Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thoughts about ICT in schools.

Due to positioning theories of learning with ICT in cognitive and social processes we need to carry out research that investigates how students learn with ICT in contexts of curriculum with technology imbedded in them (Kozma 1994). Yelland (2001) feels that this is crucial as many believe that ICT will only have impact on learning if it is integrated into social and cultural contexts. She also feels that this can only happen through school reform in curriculum and pedagogy as traditional forms of instruction were not designed to cope with such issues as complex interrelationships. Johnson (2000) states that we need to take into account two factors in order to be relevant, computers need to be available and accessible to teachers and students and teachers should be confident and competent with the range of applications that are available to support the teaching and learning.

Although some research by Lally and Macleod (1984) suggested that computer aided instruction types of programs had limited use due to applications not leading to improved teaching procedures but merely computerising existing techniques, many still believe this process will work.

In order for ICT to be integrated into the curriculum Yelland (2001) states that changes in the learning process occurs which are characterised by (CEO forum 1999):
 Problem or project oriented – whereby investigations are authentic and where there are many solutions to the problem
 Student centred – students feel empowered by their work and participate in developing their own investigations. Teachers act as guides, facilitators, and provide the materials to support their learning. While teachers remain the cornerstone of the educational process a partnerships is formed with students, parents, peers and other professionals. The teachers’ role is less authoritarian and more one of encouraging and guiding the students towards their goals.
 Collaborative – since learning with authentic tasks is an interactive experience between teaches and students and as students acquire and use information they need to exchange ideas and create relationships with each other and with professionals relevant to their work
 Relevant – learning with ICT has the potential to create educational opportunities to meet the needs of individuals and groups in diverse ways and allows them to work according to their needs and interests. Teachers can use digital devices to record and report on students’ performance in enhanced ways, tracking achievement through databases or using video for observation of skill development.
 Productive – the use of ICT encourages both teachers and students to become ‘content producers’

The characteristics of exemplary teachers who integrated computers into their classrooms as found by Becker (1993) included that they created an environment for learning in which the computer directly related to the curriculum goals as well as incorporating a wide for variety of uses which were relevant to knowledge building across the curriculum. These teachers also had greater access to formal professional development and also had smaller class sizes. In this work Becker states that his ‘assumption of the exemplary teaching label was based on the important academic outcomes which result from systematic and frequent use of computer software for activities which involve higher order thinking, such as interpreting data, reasoning, writing, solving real world problems and conducting scientific investigations (p. 316).

Another study by Swan & Mitrani (1993) found that many studies that had been conducted concentrated on how the computer reinforced or enhanced basic skills and measured by testing outcomes in standardised tests. Another point that they made was that many studies found that when such skills were presented on the computer that they were learned more effectively. However they maintained that such use of computers was detrimental to a broader use which would impact on the actual processes of teaching and learning. They maintain that when computers are effectively integrated into the curriculum and are a natural part of the teaching process that the learning is more student-centred and collaborative than in the more traditional classroom settings. In this setting they found that the dynamics between the teacher and students changed with the teacher taking a facilitators role. From this work they stated that ‘technology alone will not change schools’ as they felt that there also needs to be a change in the classroom climate and pedagogy for the use of ICT to have an impact.

Diane Brooks