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Keystrokes to success

How can we ensure that money invested in ICT is well spent? Mike Treadaway is trying to find out.

Reviews of ICT resources tend to focus on the content, ease of use and curriculum relevance of the product. A more vital, but rarely answered question, is: "Does using this resource have an impact upon learning?" Rather than letting all teachers discover this through trial and error, it should be possible to build on the experiences of those who believe they make good use of ICT.

For the past two years the Fischer Family Trust has therefore been asking heads of department in secondary schools to list the main ICT resources they use. The latest survey, sponsored by RM, the computer manufacturers, was conducted in July 2000. Responses were received from 1,900 departments in more than 1,300 schools in Wales and England. ICT resources - including software packages, CD-Roms and websites - were rated by subject teachers for their impact upon learning.

The survey showed that:

* ICT had a "significant" or "substantial" impact according to more than 40 per cent of departments at key stage 3, and 48 per cent at key stage 4;

* there were substantial variations between subjects, with design and technology and music experiencing most benefits from ICT - and history and physical education among the leat. Levels of resourcing also appear to vary widely - even among those departments where ICT is rated as having a significant impact upon learning. Analysis of survey results has also found that in departments where the impact of ICT was rated as significant or substantial:

* in two subjects (mathematics and science) achievement in national curriculum tests and examinations was consistently higher than expected;

* in five other subjects - art, design and technology, foreign languages, music and PE - pupils improved at a significantly faster rate than for other departments.

While this does not "prove" that ICT raises educational standards it shows that pupils make better progress in departments where ICT is believed to have a significant impact upon learning.

What is the next step? A workshopconference involving up to 100 teachers, drawn from schools involved in the 2000 secondary survey, will be held in July. A key aim of this gathering will be to find out what these departments have been doing with ICT to "make a difference".

Dr Mike Treadaway is director of research for the Fischer Family Trust. He will speak at 10.30am on Thursday, May 24. He can be contacted at miket@fischertrust.org. Full survey results and details of the trust' s work available at www.fischertrust.org

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