My vision statement for ICT: the past, the present and the future

My vision statement as a wordcloud. This worldcloud was made using http://www.wordle.net/

This post sets out my vision statement for how ICT should be taught in primary schools. It starts by considering how ICT in schools has evolved, why it is important, what teaching it should look like and finally some barriers to successful ICT.

It is a useful time to reflect on the nature of ICT due to the disapplication of its programme of study (as discussed in an earlier post). This means that we are currently in a state of opportunity, whilst the new programme of study is being finalised.

Before considering what the future of ICT should look like, it is useful to consider how it has developed over time. Technology has often influenced teaching in schools. John and Wheeler (2008) state that in the industrial revolution the oral tradition slowly gave way to a literate one and now this is slowly being superseded by digital technology.

ICT has only become a distinct subject in the national curriculum in 1995, with the addition of “communication” in the 1999 national curriculum (Easingwood, 2008). As this suggests, ICT in schools has always had a difficult time establishing its place within the curriculum. The nature of the subject is still contentious, with an article in the TES suggesting that it means different things to different people.

Alongside the pedagogical shift, there has been a technological one with Evans (2012) suggesting that the iPad has made computers, interactive whiteboards and laptops obsolete. As such, the past of the subject is muddled and the future uncertain. This makes it necessary to consider why ICT should be taught in the first place.

Firstly, as Rory Cellan-Jones’s recent experiment for BBC News shows, technology has become ingrained within our everyday lives. The presence of Web 2.0 tools have provided a way to easily collaborate with others and to share a wealth of information. However, the tools used are constantly changing as new services come along and provide something that better fits our needs (Barber and Cooper, 2012).

This means that nobody can predict what the future will look like or how technology will shape it. However, John and Wheeler (2008) predict that those who are able to adapt to new technologies will be best placed to succeed. This means that schools need to start children on their lifelong journey of harnessing technology.

So far, I have considered the changing nature of ICT. It is now necessary to consider what is essential to the subject. In the past ICT has been considered to incorporate four elements (Allen, 2007; Easingwood, 2008).

The first element is interactivity, which is about the relationship between the children, computer and teacher. These are not mutually exclusive relationships, instead they interlink. However, the focus should be on the human relationships, so that the children are in control of what they are doing. This strands links into the second, which is provisionality. This focuses on the fact that anything produced using ICT is ephemeral as it can always be modified. I think that this does not just involve the ability to edit children’s work, but also that technology is constantly being revised.

Additionally, ICT includes capacity and range, and speed and automatic function. These aspects mean that ICT enables children to access lots of data very quickly. As such, Barber and Cooper (2012, p.105) have argued that knowledge has become a ‘cheap commodity’ and now children need the skills to use it effectively.

As such, ICT in primary schools must be adaptable. Furthermore, in needs to teach children to be digitally literate, which involves children learning how to use digital technology with understanding. John and Wheeler (2008) suggest that digital literacy is made up of different literacies that need to be learnt in order for children to benefit from technology. These kinds of skills can be used across the curriculum because ICT is an effective ‘cross-curricular tool’ (Easingwood, 2008, p.147). Ofsted (2011) states that such an approach is characteristic of ICT in more effective schools.

However, ICT is much more than digital literacy. Clarkson (2011) states that to focus on this aspect of the ICT curriculum would be analogous to focusing only on spelling in English. Indeed, the Royal Society’s report on the future of ICT in schools has suggested disbanding the term and segregating the subject into digital literacy, Information Technology and Computer Science. Information Technology involves the use of computer systems to meet the user’s needs, whilst Computer Science is a ‘rigorous academic discipline’ (The Royal Society, 2012, p.10). The new draft of the programme of study for ICT incorporates these categories (NACCE, 2012).

Alongside the national curriculum for ICT, schools influence the subject through the way they decide to teach it (Haughton, 2012). For example, Ofsted (2011) states that teacher’s subject knowledge is essential in developing good ICT teaching. This is coupled with providing challenge for higher ability children, whom Ofsted (2011) state are not stretched enough.

However, in order to provide technology rich experiences investment is required in resources, which The Royal Society Report (2012) states many schools are not yet doing. Schools needing to update technology as it changes is an issue that will need resolving. However, our lessons at University have shown that although the hardware has to be bought there are lots of things that are free to use, including Scratch and QR Codes.

An additional area that can derail ICT is e-safety, which the Royal Society (2012) state is holding back the subject. Internet safety is clearly an important concern for schools and my experience has suggested that it can be integrated into the curriculum in a way that does not hamper creativity.

In conclusion, the future of ICT in schools is uncertain and faces challenges. To overcome these problems I think that the subject needs to be adaptable, whilst being underpinned by a clear rationale for why it’s an essential part of school life. I believe that ICT should continue to support all aspects of the curriculum, whilst emphasising its distinctive pedagogy and subject content.

Paper-based references:

Allen, J., Potter, J., Sharp, J. and Turvey, K. (2007) Primary ICT: Knowledge, Understanding and Practice. 3rd ed. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Barber, D. and Cooper, L. (2012) Using New Tools in the Primary Classroom: A practical guide for enhancing teaching and learning. London: Routledge.

Easingwood, N. (2008) Teaching Information and Communication Technology: The Principles. In: Boys, R. and Spink, E. (eds.) Primary Curriculum: Teaching the Core Subjects. London: Continuum. pp.144-155.

John, P. D. and Wheeler, S. (2008) The Digital Classroom: Harnessing Technology for the Future. London: Routledge.

Session 5: Mobile Technology – curriculum applications

In this session KerryLindsay and I worked together to produce a lesson using mobile technologies. We decided to combine the idea of a scavenger hunt with using QR codes.

The scavenger hunt was set up around the University campus. The purpose of the lesson is for children to scan QR codes to get a clue about where the next QR code is located, along with a word. Once the children have completed the scavenger hunt they have to re-arrange the words to create a sentence.

This picture shows an example of what would be seen if you scanned the first QR code in our scavenger hunt route.

The rest of the QR codes and corresponding pictures are arranged, in order, in this PhotoPeach spiral. The words have been redacted to avoid spoiling the surprise sentence for you!

The ICT skills required to produce the scavenger hunt are quite simple. You need access to a computer in order to visit www.scan.me to create the QR codes and a QR reader (such as an iPad or iPod touch) to read the QR codes. This animation, made in VideoScribe, summarises the process.

As you can see this is a straightforward process. Combining text and photographs did slightly complicate things, as we had to merge the text and original photographs to create a single image. These then had to be uploaded to Photo Bucket and linked to the QR codes.

However, we have no doubt that children in Key Stage 2 could make QR codes, progressing to embedding quite sophisticated information within them. Classes could make QR code scavenger hunts for each other. For example,  Year 5 could make a Scavenger hunt for Year 1 children using simple audio clues. This would give the Year 5 children a real purpose for their work.

The Year 1 class could evaluate how well the scavenger hunt works. For example, our scavenger hunt may have been easier to set up if we colour coded the order that the QR codes go in (instead of them all looking the same). The order of the colours could be kept secret by the people who made the scavenger hunt.

Session 4: Mobile technology – skills and techniques

In this session we looked at a range of different mobile technology applications, such as using QR codes, making films and using animation software. I decided to focus on using QR codes in the classroom, as I had not used them before. I have used iMovie to edit movies before; indeed this was the focus on my Year 2 assignment (which I will discuss in a separate blog post).

QR (Quick Reference) codes are funny looking things that look like barcodes. However, they provide much more information than old fashioned bar codes. The information contained within them can be accessed by using a QR code reader available on iPads and smartphones.

They can be used to direct you to simple text, a website, an image or even a spoken message (recorded on sites such as audioboo or Record MP3). The latter provides a great opportunity for differentiation, for example they could be stuck in exercise books and played back for children to gain a recap of instructions, if they need them.

This extract from BBC Click gives an insight into how QR codes work and can be used. It’s from a few years ago now, but it gives a good general introduction to them.

To start exploring how these work I used the Scan iPad app to read QR codes in a maths puzzle from Helen. The maths puzzle is presented here:

When the individual QR codes are scanned a sum shows up for the children to answer.

The individual QR codes could be cut out and placed around the classroom for children to solve. QR codes can be presented in different colours, allowing for differentiation, with different teams completing different trails.

After exploring how QR codes work, I had a go at making one of my own using www.scan.me.

My example is inspired by the ancient Egyptians. It could be used as part of a classroom museum, focused on the class’s topic for the term. The children could create the QR codes themselves for different objects and this would give them a sense of ownership of their work, which is important to help children remember the information they have learnt (Jeffrey and Woods, 2009).

The following picture shows you my mock-up of a classroom museum, including the object and it’s QR code.

If you tried to scan the QR code in the picture of the classroom museum you may have found it hard to connect (at least I did). The Primary Ideas blog discusses that recognition can be a problem when using QR codes. They suggest the use of URL shortening services (such as TinyURL or bit.ly) to shorten original URL addresses when linking to websites. This makes the QR code simpler, making recognition easier.

Another benefit of making the URLs shorter is that these can be typed directly into the address bar, for example if someone doesn’t have access to a QR reading device.

The use of these two services in a school newsletter is a really good idea because they would allow parents to be directly taken to examples of their child’s work. This can be supported by a textual explanation in the newsletter to set the work in context.

There are some great additional ideas available on this Google Docs Document about using QR codes in the classroom. I particularly the following two ideas:

  1. Children’s targets: A quick audio or video extract could be stuck next to children’s targets in their exercise books. This could provide a simple summary of their targets and what they need to do next. This might be more helpful for some children than just seeing their targets written down.
  2. Tour of the school: QR codes could be placed in key areas of the school, providing information about the different areas. The use of videos, pictures and audio information would help to provide an insight for visitors into life in the school at different times of the year, for example a QR code in the hall could show a short film of the school’s Christmas play.

In my Year 1 e-portfolio I discussed the use of QR codes in Bordeaux Southern France. You can read the discussion point by clicking here. Unfortunately, the interactive version of the document cannot be uploaded as my blog doesn’t support the file format I exported the finished product from eXe to.

In my e-portfolio discussion point I discussed the issues of using technology in school, including the problems of recording evidence of children’s progress. I think that the use of QR codes provides opportunities to evidence children’s progress because their completed QR codes are saved online for later retrieval. Furthermore, individual codes can be printed off so that they can be easily scanned for people to see the progress children have made.

Since writing my e-portfolio discussion point I have seen a rapid increase in the use of iPads. I have also seen an increased uptake in life outside of school. For example, I saw this advertisement with a QR code on it when I was on train the other week and other mobile devices in schools. I think this helps to address the issues of access I mentioned.

I believe that mobile devices have a lot of potential for use in the classroom and I look forward to working as part of a group in the next ICT session to create a classroom resource.

References:

Paper-based references used in this blog post are available here.

Jeffrey, B. and Woods, P. (2009) Creative Learning in the Primary School. London: Routledge.

Session 3: Teaching computer programming in the classroom

Following on from last week, Kerry, Lindsay and I worked together to produce a unit of work using Scratch. The unit of work is aimed at Year 6 children, as their final ICT project before moving to secondary school.

Overall unit objective: We are learning to create an animated game. 

Part 1: Testing games

In the first activity the children are to work in mixed ability pairs to play a range of games from the sqowrl set. They are to add words about what makes a good game to the class answer garden. Children can all work on the class answer garden at the same time, with the words presented updating in real time. If a child likes someone else’s word they can click on it and then re-submit it. This makes the word bigger, showing that more people agree with this opinion.

Ingredients of a good game… at AnswerGarden.ch.

The answer garden can be turned into a word cloud (the one in this blog post was made in wordle). The class can discuss the different words that they have come up with together to ascertain what the most important ingredients of a video game are.

Part 2: Fish tank game

Discuss as a class how video games are created.

Introduce the children to Scratch. Go through how to create a simple fish tank game.  Get the children to work in friendship pairs. Provide the children with the online video demo of the game, so that they can refer to it when making it in their pairs.

When the children have created their fish tank game they can upload it to the Scratch website and to a class sqworl link (containing the games made by the different pairs). They can then select different scratch card activities to help them further explore the potential of Scratch.

Part 3: The Dragons’ Den

Show the children the Morfo video of Duncan Bannatyne setting the challenge for the children by clicking on this link:  The Dragon’s Task. When creating Duncan Bannatyne’s speech we used the voice changer built into the app to make his voice have a lower pitch (to disguise our own); however on reflection this can make it difficult to ascertain what is being said. It would be great if future versions of the app had different degrees of voice changing, so that the low-pitch wasn’t too low and the hi-pitch wasn’t too squeaky.

Generate success criteria for computer games with the children using Spicynodes. The children could have a baseline target for how many of the different elements to include in their games, for example 3. Here’s an example of a success criteria we created earlier:

Part 4: Making games

Children work in friendship pairs to create their games. They use wallwisher as a working wall to document their ideas and queries. We liked the idea of this in principle, but we found that in practise it was clunky and we’d prefer to have it for refernce at all times – not just in ICT.

Part 5: Poll rating

In the final stage of the unit of work the children present the work to a panel of Dragons. This can be supported with a poll on the class blog for children to vote for their favourite game.

Session 1: Supporting children’s safety on the internet

Online safety

abc4all (2010) Online Safety and Avoiding Dangers on the Internet Image [online]. Available from: http://home.abc4all.net/articles/view/147342/ [Accessed 14th October 2012].

Internet safety was explored in the first year of my course and re-visited this year. I believe that this is a vital aspect of ICT to cover in schools and one that parents, teachers and children must be aware of. This blog post builds on what I have learnt about supporting children’s safety on the internet during my course in University and on placements. Some of the ideas in this blog post were discussed in my ICT e-portfolio for Year 1; however rapid changes in the use of ICT in schools and new research has meant that these are supplemented by many new ideas.

Whilst this blog post focuses on children’s internet safety, teachers also need to be vigilant about their own use of the internet. Gareth’s blog provides some good reminders for teachers regarding the use of images in the classroom.

One of the most striking things about the internet is how quickly it has grown since its conception in the 1960s, with it now having a huge impact on everyday life (Duffty, 2006; Elston, 2007). 91% of children aged between 5 and 15 years of age now live in a household with internet access, this has increased from 87% in 2012 (Ofcom, 2011, p.2). The internet can be used to do many creative and amazing things, examples of which I will explore in future blog posts. However, the internet has a darker side, which this blog post is going to focus on.

Firstly, it is important to stress that many pupils understand the risks associated with using the internet and know how to protect themselves online (Green and Hannon, 2007; Ofsted, 2009). However, more recent research has suggested that the safeguards of the ‘real’ world are not always considered online (UKCCIS, 2012). At school sophisticated internet filters are used to protect children online; however these should be seen as a last line of defence because many homes will not have access to such technology.

As such, as teachers we need to build on children’s understanding of internet safety to ensure that they know how to protect themselves online. This can be done by actively teaching e-safety in schools, which research by Becta (2007) suggests helps to effectively reduce possible dangers associated with the internet. I have seen the following video from the ThinkUKnow campaign being used effectively in a Key Stage 2 class.

The class watched the video in small chunks, with the teacher pausing it to ask the children to respond to the questions posed by the video’s narrator. This discussion helped the children to reflect on their experiences of using the internet and how to keep safe online.

Duffty (2006) states that active teaching can be supported by providing children useful websites to learn more about internet safety. Helen has brought together a great collection of links on about online safety. These stimulating resources could be used to support the teaching of internet safety. Furthermore, sites such as sqworl could be used across the curriculum, with teachers placing appropriate resources on the site for children to access in lessons or at home.

The use of such bookmarking sites can be supported by introducing search engines specifically designed for children, such as Yahoo Kids or Ask Kids. These search engines could be used in school to familiarise children with them and this would encourage their use at home. This is support by research by Ofcom (2011, p.4) which suggests that 68% of 8 – 11 year old internet users say that most weeks ‘they only visit websites they have visited before’.

Alongside direct teaching, a school-wide acceptable use policy for the internet should be developed, which refers to its use in teaching and learning (Duffty, 2006). Specific areas in the policy could include the procedure for dealing with cyber bullying and how information literacy is taught in the school. Parents, children and teachers would need to be aware of the policy, including any amendments made due to changing uses of the internet. Discussions between these different parties would help to ensure that children are kept safe online.

In conclusion, a few, quite simple, precautions can be taken to help avoid the pitfalls of the internet. This allows for its benefits to be fully utilised in the classroom, which is for the benefit of everyone involved.

Internet safety poster – an example:

An example of an Internet Safety Poster adapted from Elston, C. (2007) Using ICT in the Primary School. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

References:

Online references have been hyperlinked throughout the blog post. However, as links can change, the full references for online resources are given below, alongside paper-based references.

Becta (2007) Harnessing Technology Review 2007: Progress and impact of technology in education. Coventry: Becta. Available from: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/1425/1/becta_2007_htreview_report.pdf [Accessed 14th October 2012].

Duffty, J. (2006) Primary ICT: Extending Knowledge in Practice. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Elston, C. (2007) Using ICT in the primary school. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Green, H. and Hannon, C. (2007) Their Space: Education for a digital generation. London: Demos. Available from: http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Their%20space%20-%20web.pdf [Accessed 14th October 2012].

Ofcom (2011) Children and parents: media use and attitudes report. London: Ofcom. Available from: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/oct2011/Children_and_parents.pdf [Accessed 14th October 2012].

Ofsted (2009) The importance of ICT. London: Ofsted. Available from: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/importance-of-ict-information-and-communication-technology-primary-and-secondary-schools-20052008 [Accessed 14th October 2012].

UKCCIS (2012) Advice on child internet safety 1.0: Universal guidelines for providers. Available from: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/ukccis%20advice%20on%20child%20internet%20safety.pdf [Accessed 14th October 2012].