There are some amazing educators out there, doing wonderful things with young people. The other side of the coin is not just that there are many more educators who should be doing something marvellous to further the education of their students with ICT, but that countless millions of dollars have been wasted on equipment and training that does little, if anything, to improve student learning because
a) it is used ineffectually or
b) it is gathering dust somewhere.
The major reason for this happening is that the focus in too many places of learning is not actually learning itself. There is a lack of understanding of what is being learned and how it is best learned. Obviously, the starting point for any educational initiative is a desire to improve learning outcomes for students. However, too often, too little consideration is given to how this will actually happen.
To implement any major change in practice requires effective professional development of teachers, and the time to do it. This time includes opportunities to implement initiatives, reflect on results, and adjust practices accordingly. With ICT, it is not enough to train teachers how to use the equipment and software – the ability to use it to improve learning is a different set of skills and knowledge.
ICT is a set of tools, activities, and, like any resources, should be used when appropriate. Planning for learning starts with identification of what is to be taught. Great teachers identify the underlying concepts, and develop questions that provoke critical thinking in their students. Then, and not before, appropriate resources are identified, and, often, ICT is an excellent option.
When ICT (or any “neat” activities) are the starting point, we lose focus on the learning – students learn something, but they may not all learn what we intend, to the depth we desire.
Another issue is that we often get caught up in the aesthetics of ICT. There are now simple apps that allow students to produce movies, books, etc to showcase their learning. But, if a student, for example, spends one hour on writing a story and two hours on producing an e-book of it, we need to be clear about whether, or not, it is the student’s language skills being assessed, or his/her design skills.
While ICT provides us with the ability to travel, virtually, to anywhere and anywhen and do amazing things, it is worth considering that, often, learning would be more effective if we simply grabbed a pencil and paper or, even, got up and went outside.