- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
The ICT agenda
From instructor to constructor ...
Peter Carey contemplates the role of the teacher and principal in ICT and what this might mean for student learning and achievement.
New technologies are influencing and redefining what schools, classrooms and even teaching looks like. The successful use of these wonderful new resources depends not on the technologies themselves but on teachers and their ability to use information and communication technology (ICT) to support each student’s needs and capabilities.
New technologies are enabling changes in the teacher’s role as well as in the shape and activities of the classroom. The teacher has begun to move from information-giver/ instructor to facilitator of learning, and the classroom is becoming more student-centred. There is less ‘chalk and talk’ and more collaborative, cooperative learning. Students are reaching beyond the walls of their classrooms to learn from, work with, and share with other learners of all ages and cultures.
The teacher’s role now includes focusing on information literacy; that is, helping students analyse and evaluate the type of information they require. Teachers must help students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to understand how to use the acquired information for problem-solving, inquiry and decision-making.
Over time, numerous studies (Sandholtz et al, 1997), (Valdez et al, 2000) have shown that impressive results in student achievement stem from ICT-rich learning environments. Additional benefits such as improved student attitude, enthusiasm and engagement have also been found.
ICT brings the world to the classroom. No matter what their socio-economic or ethnic background, and no matter where they live, the learning-field for students can be levelled as they learn by doing. The effects are particularly noticeable among students who are not high achievers under more traditional methods. Networked projects, where students work with others and conduct their own research and analysis, can transform such students into committed and exhilarated learners.
ICT helps parents become partners in their children’s education by connecting the school with homes, libraries or other access ports, and by making it possible for educators to teach at more than one location simultaneously. This expands the opportunities for students in small and/or remote areas, linking them to students in more diversely populated, urban and suburban areas.
There is no fixed prescription for integrating ICT into daily learning in classrooms. The ICT revolution offers new intrinsic opportunities; it dramatically changes what can be learned and by whom, as well as what can be produced and provided by whom. These potential changes pose many new challenges for educational planners. These challenges can be divided into two broad types: those that pertain to equity and those that pertain to quality. Unless educational planners respond to these changes and challenges with commensurate speed, they will become technologically challenged.
Is ICT-assisted education better or worse than traditional education? The answer is, probably both. ICT does not suit all students, all subjects or all phases of learning equally well. Much depends on how ICT-assisted learning is handled, and, as in traditional teaching, there are no fast formulas.
Discovering and developing the potential of ICT will take time, and what we find may not be valid for long because the context surely will change. ICT is not a panacea; merely uploading Web content does not result in quality teaching or effective use. Teachers have to be appropriately trained so they feel knowledgeable and skilled. The lack of willingness to mobilise the young to learn from one another is not just old-fashioned; it is counter-productive. Educational planners need to arrange for continuous experimentation and innovation in an ever-changing environment.
The role of the teacher and principal
New educational technologies do not curb the need for teachers; they require a redefinition of the profession. ICT will not replace teachers, but teachers who use ICT will replace those who don’t.
The role of teachers continues to change from instructor to constructor, facilitator, coach and creator of learning environments. It is no longer sufficient for teachers to impart content knowledge; they have to encourage higher levels of cognitive skills, promote information literacy, and nurture collaborative working practices. Teacher training in this becomes crucial.
The Education Review Office (ERO) report, The Implementation ofICT in New Zealand Schools (2001), emphasised the importance of principals in establishing an ICT culture within schools and setting priorities for staff development.
School leaders, including principals, have a critical role in the introduction and effective use of ICT. Leaders should model best practice, be innovative and base their vision for their schools on a sound understanding of the role of ICT to support learning, teaching, management, and administration.
Access and Support
ICT can be a powerful tool for enhancing the achievement of all students, including disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. It is only effective in the classroom, however, if the teacher has been well trained and is familiar with the latest programs and potential uses.
Current wisdom indicates that 20–30 per cent of a school’s ICT budget ought to be spent on teacher training. Teachers are essential to the integration of the technological potential in education; however, they need access to ICT and on-going support while they learn. They need time for collegiality and the development of an ICT teaching network for the sharing of ideas.
As the recent Australian Government document Teachers forthe 21st Century: Making the difference states: ‘professional development is effective where it is identified and implemented within the school context to meet the needs of their teachers and students, for the continuous improvement of professional practice’.
Most teachers want to use ICT effectively, but they lack the time, access and support necessary to do so. Teachers must become fearless in their use of ICT and empowered by the many opportunities it offers. Carefully planned, on-going professional development programs linked to each school’s curriculum goals, designed with built-in evaluation, and sustained by adequate financial and staff support are essential.
Sites of interest
ICT research http://ictresearch.edna.edu.au/ictresearch/go
Raising the Standards www.dest.gov.au/schools/publications/2002/RaisingtheStandards.pdf
Making Better Connections www.dest.gov.au/archive/schools/publications/2002/MBC.pdf
British Education and Communications Technology Agency www.becta.org.uk/research/display.cfm?section=1
Copyright Aware www.copyrightaware.gov.au
ICT in Schools Taskforce http://icttaskforce.edna.edu.au/icttaskforce/go
Department of Education, Science and Training (2006). Teachers for the 21st Century:making the difference, available at www.dest.gov.au/sectors/school_education/publications_resources
Education Review Office (2001). ‘The Implementation of ICT in New Zealand Schools’, available at www.ero.govt.nz/ERO/Publishing.nsf
Prensky, M (2001). ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants’, On the Horizon, NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5.
Sandholtz et al. (1997). ‘Teaching with Technology: Creating student-centered classrooms’, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) Research.
Valdez et al. (2000). ‘Computer-Based Technology and Learning: Evolving uses and expectations’, North Central Regional Education Laboratory Research, USA, available at www.ncrel.org/tplan/cbtl/toc.htm
The author owns the copyright in this article. For information related to the reuse of this work in any form please contact the publisher firstname.lastname@example.org