Teachers must be at the centre of the information revolution, according to Sir David Puttnam. Speaking at the launch of a new charity, LIFT (Life with Technology) of which he is patron, he warned, "Any serious long-term strategy to develop information in the service of education must start with teachers. They need to feel competent and on top of the technology. If they are not, they won't use it. That carries huge and urgent implications for teacher training.
"Unless teachers become the champions of this change, unless they embrace it as practical means of enhancing and facilitating their role, there is every likelihood that the revolution will simply pass schools by."
He welcomed LIFT, which aims to give technology a human face and which has just been given charitable status, and said it had a vital role to ensure that everyone reaped the benefits of new technology. Its sibling organisation, Parents Information Network (PIN), has just launched an educational "kite mark" scheme with software publishers to help parents and teachers find useful software for the home. A survey of PIN members shows that 90 per cent want independent approval for software.
Software was also a problem for teachers, said Sir David. Much of the current generation of programs was written for the consumer market and fell into "a no-man's land somewhere between education and entertainment". But if teachers sceptically dismissed this material, they risked "reinforcing the pupils' prejudice that school is, as ever, lagging behind the times".
The information revolution meant that learners would be the focus of education rather than teachers, he said. "Education won't be a matter of pouring already acquired knowledge into young and empty heads so much as enabling young people to acquire the skills of exploration, 'navigation' in the current jargon.
"Nor can the word 'learner' be taken simply as a euphemism for 'school pupil'. It will mean the teacher and the parent just as much as the child; it will mean the redundant middle-aged professional or the pensioner with time on their hands." All this would increase the importance of the roles of teachers and schools.
LIFT and PIN, PO Box 1577, London W7 3ZT. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The survey, "Computers in the Home - What Parents Want", costs Pounds 10, including postage from PIN