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Teachers wary about using information technology in the classroom
Despite the Government’s £1 billion commitment to increase the use of information technology in schools, few teachers make full use of computers in the classroom, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The findings of the four-year project at the University of Bristol confirm recent reports by Ofsted and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found that the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in schools was “sporadic” and “disappointing” in the UK and internationally. The ESRC study reveals that many teachers fear that computers would interfere with “genuine” or book-based learning, particularly in the humanities and creative subjects, and use ICT only for administration and routine tasks.
Professor Rosamund Sutherland, who led the research, says that teachers could be helped to make more effective use of computers in a wide range of subject areas. The project centred on partnerships between researchers, research students and teachers from ten institutions, which explored ways in which ICT could be used in English, history, geography, modern languages, science, music and mathematics. “Seventy per cent of the teachers who took part in the study were able to incorporate computers into their classroom,” says Professor Sutherland. “After working with researchers, they generally had a more positive view of technology and said that it enhanced their role as a teacher and had a beneficial impact on the learning environment.”
The report says that many teachers lack the confidence to take the risk of using technology in their subject areas, although they have reasonable facilities at school and they use computers at home. “We need to set up networks whereby teachers and researchers may work together to design and evaluate projects which use ICT as a tool for learning. If these resources are made available, teachers will start to embed ICT into classroom practices,” Professor Sutherland says.
Analysis of video data also showed that students could work with ICT for long periods of time, investigating their own questions and experimenting with ideas in an interactive way. This was apparent whether students were investigating language and spelling, finding out about the properties of quadrilaterals or writing e-mails to a German correspondent. However, some young people became distracted and used the internet to learn things their teachers had not intended. The report says that effective teaching and learning with ICT involves finding ways of building bridges between “idiosyncratic” and “intended” learning.