ICT needs to be on 'play' not 'pause' in the education strategy

30th September 2011 at 01:00
Technology should not be seen as an add-on, more a major part of your pedagogic kit bag

There has been much chatter in some quarters, yet ominous silence in others, in response to the debate led by the Cabinet Secretary and Scottish Government on where we should go with our ICT in education strategy. Why is this? Surely all educators should be taking the opportunity to engage in something so important and fundamental?

In Scotland we have some of the best thinking in the world on the use of ICT in education, a great basis on which to build with Glow which has seen exponential growth over the past year, and an opportunity to make this small country of ours a global leader. There may be an excellent debate going on, and some people are energised, but if we are to take advantage of the opportunity given, then some fundamental issues must be addressed.

ICT platforms will come and go, devices will ebb and flow with popularity, and social networking channels will have boom-and-bust histories. What we must do is build a resilience to this into our solutions for a national strategy.

No matter the decisions on where we are going with Glow, fundamental issues of broadband connectivity, wireless access in schools, and what a head once described as "corporate IT madness" need to be brought into the open. Some schools are prevented from using YouTube or BBC online resources, never mind have pupils use their own devices - ironic, really, when many councils are dependent on education for their corporate internet access.

It is not the technical issues that are the real elephants in this room, however. Lessons from the story of Glow thus far are not about the system but about pupils, teachers and leaders engaging in the use of ICT as part of the learning process.

Our cohort of 2011 learners are digital natives, have different lifestyles and learning styles, yet our 21st-century "system" in the main still treats the use of ICT as an optional add-on. Far too many youngsters' e- learning takes place at home and not as a natural part of their schooling.

It is a cultural shift that must be at the heart of this debate, not just a quest for a technological solution. Unless educators see ICT as part of their pedagogic kit bag, and have the confidence to let go of more familiar and traditional approaches, then we will be selling our learners short. Similarly, school and authority leaders must step up to the plate and demonstrate the leadership qualities that can take learning in Scotland forward.

What an opportunity we have to influence the direction of travel in something as fundamental as a national ICT in education strategy which will maximise Curriculum for Excellence and allow young people to learn through technology.

Bruce Robertson was director of education in Highland and Aberdeenshire from 1998-2010 and is currently working on an ADES commission. Engage in the debate at: www.engageforeducation.org.uk


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