Monday, July 09, 2007

For ICT Geeks Only!

I’ve just received the latest copy of Educational Computing and Technology (EC&T), a magazine that goes out free to ICT coordinators.

To give you a flavour of the articles-

· My Space – a review of personalised learning systems
· A case study of a school that has successfully used them
· A Life’s Work – an article on the CEO of Research Machines
· A sporting chance – how to use ICT in PE lessons
· Something for nothing – a welcome review of Open Source
· Technology Trailblazers – a primary school where, ‘innovation in ICT has become a way of life’
· Assessment made easier – by the product manager of Promethean
· Web sites on CPD
· Resources Reviews

Before I go on to the content of the articles some of the more discerning readers may have spotted a gap or omission. Yes, once again when it comes to magazines aimed at teachers, nil, zilch, nothing, zero, nought by teachers, not even a solitary letter (at least in the DfES ‘Teachers’ magazine we get a few, ‘I think the Literacy Strategy is the best thing since sliced bread,’ letters from willing stooges). Everything in EC&T is written by journalists, consultants or business people.

The premise in these magazines (which seem to be multiplying at a bewildering pace) is that ICT is an each way bet. Because the ordinary teacher at the whiteboard is never heard from there is no attempt to grapple with or answer the problems relating to ICT.

1) Technical support – computers and other ICT equipment is only as good as the repair system. How many expensive pieces of equipment lie idle or are never used because it’s waiting for a part or different departments in the council or private contractors pass the buck between them?

2) Training for teachers – councils will routinely spend millions on expensive hardware and software, but when it comes to showing staff how to use it, somehow the budget gets tight.

3) The cost of maintaining equipment – when the bulb goes in the interactive whiteboard the cost of a replacement is £300 - £500.

Whilst it’s true that teachers’ confidence in using ICT has increased, in many subject areas it is still at very low levels. There are plenty of books on how to use ICT but very few on why. Surely after spending billions on ICT there should be more research?

A few years ago the government commissioned research by Becta on whether the introduction of whiteboards in schools had produced an increase in Key Stage 2 SATs results. There were negligible increases for English and Maths and embarrassingly for them a slight decrease in Science results.

The Literacy Trust undertook research that showed that some schools had increased spending on ICT by huge amount but were only buying negligible amounts of new books. According to their figures spending money on books in primary schools was twice more effective in raising results than ICT.

Promethean (one of the largest suppliers of whiteboards) found that the new technology could actually lead to more didactic teaching less interaction and questioning with pupils. In many cases teachers were purely using them as glorified whiteboards.

I’m not a Luddite or a technophobe, ICT can be useful in motivating children to learn. On the other hand books inspire people and change lives.

The problem with journals like EC&T is that they will appeal to the small minority of techno-geeks, but case studies of successful schools is not the real picture. Like me, a lot of teachers just don’t believe all the hype surrounding computers. More people would read EC&T if it tried to engage in a dialogue with teachers instead of lecturing from above.


I and my adult learners got a gift of 3 new high-speed, 17" screen computers in our classroom. Yea! But the new math books we needed to replace our torn, worn, coffee-stained copies (and photocopies)??? Nope. No money for that.

Instead we were directed to math sites online.

Its as if management sometimes forgets what it is we do around here...
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