There's too much buzz and not enough drive

19th February 1999 at 00:00
THE TARGET of having all teachers "confident" in using information and communications technology by 2002 will require more than just an injection of cash and national training, a research report makes clear.

A team from Robert Gordon University found that while teachers are keen, "the provision of a localised, supportive environment which encourages teachers to see ICT as integral to the achievement of their existing goals is likely to be as important as any single major training initiative".

One secondary teacher commented: "I'm looking forward to a stage where this kind of buzz dies down a bit, and computers are just looked upon as another tool, and people relax into it."

The researchers, who surveyed attitudes and requirements among 681 primary and secondary teachers, say there is a dual problem. "Teachers report a need for technical skills and knowledge in using the ICT resources they have available to them; but they also want to know more about how to apply that knowledge within the curriculum."

But while many teachers now have basic ICT training, and despite the growing number of connections to the Internet, the report found that "use of ICT is relatively low and is focused on a fairly narrow range".

The most frequent activity is still word-processing and very little use is made of the Internet, World Wide Web or e-mail, despite the fact that the majority of secondary schools have access. Technical support and advice on resources are badly needed, and there are particular problems in primaries and rural schools.

"ICT is still seen as an extra or add-on rather than an integrated resource within teaching," the report states. "Many teachers are still concerned with teaching ICT rather than teaching with ICT."

Although the report points to the need for teachers to assess their ICT needs, teachers themselves say they cannot do so without being more aware of what is available.

There are wide variations of practice between subject areas in secondary schools. Maths and science departments use ICT relatively rarely while it features most frequently in business studies.

Support from the top in schools was vital, the researchers noted. While teachers do not expect miracles in laying their hands on the right resources, there should be a fair allocation and someone to turn to for advice "so they do not feel they have to become technical experts themselves".

Lack of confidence remains a particular barrier. "It is clear that, for many, their own priorities are still for more technical skills and knowledge despite the fact that many have received some basic ICT training," the report states.

"However, training needs to present ICT convincingly as a vehicle through which the curriculum can be developed and delivered rather than a separate entity."

The report also recommends that training could be supplemented if the authorities provided computers for teachers to work on at home.

'Teachers' ICT Skills and Knowledge Needs', by Dorothy Williams, Kay Wilson, Amanda Richardson, Jennifer Tuson and Louisa Coles of the Robert Gordon University, is published by the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department in its Interchange research series.

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