Catch us if you can

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Students looking at the gap between ICT at home and in school prefer to be taught by teachers - so long as they can keep up with the ICT, says Jamahl Morris-Pemberton

Unlike previous generations, current students have always known computers.

For us, ICT in school is an extension of what we do outside - we want to bring education into ICT, rather than looking to use ICT in education.

Our learner forum, part of the organisation Edge, which campaigns for practical learning, believes that technology has transformed our lives in ways that are important and empowering. According to members - students from London and Cambridge - "technology has a major impact on our lives in school and outside".

Modern technology caters for many needs. For example, we enjoy the freedom to find out anything we want to know at the touch of a button, whether it's a passage in a religious book (one of our students has the Bible on his phone) or an historical fact.

Instant communication, via chat on MSN or video-conferencing on web cameras, has enhanced students' chances to interact globally, discussing personal interests and the contrast between their education systems.

Our school lives have also experienced an increasing use of technology: whiteboards and projectors in the classroom are seen as useful new aids to learning. They make things clearer and easier for those who learn visually and by interacting. Sharing images through projectors enables teachers to motivate students by linking classroom learning and applications that are common outside school. Some of our teachers use ICT to help students with work after class by responding to emails. And we would like to see more of it. The over-riding feeling among our group is that using the internet to research our work gives us real freedom, and creates work that's unique to us.

However, it seems some teachers still struggle to keep up with technology.

It's clear to us that some have had training or taught themselves, and that some haven't.

Will technology become the new teacher? Most forum members feel that classroom teachers should not become redundant; they still want their teachers to be knowledgeable about their subjects and everyday life.

However, more could be done to use technology wisely in education. Our forum members say there are lots of good reasons for schools and colleges to get better at harnessing technology: such as using iPods to engage students and cut down disruption. This could cut down the disconnection between the idea and execution that many students experience (especially for students who have trouble putting pen to paper).

Edge members and other college students also believe the education system has the potential to turn the game console culture into a learning opportunity for young people, and we are beginning to see the emergence of gaming in learning.

Some who study creative subjects, such as drama and music, have access to specialised programs that revolutionise their creative processes. A pupil from a school in Camden says: "In my drama lessons they use technology that visually creates different backgrounds as an alternative to always changing the backgrounds for different scenes."

Much of the use of technology in education is done in students' personal study time. Many students now prefer to type essays as an alternative to hand-writing them, and opt to do their research on the internet, rather than by getting books from the library.

But those using ICT in schools and colleges are not always allowed to work in ways that suit them. Much web access is blocked. Phone use is also heavily restricted, and there are no multi-format options for accessing or submitting material.

Nevertheless, although a lot could be improved, our group is clear that many aspects of the current system are worth preserving.

Jamahl Morris-Pemberton is a student at La Swap sixth form in north London

We want:

* to incorporate our music into schools, for example using iPods

* to see fingerprint security technology on school computers instead of personal passwords. This is already used in some Camden schools and is popular with students

* greater use of visual representations to make learning easier: for example, a step-by-step guide on how to network

* more electronic planning and greater use of personal digital organisers

About Edge Edge campaigns to raise the status of practical learning. It was set up in May 2003, when examinations organisation Edexcel was sold to Pearson. Money from the sale went to the holding charity, the Edexcel Foundation, which now has a mission to promote vocational learning and has been renamed the Edge Foundation.

Edge Learner Forum is an energetic and creative group of young people who meet monthly to discuss the education system.

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