for Initial Teacher Education chaired by Professor Adey stresses the need for technology skills for all graduating teachers acknowledging the use of computers and technology as instructional tools which can contribute significantly to the quality and effectiveness of most instructional programs (DEETYA, 1997). The needs of beginning teachers incorporating the computer competencies are recognised and addressed through the inception and implementation of a four year teacher education program for all pre-service Early Childhood and Primary teachers. This program commenced at Curtin University's Faculty of Education in 1996. One of the desirable competencies of a student completing this program is that they are "technology literate". This is supported by Curtin University's Information Strategic Plan which states

In preparing its students for life in the Information Age, Curtin as a university aims to prepare students to be computer literate as well as literate and numerate, that is, able to handle current information technology at a level appropriate to their discipline, and be equipped to continue their development with it into the future.

Implications for the Faculty of Education courses

To achieve Curtin University's goal for graduating students and that Faculty of Education students will be the educators of tomorrow's children, strategies have been implemented to ensure that all students obtain a suitable "IT" level. Following the work and publication of the Finn / Mayer report on competency approaches to education and training every student should have the following key competencies to: Taking these key competencies into consideration and preparing students for an electronic world where they have information literacy skills or an ability to locate, use, organise, present and evaluate information effectively and efficiently has been incorporated into the four year program. Every student undertakes a "computer literacy survey" at the beginning of the course, must participate in two compulsory technology units (Ed 104 Science and Technology and Ed 303 Technology in Education) and can choose a number of technology electives (Ed 443 Introductory Computing for Teachers, Ed 457 Using the Internet in Schools, Ed 458 Using Computers in the Classroom and Ed 455 Designing Instructional Materials) during the four year course.

The Computer Literacy Survey

To measure student's computer literacy level, all students entering the teacher education program at the Faculty of Education complete a computer literacy assessment survey (Trinidad & Macchuisi, 1996 adapted from Thornton, 1995). From this information students who have little or no experience with computers are enrolled in the Ed 443 Introductory Computing for Teachers course. In 1996 and 1997 the survey was paper based which meant hours of collating data from the 150-200 students who completed the survey annually. In 1998, with the advancement of database and web technology, the survey was placed online.

Since using the online version a number of advantages have been highlighted. As the data are gathered and collated in real time, it is possible to enter and view data in the computing laboratory of the Faculty during the one session. This has proven to be an invaluable tool to stress the importance of the need to be computer literate. Curtin University is leading by example where students are using the latest web technology to assess how "technology literate" they are. In a non-threatening and anonymous environment as only student ID is recorded, each of the participants is able to compare themselves to the rest of the group. This was not possible with the paper based survey as the results were collated by hand after the event. Another advantage noted from the gathering of the data online is that this data is accessible to any person viewing the records and statistical analysis can be formulated. It is accessible to students in research and measurement courses or staff and administrators to plan for technology and changes in courses. Funding has been obtained to update and move the current online survey from the Canberra University server to a Curtin University server. This revised version will include enhancements such as a facility to edit and store archived data online and produce graphical displays of the data on the web site.

Interpreting the data gathered

While the survey gathers data on a wide range of competencies, experiences and attitudes four areas are seen as most important to the understanding of the IT level of first year students entering the Faculty, the Faculty courses and the strategic planning process. These are whether students have access to a computer out of university hours, whether they use a word processor, use the Internet and email. Refer to Table 1.

Table 1: Percentage of students having access to a computer,
using word processing, the Internet and email.

Computer (yes) 68%78%84%87%
WP (yes) 83%83%88%91%
Internet (yes) 14%48%63%79%
Email (yes) 4%10%37%52%
* not complete cohort

The results show an increase over the four years in the number of first year students having access to computers out of university hours (from 68% to 87%) with most students realising the importance of the computer as a tool necessary for the successful completion of their courses at university. The number of students with word processing skills has increased (83% to 91%) or more importantly those who are not able to word process and need extra tuition has dropped (17% - 34 students to 9% - 16 students). Less than 4% (7 students in 1999) have never used a computer before with most having used it to play games. All staff at the Faculty require assignments to be word processed so this is a skill that most students are forced to gain fairly rapidly within their first semester of university life. Over the past four years with the increase in the popularity of the Internet those students having used the Internet before coming to university has increased (14% to 79%) and likewise with the use of email (4% to 52%). Only a third of students have the Internet accessible from home. The number of students with remote access has increased to 50% over this year (1999) as they realise it is a necessary part of their course.

The Faculty of Education Technology units

Of utmost importance is that students are extended further beyond that of being able to word-process assignments and that information literacy skills are taught and reinforced in the context of how students can use the technology to enhance the teaching and learning environment.

The compulsory Ed 104 Science and Technology unit endeavours to develop prospective teacher's abilities to relate science to societal and technological issues. In this unit students are introduced to the Curriculum Framework learning areas of Science and Technology and Enterprise. Extensive use of the Internet and electronic communications is made along with the introduction to educational software and using computers in the classroom.

The compulsory Ed 303 Technology in Education unit covers the effective use of print based and electronic technologies to enhance teaching and learning environments via modelling of outcomes based learning. A critical component of this unit is the sharing of work with class teachers in Perth schools further helping teachers integrate technology into their work environment. The Ed 303 Technology in Education unit has been chosen as an exemplar case study for the Integration of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) through the Teacher Professional Development and Pre-service Training Project - an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organisation project (1999).

The elective Ed 443 Introductory Computers in the Classroom introduces students to the operation of computers and the use of the computer as a tutor through software evaluation, as a tutee through robotics and LOGO programming and as tool through applications software such as using the word processor, spreadsheets, graphics software and databases in educational settings.

The elective Ed 458 Using the Computer in the Classroom covers the implementation of computers and software into schools. The use of technology across the curriculum and aspects of classroom management of computer facilities, students and technology teaching programs.

The elective Ed 457 Using the Internet for Teachers covers in depth the Internet and Intranet tools for teachers. Authoring Web pages using HTML and associated software, using scripts to create interactive Web pages, creating a Web site and setting up and maintaining an Intranet.

The elective Ed 455 Designing Instructional Materials is the analysis and characterisation of instructional situations in terms of learners, content and context using computers in the instructional design process.

These units may be undertaken as electives or as a series of four units that can be used to specialise in technology education.


Teachers are expected to participate in the electronic world using Information and Communications Technologies (ITCs) if they are to be educators in the 21st century. By assessing students and monitoring their progress more flexible learning outcomes can be achieved during a course. The survey shows that students who are choosing teaching as a career have an increasing level of technological literacy as our schools become more technology orientated. Taking student's personal competence and positive attitude towards using technology into account will continue to allow the Faculty of Education to further adapt courses accordingly into the 21st century. As Alan November (1987) states "The real revolution that technology brings to society extends well beyond how to use computers. The profound impact is that information communications technology is completely reorganising how, where, when, with whom and even why people work".

As we move into the 21st century how WELL we use technology in our teaching and learning environment is dependent on how WELL we are taught with the technology. Technology poses significant changes to education. Education has a poor history of successfully meeting the challenges of major shifts in the technology (Cuban,1986) with mass schooling remaining embedded in the world of "words on paper". For real change to occur a "critical mass" needs to have adopted and implemented the innovation (Rogers & Hart, 1998; Deden, 1998). This "critical mass" occurs when enough individuals have adopted an innovation so that the innovations' further rate of adoption becomes self sustaining.

As computers become more commonplace in classrooms it would appear that schools have taken this challenge more seriously and so will Universities as they accept students who are regular and expert game players, regular and expert tool users and in the future, regular Internet users using technology as a normal part of their everyday lives.


Curriculum Council, (1997). Curriculum Framework. WA Curriculum Council: Perth.

DEETYA (1997). Draft National Guidelines for Initial Teacher Education. Canberra: AGPS.

Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. Teachers College Press: New York.

Deden, A. (1998). Computers and Systemic Change in Higher Education. Communications of the ACM, 41(1), 59-63.

November, A. (1997). Beyond technology: The end of the job and the beginning of digital work. In Program One:The Impact of Technology on Society, p15-16.

Rogers, E. & Hart, W. (1998). Diffusion of technological innovations. http://www.unm.edu/~cjdept/cj43595/outln1.htm [date of last availability unknown]

Thornton, D. (1995). The Computer Literacy Test. The Computing Centre, Curtin University of Technology, Perth.

Trinidad, S. & Macchuisi, L. (1996). The Computer Literacy Instrument. Faculty of Education, Curtin University of Technology, Perth.

Trinidad, S. (1998). The Computer Literacy Instrument. http://crilt.canberra.edu.au/literacy/

Trinidad, S. (2000). The Computer Literacy Instrument V2. http://education.curtin.edu.au/~literacy/index.html

Please cite as: Trinidad, S. (2000). Flexible outcomes: Educating for the 21st century. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/trinidad.html

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