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Coherence lacking

Colleges' technology resources vary dramatically, and most have no coherent strategy on making use of them, the committee's research reveals.

In a series of surveys, researchers found a worrying lack of planning for technology to support teaching.

Their studies also uncovered a huge variation in colleges' hard and software provision, with some able to allocate a computer to virtually every teacher, while others had 50 staff sharing a machine.

Meanwhile, the ratio of students to computers was eight to one in some colleges, while elsewhere one machine was shared between 65.

Yet despite the drastic limits on resources, the potential of existing technology was not being fully used, the committee found. Teachers lacked experience in using technology to deliver the curriculum. There was also little help with computer literacy for students.

The survey showed colleges at the forefront of technological developments were reluctant to share their findings with others.

The natural competition springing up as a result of incorporation brought "a tendency towards uncooperation". As a result, small groups of enthusiasts around the country were ending up reinventing similar solutions to common problems, wasting time and money.

Despite the difficulties they faced, however, colleges were in general doing their best to invest in and make use of new technologies. Many were reviewing the way they used resources to support learning and were investing heavily in open learning centres.

While cash was scraped together for such new developments teaching generally continued much as it had for a century or more. While students' lives outside college were light years away from past generations, thanks to personal computers, mobile phones and satellite television, their classroom lives were little touched by technology.

The researchers conclude that the technological inventions of the past 50 years which have had the greatest influence on college teaching have been the overhead projector and the photocopier.

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