Missed opportunities and educational time-bombs.
A tale of the tortuous history of ICT in education, illustrating where the real impact from ICT lies.
(and an index of the stories of the impact of ICT, available or in preparation)

Computer and network technology enables learning interactions to change; lots more ways to interact, with many more resources and people, with more interactive techniques including assessment for learning. A very critical thing that computers introduce is a third node in the interactions. Instead of the interaction being just teacher:pupil or pupil:resource, what comes through the computer can be teacher, resource or even computer acting as learner, taught by the pupil. This allows the teacher to change roles, sometimes being guide, sometimes co-learner, sometimes interested bystander and so on. Then online also introduces a fourth node, audience. The result is a much more diverse mix of teaching/learning opportunities which are hugely more controllable to match the learning needs of the learner.

ICT in Education – change in Human Interactions is the Message - an Introduction to these writings and where real impact lies, with some uncomfortable conclusions:
- The disparity of educational offering between schools is now huge and is going to get worse before it gets better.
- We have two kinds of teacher, those who have become seriously more effective as teachers through use of ICT and those that haven’t.
- Pupils with good home access to ICT and those who attend primary schools where it is used effectively are a time bomb for secondary schools not using ICT well.
- Parents will soon become aware of the disparity in educational offering and there will be anger.

ICT changes learning - every learning activity except touch can become more powerful - think through the activities you do to learn, or that you ask or suggest pupils do. Even ways of thinking have become more powerful since the advent of ICT.

People not technology - getting full adoption of ICT in schools to obtain the startling improvements that are possible is a people problem, not a technology problem. But the drive from the UK government and Becta has been focused on the technology. What matters is when teachers and pupils irreversibly change their work processes to become more effective. Achieving this requires addressing human imperatives, not technology or education imperatives.

‘Transformation’ catalysed by ICT - the thee transformation points - there are three key ‘transformation points’ in the use of ICT in education. These are human points, not technology points. The critical technology consideration is that it must work 100%, because ‘transformation’ is about asking people to do things differently. To change what they do to take advantage of ICT teachers first have to be able to assume without fear that they can use ICT in class, then that all their pupils can use ICT in class, and then most powerfully that all the pupils can access the online platform and use ICT out of class.

Spending money differently - When a school starts to transform learning there are surprises for all involved. Things become possible that could not be achieved before and which could not be predicted. The reason is that people’s attitudes change. Pupils become more receptive to learning and more responsible; behaviour improves. Teachers collaborate and find new more time-effective approaches. Community and parental involvement grows. All these things can enable school budgets to be spent differently, freeing up the money for the ICT that catalyses and supports the transformations.

Young people as the loci of learning - Being able to get online enables pupils to access learning opportunities that they want to. It also enables them to publish their own ideas and expertise and to help other young people learn. Young people can become leaders in learning. The key question is whether schools stimulate and support this, or ignore and belittle it.

No hiding place - When schools implement an online platform many aspects of what teachers and pupils are doing become much more visible and explicit. There is no hiding place; no way to hide from seeing what effective learning and teaching is and no way for an individual to hide how well they are engaging with the business of the school - promoting learning as effectively as possible.

Power with safety in learning
- ICT-rich learning environments with access to the Internet dramatically extend the possible learning horizons for young people. When they leave school they will be expected by society and their employers to use these learning opportunities. Some schools acknowledge this and help their pupils towards this future, others schools fight against it with all their presumed authority, that will inevitably be subverted.

Tools for the job of learning
- You would not expect a carpenter to shape wood without chisels, saws and drills. The computer is the key tool (beyond speaking, reading/writing and numerical ability) that enables people to shape their learning. It provides tools to better access information and concepts, tools to overcome learning obstacles, and tools to extend thinking processes.

Learning about the key tool for learning - Every tool for learning has in-built concepts, that help you learn better as you practice their use. But tools also have in-built bias that it is wise to be aware of. Computers are no different in this respect.

Guide on the side - Sometimes teachers should be the sage on the stage, sometimes they should be co-learner, stimulator, guide or supporter. The role the teacher takes should depend on what role the learner needs to adopt to help them with the particular current learning tasks they face. The computer is the third point of the triangle, able to take on any of the roles on teaching/learning interactions, hence enabling pupil and teacher to take the best role to maximise learning.

New tools, new learning
- If you can’t see what is happening it is very hard to learn about it. The ways in which computers can access, receive, manipulate and present data generates information from which pupils can gain insight. Practically, think about what tools such as data-loggers, mind-maps, simulations, GIS and CAD systems can do to improve visualisation and learning conversations.

Communication over organisation - The difficulties of storing information in previous centuries dictated how information was presented and accessed. Particularly, the book and its associated systems such as alphabetical indexes and footnotes came to dominate. Digital, hyper-linked information changes all that. A website or interactive DVD can guide interaction by users on the basis of the questions they want to ask and will present information in the way the designer has decided it should, for that audience. Communication of the information now has primacy over its organisation.

Digital data never dies - Are we teaching young people to use the data-rich environment in which they will live? Clever people who grasp the real meaning of ‘digital’ and the ability of computers to collect and manipulate data will use their skills to manipulate people. Are we preparing young people for this or is the world-changing impact of computer databases going unrecognised by the curriculum?

Imagination before learning
- If you cannot imagine something you cannot talk about it or learn about it. Computers, like gears, have made visible new systems that can now be used as thinking tools for learning. Juggling multiply-related information in one’s mind is hard; hyper-linking it in a website makes it concrete. Programming teaches new approaches to problem solving and rigour in problem analysis. Modelling produces representations that can be worked on from data it was previously impossible for most human beings to analyse.

Hearing AND seeing
- In a well designed website there are seven separate levels of information and communication with the user. Interaction can be guided and enhanced in very subtle ways. Computers can provide instant feedback and can suggest and prompt. Learning is often easier when it is possible to hear, to read, to visualise, to discuss and to manipulate, using the channels available to the brain to the full.

Learning styles - Though researchers may not have found neural reasons for different people to learn best in different ways, it is undeniable that there are many different ways to grasp ideas and learn concepts. Through history human beings have used epic poems, cave art, religious icons and paintings, and in recent times the written word as media to promote learning. We now have hugely greater ability to use images, sound, animation, graphics and video. It would be a foolish educator who ignored the greater power in teaching and learning that these bring.

Assessment FOR learning - Assessment is feedback on how well you are learning and the difference between one’s own achievement and what is possible. The methods available to provide this feedback to learners have multiplied many-fold with computers, compared to what was possible without them.

Pace and ‘flow’
- A learner’s brain works at its own speed. Even very small time delays in getting what the brian wants can disrupt learning while inability to go back on a point can break the construction of knowledge. At its best a state of ‘flow’ can be achieved with the learner totally engaged, questions their brain poses being answered and challenged in tune with their own thinking. Computers, used individually and collaboratively provide numerous ways to work on this, from the simple freeze-frame possibilities of video to approaches such as ‘wiki-wars’.

Interaction in class
- A school class is not just a convenient sized group to child-mind, it is a group of people who can help each other learn. Teachers know well how to construct experiences that will help the group interact, and the individuals within it learn. But it has always been a challenge to get all in a group to engage and be involved. ICT can make a radical difference, whether it is through a 4D immersive environment, interactive whiteboards and voting systems, or a simple little computer-based tool like a random name selector.

Publishing and audience
- The greater the audience the bigger the applause - or the jeers and boos. But almost everyone wants an audience, from one’s teddy bear, family, friends through to strangers and people you admire. Before computers possible audiences - and what you could publish to them - were limited. Now publishing and audience can match what the learner desires and needs to progress creatively.

Teacher and school collaboration
- teaching, as it has been done for the last hundred years, has been a lonely business. With your class in your classroom for set amounts of time self-reliance has been everything. Collaboration with other teachers has come second. With the learning experiences now made possible with ICT the situation in some schools has reversed, collaboration coming first, and one’s self reliance depending on the effectiveness of collaboration.

Ownership of school - most of a school belongs to the school and the teachers. Good schools do give their pupils a degree of ‘ownership’ but this is inevitably constrained by the physical structure and operation of the school. The digital environment of a school has no fixed walls. The degree to which pupils could have ‘ownership’ of areas of the digital environment is an order of magnitude greater than their possible ‘ownership’ of the physical and social environments of the school. A feeling of ownership with the digital environment leads to better engagement with the school and better engagement in learning.

One per child - it is inevitable that in a few years all secondary school age pupils will have their own pocket personal computer and all primary school children, if they don’t have one will aspire to one. Since first engaging with the concept of ‘One Per Child’ the economic, technical and human imperatives have been clear. The benefits have also been extensively explored in numerous projects. With all the learning opportunities this brings, why would schools hesitate in moving to this inevitable future?

Immersive environments
- Early learning happens for most immersed in their family. Then immersion in primary school permits some new freedoms and brings some new constraints. Secondary school and becoming a teenager widens the range of environments a young person can engage with. They are not necessarily the same person in these different environments. It is possible to adopt different personae for different environments, with different willingness to risk learning. There are dangers here as well as opportunities, but online immersive environments can no longer be ignored.

Village to world.
- one has little choice over one’s learning community in early years but as soon as access to the Internet is available the choice is wider than it ever has been. Recognising the informal learning of young people, and formal learning they decide to engage in themselves, is a challenge for schools. The education system in the UK does not support this well. Yet evidence is emerging that learning can be more effective online, better still if online can be blended with some social learning.

Informed citizens and learning
- the concept of a curriculum implies that the state and teachers know best what young people should learn. ICT by opening diverse educational opportunities can change this. ICT also provides the possibility for schools and parents to embrace this. The journey in learning is from immature learner to mature learner and people reach this stage at different ages. What should the curriculum be for young people with a mature view of what they need to learn?

Data-led education
- teachers subjectively use huge amounts of information in scaffolding the learning of their pupils. Most of this information is observed and not recorded. Increasing use of digital communication and online platforms potentially records what previously was not and makes masses of more data available about learning processes. Computers can also comparatively analyse and present information on learning and achievement. For a profession so concerned with information it is remarkable how little data is used to improve schools and the learning of individual pupils. The key question is what kind of ‘business intelligence’ matters most in education.