Thursday, July 12, 2012

Should We Be Using ICT in Education?

 Why should teachers bother to include technology in their teaching practice? Why should governments support the incorporation of technology in school when schools will never be able to keep up with technological advancement in the industry? Why should we train students to use ICT if the technology will have changed by the time they leave school? How can we accurately measure the impact that technology has on learning? Does the ease of access to learning outside the classroom mean that more learning is actually happening outside the classroom?

I recently read an article by J Wellington. The article titled, "Has ICT come of age" suggests that the above are some of the questions we should ask to assess the use of technology in education. Now I am sure Mr Wellington is far more experienced than I am, both as an educator and as a researcher, but I wonder whether he, and so many other educators out there appreciate the direction that ICT has taken since the rise of smart phones and web 2.0. I ask this not because I doubt the importance of the questions he raises, but rather where the emphasis of the questions fall. We absolutely must evaluate the use of ICT in education, just as we should evaluate our textbooks, teaching techniques and our teachers. My own criteria for the evaluation of ICT in education is a little different to those questions raised above...

Question 1: 
Does ICT make your life easier? The whole point of ICT, smart phones, web 2.0 and technology as a whole, is to make life easier. By using ICT in the classroom, are you making your life easier? Are you making life easier for your students by using ICT in the classroom? I can think of various examples of educators who will answer with a resounding yes. If your answer is no, then perhaps it is time to assess how you use ICT, rather than if you use ICT. Looking for ways to make life easier? perhaps ask those teachers hooked on Edmodo
Question 2: 
ICT is about increasing accessibility to information. If I miss a day or so of school, is my best chance really to copy another students' work from their book? What if there was a discussion or an experiment? Technology can allow access to events and experiences that a textbook will never be able to do. The question to ask yourself then, are you making learning more accessible to your students inside, but also outside the classroom? Can they see what they missed in science class today by watching the videos on their smartphone? Can they listen to the character discussion from English because their group recorded and emailed it to them? Or in the future, did your students know to record the discussions in their university study groups so that they can later reference them whilst studying? Or listen to explanations on the bus home? Our students can not use the technology effectively if the teachers have not provided the content for them. Have you given your students access? 
Question 3: 
Do you remember that ICT is about communication? Information communication technology. How well are you communicating? But more importantly, with who are you communicating? The Internet has had a few birthdays in the public eye, finally coming to the ripe age of 2.0. Web 2.0 is about connecting not only with those people in your life, but those that would in the past have been out of reach. Educators from all over the world collaborate on a daily basis. They support, give feedback, provide resources and perhaps most importantly, provide inspiration for each other through blogs and twitter. Their classes collaborate on projects across countries and across the world. For example, the Rocketeers from one school used Skype to video call various classes all around the world, learning about their cultures and their schools. Or what about the Pass the Blog  project where various classes from all around the world collaborate and contribute? Have your senior classes followed the musings of their favourite authors on twitter? Or asked a question of Brian Cox? Are you a twenty first century communicator? 

ICT is a tool. Just like a hammer is a tool for building a house, a boat or a play ground. Now I am no history buff, but I feel relatively certain that the use of a hammer in building was never contested or questioned. Yes we should question what type of hammer we use, when we use the hammer and especially how effective the  hammer wielder is. My argument hence, is that ICT is just a tool. Educators, whether they are lecturers, teachers or senior managers are simply not always using the tool effectively. Builders and physicists know that where you hold the hammer when hammering the nail will make you more or less effective. Your grip on technology, will do the same. 

To answer Mr Wellington's question. Has ICT come of age? I think it has. I suspect however that it is simply just a matter of all the builders not being able to wield their hammers properly. The question is no longer if we should use ICT, but how we should be using ICT. 


  1. That article was published in 2005, which was essentially before the rise of smartphones and Web 2.0. I wonder if his perspective would be different today...

  2. I emailed him to ask this. He suggested that he still felt exactly the same. I would very much disagree with him.