Using ICT to enhance learning
ICT capability is about having the technical and cognitive proficiency to access appropriately, to use, develop, create and communicate information using technological tools. Learners demonstrate this capability by purposefully applying technology to solve problems, analyse and exchange information, develop ideas, create models and control devices. They are discriminating in their use of information and ICT tools and systematic in reviewing and evaluating the contribution ICT can make to their work as it progresses.
ICT capability is much broader than a set of technical competences in software applications although, clearly, these are important. ICT capability involves the appropriate selection, use and evaluation of ICT. In essence, students need to know what aspects of ICT are available to them, when to use it and why it is appropriate for the task.
For example, when creating a presentation, ICT capability involves the selection of appropriate software, consideration of fitness for purpose and matching content and style to a given audience. It is important that lessons are not software – or technology – driven but focused on clear teaching and learning objectives where ICT is used as a vehicle to support achievement of those objectives.
The past five years have seen a slow but steady improvement in students ’ achievements in ICT capability, the quality of teaching, and the leadership and management of ICT …The complementary use of ICT across subjects, however, has been slow to develop and is uneven across schools and subjects …
The effective balance between the teaching of ICT skills, knowledge and understanding on the one hand and the application of these as part of learning across subjects on the other hand remains a difficult and elusive goal for the majority of schools.
Information and communication technology in secondary schools: Ofsted subject reports 2002-03
Resolving the issues
Enhancing teaching and learning using ICT works best when students are taught ICT capability in discrete lessons, and when teachers of other subjects enable students to apply that ICT capability, using it to enhance learning in the subject. It is important to recognise that students will bring with them a range of experience from their discrete lesson in ICT. They will have capability that can be both developed and applied in other lessons across the curriculum. As a subject teacher, you will need to be able to decide when to use ICT in your lessons.
How does ICT support teaching and learning?
Students’ ability to apply their ICT capability across the curriculum is largely dependent on the effective teaching and learning of ICT in the first place. Students’ use of ICT in other subjects may be ineffective if they do not already have an appropriate level and understanding of ICT capability. This may result in a lack of progress in both ICT and the subject area. For example, asking students to produce a presentation in a given subject will be unproductive if they have little experience of using the software or understanding of how to create meaning and impact for a given audience. Students who try to learn new areas of ICT at the same time as new subject content will often fail in both endeavours.
It is crucial that students are taught the appropriate ICT capability before applying it in other subjects. The relationship between ‘ICT – the subject’ and ‘ICT – in subjects’ can therefore be viewed as interactive and mutually supportive, as shown in the diagram below.
Purposeful and appropriate application of ICT in subjects offers students opportunities to:
• Use their ICT capability to assist and progress their learning in subjects;
• Engage in higher-order thinking skills, for example by using ICT to undertake detailed analysis when modelling data;
• Demonstrate, apply and reinforce their understanding of ICT capability within a range of subject contexts. The transferability of ICT capability is an important aspect of progression in students’ knowledge, skills and understanding.
It is important to recognise that students using ICT effectively in subjects may not always by applying high levels of ICT capability. For example, using a word-processor to draft and re-draft text is a valid and powerful activity in a range of subjects; using software to support learning in MFL or using a learning support program in mathematics or a bespoke program designed to aid learning in science can be significant in helping students make progress. In all such cases, ICT fulfils a legitimate function if using it moves learning in the subject forward, but it may make little contribution to developing the ICT capability taught in ICT lessons.
As students become more confident and proficient in using ICT, there will be opportunities to apply and develop higher ICT capability in subjects, for example producing web pages for a given purpose and audience, manipulating data to prove in the subject.
a hypothesis, or incorporating sound and video into a presentation to add meaning and impact. It is important to reiterate that, whatever the level of ICT capability applied, it must add value to the teaching and learning
So far we have reviewed the use of ICT as a learning tool for students and have acknowledged how students who are confident and proficient in ICT can bring with them opportunities for extending their learning as they use their ICT in other subjects in the school curriculum.
However, existing and emerging ICT teaching tools provide further opportunities to enhance subjects and add value to teaching and learning. For example, the use of interactive whiteboards, video projection units, microscopes connected to computers, prepared spreadsheets to capture and model data, CD-ROMs, presentations with video and carefully selected resources from the internet all provide examples of how ICT can be embedded into subject teaching.
The diagram showing ICT across the curriculum can therefore be extended to include ICT as a tool or medium for teaching. Clearly, elements of the model will overlap and impinge on each other. When thinking about how ICT enhances teaching and learning, the challenge is to make the make the most purposeful use of the available resources across all teaching and learning. Opportunities to embed ICT is subject teaching need to be exploited, as appropriate.
ICT – a tool for teaching
Your use of ICT may involve little or no use of ICT by students and, consequently, may do little to apply and develop their ICT capability. However, use of ICT as a medium of teaching can enhance and stimulate the learning experiences of students and contribute to the achievement of subject objectives. It is important to recognise the different contributions that ICT can make to teaching and learning and to acknowledge the importance of each.
Changing learning behaviours
Behaviourists claim that learning changes behaviour when learners respond to teaching by exhibiting similar responses to the same, or similar, teaching stimuli. In ICT this would be seen as the use of models of programmed learning, where students use software to redress deficiencies in basic skills (usually in literacy and numeracy) or the use of drill and practice approaches to teaching.
Keyboarding is a prime example of the drill and practice approach, where students spend time learning which fingers to use for which keys on the keyboard so that, eventually, they can type, using all their fingers appropriately, without looking at the keyboard. Some would argue that this makes working with the major input method much more efficient and that the time spend going over basis skills until proficiency is gained establishes rein-forcers that will serve us well in the future, rather like the notions that apply to ‘riding a bike’.
This has often been referred to as ‘operant conditioning’ and can be seen as an important aspect of learning reinforcement. Behaviourism grew therefore from a belief that positive and negative reinforcement with punishment appropriately applied would, when arranged effectively, cause students to learn. The teachers’ role in this was to organise the rein-forcers and to develop appropriate directed teaching sessions to support the learners as they progressed.
Many of the skills-based approaches to teaching with ICT follow a behaviourist model, directing the learning step by step, prompting students with praise and passwords (positive reinforcement) when they have completed tasks effectively, or focusing on the requirement to follow instructions exactly and making keystrokes accurate when working in order to pass (negative reinforcement).
Drill software and drill approaches to teaching are underpinned by such techniques as mastery learning (Bloom 1986). Here students are encouraged to master basic skills before progressing to higher-order skills and competencies, while the teacher is required to present learning opportunities and activities that will enable students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding.
Teachers using ICT may find directed teaching specifically appropriate when they identify students who, perhaps for improved classroom management and a better learning environment for all, need to have a system of structured learning in place. They may also find it appropriate when certain prerequisite skills need to be in place before an element of active learning can be established.
• How is use of ICT currently enhancing teaching and learning in your subject?
• What further opportunities can be exploited?
• What is inhibiting further use of ICT?
• What are the next steps in moving the department forward?
This section is intended to support your thinking when working with your colleagues to move ICT across the curriculum forward. It offers suggestions for some next steps for you and your department, broadly based around:
• The use of ICT in your department;
• Reviewing your current position;
• Applying and developing ICT capability from the ICT National Curriculum.
Below are some prompts and suggestions for thinking about your existing provision, understanding how ICT is taught in your school and identifying potential new opportunities for teaching and learning in your subject.
How is ICT being used in your department?
Identify ways in which ICT is currently used in your lessons to add value to teaching and learning.
• What good practice in using ICT currently exists in your department and how does it enhance teaching and learning?
• For each of these areas, is ICT being used by students, by teachers or by both?
• Are all teachers in your department using ICT in lessons in the same way or are individual teachers just using their own ideas?
• How can these ideas be shared with other teachers in your department?
Reviewing your current position
You could consider:
• Identifying where students use ICT in their lessons and how it impacts on teaching and learning in your subject;
• Allocating time at departmental meetings to share existing good practice and to look at ways in which it could be incorporated or adapted into schemes of work for all teachers in the department;
Setting up peer observation or paired teaching with colleagues to observe each other and assess the value that ICT is adding to the lesson – you may find the Key Stage 3 guidance on coaching (included in Sustaining improvement: a suite of moduls in coaching, running networks and building capacity Ref. DfES 0565 – 2003) a useful tool to help you with this.