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Information and communications technology - its impact on education

The use of video diaries and e-journals in the hugely popular television series Big Brother is just one example of how technology can be fun and enjoyable to use in our ever-advancing technological society. 

The birth of a new technological era, however, has introduced many complex issues and questions, especially within the world of education. One such issue is the use of technology, particularly computers, within education.  

University of Leicester experts have been asked to focus on qualitative data arising from a national study, using some of the same electronic devices as Big Brother, which has involved sixty schools. The survey was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

Research has shown that the implementation of computers within the classroom does motivate both teachers and pupils. However, a question lies with the extent of this motivation and how best to channel this enthusiasm to raise academic standards. 

Particular attention in the Government investigation was given to the ‘communications’ facet of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). This included aspects such as e-mail, Internet use and video conferencing. 

The British Educational Communications Technology Agency (BECTA) managed the study, which was conducted in three strands, the first two of which were led by teams from Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham University and various other universities, concentrating on more quantitative data.

Keeping an open mind, the team focused more on staff and student perceptions of network technologies and their thoughts on the effects of ICT networks.

Fifteen of the sixty schools that took part worked very closely with a University of Leicester research team, (Dr C Comber, Dr S Cavendish, Dr T Lawson and Dr R Watling) based at the School of Education. 

The schools involved were from a wide geographical area and involved students aged from 7-year-old children to 16-year-old GCSE students, with particular attention paid to years 6, 9 and 11. 

Using strategies such as ‘e-journals’ and Big Brother style video diaries, the schools reported back to the research team on a regular basis. Both staff and students were given a particular focus for each video diary produced. 

Students were typically asked about their use of computers and the Internet at home and how they used computers to interact between their homes and school, for instance emailing homework information. Teachers and staff were asked about their use of technology within the classroom and about their discoveries and experiences of the best practices implemented.

Teachers and researchers have analysed such data as SATS scores in core subjects (English, Maths and Science) and exam results, to evaluate the impact of computers and technology in the classroom.

Though the reasons are not yet clear, results have shown that ICT networks do have an impact on educational attainment.  

Strand three of this research has not generated statistical results but has monitored teachers’ and students’ attitudes and reactions to the use of ICT networks. It was highlighted that, where once teachers were apprehensive about the use of classroom technology, due to their own perceived lack of expertise; they are now beginning to realise its potential. As technology advances, we are all becoming more confident in its use.

The question has changed. Instead of asking if computer technology is really necessary, teachers are now asking to what extent can it be used and how its benefits can best maximise student potential.      

Claire Granger

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Last updated: 3 March 2003 10:55
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