Computers in Schools – Are We Really Half Way to 2020

There has been a lot of negative reporting on the use of technology in classroom recently as if something was taking place wasn’t working very well. Of course, that’s nonsense. What is happening at the moment is fragmentary, peripheral, un-embedded and rarely sustained. The dominant message for society as promoted by the Daily Mail and the right-wing media is that kids in school just use computers to watch rubbish whenever they have a chance, worse still they watch bad stuff and, finally, they waste time with them when they should be ‘learning’. Meanwhile, schools accidentally reinforce all this stuff by banning mobile technology to break times or even banning it altogether. They fret about being accountable for teenagers’ browsing habits most of which allegedly involves sending naked selfies to one another without helping them learn to do something better. There’s a lot to turn round here but there is nothing to suggest that computers in education have somehow failed!

We can’t skate around it but OFSTED is part of the problem. Enquiry-based lessons using technology don’t look like the model OFSTED lesson and most teachers are scared to do anything different – perfectly understandably. Next, the teaching profession is increasingly risk averse and given the bad press that computerised learning receives there is little encouragement for teachers to change. And, of course, there are issues to do with resourcing, equity and accessibility.

What could be done differently? Firstly, I’d like to see all secondary lessons as an online programme of work. If universities can do this for complex work streams then I’m sure schools should be able to. This online programme should, as a matter of good practice, embed Internet research, make use of a wide range of Internet resources, require strategies to evaluate and incorporate resources, teach strategies for linking and handling them and encourage interesting ways to reflect the learning. Then you can have topic learning which is teacher driven but not teacher led and where pupils interact and talk. Note that this is different from an ICT lesson because you teach technology as required and as applied. Really unintelligent people don’t have any problem with Evernote, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter and if teachers go all flustered about it they need to get a life and sort themselves out!

What do you think?

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