Monday 11 January 2010

ICT in Education - 1970 - 2010; events and drivers.

Here I discuss the drivers for TEL, a brief history of progress and failures over the past two decades, and then focus in on some literature around the experience of tutors with TEL, VLE’s and multi media.

The anticipated benefits of computers in education have their origins in previous technologies (radio / television). Schools and universities from the mid 1970’s invested in equipment and software that was generally seen as innovative and engaging (Reynolds et al, 2003). However, explicit drivers for these are a little difficult to identify. 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 (1994) report 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."

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 identified various initiatives in the OU to use ICT in education, but doesn’t 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 – paraphrasing:

  • 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

Further, Abrami et al (2006), referencing seven papers that suggest that “… computers possess the potential to … improve the quality of the learning that results. Possible means include”:

  • “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, pp1


Abrami et al (2006)

Bangerman (1994)

Bransford et al. 2000

Clegg, Hudson and Steel (2003)

Conole and Dyke (2004)

Cuban (2001)

Kanuka & Rourke (2008)

Osborne and Hennessy, 2003

Reynolds et al, 2003Watson (2001)

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