There has been quite a lot of discussion regarding the role of Information and Communication Technologies in schools. Much of it revolves around whether ICT is a set of skills or a subject (pssst, by the way, the answer is it’s both!). But this dichotomy misses a third, more important point: the massively important role of ICT as a medium in which to culture the transformation of teaching and learning.
In my view, the problem stems from the outmoded model upon which many schools base their ICT provision. And the very word provision says a lot about schools’ perceptions of ICT: the use of Information and Communication Technologies is something that needs to be provided, supplied and procured, rather than something that needs to be taught, encouraged and nurtured.
To be fair, many schools already realise that ICT constitutes more than providing computers and a network. However, this recognition often results in a split personality – ICT’s first, worrying symptoms of identity crisis: it is often the case that ICT Departments are put in charge of both the maintenance of the infrastructure and the delivery of ICT as a curriculum subject – which is a bit like asking the bursar to teach Economics.
Instead, in order to help ICT through this identity crisis, schools need to distinguish (some already are) between ICT as network support services, that is to say the support staff who look after the ICT infrastructure; ICT as curriculum subject, i.e. the teaching of computing, digital studies, digital literacy, digital competencies… call it what you will; and ICT as the core of a transformed and transforming teaching and learning environment, to be placed at Director of Studies or Assistant/Deputy Head level.
It’s a very peculiar situation, if you think about it. Many of us aspire for ICT to become as permeating, dependable and unquestioning as electricity – something on which to rely without really having to think about it (except, perhaps, when there is a power cut). As this reality draws ever closer, perhaps we’ll begin to realise that we need an ICT Department guiding our use of technologies as much as we need a Department for Electricity in charge of the school’s electrical policies.
What do you think?
Many thanks to Greenog for the photograph.