Attitudes Toward Information Technology at Two Parochial Schools in North Texas
Technical Report 97.2

Texas Center for Educational Technology
Telecommunications and Informatics Laboratory
Lab Director: Gerald Knezek
Research Associate: Rhonda Christensen
October 23, 1997

Introduction

This report compares attitudes toward information technology of students and teachers at two parochial schools in North Texas. One school is located in Dallas, while the other is in Tyler. The Dallas school is all female while the Tyler school is coeducational. Both offer high school diplomas to students who have completed grade 12.

Teachers and students at the Dallas site completed questionnaires in May 1996 and again in May 1997. Students and teachers at the Tyler school completed questionnaires in May 1997. Teachers completed the Teacher's Attitudes Toward Computers Questionnaire (TAC) and the Teacher's Attitudes Toward Information Technology Questionnaire (TAT). Students completed the Computer Attitude Questionnaire (CAQ) with the Electronic Mail subscale from the TAC and the additional attitudes toward school items attached. Student findings are reported in the first portion of the report, while teacher findings are addressed in the latter portion.

Student Population

As shown in Table 1, only students in grade 9 completed questionnaires at the Dallas school for May 1996, again at the Dallas school for May 1997, and at the Tyler school during May 1997. Therefore, the major findings are based on comparisons of students in grade 9. Note that just 20 students are included in this group for May 1997 at the Tyler school.

Table 1. Student Responses to CAQ/E-mail/ATS by Grade Level
Grade Dallas 96.5 Dallas 97.5 Tyler 97.5
 9  184 175 20
 10  162   20
 11 127   17
 12     12

Student Access to Information Technology Outside School

Students at the Dallas school and the Tyler school were not significantly different in the proportions of students having home computing access or access to the Internet outside of school : 97% of the ninth grade students at Dallas site reported they had access to a computer at home, and 100% of those at the Tyler school responded in the same fashion. Regarding World Wide Web access, 66% of the freshman at the Dallas school site and 60% of those at the Tyler site reported Web access at home.

Student Attitudes

Computer Enjoyment

Based on the analysis of variance results shown in Table 2, ninth grade students at the Tyler school enjoyed computers to a greater extent than did students in the same grade at the Dallas school. For students at the Dallas school, computer enjoyment was similar for May 1996 and May 1997.

Electronic Mail

Ninth grade students at the Dallas school had more positive attitudes toward classroom use of electronic mail (E-mail) than did students at the Tyler school (see Table 2). This finding was confirmed more strongly through an analysis (not shown) that included all students contributing data from either school in May 1997.

Computer Importance

Inexplicably, the ninth grade students at the Dallas school had less positive perceptions of computer importance in May 1997 than they did one year earlier, and less positive perceptions than those that existed at the Tyler site in the same year. These results can be seen in Table 4c.

Empathy

An initial analysis which included all students at both sites indicated that students at the Dallas school had higher empathy ratings than students at the Tyler school (Dallas mean = 4.29 vs. Tyler mean = 3.89, f = 30.69, 1 x 239 df, p < .00005), but a subsequent analysis that included only the females from the Tyler school indicated that the two sites were not significantly different on this attribute (Dallas mean = 4.29 vs. Tyler mean = 4.21, f = .60, p < .45). This showed that the males at the Tyler school were responsible for the initial indication in that students at the two schools were different in empathy. An analysis of variance based on gender at the Tyler school confirmed that the females were significantly higher than males on empathy at that site (female mean = 4.21, S.D. = .48, n = 23; male mean = 3.66, S.D. = .54, n = 22; f = 12.9, p < .001) and were not significantly different from males on computer importance, computer enjoyment, classroom use of electronic mail, motivation to study, creative tendencies, or attitude toward school. This finding is consistent with earlier studies on elementary and middle school students that have shown females to be higher on empathy than males, as early as grade 1 in school. Apparently this gender difference persists into high school.

Other Attitudinal Measures for Students

No significant differences between the Dallas school and the Tyler school were found for the areas of student motivation to study, creative tendencies, or attitude toward school.

Discussion

The Dallas school launched a student laptop purchase program for student classroom use, personal productivity, electronic mail, and other activities during 1996-97 (99% of those who completed questionnaires reported taking part). Every entering freshman was required to take part, and women in the upper classes were permitted to take part in the purchase program if they so chose. The observed differences in attitudes of the two schools' students toward electronic mail is consistent, given this fact, with expectations in this area. The Tyler school might be considered "technology rich" with extensive facilities and well trained staff. It is not surprising that the students at this school exhibit high computer enjoyment. No immediately obvious rationale can be given for why ninth grade students at the Dallas school in 1997 had less positive perceptions of the importance of computers than the Tyler students during the same time frame, or even they themselves had one year earlier. It might be useful to survey the same students from the Dallas school one year later when they will be in grade 10 (May 1998), as well as the new freshman class for 1998, in order to answer this question.

Teacher Attitudes Toward Computers

The Teachers' Attitudes Toward Computers Questionnaire (TAC) was administered to teachers at the Dallas site and the Tyler site in 1997. This instrument measures at least 20 indices that have been well-established in the literature. An analysis of variance for Dallas vs. Tyler confirmed that the teachers at the two sites possessed surprisingly similar attitudes in May 1997. As shown in Table 3, only the subscales Computer Aversion (F3) and Computer Relevance (F15) were significantly different at the .05 level. Teachers at the Tyler school were more positive on both of these attributes.

TAC data was also gathered in May 1996 from the teachers at the Dallas site. An analysis of variance which included this data as well as the May 1997 data from the two schools indicated significant differences only in Loyd and Gressard's Usefulness subscale (CASU) and Teacher Computer Importance (F13). As shown in Table 4, in both cases the significance was due to the teachers' attitudes at the Dallas school dropping from May 1996 to May 1997. The attitudes at the Dallas school in May 1996 were not significantly different from attitudes at the Tyler school in May 1997.

Although not significant (p = .07), an interesting trend emerged for the subscale E-mail for Classroom Learning (F4). As shown in Table 4, the mean on this attribute was lower for teachers at the Tyler school (3.23) than for the Dallas school in May 1996 (3.68) and May 1997 (3.48). This trend is consistent with the findings from the Teachers' Attitudes Toward Information Technology Questionnaire (TAT) reported in the following section.

Teachers' Attitudes Toward Information Technology

Teachers at the Dallas site and the Tyler site completed an additional instrument designed to complement the TAC and called the Teachers' Attitudes Toward Information Technology (TAT). This instrument contains eight Semantic Differential subscales (see Appendix C) with the following target statements:

  1. To me, electronic mail is:
  2. For my students, electronic mail is:
  3. To me, using the World-Wide Web is:
  4. For my students, using the World-Wide Web is:
  5. To me, multimedia is:
  6. For my students, multimedia is:
  7. To me, using computers for professional productivity is:
  8. For my students, using computers in the classroom is:

Analysis of variance for Dallas vs. Tyler using 1997 data indicated that only E-mail for teachers (subscale 1) and student usefulness of computers in the classroom (subscale 8) were significantly different for the two sites. As shown in Table 5, teachers at the Dallas site had more positive attitudes (p < .05) toward electronic mail (mean = 5.64) than did their Tyler peers (mean = 4.92). Conversely, teachers at the Tyler site had more positive perceptions (p < .05) of the usefulness of computers for students in the classroom (mean = 6.33) than did teachers at the Dallas site (mean = 5.76).

TAT data was not gathered at the Dallas site during May of 1996 because the instrument did not yet exist at that time. Therefore, TAT analyses comparing 1996 to 1997 were not possible.

Summary

Teacher and student attitudes toward computers and related information technologies were surprisingly similar at the two parochial schools that provided data for this study. This is in spite of the fact that one is an all-girls school while the other is co-educational, and one is in a large urban area while the other is on the fringe of a city that is 10-20 times smaller. The differences that emerged were largely predictable and seem to be directly related to the initiatives stressed at each site. A follow-up analysis is needed to determine if these parochial school attitudes are also congruent with those of their public school neighbors. Future research is planned in this area.