Maureen McTaggart trawls the ICT 'transformation' feeback requested by Michael Gove
To take full advantage of learning opportunities offered by technology, teachers need to be more strategic, collaborative, scientific and democratic, while schools should make sure their community’s ICT knowledge is aligned, according to the Better Learning through Technology report from Naace and ALT.

The report was compiled from a three-month online discussion, sparked by education secretary Michael Gove MP's first speech on ICT at the BETT 2012 show in January. It also challenges the idea that all young people are “digital natives”.

Back in January, Michael Gove had requested feedback: "We need a serious, intelligent conversation about how technology will transform education – and I look forward to finding out what everyone has to say." ICT member organisations Naace and ALT obliged by hosting the "conversation" on the SchoolsTech website they set up for the purpose, and on the social networking site Twitter. The discussion was complete by the end of March and the report was compiled in May with final edits made in July.

Are young people more competent and confident with ICT than their teachers?

According to some responses, today’s youth might have digital expectations but they are often no more digitally confident or competent than their teachers. While some contributors have "witnessed young learners taking control of their own learning through technology in unprecedented ways", others warn of a need to support and develop “’non technical’ competences such as: being able to search for and evaluate information; an understanding of online identity and personal data; the ability to write for a particular audience”. Quoting one respondent, the report asserts: “Kids are not as ICT literate as is made out. The vast majority of kids use the internet for browsing, social networking and gaming and that’s it.

“They can use iPods and USB sticks and cameras and other simple technical equipment, but ask them to turn a collection of photographs and mp3 [audio] files on this memory stick into a small, file-sized video fit for a mobile phone and they would struggle to know where to start – nor would most have the independence to research the net to find out.” In other words there might be a smartphone in their pocket, but they can be just as passive and confused as other, older pepople.

The online feedback was given in response to five sets of “Stimulus Questions” on the role of technology in learning, teaching practice, young people and interventions. The questions were provided by the Department for Education and were aimed at education professionals as well as parents, researchers and education technology suppliers. It attracted some 100 respondents who made 150 contributions to the site and about 600 Tweets. How representative they are of the target audiences is not known. It's safe to assume they will be the usual people who respond to politicians' consultations rather than a wider selection that includes parents.

Critical responses suggest teachers 'are never going to be the drivers of innovation'

Responding to questions such as “Will the role of a teacher change as technology becomes more integrated into teaching and learning in schools?” some of the participants were pretty critical. Some suggested teachers are parochial and “are never going to be the drivers of innovation and may even need to be forced to become competent in the use of technology in their subjects”.

Meanwhile others were more sympathetic, pointing out that, with technology changing so rapidly, teachers are always playing catch-up, making it difficult for them to work out what skills education should focus on. Added to this was frustration with what they see as the ever-growing influence of companies that sell education products and services, those who tend to focus on who manages the school budget rather than the “end-users” creating an “alliance of zealots, gurus and industry hype”.

Despite conflicting opinions and concerns about Ofsted’s ability to support the profession when it comes to ICT issues, participants suggested a number of possible solutions that could help enhance teacher competence with technology. These include teaching schools, a systematic programme of CPD for all teachers, more opportunities for sharing good practice such as TeachMeets, the Vital service and more CPD award schemes. Some of the advice, such as “capitalising on the expertise of pupils”, is so obvious you wonder why such practice is not already mainstream.

There were also references to the abundance of useful free materials for schools on the internet. Two sites that came up again and again were Edmodo and PlannerLIVE. Edmodo, which is rapidly gaining ground in schools, allows teachers to resources and link to a site where they can be shared with students and allows communication in and out of school. PlannerLIVE help teachers set homework for students and parents to access outside school, keeps records, and allows teacher sto share and re-use materials.

A large number of resources and sites with links to low cost tools for schools were mentioned12. By way of example, two websites were mentioned several times:
• Edmodo () — allows teachers to post resources, videolinks and weblinks on to one site on which their students can ask/answer questions and communicate with teachers and other students (its user interface looks like Facebook, so students find it easy to use);
• PlannerLIVE () — allows teachers to set homework for each class which can be accessed by parents and students at home. It also provides a complete record of all homework activities teachers have set for every group and allows you to reuse activities with other groups or borrow activities set by other teachers.

'ALT and Naace found SchoolsTech exercise 'interesting and rewarding'

The Naace and ALT organisers behind the report include well-known personalities like Jan Webb, Dr Peter Twining, Miles Berry and Seb Schmoller, and they admit the debate was a “light touch” approach to research, a method they anticipated would have them relinquish control over who would take part. The majority of comments, therefore, can only be attributed to “people active in the learning technology field”. However, the aim of report they say is to “serve as a contribution to helping us come to a shared understanding of the role of technology in teaching and learning in the schools sector”.

Despite any concernes about how respresentations might have been, the conclusion from Naace and ALT was cautiously positive: "ALT and Naace found the SchoolsTech exercise an interesting and rewarding one. Both organisations are committed to enhancing learning through technology, and to representing their members’ ideas and interests, including to government.

"We welcome opportunities, such as that provided by SchoolsTech, to work as catalysts and conduits in pooling the expertise and ideas for innovation in the communities that we serve.

"We would further welcome the opportunity to take up some of the ideas in this report directly with schools, bodies representing and/or working with schools, or with the Department for Education."

More information

The Better Learning Through Technology report was put together by Miles Berry, Bernadette Brooks, Dr Steven Coombs, Dr Maren Deepwell, David Jennings, Seb Schmoller, Professor John Slater, Dr Peter Twining and
Jan Webb. It is available from Naace and from ALT.