Governments and ict

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Bringing about the Curriculum

When the National Curriculum came about, schools were very different to how they are now, due to the mass standardisation of schools in response to the industrial revolution. The focus of education being, for the children, to learn key skills to use in the outside world. At this time children came into schools as the “raw material and left crammed full of facts.” (SparkNotes Editors, 2003). The teacher at this time was a teacher, teaching children new facts.

ICT was first introduced into the National Curriculum as an element of a much more general Technology Curriculum than we have today. According to Higgins (1995) this was eventually changed to give ICT a greater status as a separate subject.

The Governments and ICT

In 1997, the Government announced its plans to develop the use of ICT in teaching and learning. This was due to the widespread application of ICT in the “outside world”. Their aims were to create a National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and to equip schools with ICT facilities. These included computers in every school and eventually internet in every school. Tony Blair was quoted saying that schools had to make the most of technology and that we need “to make the most of this technological change.” (Blair, 1997 cited in DfEE 1997)

During this time America were also noticing the increase in ICT. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore pushed for technological advancements in education by, according to Kennedy (2009), embracing the metaphor of the information superhighway and building a bridge to the 21stcentury. 1998 saw schools that already crossed that bridge, and thousands of schools were speeding along “well-worn paths of that superhighway”.

Despite widespread access to computers, research suggests that computers were continually being underused within the primary classroom. Rosen and Weil (1995) reported that although computers were in every classroom of the schools that they had researched, only half of the schools used them. For America they found that the same thing was happening with them. The Presidents goal was to have every classroom connected to the Internet. In 1994, that seemed like a pipe dream — only 3 percent of public school classrooms were connected to the Internet, according to Ofsted (2000). However America noticed that as the costs of technology steadily decreased the dream quickly became reality. (Kennedy, 2009)

This soon changed as in 2005, virtually all public schools had access to the Internet, and 94 percent of all classrooms were connected, according to the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES). About 97 percent of the schools with Internet access had broadband connections.

With the use of ICT being noticed and used within the classroom the DfEE were chosen by the Government for the role of formulating an ICT policy for schools, and for steering the implementation of most aspects of the Governments ICT strategy. During this time ICT was only just taking off in primary schools throughout the United Kingdom, therefore the role that the DfEE took in implementing the ICT policies was a new one.

The year 2000 brought about assessment in ICT. Ofsted (2000) discussed that the standards of achievement in ICT remained low, much lower than that of other National Curriculum subjects. Further research by Ofsted has shown that all aspects of ICT as of yet had not been designated to a coordinator. However, most schools were now gathering small support teams to deal with the influx in ICT. These teams were fully stretched to meet the technical and administrative demands that were needed, therefore they were unable to support teachers effectively within the classroom. Because of this IT planning was unsatisfactory according to Ofsted (2001), who quoted, “one in five primary schools did not comply fully with the NC requirements for ICT.” When approached a school in South Wales believed the reason behind this was the team of staff designated to that of ICT were unsupported in the latest developments. They also believed that because they were still getting to grips with the basics of the technology being brought into school, they were not delivering to the best of their ability. Anon (2010)

The end of the year 2000 brought about support for the ICT coordinator. However this support was designated to the technical matters of ICT rather than enabling the ICT coordinator to engage in curriculum and professional development. This made an alternative weak point in the subject of ICT for the monitoring and evaluating of the subject, according to Mansell (2008). This was due to the ICT coordinator acting on a role of a technician- doing the physical rather than helping to improve the use of ICT in the school.

The Strengthening of the Coordinator

Before 2002, as previously mentioned, there were gaps in what the role of the ICT technician should be. Many coordinators received insufficient support from senior management as well as their colleagues according to Mansell (2008). This is backed up by Cohen (2009) who believes that links between the head teacher and the coordinator were nonexistent at this time. Also looking at the Government Initiates for 2001 it does show a low level of successful use of ICT in schools backing up what Mansell and Cohen have stated, “Ofsted were unable to bring about the changes necessary to implement ICT development.

After the negative light that was shone on the effective use of ICT, 2002 brought about stronger links between the head teacher of a school and the coordinator for ICT. (Ofsted 2004). The coordinator according to Ofsted has now become the driving force behind improvements in schools ICT teaching and learning. This is backed up by Moraver (2009) who is quoted saying that teachers have started to become more comfortable with teaching ICT skills. However Mansell believes that these ICT skills are only being used within the ICT lesson and the Literacy lesson. Further research through Ofsted (2004) backs up Mansell as facts show that only a select few schools have expanded greatly with their ICT skills, implementing ICT within more than just its subject and Literacy.

Technology Travels

As mentioned above the growth in computers from a school having one to then having a computer suite and the internet moving from dial up to broadband, comes the interactive whiteboard. The growth from a blackboard to an interactive whiteboard is great. We have moved on from “a black hole of attention, sucking the lives out of children and teachers alike,” to a technology that brings about a visual stimulus to lesson. However the leap from this as well as lack of support from the ICT coordinator has allowed teachers to supply every lesson with a power point presentation. (Beadle, 2008)

Right Now

When Something Old.......

During my time in school, as a child, I had a fantastic experience of being chosen as a pen pal for a child in America. During the year we were able to exchange letters and photographs, and at one point I vividly remember a friend even got to phone her pen pal! Having a chance to actually talk to her pen pal was a great experience and many of us wished we could do the same thing.

Becomes Something New

Fast forward to today. You're class are studying about a country, thousands of miles away, in Geography and you have registered on ePals for a pen pal from that same country for each of your students. The pupils have sent a few emails across, but like when I was in school, the children have found that written communication is not enough. Children are always looking to take what they are doing to the next level, and are always enthusiastic to try out new technologies. You as the class teacher decide to take advantage of the opportunities that Skype can give you. When you look at this scenario you come to realise that you, as the teacher, have just provided the children with a voice-to-voice learning experience that will expand the four walls of the classroom. Therefore as Dyck (2008) suggests:

Children are becoming “global partners” with students across the country and even across the world.

The New Curriculum?Exit Winston Churchill, enter Twitter.

Technology is progressing rapidly in the modern day and the new learning opportunities that are available to children make it obvious that ICT should play a more vital role in the National Curriculum.

In 2005, a primary head teacher was quoted “The whole educational system is jam packed, moving so quickly that it doesn't allow the time or space to deliver or develop what will really inspire our pupils”

Since this, the Rose Review (DCSF 2009) has brought about the need for ICT to be noticed as a potential way of enhancing children's essential life skills. The report backs up what Niess et al (2008) believe that the pendulum now seems to be swinging away from subject teaching towards cross curricular lessons. I have noticed through my time in school the increasing development of cross curricular work and that topic work is fast becoming more evident in the primary school. My findings are backed up by The Rose Review, as it continues to suggest that ICT should be viewed as a teaching and learning tool and that it should be used and developed through all curriculum areas.

Through looking at the Rose Review and the final report of the National Curriculum a large focus is on encouraging schools to put a large emphasis on internet skills. Children according to Niess et all (2008) should be looking to master websites such as Wikipedia, blogging and podcasting, which links in with what Rose (2008) has discussed in the Rose Review. However during my last teaching practice this was not evident. Teachers in the school were unsure of how to integrate technologies within their lessons and were staying “safe” by using the computers for Microsoft Office and for access to the internet in regards to research. Communicating with the ICT coordinator of the school brought about a worrying conversation- she had very little experience of using blogging within the school and on mentioning podcasting for the year 6 class, had no idea what this was. This is very worrying when you have the Government predicting that schools are fast becoming strong in ICT and that it is being used effectively throughout the curriculum (Ofsted, 2008). What will happen to our children if some schools are overlooked using this technology effectively?

It's How You Use Them

There are vast amounts of technology available for the use within the classroom today and children want to learn, and to be able to learn with the tools that will shape their future. Prensky (2001) believes that when it comes to children we need to engage them or enrage them. By this Prensky is saying that we need to engage children with the technologies we have available now so that the children are prepared for the technologies of the future. This is backed up by the DCSF (2009) who mention that by strengthening the teaching and learning of ICT in primary schools, it will enable children to become confident and independent users of technology. Thus allowing children to take hold of technology and develop their skills into twenty first century skills.

Primary schools have readily accepted the use of social networking into the classroom, and this is continuously growing. Kist (2010) has recently noticed a growth in the use of social networking sites such as Face book and Twitter within the classroom. She also mentions the vast use of podcasting and wikis in schools. However on a recent placement I have seen negative attitudes to these technologies due to teachers having a lack of time and support as well as pressure on testing. This is where the coordinator must step in if the role is to be kept on in the future.

As Kist (2010) is quoted saying:

If we do not engage children in these modern technologies they will do so on their own, leaving us, the educators behind.

These skills have been brought about from a 2.0 society. We are currently living in a “knowledge based” society that is driven by the growth of networking technologies (Maravec 2009). Therefore people are becoming valued more for their personal knowledge of ICT than for their ability to use it effectively.

Currently the society is slowly moving form a 2.0 society to a 3.0 society. This refers to an emerging innovation; however it has not taken off just yet. In an era of “accelerated change” Moravec believes that we need to become innovative thinkers in order to stay ahead of the information available to us that are doubling at an alarming rate.

One of the most talked about issues currently within technology is that of learning platforms for schools. The Government has a target that by the end of 2010 all schools will have introduced this platform. These learning platforms are already implemented in school which allow children internal and external access to learning resources. A school I have worked at recently already has this technology available, allowing children to have a more personalised learning education. Barker (2009) attended BETT last year and found that this learning platform has not been readily accepted within the school and that many of these schools are still behind. This is apparently due to lack of funding and training. However the Government are looking into implementing training for teachers by the end of this year in the hope of reaching their targets. BESA (2009).

Educational or Technical?

The role of the coordinator has become a huge thing in primary schools. Coordinator jobs are given to current teaching staff in the school for nearly every subject of the National Curriculum. More often than not, today, coordinators are seen as subject leaders. This is due to improvements in the teaching and learning in their subject areas and that the leader's role is seen as being “developmental” according to Ofsted (2008). However Becta (2007) have quoted that the role of the ICT coordinator includes raising standards and managing resources. This includes managing the school network, ICT budgets and amending the ICT policy. The list is endless. Becta believe this is a considerable amount of duties for one person to take on and that on top of a responsibility of a class of children. I found this happening in a school I taught at last year. There were too many demands placed on the coordinator, with ICT in the school suffering as a result. One class teacher was frightened of using the whiteboard, whilst others did not use the ICT suite effectively within their lessons. If a coordinator of ICT is so stay in the school, to stay effective in the school, then he or she needs to have the extra support if needed. On one of my teaching placement the ICT tasks were distributed amongst two members of the teaching staff and 1 full time coordinator. This worked very successfully as a team had been made to accomplish the ICT tasks needed.

The role of the coordinator today became so great and often technical that schools are now employing technicians as either permanent people in the school or placed part time in a number of schools. This is due to the high demands placed on the ICT coordinator. It seems that teachers are becoming fully involved in the use of ICT within schools. Ofsted (2008) believe that teachers are taking increasing risks to try out new technologies that are fast becoming available. This has apparently led to increasing numbers of staff INSET days and training sessions. However on my most recent placement ICT was not used to the best of its ability. Although teachers were using technology in their lessons, it came to my notice that the teachers in the school where not overly confident at trying out new technologies. Using a video camera in my literacy lesson impressed members of staff as they had never thought to use one in this way. This to me is raising alarm bells for the effective use of ICT in classrooms. On further inspection I have come to notice that there are schools just like this that do not have the confidence to invest in new technologies nor have the experience needed from attending training courses. This is due to time management and as on my last placement too much to take on- the ICT coordinator was also the early years specialist.

“How am I supposed to attend courses for both ICT and Early years?!?!”

Anon (2010)

Teachers are expected to prepare their students for a world that is and will become different from the world in which they were prepared for. If the coordinator cannot keep up with the ever changing development of ICT then how are we to prepare these children for their future?

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, then we rob our children of tomorrow”

John Dewey ()

Looking Forward

Will it Last?

Looking ahead at our future Government, if Michael Gove becomes the educational secretary there shall be a complete reconstruction of the National curriculum, with changes to core subjects by 2011 (Gove 2010). From this it is predicted that as a result of these happenings the curriculum will only be renewed every 10 years. (Morris, 2009) This bates the question of what will happen to ICT? Will it become outdated in the curriculum? Morris 2009 believes that renewing the curriculum every 10 years may have been possible when the pace of change was slower, but now children need to be kept up to date with the new knowledge that is vastly becoming available to them. For me, this discussion shows that within the next 10 years the ICT being taught throughout schools will become greatly outdated in the curriculum, giving an added pressure on the ICT coordinators.

Not only will there be an added pressure on the ICT coordinator but teachers will no longer be seen as teachers. Neiss (2008) predicts that teachers will become mentors, as students become empowered. This is due to children becoming more inventive with new technologies whereas teachers will stick to what they know due to experience. Prensky (2001) believes this to be because whilst we are best described as digital Immigrants are students are more appropriately described as digital natives.

Mobile Technology in the School

It is important for our future, to invest in the tools and training, to engage students in learning tasks that emphasise innovation and knowledge construction. Without this we shall be left behind in an ever growing technological world.

I predict that mobile technology is one way of keeping ahead of the vast growth of technology. Through the trials being used in the primary and secondary sectors currently, I believe that the use of mobile technology will be a successful one for the future. Cook (2009) has trialled the use of mobile technology in his school in Florida USA. He believes that in the long run mobile technology will become the cheapest way to do one to one computing. Some children still do not have access to a computer or laptop but nearly every child has a mobile phone or access to one. A concern raised by Bafile (2009) suggests that children will not use mobile phones effectively in the style that is needed in the classroom. She believes that children will be more concerned with texting friends and that cyber bullying will become two fold. However Cook (2009) has used these mobile phones without the function of text or voice, with the help of Microsoft Mobile. Microsoft have also helped with supplying software that will help children to collaborate by sharing information, gather data, take photographs and videos of their work and have also installed Microsoft Excel and Word.

Although currently a trial, results have shown to be effective. The children trialled have shown a greater enthusiasm for learning in school and this shall be important for the future of technology in schools. It shall be important to keep up to date with technology and I believe this to be an important aspect of technology within the school, as this will take the children's learning beyond the four walls of the classroom, keeping in line with the 21st century learner.

The use of mobile technology and its increase in positive trials in schools has made companies more inclined to produce software for it. Currently being trialled is that of Gaggle for mobile phones. This can be used safely and efficiently in schools for email communication, which I believe will become useful software to use with mobile technology in schools. Keith (2010) believes Gaggle to be a useful tool to use with mobile technology due to its built in monitoring system, allowing teachers to control students emails and for customising wording to be filtered. As this is a new technology the Gaggle Network are hoping for this software to “become the backbone of the school of tomorrow.” Email is just the first connected learning tool, and they are hoping to invest in more learning tools for the future.

However Neilson (2010) believes that there are more disadvantages to using this technology in the classroom, the most important being the use of the internet and the small screen of a phone. He believes that children will not learn from using the internet due to websites scaling down to fit onto a mobile phone. Thus creating scaled down websites and eliminated graphics. Criticising this Apple (2009) have now included apps with their I-pods and I-phones and websites have started to create additional websites for the use with these mobile technologies.

I believe after considering both the positive and negative uses of mobile technologies, that the most important thing to remember and to include is that you have to remember to ENHANCE and not DETRACT from the traditional content.

Where is the Coordinator?

Therefore for myself, as a coordinator of ICT, it is important for me to stay ahead of technology. To create important and relevant links, so that children can become effective and talented users of ICT.

As a coordinator I predict the role to change immensely from that of implementing technologies and training staff to becoming somewhat of a wider role in the community. The use of mobile technologies for example in the classroom will mean communicating with the community, most importantly the parents in what their children are using within the school. This is backed up by Neilson (2010) who believes that the role of the coordinator will become someone who creates and leads regular workshops for both staff and parents to keep them informed and ahead of the mobile technologies, so that they can understand their child's learning. He also believes that there should be termly updates of what has happened and is going to happen with the continual growth of this technology.

Without coordinators becoming this I predict that the coordinator will become illusive in the school, as children will be taking on the role of finding out about new technologies themselves, becoming the leaders of new technologies, as teachers are being left behind.

If we are not careful, there shall be no need for an ICT coordinator and children will eventually over shadow us. Only time will tell if this will happen, but hopefully for me, I shall stay one step ahead of the game.

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