Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 94-99
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojml) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojml.2013.31012
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
A Critical Analysis of Selected Policy Making Decisions in the
US and the UK with Regard to the Implementation of Information
and Communication Technology (ICT) in National State Primary
and Secondary School Education Systems
Department of Linguistics, Hong Kong Institute of E ducation, Hong Kong
Received October 6th, 2012; revised November 12th, 2012; accepted November 20th, 2012
Information and Communication Technology has played an important and pervasive role in modern busi-
ness and everyday living over the last decade and more. The industry accounts for trillions of annual
revenue. Yet, it has proved hard for a similar role for Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
to emerge in education. In this paper, I will argue that policy regarding ICT use at national state levels in
the UK and the US has striven to create, and continues to perpetuate, a system of education with techno-
logical divisions of labour, and marginalized innovative and communicative practical uses of technology
for enhancing education in schools.
Keywords: Information; Communication Technology; Policy Studies; Lifeworld; Virtual Learning
Environment; Interactive White Board
Understanding Policy Making
Ball & Shilling (1994) argue that nation states and their so-
cial systems are determined in terms of their ideological, po-
litical and economic structures. Policy making (a visualization
of how a society is managed) and in particular for this paper,
educational policy making, can also be analyzed at these levels.
At the economic level, it is important to analyze to what extent
education contributes to productivity and capital gain; at the
political level, it is important to examine the governance of
education and the interventions made by influential groups in
the policy process; at the ideological level, it is important to
analyze the discourse in which educational policy making is
conceived and debated, and to examine how the dominant cul-
ture is transmitted in society. Studying each of these elements
in isolation, as well as the nature of the interrelationships be-
tween them can lead to an in-depth understanding of educa-
tional policy (Ball, 1990: 11). In addition, it is important to
uncover any emerging ideologies both, overt and covert, that
exist in educational practice which contradict the dominant.
These emerging ideologies are represented by minorities in
society and they tend to fundamentally oppose the status quo
seeking to undermine its authority for the betterment of society.
In this way, the complex which makes up the educational scene
is more aptly understood.
In Section 2, selected educational policy making regarding
technology in education since the new millennium in both the
US and the UK will be presented and discussed. This analysis
will offer a snapshot of the dominant and emerging ideologies
that have existed over the last decade and which continue to be
prominent today. It can be seen that although much has been
said in this field, little has changed. From the economic per-
spective, technology in education remains predominantly driven
by profiteering campaigns. From the political perspective, these
governments continually implement policies to integrate ever-
newer technologies in state school education. From the ideo-
logical perspective, the dominant rhetoric remains that a system
is being constructed that will lead at a global level producing
citizens for the future. Section 2 then goes on to argue that,
alongside this dominant policy complex, exists an emerging
ideology seeking to effectively capture the best technology has
to offer for learning. This ideology can be seen to be ma rginal-
ized and this marginalization can be witnessed since the growth
of technology use in education.
Information Computer Technology (ICT) in
Education in the US and UK at the Turn of the
Over ten years ago, educational computing in the US and the
UK was reported to be an imposed and novel “outsider” in the
pedagogy of schools. Citing other studies (Elmore & M c L au g h li n ,
1988; Sarason, 1971; Spencer, 2000; Tyack & Cuban, 1995;
and Zilversmit, 1993), as well as their own, Cuban et al (2001)
documented some of the history of classroom reform with re-
gard to technology in the US. The authors conducted qualitative
and quantitative research in Silicon Valley, which is still today
the home to thousands of computer and Internet companies, in
two high schools “Flatland” and “Las Montanas”, nestled in
two Silicon Valley neighborhoods filled with modest to affluent
homes and located eight miles apart, interviewing teachers,
students, and administrators, and conducting classroom obser-
vations, reviews of school documents, and surveys with both
teachers and students. Following this research, they concluded
that technology was seldom used effectively in class. When it
was used, the teachers were not creative but conducted tried
and tested methods from their practice.
They reported (2001: 14):
“When we shadowed teachers and students, all but a few
of the teachers in both schools used a familiar repertoire
of instructional approaches. These included lecturing, con-
ducting a discussion, reviewing homework, working on
assignments, and occasionally using overhead projectors
A qualitative study of a teacher named Piro, who Cuban et al.
(2001) labelled as marginalized (and because of this, called her
a “greenhorn” or “lone ranger”), revealed how students could
optimally use computers. Piro set up frequent computer projects
to do research tasks in groups on the web and asked them to
present their findings using a programme such as PowerPoint.
While her students were working together in groups, Piro acted
as the facilitator, moving from group to group to support and
challenge as they proceeded (2001: 814). However, this type of
usage was reported to be extremely rare. In reality, the occa-
sional serious, well-grounded educational uses of computers
had marginal to no impact on established teaching practices.
The authors concluded that contrary to establishment claims,
(2001: 814): “a classroom revolution has not occurred.”
The vast majority of teachers in the two high schools adapted
technology to fit the familiar practices of teacher-centered in-
struction (Ibid: 825). Cuban et al argued that their findings were
similar to other reports in the literature (Cohen, 1987, 1988,
1990; Goodlad, 1984; Rosenholtz, 1989; Sarason, 1971, 1993).
Those who predicted that new technologies would eventually
transform teacher-centered practices into student-centered ones
(Cetron & Gayle, 1996; International Society for Technology in
Education, 1999; Papert, 1993; Mehan, 1989; National Educa-
tional Assessment Program, 1994, 1996; Schofield, 1995) had
been proven wrong.
Cuban et al., among other critics (Anderson & Ronnkvist,
1998; Becker, Ravitz, & Wong, 1999a, 1999b; Sandholtz, Ring-
staff, & Dwyer, 1996; Schofield, 1995), argued that there were
several serious dilemmas. One such dilemma was that the de-
sign of the reform was heavily “top-down”. It did not involve
teachers in the process of change. Other reasons were, first that
teachers did not have the time to find and evaluate software in
their already busy schedules; second, computer and software
training was seldom offered at convenient times; third, training
that was available was often irrelevant to teachers’ specific
needs; and fourth, it was repeatedly stated from administrators,
coordinators, teachers, and students, that constant replacement
of obsolete software and machines meant that keeping up with
technology was a constant pressure. Contrary to often reported
reasons why teachers’ use of computers was low, these authors
did not find that teachers’ age, experience, or gender are factors;
nor did they find that there was teacher resistance due to tech-
In order to facilitate change, Cuban et al (2001: 830) con-
“Fundamental changes would need to be made in how
schools are organized, how time is allocated, and how
teachers are prepared. Hardware manufacturers, software
firms, and telecommunication companies would need to
improve product reliability to limit the defects in their
wares, expand technical support to teachers, incre ase spe ed
of Internet connection at little cost to schools, and test
software on consumers prior to marketing them to district
and state administrators.”
Watson’s (2001) study revealed the same problems in the
UK. Research showed that teachers were not impressed by
change that appeared to focus on what the technology could do
rather than on the processes of learning. Watson (ibid) argued
that this was not surprising with applications that were origin-
nally designed for business. In 1997, Blair (UK Prime Minister,
launching the National Grid for Learning, 1997) echoed this
“Technology has revolutionized the way we work and is
now set to transform education. Children cannot be effec-
tive in tomorrow’s world if they are trained in yesterday’s
According to Watson (2001: 253), each new initiative was
launched with little evidence of evaluating or analysing the last.
Indeed research reported that the impact of IT on schools in the
UK remained a resolutely disappointing one (Gardner et al.,
1993; Stevenson, 1997; Watson, 1993, 1995, 1998; Williams et
al., 2000). Most analyses on the apparent reluctance of teachers
to use IT in their classrooms, related this to a deficit model of
teachers who were characterized as technophobic, or too tradi-
tional in their teaching style, or reluctant to adopt change.
Howev er, in agr eement with Cub an et a l. ( 2001), Watson (2001)
challenged the governing bodies’ oversimplistic and rather pa-
tronizing attack on teachers as to the cause of the poor state of
Information Computer Technology (ICT) in
Education in the US and UK in the Last Decade
The US Department of Education’s National Center for
Education Statistics (US Dept of Education facts and figures,
retrieved July, 2012) states that 100% of US schools are now
wired to the Internet. In addition, US national statistics reveal
that the ratio of student to computer is around 3 to 1. This
change was brought about by intense promotion by business
leaders, policy makers, and parents. Similarly, the Minister of
State for Schools and Learners in the UK, Jim Knight, offered a
response to the launch of the second phase of the “Harnessing
Technology Strategy”, stating that “technology is no longer
optional” (cited in Becta report, 11/2008). In 2009 a report from
“Becta”, the British Educational Communications and Tech-
11/08; retrieved April, 2009), the government agency that lead
the UK’s national drive to ensure the effective and innovative
use of technology throughout learning, stated that schools and
FE institutions spend around 7% of their total funding on IT.
This represents a national figure of around 984 million pounds,
quite a sum for the British Educational Suppliers Association
Even with an ever-increasing “e-enabled capability”, the re-
port stated that there still appeared to be a sizeable number of
practitioners in schools and colleges who did not fully engage
with ICT and digital resources (as shown above, the “ambiva-
lent” scores were reported to be higher than the “enthusiastic”
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 95
scores) and the majority of ICT use continued to be for whole-
class teacher displays and presentations. In the same way, the
latest edition in 2012 of the ICT for Education in the UK jour-
nal (http://www.ictforeducation.co.uk/), recently published an
article on ICT investment in schools by Ray Barker, the direc-
tor of the Besa. It states that despite years of spending on ICT,
even to the extent of “saturation” (Barker’s term, 2012: 9), 70%
of primary and 55% of secondary school teachers require train-
ing in the use of technology for education. It is written (2012:
“While procurement of these types of technology is en-
couraging, it is training that stands out as an area in need
After more than 20 years, it is still common for training in
the use of technology in these schools to be generic and more
relevant to administrative tasking rather than pedagogy. There-
fore, research on the impact of ICT on teaching and learning
has continued to report disappointment.
Two examples of massive investment in technology for edu-
cation in the UK and the US are first Virtual Learning Envi-
ronments, also known as Learning Management Systems and
second Interactive Whiteboards.
The Virtual Learning Environment (VLEs)
In 2008, Becta (2008: 3) claimed:
“Improving the quality of discussion between parents and
learners about their education makes all the difference to
what learners achieve. Technology can help you provide
useful information at an appropriate time, to improve this
To do this, the use of online virtual learning environments
(VLEs) such as Moodle and Blackboard is under development.
In the 2009 Ofsted report on “Virtual learning environments: an
evaluation of their development in a sample of educational
settings”, it is stated
“the introduction of VLEs is at an early stage in most
In fact, these systems are not being utilized, particularly in
Primary schools, because teachers are wary about using them.
This is understandable given what Ofsted states in the same
publication under the heading of “emerging technologies”. In
this section, there is a report on Cloud Computing. The concept
of Cloud Computing at the time of writing this article (July,
2012) was also starting to creep into educational institutions
through the usual handful of case studies conducted by “spe-
cially futuristic state schools”, like the one by the Lincoln Spe-
cialist Schools Group, who reported effective use of a Business
Productivity Online Suite from Microsoft® Online Services.
This was deemed more effective than VLEs such as Blackboard
or Moodle to manage calendars, rosters, grade books, and com-
munication between school and home as none of the schools”
IT departments need to set up or maintain the services them-
selves. In other words, one driving technology in education
policy is already being taken over by another. Thus the VLE,
which was originally set up for this kind of operation, and
whose effectiveness was still in its early days in December,
2011, seems to be already obsolete.
Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs)
A key finding from the Department for Education with re-
gards to the use of technology in schools (December, 2011)
focuses on the classroom Interactive Whiteboard
“Evidence suggests interactive white boards (IWBs) can
foster a more interactive style of whole class teaching
through features that encourage student participation in
this setting, through the use of touch-sensitive screens.”
However, in the Guardian newspaper, only a few months
prior to this (08/2010) and just as Becta was being closed down
in the UK as part of government spending cuts, an executive of
a major computer supplier made a comment about the i n t eracti v e
whiteboards that schools had been acquiring:
“A lot of schools just use them as a projection screen—
which misses a significant part of the boards’ potential for
All of these reports demonstrate one thing that is very much
reminiscent of Watson (2001) and Cuban et al’s (2001) cri-
tiques during the last decade. This is that through political pol-
icy, the IT world is always one step ahead of educational insti-
tutions with its emerging technologies. It is interesting to note
the apparent agencyless “emerging” technologies at this point,
which seem to occur as processes over time on their own,
seemingly evolving in a parallel world. As stated by Fairclough
“actors in the material processes are non-human, inani-
mate (‘new technologies’, ‘new markets’) or nominalized
(‘change’), and the actor in the verbal process is ‘this new
world’. The global space-time is represented as processes
without human agency.”
It is as though we cannot control this tide of technical change.
As a result, as Ball & Shilling (1994: 11-12) note:
“Not surprisingly, many teachers appear weary and wary,
stressed and depressed, alienated and bitter. They are
faced with threats to their autonomy and status, and live-
lihood in some cases, but are expected to respond con-
structively and intelligently to make sense of the uncer-
tainties, incoherence and complexity of change.”
With the constant ideological discourse relating to the speed
of processing, multimedia, and broadband, ICT is still, and
always has been, synonymous in schools with technical matters
and with the associated power base for those “in the know” and
who “understand these things”. This has been both overtly and
covertly damaging (Watson, 2001). As a result, many teachers
own and use computers for their own administrative work, but
never use them in their classrooms. Similarly to Cuban et al.
(2001), Watson (2001) argues that curriculum change theories
have generally asserted that once a small cohort of innovators
emerges, their adoption of the innovation cascades through
their peer group of subject teachers. In particular it is these
teachers who recognize and enjoy the pedagogic potential of
ICT because it relates to their own philosophical underpinnings
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
about teaching and the nature of their subject (Watson, 1993).
But these “lone rangers” are a very tiny minority in schools. In
the ICT for Education in the UK journal (2012: 4)
(http://www.ictforeducation.co.uk/), Jodie Collins writes that
her innovative use of ICT meant that she was:
“given the role of being a non class-based ICT specialist
teacher. In this role, I was able to teach children across the
school using IT. In order to start showcasing work online
for everyone to see, I started
The author does not state how many of her colleagues have
used what she now showcases but this author can imagine that
the majority of them would like to become more involved but
unfortunately they cannot afford the time. Jodie Collins has
now been marginalized. If she had remained in her role as a
classroom teacher using innovative practices, change may have
come from her students reporting to her other colleagues what
she did. Now, students do not expect such innovations from
their other teachers because Jodie is “special”.
These few Information Technology (IT) experts are essential
commodities, often with predominantly non-educationalist back -
grounds but always with an extensive bank of IT metalanguage.
Sumner (2001) refers to this phenomenon as a “tendency to
closure” and it is very much associated with Bourdieu’s (1990)
notion of “Cultural Capital”. “Cultural capital” is embodied in
the individual. Over time, through the following of the state’s
culture and traditions transmitted through socialization, one
forms a “habitus”, or a way of thinking, inculcated in society
and transmitted to an individual as one takes on a role in society.
This role, as is the case with the IT expert in an educational
setting, offers the individual an accepted institutionalized per-
sona. By this tendency to closure the individual is seen to pos-
sess the necessary academic credentials or qualifications, and is
given institutional recognition (the institutionalized state of
cultural capital) guaranteeing a certain monetary value or eco-
nomic capital, for a certain institutional level of achievement.
This is done by limiting the technological knowledge teachers
have, and the time open to them to increase their knowledge in
this field. Just as an IT expert is rarely a teacher, a teacher is
rarely an IT expert. In reality, what is observed here is a rigor-
ous division of labour.
By keeping teachers out of the “know-how”, a structure of
resource dependencies is created. By continually referring to
“emerging technologies” a real malaise is perpetuated with re-
gard to the quality of the teaching and learning environment. In
a brief outline of the effects of policy change on education in
the UK, Ball’s (Ball & Shilling, 1994: 11) description of the
never-ending reform package that simultaneously involves the
restructuring of the national curriculum, the governance and
funding of schools, requirements for changes in student testing,
school inspection and the implementation of cutting edge tech-
nology and partnered pedagogy is just as valid now as it was
These changes, of which technology plays a vital part, are all
externally imposed and most have legal status. In addition to
this storm of change, there are reformulations, unreasonably
short time frames for implementation and a lack of teacher
consultation. The nature of schooling is always in rapid trans-
formation. In a long queue, sit first-order reforms followed by
feedback, quality control and subsequent second order reforms,
and the cycle continues. In the midst of all this, teachers are
expected to develop their own professionalism as well as im-
portant working relationships with the students, parents, and
colleagues aroun d them.
Again, reminiscent of Cuban’s (2001) words, what is being
focused on is “high access” and “low use”, in particular, low
communicative, interactive use. An emergent and marginal
study of these VLEs, developed by the “Greenhorns” or “Lone
Rangers” in educational settings, reveals that if used effectively
the VLE can offer deep and meaningful learning through col-
laboration. In fact, they might provide an unprecedented infra-
structure for online learning (Schramm, 2007; Steeples et al.,
2007; Bangeni & Nel, 2007). Lewis and Allan (2005: 45) state:
“Virtual learning environments provide all the facilities
that are required to enable a virtual learning community to
work together in a private meeting space.”
This is because these environments are multimodal in nature.
They involve the interaction of multiple semiotic resources
such as spoken and written language through video, audio,
discussion forums and blogging for both the presentation and
the negotiation of information. As Chun & Plass (2000: 152)
note, they also allow for
“learners to engage in productive tasks and activities in
both synchronous and asynchronous methods of student
In this way, Bates (1993), like Becta (2008), predicted the
possibility for “a networked society”, but for Bates (1993: 249),
it is one which not only offers access to knowledge and infor-
mation but also one which facilitates “humanistic applications
of technology”. For example, in the UK, the University of Hull
has run the “Workforce Development Confederation e-learning
strategy (see Lewis & Allen, 2005: 31):
“To share knowledge and understanding of the underpin-
ning pedagogies that support effective collaborative e-
In addition, private “Lone Ranger” groups, such as the “Con-
sultants-E” (www.theconsultants-e.com) are providing training
for online facilitators. However, this training requires extra,
supplementary effort by teachers outside of their normal teach-
ing duties, and so remains marginalized, even unknown. The
dominant ideology with regard to technology builds on a one-
way transmissive model and teachers in schools do not have the
time to fully understand and experiment with the potentiality of
information and communication systems because of the con-
stant policy changes that occur. The IT expert is a result of this
and this creates a division of labour linked to technology.
It is possible to explain this state of affairs using Habermas’
“Theory of Communicative Action” (1984, 1987), and the do-
minance that the “System” perpetuates over the “Lifeworld”.
According to Habermas (ibid), the global community seeks to
enhance the quality of its members’ lives. It struggles to uphold
shared communitarian values and humanistic ideals: clean air;
fresh water; biodiversity; unadulterated food; health care; edu-
cation; child/elder care and productive work. These values and
ideals are reflected and acted on collaboratively through “com-
municative action” through interpersonal relations:
“The actors seek to reach an understanding about the
situation and their plans of action in order to coordinate
their actions by way of agreement.” (Habermas, 1984: 86)
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 97
Habermas argues that the “System” consciously rejects the
ideals of the community and is at constant loggerheads with the
“Lifeworld”. It is
“… the socio-economic system which provides employ-
ment and security in exchange for loyalty.” (Mezirow,
It is led by the institutions of power and wealth that exist in
the world: “multinational corporations, the military and the
administration” (Sumner, 2000). It is a minority group which
must undermine the community to preserve the status quo and
its power. The more communication there is, the more “noise”
(Nipper, 1989) there is, in the System. This “noise” is the sound
of people interacting. Institutions must monitor and control the
degree of this “noise”. It could be argued that the perpetuated
flood of new technologies and the very “static” (King, 2001)
use of these technologies is the System’s action to promote
policy that restricts the Lifeworld’s struggle for expression. The
result for pedagogy is that technology is barely used to its po-
tential. Instead, technology is fundamentally used as one-way
communication, from sender to receiver or uploader to retriever
rather like the “Magistral dialogue”, Bakhtin (1981) was so
critical of. The social interaction is minimal.
The move away from transmissive views of education toward
learner -centered co nstructi vist learni ng proces ses impl ies c ha n g e s :
changes in roles and changes in power structures (Keegan,
1990). A process-driven VLE approach might open the door to
widespread communicative interaction between learners. This
creation of communities, where people meet to work together
and to share experiences might be an undesired phenomenon;
one that empowers, emancipates, gives voice, commitment and
support. As Campion, (drawing on the work of Ivan Illich) sug-
gests, there are “diametrically opposed interests” in learning (in
Evans & Nation, 1992: 10) and it seems that the Lifeworld has
been on the losing side since the turn of the new millennium.
One way to examine whether these notions are true will be to
observe the future directed policy towards the use of technolo-
gies in national educational fields in the US and the UK. It is
probable that the communicative use of these tools will remain
marginal and that their use in education will die out due to an-
other software or hardware package, which will be claimed to
be more effective, before teachers have even had a chance to
explore these mediums for the purpose of real teaching and
In his recent speech for his Digital Literacy Campaign
cy-michael-gove-speech, retrieved July, 2012), Michael Grove,
Minister for Education in an all too famili ar language states:
“A Victorian schoolteacher could enter a 21st century
classroom and feel completely at home. Whiteboards may
have eliminated chalk dust, chairs may have migrated
from rows to groups, but a teacher still stands in front of
the class, talking, testing and questioning. But that model
won’t be the same in twenty years’ time. It may well be
extinct in ten.”
However, he also adds in a more reassuring way for teachers:
“Rather than rushing pell-mell after any particular tech-
nology, filling school cupboards with today’s answer to
Betamaxes and floppy discs, we need to ask ourselves a
fundamental question. What can technology do for learn-
He goes on to argue that policy makers are now taking a step
back from the constant flux of change to offer time for educa-
tors to reflect on how technology can be used at the grass roots.
He pinpoints teacher action research projects by teachers for
teachers, for example, a great deal of teachers are now sharing
their best practices online; students are using electronic voting
pads to provide teachers with immediate feedback during
classes; teachers are trialing gaming software for Maths and
English classes; VLEs are being used for online assessments
through which an individual student’s progress can be carefully
monitored. Although these uses demonstrate some new benefits
to education, they do not reveal how Grove intends to change
“that model” that he refers to above.
It is this author’s opinion Grove masterfully assures the two
major stakeholders in this issue: big business and teachers.
However, what can be observed from this diplomatic discourse
is that no matter the modernity of the age, the true nature of
education, as with all human growth, is based on human contact,
whether face to face or online, whether synchronous or asyn-
chronous. There is little more that can be done today to funda-
mentally change the different ways that teachers and learners
interact. The question is whether the policy-makers wish to
promote “noise” in the future or to contain it. It seems that if
teachers are now happy using “electronic voting pads” in class
rather than simply asking students to raise their hands and
speak out about their classroom experiences, they would rather
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