The Development of Childrens Learning in ICT

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Executive Summary

In 2002 the ICT National Curriculum Key Stage 3 strategy was introduced with the aim of raising pupil ability to a specified standard. The aims of this strategy were to equip pupils of today with skills that will make them able to use such technology in the workplace, and reduce teacher workload. One of the implications of the strategy has been increased investment in ICT within schools to enable the strategy requirements to take place. With new technology in the classroom this assignment asks: 'Are a pupil's ICT skills developing and if so, what impact is this having on teaching?'

The following assignment discusses the development of children's learning in ICT, the changes being made in the learning process and how the teachers' role seems to be shifting into a learning facilitator role, knowledge guider, knowledge navigator and co-learner with the pupil.

"The Development of Children's Learning in ICT from 11 - 16 and the Implications for Teaching"

Introduction

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Children's learning in information and communication technology (ICT) has developed considerably over the past few years especially since the introduction of the statutory ICT National Curriculum Key Stage 3 strategy in 2002.

Due to the strategy, the UK has invested in ICT for use by teachers and pupils in schools. Some of this investment has been directly by the government through initiatives such as the National Grid for Learning. Local Education Authorities and schools themselves have also spent other substantial sums on ICT equipment and resources.

The purposes of this investment have not always been explicit. Part of the drive towards greater use of technology in education is aimed at modernising schools and equipping the pupils of today with skills that will make them able to use such technology in the workplace once they leave school. Other stated goals have been to reduce teacher workload by making resources such as online registers, planning and resources available over the Internet.

Perhaps the ultimate goal in promoting the use of ICT in schools has been to increase the effectiveness of teaching resources and improve pupil's learning.

When the ICT National Strategy was introduced David Miliband MP, Minister of State for School Standards, stated:

'Information and communication technology (ICT) is more vital now than ever. We must ensure that young people have a knowledge and understanding of hardware and software, and also that they can harness the power of the Internet and the rapidly expanding world of digital communications. By giving them the skills and confidence to use ICT effectively, we are making it easier for them to find good jobs. ' (Miliband, September 2002)

The Government has set ambitious national targets for pupils' achievements in ICT at the end of Key Stage 3. By 2007, 85% of pupils are expected to reach level 5 and above, with a milestone target for 2004 of 75% at level 5 and above. To reach these goals schools will need effective, knowledgeable teaching and high expectations for all pupils.

With new technology in the classroom this assignment asks: 'Are a pupil's ICT skills developing and if so, what impact is this having on teaching?'

The UNESCO World Education Report (1998) notes that 'the new technologies challenge traditional conceptions of both teaching and learning and by reconfiguring how teachers and learners gain access to knowledge, have the potential to transform teaching and learning processes. ICT provides an array of powerful tools that may help in transforming the isolated, teacher-centred and text-bound classrooms into rich, pupil-focused, interactive knowledge environments.'

Development of children's learning in ICT

With the introduction of the key stage 3 strategy, came the general teaching requirements on the use of ICT across the curriculum. These requirements are:

Pupils should be given opportunities to apply and develop their ICT capability through the use of ICT tools to support their learning in all subjects (at key stage 1, there are no statutory requirements to teach the use of ICT in the programmes of study for the non-core foundation subjects. Teachers should use their judgement to decide where it is appropriate to teach the use of ICT across these subjects at key stage 1. At other key stages, there are statutory requirements to use ICT in all subjects, except physical education).

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Pupils should be given opportunities to support their work by being taught to:

Find things out from a variety of sources, selecting and synthesising the information to meet their needs and developing an ability to question its accuracy, bias and plausibility

Develop their ideas using ICT tools to amend and refine their work and enhance its quality and accuracy

Exchange and share information, both directly and through electronic media

Review, modify and evaluate their work, reflecting critically on its quality, as it progresses.

Taking the above onboard, this caused many learning environments to become ICT-rich. Interactive whiteboards are commonly used throughout schools. Pupils have become familiar with taking part in lessons, which could involve manipulating text and images on the whiteboard. Accessibility to ICT resources happens through ICT suites and even through wireless networked laptops allowing pupils see ICT in a wide range of contexts and recognise how it can help them in their learning.

With the strategy came one lesson per week of timetabled discrete ICT lessons with the aim to develop their ICT capability as prescribed by the National Curriculum. This means that pupils can use ICT tools such as word processors and presentation software confidently and for their own purposes.

High quality planning, through help of the National Strategies also ensures pupils have opportunities to complement this work other subject areas. Pupils develop their skills, knowledge and understanding in the use of ICT to: solve problems, find information, develop their ideas through text, graphics and video, work through a range of media, write procedures to control external robots or images on the screen, and model real situations.

The youngest pupils gain confidence with ICT through regular use as part of interactive teaching in literacy, numeracy and other subjects and through using applications themselves in a wide range of contexts. From the age of four, children can often use a fully equipped ICT suite with features such as an interactive whiteboard, a digital camera and Lenni, the Lent Rise robot, who is heavily featured on the Early Years website, encouraging children's imagination linked to ICT.

If a school uses Lenni, pupils are able to e-mail him from both home and school and can receive a reply. Using Lenni not only opens the children's thinking to ICT, but also inspires their motivation to develop their writing, speaking and listening. It involves parents with their children's learning and captures their imagination. Some Primary schools allows pupils to take Lenni home for a weekend with a digital camera and record the adventures. These are then brought back into school and can be published on the schools website on their return.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have found, since the introduction of ICT strategy across different curriculum areas and into all key stages, pupils are keen to participate and lessons have a strong visual element that significantly motivates the pupils.

By the age of eleven pupils use software to develop the presentation and content of their work through multimedia, word processing, desktop publishing or art and design packages. Examples of work include newspapers reports on a fictional character in English, and production of a multimedia presentation on a topic recognised and interesting to the pupils.

As pupils move through the years they become more confident in manipulating the resources and adding animation to multi-media packages. The applications that are used most commonly are Ms Word, Ms PowerPoint and Internet Explorer (or equivalent) for Internet searches.

At Glenmoor I notice how the Year 7 pupils are entering my classroom with much more confidence than the Years 10 and 11, as they are gaining experience earlier in their education. I currently teach my year 10 / 11 groups ICT techniques and theory that Year 7's are now being taught. I have used a Year 8 module on developing websites with Year 11 who have to create a website for their GCSE coursework.

Even where younger pupils are not using applications in the most efficient manner they are seldom hampered in lessons by a lack of the necessary skills to handle unfamiliar facilities or options in a software programme. This is due to the confidence gained from using ICT since an early age. It encourages teachers in several subjects to be more ambitious in the ICT-based tasks they expect pupils to handle in class or in private study time.

Changes in Learning

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With the development of ICT growing from a younger age, this is having ramifications in the classroom and with the learning process.

The traditional, teacher-centred approach to learning made the teacher the expert and the dispenser of knowledge to the pupils. It was largely a 'broadcast' model of learning where the teacher served as the repository and transmitter of knowledge to the pupils.

In contrast the new emerging process encompasses views such as 'Learning is a social process.' The communal context of 'knowledge' and 'learning' is beginning to be rediscovered, as evidenced by the rapid growth of quality circles and computer-supported collaborative work in business, government, medicine, and higher education.

Vygotsky (1978) noted, 'students learn best in collaboration with peers, teachers, parents, and others when they are actively engaged in meaningful, interesting tasks.' ICT provide opportunities for teachers and pupils to collaborate with others and provide new tools to support this collaborative learning in the classroom and online.

I left school eleven years ago, and the traditional approach was in place in many of my lessons whilst I was there. Having just started teaching at Secondary level, I can see the changes in many lessons I have observed. The interactive whiteboards allow interaction; this certainly actively engages pupils in more meaningful, interesting tasks. Pupils are able to research into topics in subjects such as History, making projects produced by the pupils to become more varied, due to the different techniques/resources used to research information. This information can then be fed back by the different pupils expanding knowledge of all in the classroom, including the teacher.

I agree ICT provides opportunities to collaborate within the classroom and that has to be an advantage to all. The traditional lecture method is not without value, as it allows the teacher to quickly convey lots of information to pupils and is a useful strategy for recall. However, it is not the most effective way to help pupils develop and use higher order cognitive skills to solve complex real world problems.

A Shift from Teaching to Learning

As ICT has created change in all aspects of society, it also changes what pupils must learn in order to function in the new world economy. Pupils will have to learn to navigate through large amounts of information, to analyse and make decisions, and to master new knowledge domains. Pupils along with teachers need to be lifelong learners, collaborating with others in accomplishing complex tasks and effectively using different systems for representing and communicating knowledge to others. A shift from teacher-centred instruction to learner-centred instruction has to occur to enable pupils to acquire the knowledge and skills required in the 21st century.

The following table 1.1 (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, and Dwyer, 1997) identifies the shift that they feel is taking place in changing the focus on teaching to a focus on learning.

Teacher-centred learning environments

Learner-centred learning environments

Classroom activity

Teacher-centred, Didactic

Learner-centred, Interactive

Teacher role

Fact teller, Always expert

Collaborator, Sometime learner

Instructional emphasis

Facts' memorisation

Relationships, Inquiry and invention

Concepts of knowledge

Accumulation of facts, Quantity

Transformation of facts

Demonstration of success

Norm referenced

Quality of understanding

Assessment

Multiple choice items

Criterion referenced, Portfolios and performances

Technology use

Drill and practice

Communication, access, collaboration, expression

Table 1.1

Looking at the above table, I realised I have experienced the teacher role being collaborative and sometimes as a learner, since beginning at Glenmoor. I have been in lessons where a pupil has taught me something about a software package, or facts about an area they are interested in.

When I was at school, majority of the time as a pupil you would not tell a teacher anything. If they didn't say it then it was either not important enough or it might be incorrect. Now a days, there is so much more interaction between teacher to pupil, and pupil to pupil. This makes learning more meaningful, as a pupil you become more aware, especially if the teacher has a random technique of questioning the group, making sure every pupil becomes engaged in the learning.

The other experience I can relate to is that of assessment. The GTP course is an example of how assessment has moved to criterion referencing, portfolios and performances. I have to meet the criteria, be observed on my performance as a teacher, and create a portfolio from this information. The vocational qualifications such as the Edexcel Applied ICT GCSE course and Key Skills course that pupils take at Glenmoor have units of coursework, assessed by criterion referencing, portfolios and performances also.

Shifting the emphasis from teaching to learning can certainly create a more interactive and engaging learning environment. The teachers' role is changing to a learning facilitator, knowledge guide, knowledge navigator and co-learner with the pupil. This does not diminish the importance of a teacher but requires new skills and knowledge. Pupils have greater responsibility for their own learning in the new environment as they seek out, find, synthesise, and share their knowledge as stated earlier in how the development of ICT in education has changed the learning process.

Theories supporting the new view of the Learning Process

Cognitive learning research and the convergence of several theories have created the new learning process and shift to pupil-centred learning. Some of the most prominent theories include: sociocultural theory (based on Vygotsky's intersubjectiveness and Zone of Proximal Development), constructivism theory, self-regulated learning and problem-based learning (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt) Each of these theories and others are based on the same underlying assumptions that learners are active agents, seeking and constructing knowledge within a meaningful context.

The learning environment derived from this view of learning process is shown in Appendix 1.

The illustration shows how a learner interacts with other pupils, the teacher, information resources, and technology. The environment provides the learner with coaching and scaffolding in developing knowledge and skills; it provides a rich collaborative environment enabling the learner to consider diverse and multiple perspectives to address issues and solve problems; it provides opportunities to address issues and solve problems; and it also provides opportunities for the pupil to reflect on his / her learning.

ICT provides powerful tools to help learners access vast knowledge resources, collaborate with others, consult experts, share knowledge, and solve complex problems using cognitive tools. Learners are also able to represent their knowledge with text, images, graphics, and video.

The new view of the learning process is based on research that has emerged from theoretical frameworks related to human learning. Many reflect a constructivism view of the learning process.

Hanley stated that constructivism is not a new concept. It has its roots in philosophy and has been applied to sociology and anthropology, as well as cognitive psychology and education (Hanley, 1994). Perhaps the first constructivist philosopher, Giambatista Vico commented in a treatise in 1710 that "one only knows something if one can explain it " (Yager, 1991). Immanuel Kant further elaborated this idea by asserting that human beings are not passive recipients of information. Learners actively take knowledge, connect it to previously assimilated knowledge and make it theirs by constructing their own interpretation (Cheek, 1992).

Focusing on a more educational description of constructivism, meaning is intimately connected with experience. Pupils come into a classroom with their own experiences and a cognitive structure based on those experiences. These preconceived structures are valid, invalid or incomplete. The learner will reformulate his/her existing structures only if new information or experiences are connected to knowledge already in memory. Inferences, elaborations and relationships between old perceptions and new ideas must be personally drawn by the pupil in order for the new idea to become an integrated, useful part of his/her memory. Memorised facts or information that has not been connected with the learner's prior experiences will be quickly forgotten. In short, the learner must actively construct new information onto his/her existing mental framework for meaningful learning to occur.

Some of the most influential theories that relate to new views of the learning process include:

Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory - this describes learning as a social process and the origination of human intelligence in society or culture. The framework of this theory has a theme that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Vygotsky believed everything is learnt on two levels.

First, through interaction with others, and then integrated into the individual's mental structure.

Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level. First, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals. (Vygotsky, 1978, pg.57)

Many regard Jean Piaget as the founding principles of constructivist theory. He observed that learning occurs through adaptation to interactions with the environment. Disequilibrium (mental conflict which demands resolution) gives rise to Assimilation of a new experience, which is added to the existing knowledge of the learner, or to Accommodation, which is modification of existing understanding to provide for the new experience.

Piaget reckoned if the new information makes sense to the existing mental structure of the learner, then the new information item is incorporated into the structure (i.e. Assimilation). If, however, the data are very different from the existing mental structure of the learner, they are either rejected or transformed in ways so that it fits into the structure (i.e. Accommodation). The learner has an active role in constructing his or her own knowledge in both of these ideas. He observed that, as children assimilated new information into their existing mental structures, their ideas gained complexity and power, and their understanding of the world grew in richness and depth. The ideas are core concepts of the constructivism view of the learning process. (Jean Piaget Society, 2004)

The above are just a couple of theories that support the new views of the learning process and help shape the new pedagogies for learning. Ultimately, the power of ICT will be determined by the ability of teachers to use the new tools for learning to create rich, new, and engaging learning environments for their pupils.

The UNESCO World Education Report (1998) notes that there are indications that the new technologies could have radical implications for conventional teaching and learning processes. It notes that, in reconfiguring how teachers and learners gain access to knowledge and information, the new technologies challenge conventional conceptions of both teaching and learning materials, and teaching and learning methods and approaches.

Changes for Teachers

The challenge for ICT in education is to assure that the new generation of teachers, as well as current teachers, are well prepared to use new learning methods, processes and materials with the new ICT tools for learning.

Teachers enjoy the same benefits as pupils in terms of enhanced resources. All teaching staff has an option of a laptop on which they can use to prepare their lessons. Often there is access to an interactive whiteboard in the classroom as well.

Teachers are able to make creative use of these resources as part of their teaching of all subjects and to teach ICT as a subject in weekly timetabled lessons. Schools can invest in software to enhance the teaching of particular subjects using the interactive whiteboards. This means that teachers now have ready access to exciting and stimulating materials for teaching such themes as fractions, shape and space.

Visual presentations and explanations are strengths of the teaching.

Conclusion

My original question when beginning this assignment asked, 'with new technology in the classroom are pupil's skills developing? If so, what impact is this having on teaching?'

There is little question that technology has given considerable advantage to learning skills of pupils in key stage 2 / key stage 3, not only serving to improve present learning skills but also setting the stage for increased capability later on in school as well. Part of the challenge of acquiring a good, sound education is getting the pupil interested in the lesson plan; while some are inherently good pupils, others require the extra added incentive that such technological advances as computer access offers.

I have read several articles in producing this assignment. Whilst reading, I began to consider my own teaching experiences and realised they gave me the answer to the first question, are pupil's skills developing - yes they are. On reviewing my own classroom environment, the Year 7's have a lot more understanding when entering into key stage 3 than certainly when I went to school eleven years ago and even in the last couple of years they are arriving with more than the current key stage 4 pupils did. It is apparent that they are virtually never hampered in lessons by a lack of the necessary skills to handle unfamiliar facilities or options in a software programme due to the confidence they have gained from the understanding they have gained of ICT.

Whilst researching children's development in ICT, it became apparent from the research and my own self-review, it is causing an impact in the learning process thus the teaching. The teacher is shifting into a facilitator, knowledge guide, knowledge navigator and co-learner. This has to be an advantage to all. It is allowing everyone to gain knowledge and interact through stimulating and meaningful learning that is created by the ICT resources.

I feel examples of stimulated learning created through resources are interactive whiteboards as they stimulate better discussion leading to better understanding. This provision means that staff and pupils can go backwards and forwards through resources, adapting the pace of learning as necessary and allowing pupils to become involved with using all available resources. Projects now vary due to the Internet opening up a new world of information, making them more interesting. ICT allows collaboration.

In conclusion, I feel new technology in the classroom has and still is developing pupils' skills and the impact has been on several areas, the learning process, teaching process and resources being the main.

Appendix 1

Fig. 1.1 The Learning Environment

Learner

Information Resources

Teacher / Co-Learner

Authentic Context

Authentic Tools

Reflection

Coaching / Scaffolding

Student / Peers

Technology

Authentic Assessment

Collaboration

Authentic Tasks / Activities

Multiple Perspectives