Computers offer freedom to many;Letter

26th February 1999 at 00:00
MUCH AS I agree with Rowan Williams' feeling that computers without teachers are pretty poor at teaching (TES, February 12), some of his assertions should not go unchallenged.

He claims, for instance, that "even the best tools don't emancipate".

I think he will find, however, a large number of learners, particularly those with special needs, for whom ICT has been just that: emancipatory.

Nor is the interpersonal teaching which he espouses always so satisfactory. There are plenty of lessons where the questions posed by teachers expect a very limited range of answers and where pupils are rarely encouraged to engage in the kind of educative conversations he envisages.

Even more widespread are lessons where pupils will not risk active participation for fear of their peers' reactions or of being wrong. It is in such situations that ICT can provide an infinitely patient, non-threatening and empowering environment.

As with all tools, it is how they are used that is crucial. That is why a properly educated teaching force which really understands the possibilities and the limitations of ICT is so essential.

Trevor Millum

Director of communications anddevelopment

National Association for Teaching English

Fern House, High Street

Barrow-upon-Humber, Lincs

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