Education Ministers Wobbly on ICT

Thanks to Matt Eccles, our Schools Business manager, for spotting this Merlin John blog post on the current government’s attitude to ICT in schools. it is well worth a read becasue it brings together a collection of views from current and former ministers, as well as recognised industry figures such as Stephen Heppell.

Here are a couple of extracts:

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders agrees. “It [ICT] is clearly not a government priority,” he says.

Others, such as Annika Small, former boss of ICT in education thinktank Futurelab and a member of the 21st Century Learning Alliance, believes the issue is more deep-rooted. “There is a fundamental lack of understanding in government about the potential of ICT to transform learning,” she says.

Or perhaps it is a shift in perception of the balance of activities in education, the one between “teaching” and “learning”. Nick Gibb replied to enquiries from NAACE, the ICT consultants organisation, saying, “We do not want to over-emphasise the role of ICT in education – excellent teaching for pupils remains the key to success.” However, he included an acknowledgement that “ICT can be a powerful tool to support good teaching where it is used and managed well”.

Brian Lightman also sees ICT as having a breadth of roles in schools, believing that “ICT is of huge importance to teachers and students. It is an essential tool in the classroom”. He points out that ICT “helps students to consolidate their learning  and carry out research” and is “key to effective administration, and communication with parents”. He also believes that it is fundamental to adult life: “It is absolutely essential that all school leavers possess strong skills  in ICT which they will need in almost any kind of employment.”

In Stephen Heppell’s case he sees ICT as a vital enabler as the world rapidly changes around us:

Such engagement could include the use of social networking tools to connect with children in far away places. “Learning is going global,” he points out. “Schools are using ICT as a key plank to enable children to share projects, science data, poetry and much more. Yesterday’s once-in-a-lifetime pen-pal exchange has become today’s ongoing inter-nation shared project.”

Professor Stephen Heppell, points out that the impact of ICT is greater than simply connecting people in distant places: it is changing the way we learn. “Perhaps most importantly we seem to be, globally, moving on from the old productivity model of factory schools to an education system that values ingenuity and problem solving,” he says. “China is making huge and exciting changes in that direction. ICT is the catalyst that allows those new models of learning to be effective. Nothing else can.”

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