Friday, 23 September 2011

ICT for Teaching and ICT for Learning: They are not the same (article)

Its has been an interesting week, with the nzcs articles coming out and the discussion that has lead from them, especially around algorithms and computer science. Through to a Computing in New Zealand Schools article;

ICT for Teaching and ICT for Learning: They are not the same, Robert Douglas, Howick College, Manukau, Auckland.  I include an extract from the article below which looks at the conclusions that the author has come up with.


Schools need to be very clear in their thinking and communication regarding ICT for teaching and ICT for learning. Their communication to the students’ parents and the wider community must be very clear on the form of ICT that is envisaged. A New Zealand Herald article (Binning, 2011) suggests that in fact Orewa College is wanting its Year 9 students to be provisioned with IT for Learning yet the nature of the device is required is more ‘personal’ in nature, suggesting a move toward ICT for Learning. It is conceded that it may not be easy but every effort should be made by schools to ensure their communication clearly identifies the intended use the ICT in question.

I contend that schools need to decide very carefully what capabilities they desire in student-centric devices and publish these widely among the student and parent communities. This set of capabilities must be relatively simple and easy to achieve on a wide range of cheap devices. Ability to access wireless networks would be a fundamental to reduce costs to the student and enable functionality in the school. Such things as the ability to display 3G video and take text- or voice-based notes would be appropriate whilst ‘must be able to display PowerPoint presentations’ may well not be. Once communicated, students and their parents can make their own choices around the device and the school will have a baseline capability to work with.

The school may also suggest a suite of applications that the students are to have loaded on their device. Obviously this would imply that the students own a device that runs a specified operating system however with the rise in Android and Windows-based devices, as well as the iPhone, there exists a strong potential for a range of applications in appropriate formats to be made available to the students. This may well increase the anticipated capability in the classroom and provide some crossover to ICT for teaching. Careful selection of cheaper or free applications would limit the cost.

If schools require or wish to empower ICT for learning they will need to have a suitably robust infrastructure to do so. This will mean robust, high capacity wireless access that is carefully managed to avoid abuse by students. ICT for teaching will also be further enabled by such infrastructure.

Schools must be very clear about when ICT for teaching is appropriate and how to provision this in the school. This suggests that schools need to consider the nature of the computational devices they own and how these may be empowered for use in the classroom to support the teachers in their teaching.

ICT for teaching and ICT for learning are not mutually exclusive. Rather, each enhances the other and creates a strong learning environment for students when they can perform tasks as directed by teachers, then take the learning with them out of school and continue working with the task at times and locations that suit them.

Widely communicated and enforced protocols on the use of ICT for learning are a must.
I suggest that schools will not cease to own computational devices but rather will start to purchase specifically targeted devices to facilitate teaching whilst preserving teacher sanity. Teachers should be able to use school owned and managed devices with confidence that they are provisioned for the task intended.

Final Comments

The recent controversy regarding Orewa College’s requirement for students to have an iPad or other computational device (Binning, 2011) and the media publicity it gained showed how important it is for schools to consider carefully what they wish to achieve and to communicate this clearly to parents.

Schools that attempt to provide a crossover device that is both learning and teaching centric run the risk of achieving neither. In class use will be problematic with equipment failures from flat batteries to software corruption to physical failures. Student use may be hampered by the way the device is prescribed by the school and locked down to facilitate easier management.

Finally, it should be noted that ICT for learning and ICT for teaching are device neutral in that it is not the device that is important, rather, it is the use to which the device is to be put that categorises the ICT. Schools need to be very aware of how they wish to use ICT and to provision and resource the ICT accordingly. Great pains must be taken to ensure that parents understand what the school is endeavouring to achieve

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