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that in the industrial revolution the oral tradition slowly gave way to a literate one and now this is slowly being superseded by digital technology.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.
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.