For those who have said Yes;The ILS Debate

George Cole

Most publications on integrated learning systems explain how they work or comment on research projects or studies. But ILS - A Guide to Good Practice is different. The primary audience is schools that have decided to invest in integrated learning systems, although anyone still at the stage of weighing up the pros and cons of the technology would find this a useful purchase.

The guide was commissioned by Becta, the Government's educational computing agency, and written by Angela McFarlane, director of the Centre for Education Research into Educational ICT at Homerton College and a regular TES contributor. Her writing is clear, accessible and to the point. And though she has trawled a large number of academic studies (there are almost 50 references in the appendix), this is no dry, academic paper. Nor is it a dull technical report.

Ms McFarlane describes the complex picture surrounding the effectiveness of these systems, which is best summed up by the statement: "What is known is that in some contexts, in some schools, some pupils can make significant learning gains using ILS."

Everything from adopting a whole-school approach to ILS to safety issues is covered. Two tables show various ways of deploying staff and resources and the report sets out the different approaches' advantages and disadvantages. Should you put your ILS on a school network or in a special room? The answer is here.

Monitoring and evaluating your systems is important, says Ms McFarlane, not least because an "ILS is a considerable investmentI it must therefore continue to be of value over time".

She also examines the various research studies, covering areas such as learning gains, pupil motivation, the transfer of learning and the long-term effects of using these systems. After issuing a warning on interpreting the results of all the studies, Ms McFarlane simply reports what has been found and then leaves it up to the reader to decide whether ILS is a good idea.

She also considers how these systems are being honed and developed. An appendix covers the products on the market, although others have been launched since this guide was written.

George Cole ILS - A Guide to Good Practice Price: pound;7.50 Becta Tel 01203 416994

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