ICT in education

1st June 2001 at 01:00
ICT, PEDAGOGY AND THE CURRICULUM. Edited by Avril Loveless and Viv Ellis. RoutledgeFalmer pound;17.99. TES pound;16.99, 10 copies pound;160.

ICT: CHANGING EDUCATION. By Chris Abbott. RoutledgeFalmer pound;14.99. TES pound;13.99, 10 copies pound;129.

DEVELOPING THE ICT CAPABLE SCHOOL. By Steve Kennewell,John Parkinson and Howard Tanner. RoutledgeFalmer pound;16.99. TES pound;15.99, 10 copies pound;150.

Just as it would be difficult to produce a book that deals with all aspects of education in any depth, so it is almost impossible to cover every facet of ICT in education. Moreover, in order to offer serious insights it is necessary to ground a consideration of ICTs within the context of mainstream education theory and practice. This is best done by concentrating on one or two aspects of education and the role of ICTs within them.

An example of this is found in ICT, Pedagogy and the Curriculum, with many leading contributors. They take a hard look at some central issues dogging the development of a school curriculum fit for the digital age, and the development of a pedagogy to deliver it.

Where many simply ask questions, this book begins to offer some answers. It starts with a good introduction to the notions of learner and visual and verbal communication. What it does not do is consider the policy-led culture in which schools operate, where the notion of value in education is determined by a statutory curriculum and rigid assessment scheme. The result is an implicit assumption that changes in curriculum and pedagogy are within the control of teacher and school in ways which the public use of inspection reports and league tables to assess school performance tends to deny.

The second part, on ICT and pedagogy, takes the field forward with an especially helpful chapter addressing the effect of ICT on pedagogy, including an outline model of the "new" and "old" pedagogies which could be translated directly into practice.

The third part, on ICT and the curriculum, concentrates on maths, science, music and English, including literacy and technology, and the visual arts.

This book deserves a wider readership than its title suggests. The chapters are self-contained for those who wish to dip in and out, but offer a coherent whole for those who seek a more theoretical treatment.

IT: changing education has taken on a challenging brief which the format cannot really be expected to meet. The series editors appear to have fallen into the trap of treating ICT as one area of study, with the result that Chris Abbott has an impossible task. For example, there are only eight pages to cover the huge topic of ICT and literacy. The resulting book is an interesting selection offering a personal history of aspects of ICT from someone who has been at the sharp end of developments.

The chapter on virtual communities points out that many of the phenomena associated with digital technologies have relevant histories before the internet. This is a common theme in the book, and a refreshing change in a genre where there is often an implicit assumption that no previous experience is relevant when considering ICT. In the case of virtual communities, the use of telephones and CB radios is considered. The rest of the chapter concentrates on gaming, and the use of novel identities, but in a book on changing education I would like to have seen a serious treatment of the use of virtual learning communities, where there is a growing community of practice and associated literature.

Each chapter offers a summary and suggests related activities. The series is meant to offer an introduction to the subject with further reading. As a result, I would have expected more comprehensive reference lists.

If the first two books reviewed here have an emphasis on the future and the past respectively, Developing the ICT Capable School is very much a here-and-now book that will appeal primarily to senior managers in schools. Without making explicit reference to details of the national curriculum frameworks, the book tries to tackle the dilemma of ICT as a separate subject versus ICT within subject teaching. Senior managers perplexed by this will not necessarily find the answer here - if there is one answer - but they will be aided in their quest. The authors show a clear understanding of the issues confronting school managers trying to evolve practice with ICT in the whole school. Newly appointed senior managers are likely to find this helpful.

Angela McFarlane

Angela McFarlane is professor of education at Bristol University Graduate School of Education

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