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Teachers’ use of technology and the impact of Covid-19

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Teaching online poses challenges for teachers trained primarily to work face to face. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown of schools has forced teachers to move online to ensure students continue their studies. This is not an easy transition and success depends on educators having the skills, knowledge, and competencies for online teaching. As part of the Adaptive and Inclusive Learning Environment (AILE) project, this study surveyed 38 primary and post-primary teachers in Ireland on their use of technology and the impact of Covid-19 on their work. The findings present teachers’ perceptions of their own skills and competencies and the challenges experienced in using technology. The research highlights the technological requirements for successful online teaching.
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Irish Educational Studies
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ries20
Teachers’ use of technology and the impact of
Covid-19
Eileen Winter, Aisling Costello, Moya O’Brien & Grainne Hickey
To cite this article: Eileen Winter, Aisling Costello, Moya O’Brien & Grainne Hickey (2021):
Teachers’ use of technology and the impact of Covid-19, Irish Educational Studies, DOI:
10.1080/03323315.2021.1916559
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/03323315.2021.1916559
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
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Published online: 28 Apr 2021.
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Teachersuse of technology and the impact of Covid-19
Eileen Winter, Aisling Costello*
1
,MoyaOBrien and Grainne Hickey
Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe, Maynooth, Ireland
(Received 25 February 2021; accepted 7 April 2021)
Teaching online poses challenges for teachers trained primarily to work face to
face. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown of schools has forced
teachers to move online to ensure students continue their studies. This is not an
easy transition and success depends on educators having the skills, knowledge,
and competencies for online teaching. As part of the Adaptive and Inclusive
Learning Environment (AILE) project, this study surveyed 38 primary and
post-primary teachers in Ireland on their use of technology and the impact of
Covid-19 on their work. The ndings present teachersperceptions of their own
skills and competencies and the challenges experienced in using technology. The
research highlights the technological requirements for successful online teaching.
Keywords: Technology use; Covid-19; teaching online; training
1. Background
Technology is a major factor inuencing education today. Schools are expected to use
technology to enhance the education of their students yet challenges to its usehave been
identied (Johnson et al. 2016). First are factors external to teachers such as availability
of equipment, access to resources, training and support. If students and teachers do not
have access to computers and fast internet connections then implementing online
teaching is not feasible. Second are factors internal to teachers such as attitudes and
beliefs about technology use, their skills and knowledge. If teachers have not had suf-
cient training in technology then they lack the necessary skills. Ertmer (1999) describes
these factors as rst and second order barrierseither of which can limit efforts to inte-
grate technology. Effective strategies are needed to address both.
In-schoolhelp and support are also critical. Working online means teachers have to
adapt to new pedagogical concepts and modes of delivery of teaching for which they
have not been trained(Schlichter 2020, 4). According to OECDs Teaching and Learn-
ing International Survey (TALIS 2018) 40% of teachers had no professional develop-
ment in technology use and almost 20% saw a high need for more training. Younger
teachers were found to use technology more frequently than older colleagues as were
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distri-
bution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or
built upon in any way.
*Corresponding author. Email: aisling.costello@tudublin.ie
1
Present address: School of Languages, Law and Social Sciences, Technological University
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Irish Educational Studies, 2021
https://doi.org/10.1080/03323315.2021.1916559
teachers who had in-service training. The National Literacy Trust (Picton 2019) found
most teachers supported using technology but cited lackof training as the major barrier.
Almostaquarter(23.3%)hadnotraininginusingtechnologyinliteracyteaching.
Research shows that training is essential if teachers are going to integrate technology
successfully (Hepp, Fernandez, and Garcia 2015). Teachers must know how and
when to use technology which, when used appropriately, is an important tool in the
classroom (Hollebrands 2020). Teacherslevels of technological skills and capacity to
adapt both the quality and quantity of curriculum are essential for success.
Government decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in the closure of
many schools. This has made it necessary for teachers to work online where they face the
prospect of designing lessons, homework, assignments and assessment suitable for online
learning. Many teachers who report having little or no training in technology are faced
with a major change in their practice. Change is usually done in small steps, testing what
works and what does not, however the speed of response to the Covid-19 pandemic has
not allowed for a slow and steady approach. In effect, almost overnight the nature of tea-
cherswork shifted radically. It moved into unchartered territory where there are no
guidelines and where much of what works in person may not work online. Milman
(2020) describes this teaching online response to the crisis as Emergency Remote Teach-
ing (ERT) and not just online teaching. Hodges et al. (2020) also propose that ERT is a
more suitable term. Regardless of the terminology, this shift will be challenging for tea-
chers. This move also resulted in a radical shift in student learning. It cannot be assumed
that all students will have access to the appropriate technology and home support. We
also cannot assume that all teachers will be successful online (Palloff and Pratt 2007),
or that all students will be successful online learners (Leidner and Jarvenpaa 1995).
The move to ERT is likely toresultin learning loss for many students. Factors associ-
ated with learning loss include student stress, lack of motivation, and less time spent
learning. This loss will affect disadvantaged children more since they may not have
access to computers, the internet and other necessary technologies (Willis 2020).
These are what Ertmer (1999)callsrst-order barriers. Compounding this is that
some students may not have a suitable learning space at home. According to ndings
from TALIS (2018), across OECD countries, nine percent of 15-year-old students did
not have anywhere to study at home. Parental support, both direct and indirect, may
also be lacking (Di Pietro et al. 2020). Successful online learners must be disciplined,
motivated, self-directed and good at time management (Brown 2019). This may be
more challenging for students working at home and who lack support. Whileall children
will be impacted, those educationally disadvantaged will experience more learning loss.
Establishing and maintaining a presenceonline as described by Garrison (2017)can
be difcult. Due to the lockdown, many students will not have had an opportunity to
meet classmates or form friendships that would happen naturally in a classroom. The
social presence online demands much more teacher to student interaction and feedback.
It is especially signicant when students are worried by a global crisis (Salmons 2020).
Being part of a community of learners helps to reduce stress and feelings of loneliness.
Increased numbers of children use the internet today and do so at very young ages
(Hooft-Graaand 2018). Current research shows that 52% of 34-year-olds and 82%
of 57-year-olds in the UK are online (Ofcom 2019). These children are already
engaged with technology which creates opportunities for teachers to integrate tech-
nology in the classroom. This emphasises the need for teachers to be able to use tech-
nology condently and effectively.
2E. Winter et al.
1.1. Study objectives
The study was conducted as part of the Adaptive and Inclusive Learning Environment
(AILE) project
1
and reports on the ndings from the Irish sample. The objectives were to:
(1) Examine teachersuse of technology;
(2) Identify teachersskills in using technology;
(3) Examine barriers to the successful use of technology;
(4) Investigate the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on the use of technology.
2. Methods
2.1. Procedure
An online survey was used as it allowed the researchers to collect a broad range of
data on participants and their use of technology (Fowler 2002). The original
survey, created for the AILE Erasmus+ project, was adapted for use with Irish tea-
chers. Follow up interviews to further probe issues arising from the survey were
planned, however, due to Covid-19 restraints were not completed. The nal survey,
consisting of 55 questions, was developed using Survey Monkey. It included
closed questions to capture biographical details and student proles, and rating ques-
tions to determine skill levels and use of online technologies. Sample questions are
included in the Appendix.
Open ended questions were also used. Open ended questions developed from the
study objectives (e.g. barriers to using technology; impact of Covid-19) offered oppor-
tunities for respondents to provide extensive insights into their pedagogical practices
online through self-reporting. Sample questions included: How have the recent
changes to education caused by Covid-19 impacted on your use of technology?
What student learning and behavioural difculties have affected your use of
technology?
Quantitative data were analysed using Survey Monkey, providing descriptive
data on the percentage of respondents in each category (see Appendix). Qualitative
data were analysed thematically.
2.2. Participants
Thirty-eight Irish primary (47%) and post-primary (53%) teachers, predominantly
working in urban locations (87.5%) completed the online survey. Table 1 provides
details of participant age and years of teaching.
3. Results
3.1. Teacherstechnology use and skills
3.1.1. Frequency of technology use
Respondents were asked to identify how frequently they use technology in their teach-
ing on a weekly basis (for sample question, see Appendix). Responses were recorded
on a Likert Scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely high). Approximatelyone-
third (32%) report extremely highfrequency with a further group (32%) reporting
highlevel use. Responses show that technology is used most frequently for
Irish Educational Studies 3
administrative and teaching tasks and less often for homework activities. This may
reect that teachers know not all students have access to the internet or the equipment
necessary to do the assigned tasks.
3.1.2. Skills
Respondents were asked to describe the level they are at in relation to technology use.
A small number report being at an awareness level and avoid using technology where
possible while some identify themselves as being at a basic stage of understanding
technology. Sometimes, they express a sense of frustration or a lack of self-condence.
Almost half feel there are several technologies that could help and that they could use
in their teaching if available and they had training. Table 2 presents an overview of
respondentsskill levels in using a range of software.
3.1.3. Ideal use
Responses indicate that teachersideal use of technology is associated with inte-
gration and enhancement of teaching and learning.
Where it is fully integrated into my teaching and the students are interacting with it to
achieve learning objectives. (p1)
Table 1. Overview of participant age range and years of teaching experience.
Demographic information Percentage
Age ranges
2029 years old 28
3039 years old 22
4049 years old 19
50 and over 31
Teaching experience
20 years plus 34
1519 years 6
1014 years 16
59 years 19
14 years 25
Table 2. Respondentsskill level in technology use.
No
awareness Beginner Medium Advanced Expert
Email 0% 4% 12% 42% 42%
Word processing 0% 0% 24% 44% 32%
Presentation software 4% 8% 29% 42% 17%
TV monitors, computers,
interactive whiteboard
4% 8% 56% 16% 16%
Projectors 4% 12% 36% 32% 16%
Multimedia use (e.g. video) 8% 12% 36% 20% 24%
4E. Winter et al.
Technology should support teaching and learning; pedagogy is always rst. It should
support students in their learning journey, allowing learners to involve themselves in
different types of activities to discover and experience learning by themselves. (p23)
To facilitate learning, the students need to be using it rather than the teacher just using it
as a way of delivering information. (p26)
3.1.4. Preferred technology programmes
Reporting on the technology they would most like to use, most referenced are the
interactive whiteboard, Microsoft teams and OneNote.
Interactive whiteboard as it combines application of technology with teaching and learn-
ing objectives. (p1)
Microsoft Teams and OneNote. Learning platforms that can be accessed by students at
any time and used by the teacher to store resources and class materials. (p11)
Microsoft OneNote and Teams help you connect to staff and students. OneNote is a
wonderful way to record, le and store information. The platform has saved our
sanity during social distancing. (p16)
3.1.5. Factors inuencing use
Three main factors inuence teachersuse of technology. They are the experience of
other teachers; availability of technology in the classroom and availability of in-school
training. Some teachers lack condence in using technology and this inuences their
use. They feel in-school support is urgently needed.
I would like the condence and experience to be able to use technology in the classroom
I dont have enough expertise to use it as competently as I would like. (p5)
Having a full time IT technician on our staff to help with any problems. (p12)
3.1.6. Impact of Covid-19
Most respondents report that recent changes to education caused by Covid-19 have
increased their use of technology. They explained:
We now teach using zoom, emails, class dojo, YouTube, interactive videos, PowerPoint.
(p6)
I have accessed more apps and websites than I have done previously. (p7)
Ive had to rely solelyon technology to continue producing and presenting content to my
students. (p19)
With reference to the impact on children, respondents say:
It is very useful. If we didnt have IT, no child would be able to learn from home. (p15)
Children have adjusted easily to using technology for school work, might be more likely
to assign online homework in future. (p21)
Irish Educational Studies 5
In our school we have managed to keep a good level of learning and engagement going
for students right from the off when the school was closed. (p26)
Responses involving condence in using technology are mixed. Some responses indi-
cate a lack of condence and a need for support. Most feel more condent using tech-
nology following the Covid-19 restrictions:
Google Classroom, Zoom have given me more condence to teach remotely. (p21)
I am still learning about online learning platforms and dont feel condent yet. (p7)
I need to become more procient in how to vary delivery and content to students and to
make their response more interactive. (p26)
3.2. Student proles
Participants responded to questions on student learning and behaviour such as
motivation, curiosity and enthusiasm. Most report having students who lack these
qualities. Explanations include:
Parents not being involved leads to children not engaging. (p6)
They dont all have their own devices, space in the home, good broadband and some need
your physical presence to keep them motivated. (p30)
The majority report having students exhibiting learning and behavioural charac-
teristics including:
.passivity and resistance to new experiences
.low self-condence, shyness or insecurity
.difculty interacting appropriately with their peers
.problems interacting with the teacher or asking for help
.attentional difculties and distractibility
.impulsivity
.failure to follow class rules
Participants provided explanations for some of the difculties. For example, dif-
culty organising themselves could be a reection of their age and stage of develop-
ment I teach a young age group so this is common(p7). Writing difculties may be
the result of a learning disability, Student with Dyspraxia(p21).
3.2.1. Home support
The majority of teachers have some students who lack adequate home support. Most
believe their students can access technology at home if needed, however, some do not
have any access. Of note is that some teachers report not knowing about students
access to technology at home. Since learning online from home is essential as a
result of the pandemic, teachers would be expected to be aware of student technology
access.
6E. Winter et al.
4. Discussion
Consistent with previous research the ndings highlight the dynamic interplay of
internal and external factors that inuence teachersuse of technology (Ertmer
1999; Ertmer 2001; Sadaf, Newby, and Ertmer 2016). The following factors were
found to inuence teachersuse of technology:
(1) The experience of other teachers
This suggests teachers are utilising the knowledge and skills of colleagues. The
situation arising from the pandemic presents an opportunity in this area.
Recommendation: The existing skills and knowledge of staff should be identied
and used collaboratively through mentoring and in-school teams. Depending on
staff numbers, a buddy system could be helpful in developing skills. Working with
other teachers and observing them use various technologies impacts on teachersatti-
tudes and beliefs and can help build condence in using technology (Ertmer 2001;
Sadaf, Newby, and Ertmer 2016). Experienced teachers can be used as role models.
In the case of small schools, twinning with a larger school may be benecial.
(2) Availability of technology in the classroom
This suggests that the participants may not have the technology to work online. It
must be recognised, however, that there is a high cost to purchasing and maintaining
equipment.
Recommendation: Schools need a teacher to take inventory and identify what is
available, how it is being used, functionality and what technology is needed.
(3) Availability of in-school training
Findings show participants would like more in-school training. They want input
on specic software and applications, and how to develop multi-media for edu-
cational purposes.
Recommendation: School district consultants can be engaged in school based in-
service days. A school technology team could also provide support, advice and train-
ing for staff.
(4) Studentslack of access to technology at home
This inuences the types of tasks teachers can assign for lessons, homework or
long-term projects. It is a critical factor associated with learning loss in the pandemic.
There are considerable inequalities in pupil access to technology at home. Those from
disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have digital resources or a suitable home
learning environment (Di Pietro et al. 2020).
Recommendation: This is a difcult issue for schools. They are unlikely to have suf-
cient resources to supply disadvantaged pupils with individual equipment. School
districts may have to lobby relevant Government Departments for support. Giving
pupils access to school buildings on a rotational basis could be a possible option.
Irish Educational Studies 7
Winters DiMarco (n.d.) presents a number of useful strategies for students lacking
internet access at home.
(5) Student learning and behaviour
The student proles identify a range of difculties that some students experience.
This will impact on the technology teachers choose to use and the types of tasks they
assign. Planning online work that can be adapted for students with different learning
abilities will require careful collaboration. Regardless of teachersexperience and
skills in using technology, putting in place adaptations that will enable students to
work successfully online presents additional challenges and highlights the need for
guidelines regarding universal design for learning.
Recommendation: Teachers should maximise the advantages online learning has
over a traditional classroom (Carnagey 2001). Examples include that pacing of
work can be adjusted to individual students needs and students can choose different
ways to demonstrate their knowledge. Teachers might explore Universal Design for
Learning (UDL) that uses digital material where possible and provides more exi-
bility and fewer barriers to learning (see OHanlon 2005). Special software such as
Speech recognition or Screenreader can also be useful.
5. Conclusion
Technology is a major factor inuencing education today. Schools are expected to use
it to enhance the education of their students. Two issues have been identied as the
main challenges to its successful use (Johnson et al. 2016). These are factors related
to equipment, resources and training that are external to teachers, described by
Ertmer (1999)asrst-order barriers,and internal factors such as attitudes and
beliefs, condence and skills described as second-order barriers.
Teacher participants use technology on a regular basis and have a good level of
skill in using a wide variety of programmes and apps. There is still, however, a
small number who lack condence, are afraid to use technology and avoid using it
(Kim 2016; Glasel 2018). Notwithstanding the high level of use reported here, bar-
riers still exist. Participants want in-school training and support aswell as appropriate
equipment to integrate technology fully. Although technology is required in the cur-
riculum, research highlights that teachers must believe in it and be willing to use it in
their daily practice (Ertmer 2005; Tondeur et al. 2017). In reviewing the factors that
these respondents identify as inuencing their technology use, it is noted that they
generally are external to the teacher, consistent with Ertmersrst-order barriers
(e.g. lack of equipment, training, lack of home equipment and support, student
characteristics). It may be that these are tangible and therefore easy to identify or
it may be a function of the way in which questions were posed in the survey. Either
way, an important question needs to be asked: Are teachers aware of how
second-orderfactors such as their beliefs and attitudes impact on their use of tech-
nology in teaching?Indeed, are teachers going to admit that they have negative atti-
tudes towards technology or do not see its usefulness to their discipline (Orji 2010).
School closures due to the pandemic have increased teachers engagement with
technology and for the most part, have increased their condence in using it.
Covid-19 will have many far-reaching consequences for society as a whole, and for
8E. Winter et al.
education, teachers, students and parents in particular. On the positive side, it has
helped to enforce the potential of technology. It has also accelerated the rate of
teacher engagement with technology and students have gained skillsets useful for
further education and the world of work. It will be many years before the full
impact of this pandemic becomes clear.
6. Limitations
While this is a relatively small study, it offers useful information about teachersuse of
technology. Findings shed light on teachersexperiences following the Covid-19 lock-
down and can contribute to informing a rapid response to support teachers as they
transition to remote instruction.
As noted, interviews were omitted so ndings are limited to survey data alone.
There are limitations associated with self-report. Although data are considered accu-
rate when people understand the questions, have a strong sense of anonymity and no
fear of reprisal (Brener, Billy, and Grady 2003), respondents may not always answer
honestly. Respondents here are likely to be motivated, technology adept and able to
talk freely without fear of reprisal. Future research should involve teachers with more
diverse technological knowledge and condence.
Teachers tend to self-report their skills as higher than they are (Lam and Bengo
2003). Given the high levels of skill reported here, future research should include
other data collection instruments such as interviews to further investigate this nding.
Furthermore, as this was a researcher developed survey created in collaboration
with a European-based research panel, the questionnaire had not been previously
tested. This survey does not capture the complexity of the relationships between ped-
agogical beliefs, attitudes and technology use. It is recommended that future research
examines this and includes sufcient numbers to allow for Primary versus Secondary
comparisons (see Hodges and Cullen 2020).
Funding
This work was supported by Erasmus+ programme of the European Union [grant number
FR01-KA201-008734].
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Note
1. AILE is an Erasmus+ European project designed to provide teachers with better edu-
cational opportunities for the integration of all pupils to meet learning requirements,
receive equal opportunities and improve their educational development.
Notes on contributors
Dr. Eileen Winter, (C.Psych. PhD) is an experienced educator and psychologist currently Direc-
tor of Academic Programmes with ICEP Europe. She has developed and taught on graduate
and post-graduate programmes in Special Education, Inclusion and Psychology in N.
Ireland, Ireland and Canada. Eileens research interests include teachersmental health, the
Irish Educational Studies 9
use of technology in schools, research methodology and ethics in research with children and
vulnerable groups.
Dr. Aisling Costello (BSc. Psychology; PhD) formerly a researcher for ICEP Europe, currently
works as an assistant lecturer of psychology at the Technological University of Dublin. Her
research interests include developmental psychology, well-being, social media, identity,
relationships and sexuality education.
Dr. Moya OBrien (CPsychol, PhD) is a clinical psychologist, co-founder of ICEP Europe and a
member of both PSI and BPS. She is involved in ongoing research in the area of resilience, assis-
tive technology and online learning.
Dr. Grainne Hickey (BA Mod (Psychology, PhD) is Research and Projects Manager with ICEP
Europe. Dr. Hickeys research interests include applied research, implementation science and
evidence-based practice with children, young people and their families.
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Appendix
Skills
Participants were asked to rate their skill level on the following technologies: email, word pro-
cessing, presentation software, tv monitors, computers, interactive whiteboard, projectors and
multimedia.
Responses were recorded using a Likert type scale from 1 (none) to 5 (expert).
Using the descriptions provided, please select the number that best describes your skills in using
technology in the classroom.
Options
None Beginner Medium Advanced Expert
12345
Irish Educational Studies 11
None indicates a complete lack of skills.
Beginner has a basic capacity to use technology, requiring consistent support.
Medium indicates having good general skills, requiring some support.
Advanced has high level skills in a wide range of technologies, requiring minimal support.
Expert is very knowledgeable, uses multiple applications without support.
Frequency of use
Participants were asked to rate how frequently they use technology on a weekly basis.
Responses were recorded using a Likert type scale from 1 (not at all) to 5(extremely high)
Using the descriptions below, please select the number that best represents how frequently you
use technology on a weekly basis.
Options
Not at all Low Moderate High Extremely high
12345
Not at all indicates no use of technology on a weekly basis.
Low indicates technology is used once or twice a week.
Moderate indicates using technology three or more times a week.
High indicates using technology on a daily basis.
Extremely high indicates daily use across the curriculum.
12 E. Winter et al.
... Technology has a strong influence on education today. Winter et al. [10] suggests that there are internal and external factors that affect how educators experience using digital technology for teaching and learning purposes. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced all educators to use a digital platform to deliver their teaching and learning, but the experience of each was quite different depending on whether: they were comfortable with information technology; had prior experience of using eLearning or a digital platform before in some way or another; had family responsibilities and commitments; had a suitable home working environment; had support; received some form of training perceived appropriate; had the right attitude to adapt to the given circumstances; and whether they used strategies to maintain their health and wellbeing. ...
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... Technology has a strong influence on education today. Winter et al. [10] suggests that there are internal and external factors that affect how educators experience using digital technology for teaching and learning purposes. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced all educators to use a digital platform to deliver their teaching and learning, but the experience of each was quite different depending on whether: they were comfortable with information technology; had prior experience of using eLearning or a digital platform before in some way or another; had family responsibilities and commitments; had a suitable home working environment; had support; received some form of training perceived appropriate; had the right attitude to adapt to the given circumstances; and whether they used strategies to maintain their health and wellbeing. ...
... The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced all educators to use a digital platform to deliver their teaching and learning, but the experience of each was quite different depending on whether: they were comfortable with information technology; had prior experience of using eLearning or a digital platform before in some way or another; had family responsibilities and commitments; had a suitable home working environment; had support; received some form of training perceived appropriate; had the right attitude to adapt to the given circumstances; and whether they used strategies to maintain their health and wellbeing. Winter et al. [10] confirms this by suggesting that educators' attitudes and beliefs about technology use and their skills and knowledge, as well as receiving sufficient training in technology all contribute to how confident they would feel when using technology. This view is supported by research conducted by Onyema et al. [11]. ...
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