The Impact Of Ict On Pupil Attainment Education Essay
Since the 1990s, the government has placed an ever-increasing emphasis on use of information and communications technology (ICT) in schools, a move marked by increasing levels of funding and an increasingly integrated role within the curriculum.  This first began due to recognition that ICT skills would become increasingly important for employers, as ICT is now an integral part of our society, with the increasing automation of many day-to-day processes, work systems and the development of the Internet.  This would therefore indicate an importance at the secondary school level, with some having argued that technology is not in sync with the needs of primary school children, who are considered to have only low-tech needs. 
There is however an increasingly large body of evidence which illustrates that ICT is also expected to be beneficial for student learning overall, with ICT competency suggested to be merely a secondary effect of use across other curricular subjects.  ,  There are several features of ICT which indicate that it is likely to provide an excellent learning tool in other subjects as well as being a useful tool in social development in the Early Years. For example the interactivity which may be introduced to lessons via ICT may contribute towards social learning.  It may also allow a more effective approach to literacy and numeracy than passive pedagogies,  increasing engagement and enthusiasm for learning  and providing immediate feedback.  ICT also provides access to a range of different tools, which have the capacity to adapt to the learning styles and levels of development of individual children.  This may be particularly important in the Early Years, where pupils may arrive at school with very different levels of development. Government studies have also shown that ICT may be of particular benefit in the Early Years in teaching topics which would be traditionally hard to grasp. 
This would then indicate that the government is right to place importance on use of ICT across board, from the Early Years and beyond.  This essay therefore examines the case for ICT at the primary school level, examining the evidence of its impact on pupil attainment, motivation and learning.
How Children Learn ICT
There has been a significant amount of research over the last twenty years into how exactly children learn ICT. Tondeur et al. argue that school is the most appropriate place for children to develop ICT competencies, and this was acknowledged with the introduction of ICT as a subject in schools, initially at the secondary level, but also increasingly at the primary level. This has since been extended and current government educational standards stipulate that ICT forms an integral part of the curriculum from early years through to secondary education across all subjects.  There is evidence that Early Years may form the most appropriate setting for learning initial ICT literacy skills, since children of a younger age have been shown in pilot studies to exhibit high levels of technological fearlessness. For example in the Inform report, it was noted that children in the Early Years undergo a steep learning curve when first exposed to ICT in the Early Years, but that they will experiment with new equipment and rapidly adapt to its use.  It has been suggested that this forms the most effective way for students to learn ICT competency  and it would be expected that pupils simply learn through practice as a seamless process,  which is supported by the fact that pupils appear to learn ICT competency as a secondary effect.  ,  This passive learning of ICT skills may therefore support the strategy to integrate ICT into other subjects, but perhaps more importantly at the primary level, there is also evidence that benefits may also be generated in the subjects into which ICT is integrated.
ICT in Development of Learning Skills
It is posited that learning ICT may also contribute to learning skills in general, many of which may aid progression with attainment. For example ICT use may facilitate learning of higher-order thinking and development of problem-solving skills,  both of which may aid learning across curriculum subjects. ICT use may also encourage collaborative learning, including opportunities which may arise from cross-cultural use.  It may also help pupils to develop self-directed learning skills, even from a very early age.  Independent learning skills have been noted to be present in only relatively low levels in Year 2 classrooms where ICT use is minimal. Goodison suggested on the basis of their study that ICT programs substituted for help otherwise given by teaching staff, encouraging pupils to solve their own problems.  ICT may also be used to develop more subject-specific skills within subjects. For example when used in conjunction with science learning activities, ICT may encourage development of analytical skills. For example using ICT-based tools in data collection and analysis, the interactivity allows for experimentation with the data as opposed to simply following instructions to produce the desired end-product.  Even from an early age, the interactivity provided by ICT resources may allow pupils to learn about cause and effect, or action and reaction. 
ICT in Raising Attainment
Along with the perceived benefits for development of learning skills, there is also evidence that actual attainment may be improved through its use. This would be expected anyway based on the perceived improvements to learning skills which may result, which may improve attainment even in younger age groups.  Still, some studies have presented findings indicating specifically that attainment may be improved via ICT use.
One of the most common methods used by schools to integrate ICT across the curriculum is the use of interactive whiteboards. These have been shown to lead to improved academic achievement, including in those pupils of primary school age.  Evidence from the ImpaCT2 project which was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) showed that improved attainment, as measured by performance in National Tests, was improved in some areas through ICT use, but not others. At the primary school level, these results showed that the largest improvement at Key Stage 2 (KS2) was shown in English, with a smaller, but still significant, improvement in maths. Overall, it was estimated from the results that a mean acceleration of 16% progress in English and 6.1% progress in maths could be achieved through ICT use. Interestingly, by KS3, the improvements showed only in science and not in maths or English. 
Passey et al. suggested that ICT readily produced an improvement in pupils’ work, although the authors suggested that improved quality of work did not necessarily reflect an actual improvement in attaintment  . It would however be expected that higher quality of work would actually still be a desirable result. The authors argued that for ICT to produce improved attainment, it needed to be used to support subject-specific learning, impacting on subject-specific learning processes, therefore lending further support to the current emphasis on embedding ICT across the curriculum. This still may not be sufficient to achieve the greatest possible improvements in attainment however. Valentine et al. found that ICT use at home had a statistically significant positive association with improved attainment at year 6 level.  This was based on the use of performance in standardized tests as the outcome measure, which would indicate higher validity than other studies using more subjective measures.  At the same time, Valentine et al. did however find that no improvement on attainment was associated with home computer use. This study also showed that out-of-school use of ICT for entertainment rather than learning purposes also resulted in decreases of attainment.  This may indicate that ICT-associated improvements may also rely on effective linking of school and home ICT use, something which many schools may currently neglect. 
It is however quite difficult to ascertain the precise impact which ICT use may have on raising attainment as there are likely to be complex interactions between different types of ICT implementations and other school-based factors. For example the socio-economic status of the school and the level of ICT resources available may also influence attainment levels and how effective ICT may be in raising attainment.  This is not helped by the fact that the precise mechanisms through which this improved attainment is achieved are less clear than the fact that there may be benefits from ICT use. Evidence from Passey et al. indicates that use of ICT in the classroom may improve pupil behaviour.  This was however based on a study of schools which were recognized as using ICT in a motivational way, which may have impacted on this relationship, and this will be discussed in the next section.
ICT in Raising Motivation
A significant number of research studies have shown ICT to have a positive effect on increasing motivation  ,  ,  and this is most likely one of the largest contributors to increases in attainment noted through ICT use. Increasing motivation of pupils may increase their ability to concentrate on a task, as well as improving the level of perseverance they are likely to show in the face of failure.  It may also improve the behaviour observed in pupils, which also may influence attainment. 
As with the findings of the impact of ICT use on attainment, there may also be some confounding in research on motivation. For example in a study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) across a sample of 17 schools from across England, ICT use was found to have a positive impact on motivation. The sample of schools used in the study was however already identified as using ICT in a motivational way, which may have influenced this finding.  The major strength in the research on motivation is however that there is much more support with a greater number of different studies reporting similar findings. For example another study by Valentine et al. which included 111 children, parents and teachers, found ICT raised motivation in pupils. 
Passey et al. found that the specific learning processes which ICT had a positive impact on with regard to motivation included engagement, which was stimulated via visual, kinaesthetic and auditory means; research, as it provided access to a better base of information; writing and editing; presentation.  Valentine et al. suggested on the basis of their study that motivation from ICT was associated with increased confidence. Their results indicated that motivational effects resulted from ICT’s contribution to making learning more enjoyable and by improving pupils’ perceptions of achievement.  The Next Generation Learning project suggests that 85% of pupils at primary school find that ICT use makes learning more interesting.  Passey et al. studied the specific forms of motivation which arose due to ICT use and found that it resulted in greater commitment to learn, generated a desire to go beyond task completion and a desire to create a competitive edge.  The support for the improved motivation of students through these various mechanisms should therefore further support its potential for improving attainment, even if this is not already present, given the importance of motivation in influencing attainment. 
Future Improvements to ICT Policy
It is clear from the evidence that has thus far been discussed that integration of ICT across the curriculum is appropriate given its potential for improving learning, attainment and motivation in pupils. An area which has so far been examined in less detail, but remains crucial to future policy development, is the role of ICT in improving inclusive education, as this too should facilitate closing of the gap which may present in all of these aspects between different student groups. In particular, the Next Generation Learning project, launched by government agency Becta, aims to improve the efficiency with which schools in England use the ICT resources available to them. This includes improving inclusion and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to reach their potential, via ICT use.  One of the key reasons that school provides the most appropriate place for children to develop ICT competency,  is that this provides a means of creating greater equality of access. Although a significant number of children now have access to ICT at home, the costs associated with this remain a barrier to some families.  These same children also were those least likely to access ICT through other routes, for example at libraries or coffee shops. ICT in itself has the potential to provide better inclusive education, as ICT resources may compensate for many of the shortfalls found in conventional learning materials.  One example of this may be seen in the review of religious studies (RS) learning materials conducted by Copley and his colleagues. Their verdicts on a number of different materials indicated that many faced problems with text sizes, lack of interactivity and lack of innovative approach.  These are problems which ICT-based resources may overcome however, with the ability to alter text sizes and the possibility of integrating interactive components readily within the materials. 
Despite these benefits, there is evidence that ICT use may still not be promoted across primary schools, particularly in science.  Only around a quarter of schools may actually be utilizing ICT to achieve optimal improvements in learning  despite pushes by the government to increase available resources, and indications that access to ICT were improving.  One of the main challenges which may still present to schools in achieving the potential benefits from ICT is in ensuring that teachers are well-prepared for integration of ICT into their subject lessons.  This is something which has been addressed via inclusion in initial teacher training although there may still be many teachers who have been in the profession for some time who may struggle with ICT concepts.  ,  There are however a growing number of resources becoming available to assist teachers to cope with the transition, with authorities taking a lead role in ensuring that standards are improved so as to generate better results.  Ager argued however that if improvements are to be made nationally in ICT use in schools, more needs to be done than simply educating teachers on how to use ICT. He argues that more importantly, teachers need to be shown the exact benefits which using ICT may bring, and how to go about integrating ICT in the best way to ensure these learning gains.  This should therefore be an area which policy aims to address in a more substantial manner in future revisions.
The use of ICT in schools has now gone beyond teaching proficiency in different software packages and now takes account of the improvements in motivation, attainment and learning skills which may result from integration across subjects. If ICT can be used efficiently in primary schools, this may lead to benefits not only at the KS1 and KS2 level, but may improve progression throughout each child’s school career and beyond. It is crucial that teachers, educational leaders and policy-makers recognizes not only the benefit this may bring to all, but their role in ensuring that all pupils have access to these benefits.
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