'Give us some coffee-shop technology'

21st October 2011 at 01:00
Pupils' address to ICT summit calls for more flexible use of wireless networks in schools

Frustrated pupils called on an influential audience of government officials, ICT experts and teachers to give them the same easy access to wireless networks they can find in any coffee shop or fast-food restaurant.

They voiced dissatisfaction with a lack of responsibility given to them for internet use, hard on the heels of a survey which said only a third of pupils used Glow, the intranet for Scottish schools.

"With the likes of iPods, iPads and HTC phones, the internet is right at most pupils' fingertips, but in school it requires sometimes out-of-date and slow computers to access it," said Rhys McKenna, one of five Stirling High pupils to address the ICT summit in Stirling this week.

In future, education would increasingly be delivered through ICT, another pupil said, quipping that this may even make "real teachers" redundant.

It was important, the pupils underlined, to ensure confidence among teachers, parents and pupils in using a variety of ICT tools, which could include Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs.

The pupils' calls were lauded by experts and teachers, and generated a flurry of supportive comments on Twitter.

Just 33.1 per cent of 127 young people surveyed use Glow, research by Young Scot shows. Almost half of the young people who responded said they "never really" used their technological gadgets to access Glow.

The survey also showed 52 per cent of pupils thought teachers did not use enough technology in the classroom.

"Glow was not used very often by those taking part, with those. in the online discussions attributing this to teachers not having adequate knowledge to use it and that it doesn't always work if they do try to access it," the report concluded.

A Scottish Government survey of teachers and education practitioners found that teachers were more confident in their abilities: 73.6 per cent were confident in using technologies to support learning, while 24.2 per cent were "sometimes confident"; only 2.2 per cent said they were not confident.

The summit had been called by Education Secretary Michael Russell and organised with Education Scotland, to help determine how ICT should be used to support learning in schools.

It came weeks after the Government announced it was pulling the plug on Glow Futures, the next stage of Glow's development. Glow had been criticised for being slow, restrictive and difficult to access.

Participants aired their views on the future of Glow, with many saying they would like a more open set-up which could allow them access to a variety of resources, including Twitter. The need to get more teachers more skilled in the use of technology came up regularly.

The Government will come up with a plan for use of the new version of Glow and other ICT in schools by the end of the year.


Ways forward from the summit

Discussion groups at the summit came to a range of conclusions, including:

- Look at allowing young people to bring their own devices to school.

- Access to wireless broadband should be standard in schools.

- There is a need for national filtering guidelines.

- Consider whether Glow should be restricted to schools.

- Make competence in ICT a core component of a teaching post.

- Encourage the right leadership decisions at national and council level.

- Recognise that there are pupils who can help parents and teachers, and there are parents who could help teachers.

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