Using the Internet for Education: Training for Student-Teachers

Dr. YEUNG Yau Yuen
Department of Science
Hong Kong Institute of Education
10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong
Ms. CHENG May Hung, May
Department of Science
Hong Kong Institute of Education
Ms. SO Wing Mui, Winnie
Department of Science
Hong Kong Institute of Education
Dr. TSANG Po Keung, Eric
Department of Science
Hong Kong Institute of Education


We envisage a model of putting the concept of using the Internet for education into real practice in school in which the student-teachers play the key role for the successful implementation. In order to achieve the target depicted in this model, a large scale teaching development project is being carried out to develop various subject-based courseware to make the student-teachers at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) to have intensive exposure to some interactive hypermedia resources for self-learning on the Internet. Furthermore, those student-teachers are trained to have certain competence in developing course materials in the World Wide Web format for broadcasting on the Internet. Some preliminary findings of the questionnaire on their attitudes towards using the Internet for education indicate that they generally have positive attitudes but they probably need more time by self practicing in order to develop sufficient confidence in authoring their own course materials on the Internet. The situation is critical at HKIEd as there is still no strategic planning to integrate the Internet with any existing teacher education program. It remains largely the responsibility of individual teacher educators in helping the student-teachers to develop basic competence and favorable attitudes in using the Internet for education.

The background

Like many other developed countries, Hong Kong has recently put much emphasis on the information technology (IT) with the aim of using IT to teach at least 25% of school curricula in the next five years. Internet for education has then become the hot issues of current educational research (see, e.g. Yeung and Ng 1996, Bolye et al. 1996 and Sloane 1997) and forum. There is a good consensus that school teachers' computer competence and the availability of suitable local courseware (rather than finance and technology) are the major problems for achieving this target. However, various kinds of teaching materials are now being put on the Internet in many tertiary institutions [HREF 1-8]. A courseware called "Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)" has been developed [HREF 9] for providing some computer-mediated learning materials to support those Hong Kong secondary schools which offer the AS Level Electronics subject in September, 1997. The present authors and their collaborators have also tried to put the concept of teaching through the Internet into real practice at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) by developing learning materials of various disciplines (including Biology, Chemistry Computer, Mathematics, Physics, Science Education etc. for the time being) in form of the WWW home-page format with extensive use of interactive hypermedia-features. This leads to the establishment of a virtual centre of interactive hypermedia materials for self-learning at HKIEd called the HAS Centre [HREF 10]. Hence the student-teachers trained at HKIEd will have fairly adequate exposure to self-learning on the Internet with the hypermedia courseware specifically designed for them. The present paper aims to describe the approach and share our experience on achieving the target of promoting the usage of Internet for education with our student-teachers laid as the corner-stone.


The Approach

As concisely depicted in Figure 1, our approach could be described as a model of combined expertise development and implementation for using the Internet in the teaching and learning activities of teacher educators, student-teachers, school teachers and school pupils. There are five stages of development involved by the corresponding five layers of participants which are outlined as follows:

  1. Seed Formation Stage - One of us and his colleague at HKIEd have initiated a few small scale research projects in developing some self-learning materials in the World Wide Web (WWW) homepage format since early 1996. A website on "Introductory Digital Electronics" has been established by them in an Internet Service Provider server located at which has been listed by the National Science Teachers Association (USA) as one of the few websites for Science education in the world. They have also been commissioned by the Curriculum Development Institute of the Hong Kong Education Department to develop a CD-ROM project [HREF 9] on Electronics which has a similar nature but is enhanced with much more interactive features for assisting the introduction of a new syllabus in some Hong Kong Sixth Form schools. A few conference papers or workshops (e.g. Yeung & Ng (1996) and Ng et al (1997)) have then been presented to share their experience with other teacher educators and school teachers. In the present approach as envisaged by us, the widespread usage of Internet for education could be achieved by the "rolling snow ball" mechanism with these two experienced core persons being the seed nucleus.
  2. Courseware Development Stage - In mid 1997, a large scale project called "Development of interactive hypermedia resources for self-learning on the Internet" was funded by the Teaching Development Grants (direct allocation from the University Grants Committee, Hong Kong). Hence, a team of supervisors (see Figure 2) who are teacher educators and subject expertise in various disciplines such as Computer, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Environmental Science, Biology and Science Education has then been formed and this project team is supported by two full-time research assistants and four to six part-time student technical assistants as well as a number of part-time supply lecturers and other authors (in addition to the authoring role of supervisors). The main objectives of this project are:
    1. to apply extensively the interactive hypermedia features of World Wide Web to develop a number of self-learning materials packages in various subject disciplines (including Science, Computer and Mathematics etc.);
    2. to adopt those packages for educating various classes of HKIEd students;
    3. to evaluate the students' attitude towards the learning by means of WWW homepage;
    4. to enhance/improve the teaching and learning quality within HKIEd through the processes for achieving the above objectives; and
    5. to promote the concept of World Wide Web for education within the HKIEd as well as in other tertiary institutions in Hong Kong or her neighbourhood.

    A virtual centre of interactive hypermedia resources for self-learning called the HAS centre [HREF 10] is currently being established at HKIEd.

  3. Implementation in Teacher Education Program Stage - The student-teachers at the HKIEd play the dual role of being the students (learners) and teachers and so they need not only to acquire the first-person self-learning experience on the Internet but also to be able to develop the online teaching materials by themselves. For the former objective, two examples of homepage are given below to explicitly illustrate our usage in supporting the teacher education program of about a thousand students at HKIEd:
      1. Science Process Skills
      2. The design of this homepage delivers independent, self-paced learning experience for students to work at a personal pace, which benefited student teachers with different previous science background. It provides a set of interactive activities, documents and learning resources to help students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to use the science process skills in primary science teaching. In the learning of science process skills, it is necessary that student teachers should observe, measure, classify, communicate, infer, make hypothesis, identify variables, design experiments, and analyze data. To achieve this, the learning of science process skills should involve with hands-on science activities. The design of the homepage "Science Process Skills" provides hands-on environments for students to have a better understanding of the science skills. Hands-on and computer simulation activities engaged students in testing the refining ideas and were comparable (Baxter, 1995). Simulations are time, safety or financially, costly, they do not only reduce the drudgery of repetitive experiments, they replace some aspects of the experimental work, or in some case the whole laboratory experiment. The simulations offer a time and cost efficient alternative to direct observations of student performance, because materials need not be replaced and students could be provided with feedback in terms of comments entered on the screen. The format of computer simulation activities also increased students’ confidence, allowing them to experiment. The homepage "Science Process Skills" also provides problem solving environments that might have been constrained by practical realities and cost. Taking into the fundamental constructivist assumptions implying that learning is dependent on the students’ prior experience and learning needs reconstruction which requires active "mind-on", rather than rote-recall and performance. The homepage can be used as tools to facilitate "minds-on" activity, in other words, is to provide students with an inquiry mind that seeks to evaluate the data in order to base judgment on reflection of the information available. With the belief that learners are better able to recall information if responding in pictorial rather than verbal form, packages which employ speed and good quality graphics to present new information to students will be included in this homepage will benefit students with different science achievement.

      3. Science Classrooms
      4. The teaching practice is an important part of the teacher education program. In the Hong Kong Institute of Education, student-teachers studying the full-time Certificate in Primary Education Course have to undergo a total 12 weeks of teaching practice in primary schools. It is intended that during this period, supervising teachers and the lecturers will provide advice and support to the student-teachers. The teaching practice is an important part of the program as the student-teachers will test out the theories they have learnt in other parts of the course, experiment with new teaching ideas and form their own personal style of teaching. This is a period when the student-teachers experience much anxiety but also satisfaction. The HAS Centre can be seen as an additional support for the student-teachers during this critical period. Through the discussions in the newsgroup, the student-teachers can share their teaching ideas or problems with their peers as well as the lecturers. This provides also a venue for immediate sharing of experience during the teaching practice period. The design of the homepage takes the shape of a beehive. Each content area is placed in one unit and in some units i.e. lesson ideas, safety precautions, stimulating pupils to think and the newsgroup the cells are subdivided into primary and secondary. The design takes an analogy that teachers are hard-workers like bees and store their "goodies" in the cells. Bees or visitors to the homepage are welcomed to enjoy the storage and at the same time make a contribution to renew the storage.

      Apart from being required to learn some topics on the Internet, our Science elective students in the Secondary Certificate of Education course at HKIEd are also given about six hours of lessons on home-page authoring as a part of the module called "Current Issues in Science Education". The contents include the following major components:

    Every student-teacher was assigned individually a networked computer with Windows 95 operating system to do hands-on practice in a computer room during those lessons. All of them were required to learn web-authoring for developing their own course materials on the Internet. Immediately after completing those lessons, the student-teachers were invited to fill in a questionnaire. Being the first of its kind in the Institute, this is a pilot study aimed to capture the attitudes of the student-teachers towards using the Internet for education purposes. Furthermore, the learning effectiveness of every online courseware will be assessed by peer evaluation, questionnaire survey and interview/lesson observation in near future.

  4. Adaptation and Peer Induction Stage - When the HKIEd students become teachers in schools after graduation, they would probably (as required by the Government's IT policy) apply their knowledge and experience learnt from the HKIEd to develop their own online teaching materials and/or make use of other resources available from the Internet for implementation in their school syllabuses. At the same time, they would also induce or inspire their colleagues to learn these teaching methodologies by peer teaching or other means and adopt this new teaching strategies in their classrooms, creating the "rolling snow ball" effect. The role of those new teachers will then become more important as they are the pioneers to bring the latest educational technologies into schools while many in-service school teachers may not have the opportunity or time to take up some refresher training courses.

  5. School Implementation Stage - As promised by the Hong Kong Government in Fall, 1997, all secondary and primary schools will be provided with much more computer facilities and Internet access. Besides, home computer and Internet access at home are becoming very popular nowadays and the cabling for Interactive TV service could also enhance the user's local Internet access speed by about 50 times. Therefore, the physical environment in Hong Kong will become very favorable and feasible for using the Internet in school education within the next two years. There are already a few local websites [HREF 11-13] established specifically for the local school pupils but much more learning materials are to be developed preferably by school teachers themselves who clearly know what the pupils should learn.


Student-Teachers' Attitudes

The measurement of students‘ attitudes toward computers has been argued to be central criterion in the evaluation of computer courses and in the development of computer based curricula (Woodrow, 1991). It is hoped that the findings of the measurement will form a basis for raising the awareness of local teacher educators towards students’ attitudes and for integrating the Internet (especially the World Wide Web) in the curriculum that tailor-fit the needs of the student-teachers.

 In measuring the attitudes of the student-teachers, the questionnaire consists of four distinct constructs as identified by Kay (1993), Davis (1993) and Selwyn (1997). The four constructs are: affect (feeling towards computers); behavioural (behavioural intentions and actions with respect to computers); perceived behaviour control (perceived ease, or difficulty, of using computers) and perceived usefulness (the degree to which an individual believes using computers will enhance their job performance). For the purpose of measuring the student-teachers‘ attitudes towards using the Internet for education, the latter three constructs are re-defined. As given in Table 1, items in the perceived usefulness construct refer to the application of the Internet in helping the respondent to improve the quality of his/ her teaching. Items contributing to the perceived control component request the respondent to rate his/ her perceived familiarity in authoring a home-page. Items composing the behavioural component identifies whether the respondent would explore other computer software or homepage for self-learning or education purposes in future. Gender, previous education level, computer ownership and Internet access at home made up the demographic questions.

 As a pilot study, about 50 Science elective student-teachers have been asked to participate the questionnaire survey and only 37 returned questionnaires are meaningful for detailed analysis. The four constructs made up a total of 19 items and were accompanied by a seven-point Likert response scale. The scale was labeled strongly agree, agree, slightly agree, uncertain, slightly disagree, disagree and strongly disagree. Items from the four constructs were randomly presented to avoid any "clustering" effect. Eight of the items were negatively worded to provide a check against respondents giving positive or negative response sets. The software package SPSS 6.0 was adopted in analyzing the data.

 The demographic characteristics of the respondents were summarized in Table 2. In the present study, a total of 18 males and 19 females participated in the study. Computer ownership was high comprising 89% whereas Internet access at home amounts to 35% of the population. As compared with the corresponding figures of 81% and 15% found in Mid 1996 (Yeung and Ng 1996, Ng et al 1997), there is a trend of rapidly increasing popularity of Internet usage at home.

 A preliminary analysis of the data was conducted in which the mean of each item was calculated. In computing the mean, a value of +3 was assigned to strongly agree, 0 to uncertain and -3 to strongly disagree. A positive value shows general agreement with the item, and a negative value shows general disagreement. The reliability coefficient alpha of the questionnaire itself is 0.854. The mean values (after proper change of sign) and standard deviations for all items under the four constructs were summarized in Table 3. Since the sample size is rather small for this pilot survey, we could not draw very definite conclusion from the findings. We could only say that student-teachers have slightly positive attitudes in the affective, behaviroural and perceived usefulness components with mean values of about 0.43 to 0.52 but they have rather negative attitudes in the perceived control component with mean value being -0.91. In a future large scale study, a pre-treatment and a post-treatment surveys are needed together with a survey on a control group so that we could investigate the changes induced by this small element of "Internet for education" component as embedded in the teacher education program.


Implications and Conclusion

The five stages of development as described above will have different kinds of significance and implications in the teacher education program and in the school curricula. For the first stage, it has already led to some education related conference papers or workshops presented. For the second stage, the efforts needed are found to be very huge but there are many kinds of output/deliverables that could be obtained:

Besides, the project will not only benefit (in Stage 3) our students with extensive education experience in the WWW provided by the latest information and educational technology but also help to establish the HKIEd as a centre of excellence in applying WWW for teacher education through the relevant research and development of staff expertise. However, we must conduct some in-depth research to investigate how to integrate the Internet with the pedagogical content knowledge and teaching methodologies in various teacher education programs and assess quantitatively and qualitatively the effectiveness of this new approach.

 With the use of Internet in Stages 4 and 5, it is anticipated that the school teachers will have greater flexibility to handle the problem of mixed student abilities and solve the problem of insufficient Chinese references for practicing the Chinese Medium of Instructions approach in the junior secondary schools. Besides, most teachers could get rid of the remedial teaching as needed for academically weaker students by means of online tutorials or self-learning materials.




Financial support from the Teaching Development Grants of HKIEd is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to Mr. Wong Chi Fai for his assistance in the statistical analysis.


Table 1 Items in the four construct components


Affective Component (4 items)

I feel it is a good experience

It is uncomfortable to me*

I am happy with it

It is tense to me*

Perceived Control Component (5 items)

I could closely follow the teacher’s instruction to write HTML documents by myself

I did NOT need any help/advice from my classmates on practicing the authoring techniques

I am NOT familiar with most of the techniques to write various WWW home-page features*

I can make any home-page materials that I need

I still need an experienced person to assist/advise me on authoring any home-page*

Behavioural Component ( 3 items)

I prefer to have more hypermedia materials for self-learning on the Internet at HKIEd

I do NOT like to explore more about developing home-page for education on the Internet*

I would avoid taking a teaching post which requires me to develop home-page materials*

Perceived Usefulness Component (5 items)

I will use the Internet to help my teaching at school

The Internet motivates me in self-learning

The Internet does NOT enable me to be more creative and imaginative*

The Internet improves the quality of my teacher education

The Internet CANNOT enhance my teaching performance at school*

*Items worded in the negative sense.


Table 2 The demographic characteristics of the respondents


Demographic Variable








Computer ownership






Internet access at home








Table 3 Preliminary results on students' attitudes

Affective Component

Perceived Control Component

Behavioural Component

Perceived Usefulness Component











Figure 1. A model of combined expertise development and implementation in using the Internet for education


Figure 2. Organization chart for developing the interactive hypermedia resources on the Internet



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Hypertext references

[HREF 1] The Learning Resource Server, College of Education, University of Illinois
[HREF 2] Best Information on the Net, St. Ambrose University
[HREF 3] Online Courses, Curtin University of Technology
[HREF 4] Physics with Java Applets
[HREF 5] Collegenet Academic Resources
[HREF 6] World Lecture Hall
[HREF 7] SUNY Vistual Classroom
[HREF 8] Teaching Theaters, University of Maryland
[HREF 9] Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)
[HREF 10] Hypermedia And Self-Learning Centre (HAS Centre)

[HREF 11]

Hong Kong School Internet

[HREF 12]

Hong Kong School Net

[HREF 13]