Harnessing new technologies in education and children s services Peter Rudd

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1 Harnessing new technologies in education and children s services Peter Rudd use of these media is still limited in schools, and teachers need guidance on how to use these new forms of communication in ways that are most effective for their learners

2 Technological developments tend to move at such a pace that it is often difficult for those involved in education and children s services to keep up with them, and there is certainly no sign of these developments slowing down. NFER research into the uses of new technologies has been taking a look at current developments in this area. A good starting point is to look at the use of web 2.0 technologies. Although the technical name for these technologies may be rather off-putting, what s important is the potential they have to enhance communal, shared and collaborative knowledge and learning. These technologies enable and encourage user interactivity via the internet, including the active creation of information, and therefore represent a serious challenge to passive and top-down modes of learning. Although blogs, wikis, bookmarking, discussion forums and podcasts are still quite new, there is plenty of evidence that education and children s services professionals and, even more so, their clients, are beginning to embrace these technologies and use them in interesting and innovative ways. A recently completed NFER project that looked at the uses of social media for teaching and learning found that there are some excellent examples of the uses of blogs, wikis and discussion forums out in the field. But probably a more important finding was that the use of these media is still limited in schools, and teachers need guidance on how to use these new forms of communication in ways that are most effective for their learners. With this in mind, the research team developed a step-bystep guide for practitioners (Walker, M. et al., 2009). This project is currently being followed up with a project on the ways in which children and young people use social media in children s services contexts. For the second year running, NFER is conducting the state of the nation survey of the uptake and uses of new technologies in schools. Last year, the 2008 Harnessing there are some excellent examples of the uses of blogs, wikis and discussion forums out in the field Technology survey found that schools were reasonably well equipped in terms of technological infrastructure, and pupil computer ratios continued to improve, but there was a need for schools and teachers to be supported and encouraged to use technology in ways that are more engaging for learners (Smith et al., 2008). Other key findings from the survey were: hardware provision had improved in schools since 2007, including an increase in the number of interactive whiteboards learning platforms were being increasingly used by schools, with the largest increase reported in the secondary sector teachers use of digital learning resources, especially self-created resources, had increased considerably teachers generally felt that ICT played a positive role in engaging pupils in learning, with the majority reporting that pupils enjoyed lessons more if they used ICT than if they did not community access to schools ICT facilities was still somewhat limited and, even where electronic forms of communication with parents existed, these tended to be one-way and not interactive. Alongside the main schools survey, which i m p a c t N F E R S R E S E A R C H N E W S F O R S C H O O L S w w w. n f e r. a c. u k 1 5

3 is directed at school staff, NFER has also been conducting a learner survey. This has been received with great enthusiasm both by schools and learners, with response rates exceeding expectations both in primary and secondary schools. The findings of this survey will provide a solid body of evidence on what 11 and 15-year-olds really think about the new technologies, and how they make use of them to help with their learning. We will report the results in detail in summer The digital divide continues to cause concern, despite attempts by Government and others to address this issue. The 2008 Harnessing Technology Schools Survey revealed that an estimated 27 per cent of primary school pupils and 17 per cent of secondary school pupils did not have access to computers at home. NFER has had the opportunity to collect evidence on attempts to address this issue through a national evaluation of the Computers for Pupils (CfP) scheme. CfP aims to provide computing devices for learners from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. The aim what we are really interested in is not the technologies themselves but the contribution and impact that these can have on teaching and learning cluding looked-after children in many local authorities. We will certainly be hearing more about home access in the next few months. Online parent school communication is also likely to be in the news, as this is a major part of the Children s Plan and Becta, the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency, is actively encouraging the use of online reporting, with all secondary schools expected to make information available online to parents by Of course, what we are really interested in is not the technologies themselves (though these can be of considerable interest), but the contribution and impact that these can have on teaching and learning. In this respect, media literacy continues to become increasingly important in research and practice, and in informal as well as formal and institutional contexts. It is being recognised that the new media bring important new ways of teaching and learning is considered worthwhile by all the stakeholders involved, but the scheme has fal- need to be fully prepared to make use of and that those involved in these activities tered because of practical issues, such as them. problems with connectivity, issues with pupil selection and the need for greater parental engagement. CfP and similar schemes have the potential to extend the learning environment from the school into the home and the family context, giving both pupils and parents more control over the pace of learning and access to information. In some respects CfP is a forerunner to the Home Access scheme, which is being fully Tel: +44 (0) rolled out in two local authorities Oldham and Suffolk and across various hard-to-reach groups, in- 1 6 i m p a c t N F E R S R E S E A R C H N E W S F O R S C H O O L S w w w. n f e r. a c. u k

4 Definitions of literacy are changing significantly, including the identification of the importance of the move from page-based literacy (left to right and top to bottom) to interactive screen-based literacy (click anywhere on the screen and then take the opportunity to freely explore the different forms and levels of visual, textual, numerical, symbolic and animated information). One writer has argued that multimedia and the screen have challenged, perhaps even overtaken, the physical page as the natural medium of writing and that this in turn is affecting the ways that we write (Kress, 2003). Needless to say, the implications of all of these developments are so considerable as to be almost inconceivable, and education and children s services professionals, and researchers, will be grappling with these for some years to come. NFER now one writer has argued that multimedia and the screen have challenged, perhaps even overtaken, the physical page has a solid base for such research, with considerable numbers of colleagues interested in this area. We look forward to making an important contribution to evaluating and promoting the use of these new technologies in ways that will maximise the benefits for teachers and learners in all their varied real and virtual contexts. References Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the New Media Age. London: Routledge. Smith, P., Rudd, P. and Coghlan, M. (2008). Harnessing Technology: Schools Survey Coventry: Becta [online]. Available: ction=rh&catcode=_re_rp_02&rid= Walker, M., Gregory, S. and Rudd, P. (2009). Using Social Software: Guidance for Schools. Slough: NFER [online]. Forthcoming. Brand New! Engage students with the best features of social networking specifically designed for education Raising standards through effective Assessment for Learning A range of engaging Web 2.0 assessment tools to track students achievements and capabilities including: Customisable Student Interface maximise engagement Reflective Learner Diary an educational blog tied to qualification assessments Timeline View manage assessments over time Dynamic group management easing teacher workload Purchase with your Harnessing Technology Grant help raise standards Supports GCSE, GCE and Vocational Qualifications, including the new Diplomas Seamlessly integrate MAPS 3 assessment tools into your Learning Platform INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE AND TO ARRANGE A DEMONSTRATION Visit Phone: i m p a c t N F E R S R E S E A R C H N E W S F O R S C H O O L S w w w. n f e r. a c. u k 1 7

5 2 2 i m p a c t N F E R S R E S E A R C H N E W S F O R S C H O O L S w w w. n f e r. a c. u k

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