Impact of ICT Within Education Over the Next 5 to 10 Years
ICT is changing society and education (Abbott, 2001). The change is not only technological but also social. The internet is already changing practices in banking and shopping as well as the creation of virtual communities. This means any vision vision of the future of education has to recognise new methods of accessing information and new ways of relating it others (Abbott, 2001).
Any discussion about the use of computer systems in schools is built upon an understanding of the link between schools, learning and computer technology. When the potential use of computers in schools was first mooted, the predominant conception was that students would be 'taught' by computers (discussed by Mevarech & Light, 1992). In a sense it was considered that the computer would 'take over' the teacher's job in much the same way as a robot computer may take over a welder's job (Collis,1989).
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Most teaching/learning methods and strategies involve the use of some equipment. Some teaching methods may only include the use of a blackboard and chalk or nowadays white board and pen. While others make use of televisions, overhead projectors, and interactive whiteboards. This equipment and its use within the curriculum are often referred to as educational technology. Educational technology concerns the technology that is used to facilitate the teaching/learning process. As such it is included in the how part of the curriculum. We could consider educational technology as the tools of the teaching trade, part of the medium used to convey the curriculum. Some of these technologies involve the use of computers.There is a two-way relationship between the curriculum and educational technology in that to some extent they each affect the other. Typically the teacher and other components of the education system determine what is to be taught and learned and then on this basis the methodology (including the educational technology) to be used is selected (E-learning, 2006).
Impact on Learning
The evidence of the use of ICT in schools to support learning is pervasive. Successive UK governments since the mid-1980's have invested large amounts of resources to develop ICT in schools including more than £1 billion between 1999 and 2004 (Andrews, 2004). The impact of ICT on education is hard to measure, however several studies do lend support to a positive influence on education. A positive impact has been shown by E-learning (2006) in Nordic schools where it is reported that ICT has had a positive impact on schools' overall targets by improving pupils' learning and a positive impact of ICT on teaching is also seen on pupil engagement, differentiation, creativity and less waste of time (E-learning, 2006). Furthermore when teahers assessed the impact of ICT on pupil performance it was found that the biggest impact was on subject related performance. It is worth noting that teachers reported a positive impact on reading and writing also. Also, teachers experience that ICT has supported differentiation, both challenging the academically strong pupils in new ways or supporting the academically weak pupils so that they can more easily participate on equal terms with other pupils. Many teachers find that it is easier to differentiate their teaching with ICT than without (E-learning, 2006).
Results from E-learning Nordic 2006 show that ICT generally has a positive impact on the teaching and learning situation. However, some people expected that ICT could in some ways revolutionise the teaching and learning processes at school, and compared with this view, the impact must be seen as more limited. ICT does not revolutionize teaching methods. The teachers are mostly focused on using ICT to support the subject content. However, the impact of integrating ICT in teaching can be measured in pupil engagement, differentiation and creativity.
ImpaCT2 in the UK was a study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in the UK and managed by Becta (2002). The aim was to evaluate the progress of the UK "ICT in Schools Programme" between 1999 and 2002 and involved 60 schools. It investigated the "impact of information and communications technology (ICT) on educational attainment"
From the first strand of the study there were two overall findings. Firstly, in at least one third of all comparisons greater ICT use was a positive impact on test results. Secondly, on no occasions was lower ICT use a statistically significant advantage in test results. However, they did find that the "proportion of lessons involving ICT" in the sample was low. The report explained that ICT use tended to be an "optional extra" but needed to become "firmly embedded in all aspects of school life" (Becta, 2002).
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They did consider the "quality of ICT provision and usage" in a school including features: adequacy of ICT resources, ethos for learning with ICT, students attitudes to ICT, attainment of ICT skills by students, and quality of ICT teaching. They used a 7-point scale provided by Ofsted to rate the schools. The report (Becta, 2002) concluded that students had positive attitudes and good skills due to the ICT curriculum and home use of computers but teachers undervalued the potential by considering it to be "just a tool". The report concluded that, There is evidence that, taken as a whole, ICT can exert a positive influence on learning, though the amount may vary from subject to subject as well as between key stages, no doubt in part reflecting factors such as the expertise of teaching staff, problems of accessing the best material for each subject at the required level, and the quality of ICT materials that are available.
A second UK study investigated how the sustained and embedded use of ICT in learning spaces can improve learner outcomes is the Test Bed project, conducted from 2002 to 2006. The study found that the number of secondary pupils achieving A to C GCSE grades had significantly improved over the course of the project. Also the Test Bed Project showed that schools with higher levels of e-maturity demonstrate a more rapid increase in performance scores than those with lower levels. Significant improvements took place in pupils' performance on national tests taken at age 16. After one year of the introduction of interactive whiteboards, pupils' performance improved more in national literacy, mathematics and science tests compared to pupils in other schools. Yet use of interactive whiteboards improved the performance of low-achieving pupils in English and the overall impact was greatest on writing.
Educational technology has in some instances lead to the curriculum being changed due to changes in technology (Newhouse, 2002). In some cases the invention of new technology has added content to the curriculum (e.g. technology based on electricity). In other cases new technology has made parts of the content obsolete (e.g. using calculators instead of logarithms for calculation). Some technologies such as overhead projectors, videos and computers have led to the development of new methods of learning and teaching which were not feasible before their introduction. ICT has therefore affected the curriculum has therefore affected the curriculum both in terms of content and methodology and would expect these changes to continue.
Already it would appear that the content and objectives of the curriculum are changing to take account of the role of computers in society (Newhouse, 2002). For example, with the use of large database systems (e.g. the Web on the Internet) it is more important to know how to retrieve and manipulate information than to remember the information itself.
Technology has changed the look and layout of learning environments, using an overhead projector affects the classroom environment in that it takes up space, it requires a screen, a teacher needs to create transparencies to use on it and students may not like reading them, there is no two-way interaction as may be the case with a computer system. A computer system can interact with each student and the teacher differently and can interact with components of the curriculum in different ways.
The link between technological development and the transformation of learning is clear in history, for as Rieber and Welliver (1989) point out, "the lecture-and-text-based model of teaching and learning is itself the product of the introduction of a new technology, the printing press, into 16th-century European culture" (p. 25). The question then is how will the participants in school-based learning adapt and apply the technology, and what models of teaching and learning will result? From the premise that "experience with computer tools can fundamentally alter teaching", Miller and Olson (1994, p. 136) argue that an important neglected reason "why computers have not altered curriculum in the manner predicted by some educators" is the "influence of traditional teaching methods and routines of practising teachers". They conclude that, "Although critics raised numerous questions concerning the unrealized potential of computers, few looked at how traditional classroom practices affected its use" (p. 126). Collis (1989) reasons that "many elements of traditional school organization will, and should, remain regardless of IT's potential" (p. 17), and suggests that teachers will always need to be instructional leaders, that there is always a need for human-to-human interaction and motivation. Also Becker (1994) points out that it will be necessary to produce systematic evidence that the teaching practices best supported by computer-use such as discovery-based learning and problem-solving, do result in improvements in student competencies. Even if this is the case, Fullan (1996) argues that such systemic change is complex and difficult to achieve, particularly at the classroom level.
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Riel (1998) perceives that current notions of using computer systems to provide just-in-time learning "massively undervalues the role of the teacher" (p. 1). In fact teachers and other experts will be required to support students in handling "conflict and multiple perspectives" (p. 6). This will in turn develop in students the understanding of the need for interdependence. This is supported by the Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning that concluded that "effective use of technology involves many teacher decisions and direct forms of teacher involvement." (2000, p. 219). While it is clear that the role of teachers will continue to be critical, the composition of that role is likely to alter to require a greater range of skills and understandings. Teachers need to be more skilled in directing students through the huge quantities of rich information (Riel,1998). If the aim is to use ICT to involve students in more cross-discipline project-based learning, this requires teachers to have an understanding of a wider range of disciplines and learning within those disciplines (Riel, 1998). Students will continue to need "guidance and assessment by skilled teachers." (Riel, 1998, p. 5). The impacts on teaching strategies will lead to changes in the composition of the role of teachers. For example, high level access to computer support for learning tends to encourage teachers to use more cooperative group work and less teacher stand-up lecturing (Schacter, 1999). They are less likely to take on the role of content expert where they will increasingly cooperate with other teachers (Réginald Grégoire inc. et al., 1996) and even "invite distant 'team-teachers' from any field, with any expertise, to work in the classroom." (Riel, 1998, p. 15).
As the online age still grows en masse, educators will cater more for onine individualised learning and assessment. Whilst being sensitive to learning styles and ensuring motivation does not reduce but at least stays constant if improvement is unattainable. This distance education is already available at univeristys and is the main if not sole delivery of courses at the open university. Sanger (2001) believes that the future ''may see only 2 day weeks for education'' as the transision to online learning and assessment may holds no barriers, and these in school days are only compulsory as governments would like to keep communitys cohesive.
For most young adults, the future will likely bring an even greater breadth of complex information and communication technologies, including those that have not yet been imagined. "Students will spend their adult lives in a multi-tasking, multifaceted, technology-driven, diverse, vibrant world-and they must arrive equipped to do so
In order to provide both flexibility and security in an era characterized by constant change, 21st century students need 'knowing how to learn' skills that enable them to acquire new knowledge and skills, connect new information to existing knowledge, analyze, develop habits of learning, and work with others to use information . . . And as technology increasingly becomes the medium for communication and information sharing, students need to be capable of harnessing technology to perform learning skills, such as communicating effectively with presentation software or juggling personal responsibilities with a personal digital assistant . . . "3
An individual who lacks ICT skills has fewer opportunities for personal advancement, and a society that lacks an ICT-literate workforce will not compete in the global economy. Students who lack ICT skills cannot fully benefit from learning opportunities in the classroom or beyond it.4 Students who are less proficient in ICT may be unable to evaluate the validity of information they find through modern search engines, or draw meaning from it. They may not be able to compare information from numerous sources or communicate their findings effectively, ethically, and legally. The lost opportunity to acquire these skills in college may follow them throughout their careers. Whereas it used to be the case that only certain occupations required skills in technology, the U.S. Dept of Labor projects that eight of the ten fastest growing occupations in this country require "technological fluency."5