Mr Gove is finally turned on to technology

9th December 2011 at 00:00
He admits to being `behind the curve' on its role in schools

Michael Gove signalled a significant shift in approach last week when he admitted that he and his ministerial colleagues were guilty of being "behind the curve" when it came to technology in schools.

In a speech that stood at odds with his 18 months in office, the education secretary even stated that his department was working up new policy on using technology in the classroom, which is expected to be announced at next month's education technology fair, BETT, held in Olympia, west London.

His comments came on the same day that schools minister Nick Gibb announced he would be launching a review of the use of calculators in the classroom.

Speaking at the Schools Network's annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Gove said that although the workplace has changed through technology, making it almost unrecognisable compared with 100 years ago, schools have remained the same.

"While the pupils may be better fed and the teachers better dressed, apart from there being a whiteboard not a blackboard and the classroom being set up differently, much of the teaching and learning would seem uncannily similar," Mr Gove said.

"I think, given how much technology has changed other workplaces we, and in particular the Department for Education and its ministers, have been behind the curve in appreciating what we need to do," he added.

Mr Gove also tried to dispel fears that the Coalition's reforms to the curriculum and assessment would take the country's education system "back to the 1950s".

"(We are accused) of caring more about Tennyson than technology, Ibsen than iTunes, more about Kubla Khan than the Khan Academy," he said. "But I don't see that there is any tension between demanding the highest standards of our students and insisting they have access to this rich cultural intellect, while reflecting on how technology can make that more real."

Mr Gove even claimed computer games, while often viewed as a distraction by parents, can often be "the best ways of facilitating learning".

His comments were met with surprise by the audience of mainly academy and specialist school heads, with one onlooker tweeting: "Feeling I am part of history - never heard Gove discuss technology and education in this way."

David Mitchell, acting headteacher at Heathfield Primary School in Bolton, said the education secretary's focus on technology came as a "shock".

"It is long overdue but very welcome," Mr Mitchell said. "What we now need from the Government after this message is a `vision'. From my experience, it has been up to the school to seek good practice and implement approaches to using technology. What schools now need is consistency, a vision and resources."

But according to Donna Barber, director at Essa Academy, also in Bolton, it is unreasonable to assume ministers should be at the forefront of using technology in the classroom when most teachers do not know how to use it.

"I am not surprised they are coming round (to technology), but many teachers don't know how to use it so why should (politicians) be ahead of teachers when it comes to such knowledge?" she said.

Essa Academy was the first school in the country to give each of its students an iPod Touch and it has now forged a partnership with Apple, offering its pupils iPads and new MacBook Air laptops. Ministers visited the school less than two weeks ago and Ms Barber believes this "opened politicians' eyes" to the potential of using technology in the classroom. And the school has the results to prove this potential.

"We have shown that ICT can be used implicitly in schools," she said. "Previously, people were teaching ICT as an add-on and it has meant education is so far behind and only now are people are beginning to realise the potential."


Perhaps he has changed his mind and will announce that each child will get an iPad rather than a King James Bible. #sensible idea


Michael Gove building up to announcing new DfE technology policy at Bett 2012.


@chickensaltash WOW WOW #gove talking about games-based learning! But DfE wants to stop children using calculators. #logicfail


"The promise of new technology" - Mr Gove makes it seem as if nothing has yet happened with new technologies in schools!


Feeling I am part of history - never heard Gove discuss technology and education in this way.


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