This project investigates the integration of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) into educational settings by closely looking at the uptake of the perceived affordances offered by ICTs by students enrolled in a French language course at Queensland University of Technology. This cross-disciplinary research uses the theoretical concepts of: Ecological Psychology (Gibson, 1979; Good, 2007; Reed, 1996); Ecological Linguistics (Greeno, 1994; Leather & van Dam, 2003; van Lier 2000, 2003, 2004a, 2004b); Design (Norman, 1988, 1999); Software Design/ Human-Computer Interaction (Hartson, 2003; McGrenere & Ho, 2000); Learning Design (Conole & Dyke, 2004a, 2004b; Laurillard et al. 2000;); Education (Kirschner, 2002; Salomon, 1993; Wijekumar et al., 2006) and Educational Psychology (Greeno, 1994).
In order to investigate this subject, the following research questions, rooted in the theoretical foundations of the thesis, were formulated: (1) What are the learners’ attitudes towards the ICT tools used in the project?; (2) What are the affordances offered by ICTs used in a specific French language course at university level from the perspective of the teacher and from the perspective of language learners?; (3) What affordances offered by ICT tools used by the teacher within the specific teaching and learning environment have been taken up by learners?; and (4) What factors influence the uptake by learners of the affordances created by ICT tools used by the teacher within the specific teaching and learning environment?
The teaching phase of this project, conducted between 2006 and 2008, used Action Research procedures (Hopkins, 2002; McNiff & Whitehead, 2002; van Lier 1994) as a research framework. The data were collected using the following combination of qualitative and quantitative methods: (1) questionnaires administered to students (Hopkins, 2002; McNiff & Whitehead, 2002) using Likert-scale questions, open questions, yes/no questions; (2) partnership classroom observations of research participants conducted by Research Participant Advocates (Hopkins, 2002; McNiff & Whitehead, 2002); and (3) a focus group with volunteering students who participated in the unit (semi-structured interview) (Hopkins, 2002; McNiff & Whitehead, 2002).
The data analysis confirms the importance of a careful examination of the teaching and learning environment and reveals differences in the ways in which the opportunities for an action offered by the ICTs were perceived by teacher and students, which impacted on the uptake of affordances. The author applied the model of affordance, as described by Good (2007), to explain these differences and to investigate their consequences. In conclusion, the teacher-researcher considers that the discrepancies in perceiving the affordances result from the disparities between the frames of reference and the functional contexts of the teacher-researcher and students.
Based on the results of the data analysis, a series of recommendations is formulated supporting calls for careful analysis of frames of reference and the functional contexts of all participants in the learning and teaching process. The author also suggests a modified model of affordance, outlining the important characteristics of its constituents.