Sunday 20 December 2009

What “Drives” the use of ICT in education?

A previous posting, “Technologies for teaching and learning”, discussed the envisaged benefits that accompanied the introduction of film, radio and TV technologies into education. A summary might be “lots of hype, but little substance”. Bearing such observations in mind may give a higher perspective when trying to identify similar drivers for ICT.

Back in the 1970’s, schools and universities were investing heavily in ICT equipment and software. These technologies were generally seen as innovative and engaging (ref). However, I have had difficulties trying to find explicit drivers for the introduction or even funding of these technologies. Cuban (2001, pp13) suggests a possible driver for the mass investment in ICT of the 1990’s:

“… the economic prosperity of the 1990’s, unrivalled in the 20th century, has now convinced most doubters that information technologies have accelerated American workers productivity. As a consequence, introducing electronic tools into schools has become a priority of corporate leaders and public officials.”

Around the same time in Europe, officials were coming to realise the affordances of the networked computer – and the perceived dangers of not investing in these technologies, as the Bangerman report of 1994 highlights:

“… our suppliers of technologies and services will lack the commercial muscle to win a share of the enormous global opportunities which lie ahead. Our companies will migrate to more attractive locations to do business. Our export markets will evaporate.”

Bangermann emphasises the growing nature of the “Knowledge Economies” and fuelled fears that a lack of investment in an ICT infrastructure will compromise Europe’s ability to do business, identifying that “… Education, training and promotion will necessarily play a central role.” (Bangemann, 1994, p4) This mindset was a major driver for massive investment in Information and Communication Technologies from the mid 1990’s.

However, a mindset it remains, with few leaders willing to commit themselves to comment explicitly on the anticipated benefits – thus identifying drivers for ICT in education that I am trying to expose. A list of drivers for ICT in education is elusive – perhaps the words of Clegg, Hudson and Steel (2003) offer some comfort to my inability to find some neat espousal of governments desire for ICT in education:

“The role of ICTs in these movements is so embedded in that it is mentioned as a fait accompli."

I have found that whichever politician is talking about ICT in education, whether it be Michael Heseltine in 1995, Tony Blair in 1997 or David Blunkett in 2001, specifics about how they expect ICT to enhance education are absent (all quoted in Watson 2001). Perhaps one reason there is a lack of espoused drivers from our politicians is that ICT is a field which moves so fast that specifics can become obsolete embarrassingly quickly.

And the politicians are not alone. Academics such as Salmon (1999) identify various initiatives in the Open University using ICT in education, but do not offer any drivers or rationale for using the technology.

Reverting to (or falling back on) governmental papers and NGO reports, I have found one example that suggests some drivers – the UK’s Futurelab report: “Literature Review in Science Education and the Role of ICT: Promise, Problems and Future Directions” (Osborne and Hennessy, 2003). Here are some drivers I extracted from the text *(p4):

  • ICT’s ability to automate some processes
  • freeing up time for learning activities
  • create a more engaging curriculum by providing access to experiences not otherwise feasible, and “fostering self-regulated and collaborative learning”.
  • There is also the ubiquitous assumption that ICT will improve motivation and engagement.

Returning to academia, I found a more complete list of affordances, and therefore possible drivers in a paper by Conole and Dyke (2004) that attempts to create a taxonomy for the affordances of ICT in education. I suggest these are more comprehensive that something we might get from government rhetoric or reports. The first six are easy to find positive, “Politician” style “Amplifications” (Kanuka & Rourke, 2008) for. Here I have paraphrased the mentioned authors:

  • Accessibilty - to information, in "MultiMedia" formats.
  • Speed of change - being able to get information "as it happens"
  • Diversity - enabling learners to gain access to a variety of contexts
  • Communication and collaboration - from email to "Communities of Practice"
  • Reflection - such as time to think during an asynchronous discussion
  • Multimodal and non-linear - allowing the learner to find their own route - alluding to a constructivist pedagogy.

The final four tend towards the reduction rather than amplification model:

  • Risk, fragility and uncertainty
  • Immediacy
  • Monopolizatione
  • Surveillance

A summary of the drivers of ICT in education

Finally, I paraphrase Abrami et al’s (2006, pp1) list of drivers, benefits or affordances – perhaps going some way towards a taxonomy of the drivers for ICT in education:

  • “increasing access to information (Bransford et al. 2000)
  • “providing access to a richer learning environment (Bagui, 1998; Brown, 2000; Caplan, 2005; Craig, 2001)
  • “making learning more situated (Bransford et al. 2000)
  • “increasing opportunities for active learning and inter-connectivity (Laurillard, 2002; Shuell & Farber, 2001; Yazon, Mayer-Smith & Redfield, 2002)
  • “enhancing student motivation to learn (Abrami, 2001)
  • “increasing opportunities for feedback (Jonassen et al. 2003; Laurillard, 2002).


Abrami et al (2006) “A Review of E--learning in Canada: A Rough Sketch of the Evidence, Gaps and Promising Directions”; Last accessed – 7-12-09.

Bagui, S. (1998). Reasons for increased learning using multimedia. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 7(1), 3-18.

Bangermann (1994) EUROPE AND THE GLOBAL INFORMATION SOCIETY Bangemann report recommendations to the European Council;; last accessed 20-12-09

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Commission on Developments in the Science of Learning, National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Brown, J. S. (Feb. 2002). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. USDLA Journal 16(2). Retrieved on October 4, 2004, from

Caplan, D. (2005). The development of online courses. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Creative Commons, Athabasca University, 175-194. Retrieved September 12, 2005, from

Craig, D. V. (2001). View from an electronic learning environment: Perceptions and patters among students in an online graduate education course. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 30(2), 197-219

Cuban, L; (2001) Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. Harvard University Press.

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching: A framework for the effective use of educational technology (2nd Ed.). London: Routledge

Salmon,G (1999) 'Computer Mediated Conferencing in Large Scale Management Education', Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 14: 2, 34 — 43

Shuell, T. J., & Farber, S. L. (2001) Student perceptions of technology use in college courses. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 24, 119-138.

Watson, D. M. (2001). Pedagogy before technology: Re-thinking the relationship between ICT and teaching. Education and Information Technology, 6(4), 251–266.

1 comment:

David Callaghan said...

Well, I think this is brill - even if other's don't as indicated by no comments. I return to this posting after reading Galanouli et al (2004) who on their first paragraph reference Bangermann, someone I identified in this posting as an early indicator of a formal policy towards ICT in mainstream compulsory education.


Galanouli, D., Murphy, C., & Gardner, J. (2004). Teachers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of ICT-competence training.Computers & Education, 43(1–2), 63–79