Making the connection with computers and technology in schools

18 Sep

By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Education) with Voice and former secondary school teacher (music and ICT) and head of department 

School computers ‘do not raise results’

Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance, according to a global study from the OECD.

To be truthful, this should come as no surprise to anyone.  Of course computers and classroom technology do not automatically improve pupils’ performance anymore than a pencil and paper do.

The problem with technology is with placing it into schools and expecting teaching and support staff to use it in their delivery.  We expect pupils to use it in their work, but many are never shown how this technology is better than the status quo.  In other words, the technology is never exploited. 

According to Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills:

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.

“Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge.  To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

To give an example – instead of using an encyclopaedia, pupils now use the Internet.  Where they had to read and copy out by hand, they now cut and paste.  Their work is printed out rather than hand-written, but little learning has been able to take place. 

Of course pupils often love to use technology as it is an interactive and fun way of learning, but learning how to learn and focus is crucial as, by using the Internet, a pupil may well have additionally checked emails, updated their Twitter status, read a Facebook update and taken part in an online session of FarmVille. 

In order to benefit from technology we need to be exploiting the things which we would struggle to do without it.  So instead of looking in just one book for an answer, we can compare information from thousands of different Internet sources, discuss our findings and explain what we think is the best and why.  This would develop pupils’ learning and exploit the technology.

We need to teach pupils to manage distractions and learn to concentrate in the same way people have always had to.  To ignore the telephone and what is on TV is no more easy or difficult than ignoring the bleep of the ever-present mobile phone or tablet; it just needs learning.  Learning to discern what is and is not valid and relevant information; to cite sources to give provenance to research – all of this can be taught, and indeed is taught in some centres.

Interestingly, Britain was not one of the countries which participated in this research…

Do let us know your views…
Mobiles in schools

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