Thursday, 19 March 2009

Students and ICT....

Visiting the Education Guardian BSF ICT Conference this week provided yet more opportunity for some really exciting discussions about the approaches to the BSF programme, and the importance of technology.

A particular personal highlights was the contribution by Professor Angela McFarlane, Professor of Education, University of Bristol.

She spoke passionately about the use of technology in schools and noted that although it is an assumption technology has made education change - much of any perceived change is superficial, and underneath little if anything, has actually changed in what is happening and being learnt. Simply pumping technology into schools will not change anything. It is still a content led world but "this is not preparing young people to do things they need to do in a 21st century world."

She also challenged the myth that all young people knew how to use the various new technologies well, especially regarding how to use them effectively for learning. Who is teaching them?

On multi tasking she noted that many people can multi task well, young people are often quoted as being masters at it and yes they often operate in short time scales. However she reminded the audience that young people do need to be able to concentrate for a long period of time, and need to be taught resilience and persistence on particular tasks. "Not all young people have butterfly brains though" quoting the example of video games which take time and real focus. A key issue is that students still need to be told the relevance of what they are doing and why they are doing it - still a major failing for many schools and one reason why students don't engage with work at times.

Prof. McFarlane also discussed the fact that the level of student performance using ICT is often dictated by by the groups they associate with. If the group is generally not confident in ICT use , the group will not improve as fast as others. Admitting non competence in ICT technologies is particularly embarrassing for young people as so many of their peers appear to be be so confident in particular aspects of its use. It "is a stigma issue". This is an issue that schools need to be able to recognise and have a remediation solution for. With so many schools developing VLE's etc , if a student does not know how to log on on day one they are potentially going to find it hard to catch up. And of course, she referred to the challenge of school banning the sites that are the ones students actually use, including Facebook, You Tube, Bebo and so on.

Her final plea was that it was the duty of schools to be able to teach youngsters responsibility and to be a responsible of user of ICT.

Good stuff with very imprtant messages and of course, as usual, Professor McFarlane makes perfect sense! The question is who is listening and who is doing what about it?


Peter Gilhooly said...

Hi Gareth good to catch up with you after ??? many years. I agree wholeheartedly with what Prof McFarlane had to say with regards to the type of tasks, collaboration and the assumptions that are made about ICT and transformation. Common sense stuff really. In the end it can't just be about new buildings and whizzy gizmos. Relevance and motivation I believe is still the twin keys of success.

Future ICT said...


I'm an ICT teacher in a secondary school in Sheffield, i did a degree as a mature student between 1998 and 2001, Econ and IT(as it was known back then), i have worked in a number of different ICT sectors, both before and after my time at Uni. When i got into teaching 5 years ago i was astounded at the expanse between what happens in the real world of technology and what is taught in the classroom. I have been campaigning for ICT to become embedded into the other subjects of the curriculum, after all ICT is a tool and is used as such in every sector. I was very lucky indeed when I had the opportunity to stand-in for my Ass-head and attend the BSF conference where i heard Angela McFarlane speak. Thank goodness i am not alone and there are people and educationalist who understand the need for change.

Gareth Long said...

Thanks for writing - Prof. McFarlane does make a lot of sense, but we do need to ensure that enough of the right people are listening. Thanks for reading the blog!