New report claims that  evidence in short supply  on ICTs influence on  educational outcomes

And  questions whether Digital literacy is  really a new skill


A new report  by Joe Nutt, a senior consultant  at CfBT Education Trust,  says that while  claims for how technology can improve educational performance in schools are widespread and huge investments have been made  worldwide in ICT in schools  the reality is that influential research evidence to back these claims  is extremely weak and   ‘the discourse is often clouded and  confused by the motives and interests of some key individuals and organisations.’ Nutt  explains that one of the major reasons why  this has happened is because of an alliance between influential individuals, technology companies and government agencies. A small group of enthusiastic writers and  researchers – ‘ICT Gurus’ termed in his  paper ‘techno-zealots’ – have allied themselves with the  suppliers of ICT equipment and convinced many policy-makers of the remarkable, transforming  power of technology. However, and here is the  nub ,the reports and publications produced by these techno-zealots and their allies  often fail to meet high standards of scholarship and evidence.  Nutt  claims ‘Typically the likelihood of impact and  better educational outcomes through technology is simply asserted without a remotely compelling  evidence base.’  There  is also  a new drive for pupils to acquire a new skill ‘digital literacy’. But Nutt issues a warning on this.  He writes ‘One of the myths propagated by enthusiasts for technology is that the nature of learning has  fundamentally changed as a result of wider technological change. They call for a new range of  skills, sometimes referred to as ‘digital literacy’. The rise of ‘digital literacy’ as a concept, loose  as it is, has also exerted considerable pressure on schools and teachers to change fundamental  aspects of their practice and schooling. On closer examination though  ‘digital literacy skills’ appear to be ‘  no more than the higher order enquiry and synthesis skills that teachers of traditional subjects  have long taught.’

This report really amounts to a health warning for schools to think carefully about what they buy, how they utilise it and  how they  evaluate its use in the classroom and  the effects on outcomes . Nutt is a technology expert and values the contribution that ICT can make to education and learning. But he   urges schools and teachers  to put themselves in a position to defend themselves against these  complex and powerful pressures, if they are to ensure that the technology they do invest in and  deploy brings meaningful educational benefits and improvements.  Nutt concludes ‘The argument is not that  technology is of little value to schools. Grandiose claims obscure the real benefits – at school and  classroom level – that arise when technology is used properly and seen as one of several useful  tools that can assist the work of teachers.’

Professional educators and the evolving  role of ICT in schools ; Perspective report; Joe Nutt 2010; published by  CfBT Education Trust




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