The ICT in Education Landscape

The benefits of ICT in education can only be realised when a number of different things come together.

Vision. The most important requirement. The nature of transformed education is a key part of the vision necessary. The Naace Transformed Education project (unfortunately not currently online) identified six different components in realising transformed education;

  • independent learning and change in the attitudes of pupils,
  • visibility of effective learning,
  • community involvement, a community learning spirit and collaboration,
  • changed approaches to the curriculum and pedagogy, treating pupils as individuals,
  • changed staff roles, CPD and involvement of parents,
  • organisational leadership and change in how the school budget is spent.
While all are likely to be involved in transformation, schools are likely to approach the process with a main emphasis. Which is most appropriate depends on the nature of the school and its community and the educational philosophy they adopt. It is a matter for the school to decide, it cannot be imposed.

For those willing to challenge themselves with long-range strategic visions, the FutureLab Beyond Current Horizons site with its Vision Mapper Toolkit is an excellent resource.

The technology. It has to be there and it has to work. This website is about learning, teaching and the nature of schools, so I will leave discussion of the actual technology to others. What kinds of ICT can best support which approaches to transforming education was explored through the Naace Transformed Education Project. This project identified the key ICT technology components as:
  • ICT tools for teaching, communication and collaboration.
  • Interactive digital learning resources and resources for creativity.
  • A learning platform intimately linked to the school’s organisation and work processes.
  • Personal computers for pupils and home access.
  • Full integration of the school’s management information system into the organisation and work of the school.
  • 24/7 reliability through a support and service contract.

The money. There must be economic rationale for using ICT in education. If the ICT does not add substantial value that cannot be achieved in other cheaper and more effective ways, then it should not be used. The value-add from ICT in education was analysed by the European Education Partnership (EEP) in 2001 and found 11 ways ICT can add value for a school. This analysis looks at value-add in terms of the benefits to people, all of which are potentially measurable. The full analysis is in the Innovations Service in the EEP archive.

A key factor in finding and justifying the money for the ICT in a school is the re-balancing of teaching and learning. In secondary schools this is likely to involve a few percent reduction in the money spent on staffing, by using staff time differently - to produce a very large percentage increase in learning time and effectiveness. In primary schools where there is less opportunity to reduce the money spent on staffing, it is likely to involve staff and pupils using the central ICT resources of the school more effectively, rather than pupils using computers for more time in their learning.

Teachers’ skills.
Teachers need the skills to use ICT and help pupils use it. The range of skills teachers will in future develop was analysed by the UK Department for Education ICT Industry Club. The analysis is available in the EEP archive.

For help in developing appropriate skills see the Naace ICT CPD 4 Free site and Vital.

Pedagogy.
ICT-rich learning and teaching environments enable the people involved to do things differently. For teachers this means changing pedagogy. For pupils it means taking personal responsibility for learning. For school leaders, parents, governors and policy makers there are changes they must make to support and enable teaching and learning to become more effective. ICT-rich pedagogy was analysed by the EEP in conjunction with an online reference group of 143 people with deep insight into how ICT is catalysing educational change. The output from this group is available in the EEP Innovations service.

The prime aim was to produce a single page of change-statements for each group, that can act as the starting point for discussion and work on changing how learning is achieved. The fact that the group found it impossible to reduce the number of change-statements for teachers to fewer than 17 is indicative of the diversity of ways in which ICT in the world and in education are causing pedagogy to change. Teachers will not make all of these changes; it is a matter of selecting the changes that are most relevant to the pupils and subjects being taught and to the nature of the school.