Teachers armed with their first computer need both training and encouragement to get the most out of ICT, believes Jacquie Disney
The keynote lectures at the recent BETT 2000 educational tech-nology show highlighted the ICT revolution that is taking hold of every aspect of education. A significant announcement was the 50 per cent discount offered to all teachers (up to a limit of pound;500) in England for buying a computer. This type of initiative will make a big impact on the extent to which ICT becomes an integral part of the teaching and learning process. We can invest millions in training teachers to use ICT in the classroom, but the real impact will happen when teachers understand the value of using a computer for themselves as individuals and professionals.
If we ignore this opportunity, we risk wasting the potential value of the extensive NOF training initiative. With this in mind, I took the opportunity at BETT to find out more about the NOF trainers. I was particularly interested to explore the extent to which the training programmes encourage teachers to develop an understanding of the technology.
First, my exploration highlighted the differences in approach and support available from each of the training providers. This ranges from complete programmes delivered via the Internet, to full in-school face-to-face support, to face-to-face support delivered off site. Teachers have, in theory, a choice of provision, although in reality many teachers feel that they do not have much individual choice due to decisions being made at a higher level.
Second, in terms of the content of NOF training support, with one or two significant exceptions, the focus seems to be very much on the teacher as a deliverer of the curriculum. The provision to support the professional development of the teacher a a user of the technology, amounted to a basic computer skills package which enables the teacher to deliver the curriculum content in the classroom. If we take this very direct approach we will lose the battle. All we will have is a group of skilled professionals delivering ICT based on a prescribed formula, rather than versatile professionals who understand the value of a powerful teaching and learning tool and can use their professional expertise to apply it to the learning process.
More teachers will be drawn into the world of ICT if each school encourages its teachers to use the discount to buy a computer and then insist that all administration is carried out using the technology. In this way, many of the skills they need to develop will be ones they will be able to apply to their own professional needs.
If a teacher has to produce a policy document or a report which involves drafting and consultation, or keep accounts for the school journey, or search the Internet for materials that support an ICT initiative involving parents, they will inevitably realise the many ways in which ICT can support and change the way they work. It is then a much smaller step for a professional teacher to translate this into classroom practice and value.
In the quest to involve all teachers and therefore children and the wider community in the ICT revolution, convincing individuals of the relevance of ICT to themselves is at least as important as their knowledge of specific curriculum resources.
Jacquie Disney worked as a teacher and ICT advisory teacher. She is the director of PIN (Parents Information Network), which has its own website (holding its software recommendations) www.pin-parents.com as well as an area on The TES' Learnfree website www.learnfree.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org