The first measure of thematic analysis was analysis of interviews data. The objective was to answer the following question: What are strengths (internal) and opportunities (external) of using ICT in process of smartization of schools? The term organizational strength refers to resources, skills, abilities, and advantages concerning organizational requirements. An organization aims to satisfy organizational strength (
3). In smart schools, strengths refer to software and hardware means, computer science, and expertise in dealing with technology, fluency in English, ability to create electronic content, use of compute for different educational fields such as representation of content and doing homework. In environments outside smart schools, using ICT in education could create potential opportunities. In contrast, a set of strengths and opportunities, which were classified, summarized, and reported based on interview documents, could be considered. 3.1. Strengths and Opportunities of Using ICT in School Smartization Process
By reviewing and analyzing the experts’ comments, it can be suggested that smart schools transfer a set of factors to their environment (mostly to students), which could be regarded as a key variable. Based on previous interviews, main codes were extracted from the interview texts and their primary themes are as follows:
Learner activity: because these schools are characterized by paying attention to the active role of students in learning and because individual differences of learners are considered within education process, they contribute to development of positive characteristics among learners. Based on psychological theories of cognitivists (eg, Piaget and Vygotsky) and because students are active and change through time, they experience a deep and meaningful learning. Learning becomes a joyful experience for them and imposes indirect educational effects on them. One of the interviewees stated:
“In these schools, it is attempted to address problems of learners in educational, physical, and psychological aspects. Disciplinary issues are less frequently observed in smart schools. With regards to disciplinary affairs, these schools are equipped with smart attendance system and closed circuit camera in their classrooms, halls, and laboratories. In the case of absence of a student, his/her parents are notified through SMS and this adds to the discipline of the students.” (Interviewee No. 5)
Improving students’ personality: emphasis on and attention to the active role of students in a learning center could be one of the proper opportunities of these schools. Because students and teachers’ role have changed in these schools as teachers play a facilitating role and students should involve in the learning process, one of the major objectives of this educational system is personality improvement and educational aspect of a person. This significant issue is more clearly followed in the process of establishing these schools. One of the interviewees stated:
“One of the most significant opportunities before learners in smart schools is improving sense of self-confidence and trust in oneself. In these schools, disciplinary issues are less frequent compared to typical schools. In smart schools, a teacher could adopt a wide range of methods for training. In addition, these schools add to creativity of leaners and open new paths for them. These schools contribute to internalization of information and data in a learner.” (interviewee No. 3)
3.2. Interactive Learning in Educational Settings
Concurrent involvement of parents, teachers, and students in the learning process could add to quality of learning and creativity of students. Encouragement and positive feedback by teachers and parents could highly motivate the student. In this regard, one of the interviewees stated, “There are bilateral and multilateral associations between these factors and role of a student changes from a passive learner to an active one. School acts like a real training setting and learning becomes meaningful. In addition, the knowledge levels of involved parties (parent’s knowledge of the child and administrator’s knowledge of the teacher) acts in a monitoring manner. A person plays a more significant role in the learning process.”
3.3. Developing Educational Quality
As one of the interviewees (No. 5) stated, one of the opportunities for using ICT in smartization of schools is as follows:
“Schools are basis of a society. For developing a society, technological tools and facilities as well as economic, cultural, and educational infrastructures should be available so that quality of education could be enhanced.” (interviewee No. 5) (
Figure 1. Scheme of Strengths and Opportunities of School Smartization [Research Findings]
3.4. Weaknesses and Threats of Using ICT in School Smartization Process
High rates of variation and slow changes of educational systems in fundamental infrastructures could act as serious threats against precise implementation of school smartization process. A part of encoding process is aimed at addressing the following question: What are strengths and threats of using ICT process in school smartization process?
Insufficiency of expert labor force: without presence of teachers with sufficient skills in dealing with abilities of ICT, one could not use this instrument in educating students or administrating schools. One of the barriers of slow-performing system is the lack of familiarity and expertise of labor force (ie, teachers). Most university lecturers do not benefit from sufficient practical courses and communicate content in a theoretical manner. When they face equipment and tools for practical use, they lack creativity and knowledge in using them. In addition, re-training and in-service courses held for teachers lack sufficient effectiveness and efficiency (
19). Based on rate of changes in the world and in the field of educating teachers, teachers should have knowledge of latest tools, information, and ideas concerning their distinctive subject of study. In such schools, this lack of up-to-date knowledge of teachers in proper and effective use of these technological means prevents them from realization of intended objectives. One of the interviewees stated, “Using this tool requires sufficient and up-to-date knowledge of software information. Most of our colleagues are comfortable with the traditional method and do not care to use these applications and methods or they are not sufficiently fluent in English.” (Interviewee No. 6)
Lack of skilled and efficient labor force in using IT-based methods in planning and educating learners, teachers’ lack of expertise in operationalization of these methods, and lack of fluency in English are major problems against smartization of these schools.
Incorrect culture in use of ict tools: the majority of factors that could be mentioned as strengths of this system may contribute to entropy and cause fall of the system. This is implied by one of the interviewees:
“There is no such thing as threat. In other words, when requirements of an organization are not satisfied or are absent, they act as threats against the organization. For instance, in a smart school, the presence of professional labor force is required and if there is no such a force, it is regarded as a source of threat.” (interviewee No. 4)
In addition, one of the interviewees stated:
“When a student is using a computer at home or school, he/she may do immoral works such as visiting immoral websites.” (interviewee No. 6)
Considering threats against smart schools, participants 1, 4, and 6 stated that when using a computer at home or school, a student might do non-educational activities such as logging on immoral websites.
Weakness in policymaking and ICT Strategies: Making personal decisions, acting subjectively and the presence of ambiguous regulations could challenge establishment of this system and lower the rate of implementation of the system. It could act as a serious threat against the whole system as one of the interviewees suggested:
“Interference of education organization in registration of students in smart schools by periodization of registration of teachers and forwarding recommendation letters to such schools to make them register more students than they can manage (ie, more than 15 students per classroom) show that none of our schools has the essential conditions.” (interviewee No. 1)
To identify the major challenges against smartization of schools, a semi-structured interview with experts was done. After analyzing research data, 4 primary categories were identified. These categories were introduced within a thematic model called challenges and opportunities of school smartization from experts’ viewpoint. The categories were described based on some interviews. Lack of strong theoretical principles for supporting these measures and benefiting from development model, problems resulting from the negative attitude of authorities and parents regarding ICT due to unfamiliarity with this technology, and lack of comparative studies were among major barriers against development of strategies in this field. One of the interviewees suggested:
“Our problem results from misperception of this new but effective system and this is because of lack of comparative studies in this field. I believe that the gap could be filled by trying more and drawing upon strong scientific evidence.” (interviewee No. 5)
By making a correct policy, developing proper cultures for using this system, highlighting significance and advantages of this method (being premised on learning condition and orientation around students), conducting comparative studies and using this system in different societies, one could highlight the effects of this system and encourage students, parents, and teachers to adopt the system.
Mismatch between structural factors and technological infrastructure: IT infrastructure is among requirements of smartization process. There are new technologies, which teachers could use as means of e-learning such as the internet. The issue of educational equipment and modern technologies, especially its use in education process, is one of the most significant concerns of each institute or training unit. These equipment should be sufficient and satisfy relevant standard. In addition, because of their need for maintenance and support, these tools should be properly used. Lack of use and inaccessibility of these items are among major problems against school smartization. Hardware-related problems such as website development and maintenance in schools, connectivity problems, and internet speed limitation in these schools, problems concerning definite security policies in a school, lack of physical space required for implementation of school smartization process as well as problems of installing, operating, and updating applications delay enforcement of smart schools plan. One of the interviewees stated:
“Low access to up-to-date and proper apps in the school have always been challenging. For instance, low quality and heavy antivirus apps installed on school computers limit their rate of speed so that users are not willing to use the systems frequently.” (Interviewee No. 3)
Among other issued raised among administrators regarding infrastructure and equipment needed, one could point to lack of sufficient space and equipment in such settings. One of interviewees stated:
“The school needs to assign equal space and facilities to all students. This is while in this school, there is not sufficient space for every student and they do not access presumed facilities. We are enforcing the plan with the least facilities.” (interviewee No. 1)
Therefore, for effective use of information technology in educational development, improvement of common approaches, revision of educational policies, reorganization of content, optimization of human resources, design of effective plans, and evolution of cultural and structural criteria for proper use of modern technologies should be considered. Lack of integrated policy and consistent change in policies or officials, low governmental support of these schools, lack of familiarity, and motivation of teachers employed in these schools are among problems, which challenge any progress in this area. One of the interviewees stated:
“Negligence of administrators and authorities of smart schools in developing a culture of using modern technologies in schools and ignorance of the necessity of teachers’ positive approach to use this technology by training them in certain courses and conferences as well as insufficient support of government of these schools should be addressed.” (interviewee No. 8)
As one could observe, in addressing and identifying key items in the area of technological infrastructure (software and hardness), some challenges against smartization of these schools were found. Evidently, the process of implementation of smartization factors in schools and increase of efficiency and performance of this system requires a serious, scientific, and realistic approach and sufficient knowledge of weaknesses and strengths of the system. In this case, existing barriers could be removed (
Figure 2. Schematic Presentation of Weaknesses and Challenges of School Smartization
3.4. Strategies of Using ICT in School Smartization Process
To develop strategies and answer the following question: Which strategies could be suggested for use of ICT in school smartization process?, several attempts have been made, which are as follow: identifying weaknesses and strengths of school smartization, determining opportunities and threats of using information technology and its subfields, explaining factors affecting the system (realistic knowledge of financial, human and physical means, barriers against using them and efficient methods) in a way that strengths and opportunities are used in the best possible manner and that one could find solutions for addressing threats.
The items of analysis of interviews suggested that there are multiple influential factors based on which one could increase effectiveness and success of the system (
Table 2. Matrix of Strategic Analysis of School Smartization Through SWOT Model
Internal factors External Factors Opportunities (O) Threats (T) 3- Interactive learning in educational settings 2- Weakness in policymaking 4- Development of educational quality 4- Disruption of structural factors and technological infrastructure Strengths (S) Offensive Strategy (SO) Conservative Strategy (ST) 1- Active learner 1- Use of interactive learning settings to allow learners to act 1- Modification of weaknesses of policymaking and ICT development strategies for activation of learners 2- Developing personality of students 2- Attempt to develop personality of student through educational quality 2- Addressing structural and infrastructure disruptions based on personality development objectives of learners Weaknesses (W) Competitive Strategy (WO) Defensive Strategy (WT) 1-Insufficiency of expert labor force 1-Employment and enabling human resources to activate learners 1- Reduction of weakness of policymaking in development of expert labor force 2-Improper culture of using ICT tools 2-Developing educational quality through culture of effective use of ICT 1- Minimizing Improper ICT utilization culture by attempting to eliminate structural and infrastructure disruptions
Based on extracted strategies, interactive learning setting is used for activation of learners. Moreover, those in charge of smartization process should take steps in developing personality of students by improving quality of educational technology. Managers, policymakers and educational planners should make proper policies and offer strategic infrastructure for development of ICT to encourage students to perform more actively. Structural and infrastructure disruptions should be addressed to improve personality of learners. Hiring and empowering expert labor force so that they could encourage proactive learning should be followed by persons in charge and educational planners of schools. Quality of expert labor force should be developed through developing a culture of effective use of ICT. During interviews, some solutions were offered by interviewees, which could be reviewed by adopting extracted strategies. Other solution for smartization of schools was the experts. Among these suggestions, one could refer to periodical use of smart classrooms so that all teachers and students could use these means. For partially smartized schools, the following steps should be taken: assigning higher budget and special equipment for completing smartization process, assigning more authorities to manage the process, encouraging those teachers who use these technologies more frequently in classrooms than others, promoting a culture of proper use of technology, and developing a positive approach among families to technologies. Moreover, some of the solutions through which interviewers could smartize schools and realize the effective use of these schools were as follow: adding an IT course to the educational program of Tarbiat-Moalem universities and increasing skill of academic students in using this technology before they work as teachers, documenting and sharing experiences of pilot schools with other selected schools, passing specific solutions to encourage financial and nonmaterial participation of students in smartization of schools, gaining approval of facilitative guidelines for smartization of schools based on authorities of central education office to eliminate limiting principles, promoting culture of use, and informing parents of characteristics and advantages of using smart schools, developing managerial and executive structure of smart schools in central education office of Sanandaj, promoting and informing managers working in different ranks of central education office regarding requirements of smart schools, equipping schools with minimum means required for smartization, educating and improving teachers and students’ skills, coordinating with Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to equip schools with high-speed internet.