Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 79The Role of Information and Communications Technology in Road Safety Education
BITER: The British Institute of Traffic Education Research
The Scottish Road Safety Campaign promotes road safety education in schools and has developed a range of resources for use by teachers and pupils including, more recently, the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The Scottish Executive commissioned research to explore the potential of ICT as a means of teaching road safety, to compare the extent of its use with the more traditional road safety education formats, and to evaluate its potential as a future road safety education source.
- A number of ICT- based resources are already available for use in road safety education and other resources are in the process of being developed.
- Primary schools tended to teach road safety in a range of contexts and 17% used a variety of ICT-based media to support this work.
- The SRSC resource, 'Smart Moves', an interactive CD-ROM designed to promote and support RSE, was used by more than half of the primary schools who used ICT in road safety education.
- Only 7% of respondents in secondary schools reported using ICT in road safety education. Much of this was related to young driver work.
- Pupils, teachers and Road Safety Officers were in favour of the use of ICT as a medium for road safety education.
- Users of ICT based resources for road safety education considered it important that ICT should be used appropriately, where it was the best means of achieving particular educational goals.
- The successful use of ICT across the curriculum requires support mechanisms for the teachers, pupils and other individuals who might be involved; additional support mechanisms might need to be introduced if new ICT-based resources were produced for road safety education.
- ICT has a future as a medium for road safety education, and developments now taking place indicate that it can cater for a wide range of user groups.
The Scottish Road Safety Campaign (SRSC), funded by the Scottish Executive, is committed to reducing road casualties in Scotland. Road safety education (RSE) plays an important part in the SRSC's aim to raise and maintain awareness of road safety issues. The SRSC is involved in the promotion of RSE in schools and has developed a range of education resources for use by teachers and pupils. More recently, resources have been developed to take advantage of the rapid growth of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including use of the Internet, in schools, so that one-to-one interaction between pupil and computer should assist learning about road safety issues. These issues include road-crossing behaviour for the younger child and topics for the young driver.
The potential of ICT as a means of teaching road safety had not yet been evaluated nor compared with the use of more traditional media and formats. The Scottish Executive therefore commissioned research to evaluate the use of ICT in road safety education in Scottish schools and its future potential in the effective teaching of road safety issues to younger and older children.
More specific objectives of the research were:
- To document what is currently available and being developed in the ICT field for use as an RSE resource in schools
- To establish what type of ICT resource is the most extensively used for RSE in Scottish schools and why
- To obtain the views of teachers, pupils and Road Safety Officers on ICT as a medium for RSE
- To identify the strengths and weaknesses of ICT as a medium for RSE, compared with more traditional teaching methods
- To explore the use of ICT based road safety resources in the context of its wider use as a teaching medium in schools
- To evaluate the potential of ICT as a future RSE resource and the extent to which it can be successfully integrated into RSE.
As part of its review, the research also looked at the use and effectiveness of the CD-ROM Smart Moves, which was launched by the SRSC in 1997. This, an interactive CD-ROM aimed at the 10-14 age group, features four main characters and addresses a range of road safety themes.
About the Research
The research was conducted in three complementary parts. A resource review was conducted to determine the number of resources for road safety education (RSE) that involved ICT and to ascertain the role and current use of ICT as a general educational resource.
A large-scale questionnaire survey of all schools in Scotland was carried out. The response rate (38% of primary schools and 32% of secondary schools) was considered good for a postal questionnaire with no follow-up. The survey was followed by visits to 43 schools across Scotland to obtain more detailed information. At least one teacher was interviewed in each school and small groups of pupils were interviewed in six schools in order to explore their views on Information and Communications Technology and road safety education.
Interviews took place with Road Safety personnel Officers to explore different attitudes to and experience of ICT. Further interviews were conducted with a range of ICT practitioners and specialists who were involved in the development of new ICT-based resources to identify ways in which ICT could be harnessed to promote the teaching of RSE and how RSE might provide a medium for the development of ICT education in schools.
An interrogation of the ROSALIND 1 database revealed that, across the UK, 70 road safety resources are available in ICT format. This represents approximately 5% of available road safety teaching resources. Of these 70, almost 40%, are designed for drivers and pre-drivers. A number of websites provide information on road safety. Some of these belong to dedicated road safety organisations such as the SRSC, or cover specific road safety themes such as motoring or cycling organisations. Other websites provide information on road safety issues as part of a wider topic such as health. The resource review concluded that the successful development of road safety ICT should incorporate 'interactivity' i.e. more than mere physical interaction between student and machine, but which should engage the student in purposeful, problem solving activity.
The large-scale survey of all schools in Scotland showed that 17% of respondents in primary schools reported using ICT in RSE. A dedicated RSE resource had been used by 13% of respondents, and more than half of those specified Smart Moves as one such resource. Only 7% of respondents in secondary schools reported using ICT in RSE. Much of this was related to young driver work.
The survey indicated that pupils' overall use of computers varied from little or none in some contexts, to extensive use across the curriculum. Some schools made Internet and Intranet facilities accessible for their pupils. Teachers in schools that were on the point of setting up Internet or Intranet facilities expressed some trepidation about developing such facilities. A mixed picture emerged of ICT facilities available to pupils, and of the confidence that teachers felt in using ICT.
Views varied on the development of ICT based material to support RSE. The majority of primary school respondents who made comments were largely supportive of and interested in such developments -
"Any tool which will help to reinforce the road safety message would be gratefully accepted by the school"
Some secondary school respondents repeated this view -
"Our future development of social education should include ICT in our methodology. I am sure that RSE, like all other aspects of the curriculum, will make very good use of ICT in the future"
but other comments reflected a view that RSE (whether or not it involved ICT) should be directed towards primary schools.
Interviews with Road Safety Officers indicated that the vast majority had a good grasp of ICT issues, and were keen to exploit the potential offered by ICT-based RSE resources. However, it was recognised that additional training and support might be needed by RSOs and teachers in the introduction of such resources.
Interviews with practitioners and specialists in ICT indicated that a range of ICT initiatives are going on that might accommodate RSE themes and help promote RSE. In addition, it was found that some ICT-based RSE resources are being developed by road safety specialists. Whilst the majority of these resources are small-scale or in the early stages, they can potentially be applied and distributed widely in the road safety education field. See below for examples of two such initiatives-
Junior Road Safety Officer CD-ROM
As part of its promotion of the Junior Road Safety Officer (JRSO) scheme, one Police Authority Road Safety Unit has obtained sponsorship from a large insurance company to produce a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM was developed through the involvement of 'focus groups' of JRSOs in meetings with the technical and road safety experts. It offers a graded series of games for each of three stages of primary pupils and there is a section that is accessible only to JRSOs. The JRSO material includes stationery that can be used for letters and certificates that can be printed to award achievement. The CD-ROM was launched in August 1999, but if it proves successful, it might be suitable for nation-wide distribution and thus a means of promoting the initiation or development of JRSO schemes throughout the country.
Pedestrian skill training in simulated environments
Work currently being carried out by Strathclyde University aims to build on the success of practical pedestrian skill training but to reduce the time and effort that is required to implement a successful training programme.
A CD-ROM is being developed to provide a simulation of real road environments and to encourage pupils to work co-operatively with other children and a trainer in developing road-crossing strategies. Any learning that takes place is done through interaction. It is possible that if, at the end of the research period, the CD-ROM proves a satisfactory alternative to a practical training programme carried out exclusively on the roads, it may be made widely available.
The results of the survey and both the literature review and anecdotal evidence indicate that ICT should be used selectively, taking account of its strengths and weaknesses as a tool for learning. In addition, the needs of those using it should be considered and training and support provided as necessary. There was support for the use of ICT in road safety education, as long as these caveats were observed.
Any new developments should be designed so as to take advantage of the unique features afforded by Information and Communications Technology. There are occasions when ICT is not the most appropriate medium for a resource and its appropriateness should be evaluated before adopting it as a medium for any new resource. Once ICT has been identified as an appropriate medium, a sound understanding of both the advantages and disadvantages of ICT and the support needs of people using it should underpin any new resource development
- The SRSC should use the range of resources, including personnel, links to other organisations and funding, that it has at its disposal to support the development of ICT based resources for road safety education.
- The SRSC should extend and expand its website to allow it to reach a range of targets and carry out a number of functions.
- The SRSC should support, through appropriate training and publicity, the launch of any new ICT road safety education resources.
- In selecting the road safety education medium, ICT should not be used for its own sake, but in the pursuit of some viable educational goal.
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1 ROSALIND, version 3.0 for Windows, BITER, 1998