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ICT in Education: The Future


John Simkin
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We plan to hold our first E-HELP meeting in Toulouse (17th February – 20th February). The theme of the first meeting is the identification of current good practice and future trends in the use of ICT. We hope to run part of our meeting online and would like as many people as possible to get involved in our debates.

What would you like to be able to do in future with ICT to improve the quality of teaching/learning, that is currently impossible/difficult to achieve?

The E-HELP team is interested in your ideas. If this thread is successful we hope to get this material published in book form.

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One thing I would like to see is a government funded project that would allow students to carry out their own in-depth research. For example, say a Y9 class was studying the First World War. They would be able to go to this website to look for a research topic on the subject. There might be one on Sir Douglas Haig’s tactics at the Somme in 1916. The web page would provide an outline on how the student could tackle the topic. It would also provide links to a wide variety of source materials on the subject. There would also be advice on how to use search-engines to discover more information on the Somme. For example a list of keywords to use.

The student would probably be the only person in his school to be studying this topic. However, there would be students all over the world carrying out the same investigation (this material would of course be free and therefore could be accessed by all English speaking students). This web page would therefore be linked to a forum dedicated to this topic. This would give students the opportunity to discuss the subject with others carrying out similar research. The forum would also include adult volunteers with specialist knowledge on the subject.

As well as completing the research project the student would also have responsibility of producing a 15 minute presentation for the rest of their class.

This would only work if there was a large selection of topics to chose from. However, if the government say seconded 25 teachers with experience of producing online resources for a year you would end up with a database of thousands of these project outlines. This would only be at a fraction of the cost of the current e-learning credits scheme. What is more, the money would be used to produce teaching materials that would exist for everyone, including those outside the UK state school system.

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What I'd really like, in the best of all possible worlds, would be for someone to wave a magic wand so that I suddenly became computer-literate and able to produce web pages like JDC or Doug...

Since that isn't going to happen, how about some step-by-step idiot's guides to things like making a short film, spiffing up Power Point presentations? Or, even better, some sort of template with simple instructions which would allow incompetents like me to make their own webpage...

As someone said on one of these threads, if technology is "hard" then harassed teachers rushing to meet the demands of the next committee meeting, or the next set of reports, or the next, etc, etc aren't going to use it. This is even more true if someone takes the plunge, tries it out, and it "doesn't work" because the instructions simply weren't basic enough...

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if technology is "hard" then harassed teachers rushing to meet the demands of the next committee meeting, or the next set of reports, or the next, etc, etc aren't going to use it.
However, if the government say seconded 25 teachers with experience of producing online resources for a year you would end up with a database of thousands of these project outlines. This would only be at a fraction of the cost of the current e-learning credits scheme. What is more, the money would be used to produce teaching materials that would exist for everyone, including those outside the UK state school system.

Both opinions highlight two points that I think are very interesting:

Mike affirms something that we have to bear always in mind: the final product of this project will be a course thought for "real" history teachers. We have to be at the same time on the vanguard but taking into account the majority of European history teachers (Doesn' it sound a bit like a Lenin's sentence? B) )

John talks about English speaking web sites and he asks for a number of teachers producing a big number of web resources to be used by students.

I don't know exactly but probably more than 60% of all the web sites on the internet are written in Shakespeare's language.

As we are working on a European project, we have to think from a European perspective. We badly need a "critical mass" of web history resources in other languages: Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Dutch, Italian and so on.

What I would like to see in the future is European governments hiring expert teachers to produce a broad database of history resources, adapted to our National curriculums, that could be used by history teachers that have no time to start learning to produce their own resources.

Furthermore, what we need is to produce web resources focused on the most important moments or European and World history designed from a European point of view and translated into most of the European languages.

Edited by Juan Carlos
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I would very much like to work in Richard's school in Toulouse - or one similar - where ICT is embedded in the curriculum, where I don't have to book the facilities a week next thursday! Until that is the case then it will always be difficult to use the full power of ICT effectively in lessons. I would also like pupils to be properly computer literate, so I could spend lesson time teaching history using ICT not teaching ICT! I would also like to see an intelligent search engine. They can develop intelligent 'anti-spam' programs - the more I use it the more it successfully filters out the rubbish in my emails. Why can't my search engine work in the same way and filter out the useless websites from my searches?

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I would very much like to work in Richard's school in Toulouse - or one similar - where ICT is embedded in the curriculum, where I don't have to book the facilities a week next thursday! Until that is the case then it will always be difficult to use the full power of ICT effectively in lessons. I would also like pupils to be properly computer literate, so I could spend lesson time teaching history using ICT not teaching ICT! I would also like to see an intelligent search engine. They can develop intelligent 'anti-spam' programs - the more I use it the more it successfully filters out the rubbish in my emails. Why can't my search engine work in the same way and filter out the useless websites from my searches?

There a lot of valid pionts being made here but the one about intelligent search engines is the one that started me thinkng about the thought processes being replicated electronically.

An attempt at this can be found www.webbrain.com

WebBrain lets you search the Web visually, so you can explore a dynamic picture of related information, instead of searching through long lists of text. The search engine lets you browse the Web and discover what’s out there. WebBrain aims to use the so called TheBrain technology to enable effective use of knowledge on the Web, the corporate intranet, and even your personal computer. There is a download that allows users to explore their own PC in a similar way.

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>WebBrain lets you search the Web visually, so you can explore a dynamic picture of related information, instead of searching through long lists of text. <

KartOO at

http://www.kartoo.com/

does something similar. I agree that it would be great to have a search engine that can be trained to leads us more and more often to the gold nuggets on the Web, by-passing the dross.

I was at the BETT Exhibition in London last weekend and attended a seminar there on the Gifted and Talented. The presenter compared the home pages of the various major search engines and pointed out how distracting some of them were. Yahoo, for example, has an excellent way of grouping websites according to type in its search results but its home page can also divert students from the task of searching for what they are meant to be looking for and set them shopping or reading the news instead. Sponsored links may also be presented ahead of ones that fulfil search criteria better.

While we wait for smarter search engines, we have to provide the intelligence and the patience. I was asked recently to find vocal versions of certain German songs, not just the lyrics or the melody. This was quite a challenge until I placed "MP3" among my search terms. This proved a wise choice. I've also found that sometimes the best search results were those on the later pages in Google, proving that no search engine is infallible when it comes to ordering results. Language is a notoriously difficult material for a computer to handle, although the algorithms are getting better.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com

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One thing I would like to see is a government funded project that would allow students to carry out their own in-depth research.

As well as completing the research project the student would also have responsibility of producing a 15 minute presentation for the rest of their class.

This would only work if there was a large selection of topics to chose from. However, if the government say seconded 25 teachers with experience of producing online resources for a year you would end up with a database of thousands of these project outlines. This would only be at a fraction of the cost of the current e-learning credits scheme.

Many years ago I, together with history teachers from my school met a dedicated history teacher from downtown school of Stockholm. At the meeting we have been shown in depth research he conducted with his oldest students during a last half year of their studies. At that time history had been taught all three years at Upper Secondary Schools in Sweden. The students of his class simply went to City of Stockholm archive and made a research about a single old house and its inhabitants they individually chose. These researches went back for decades and centuries depending on how old the house was. The products of these researches have been nicely written booklets filled with facts and curious stories plus a 15 minutes oral presentation.

By working in this way there had been any need for a huge group of history teachers to create a useful data base. Historical documents are already in archives and right now these documents are being digitalized.

My question is:

Do we want the ICT to be breaking a new pedagogical territory allowing teachers and students to do something that haven’t been done previously or:

Are the techniques of ICT only here for allowing us to do the “old” pedagogy but do it faster and easier than before?

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Many years ago I, together with history teachers from my school met a dedicated history teacher from downtown school of Stockholm. At the meeting we have been shown in depth research he conducted with his oldest students during a last half year of their studies. At that time history had been taught all three years at Upper Secondary Schools in Sweden. The students of his class simply went to City of Stockholm archive and made a research about a single old house and its inhabitants they individually chose. These researches went back for decades and centuries depending on how old the house was. The products of these researches have been nicely written booklets filled with facts and curious stories plus a 15 minutes oral presentation.

By working in this way there had been any need for a huge group of history teachers to create a useful data base. Historical documents are already in archives and right now these documents are being digitalized.

My question is:

Do we want the ICT to be breaking a new pedagogical territory allowing teachers and students to do something that haven’t been done previously or:

Are the techniques of ICT only here for allowing us to do the “old” pedagogy but do it faster and easier than before?

It of course does all of these things. The best teachers have always attempted to use local studies to enthuse students.

There are several advantages of doing this via the web. This is especially true of students carrying out research using conventional methods. The important thing is that they then upload their research onto the web so that it can be used by other students.

For example, when my students did their research into the life in East Grinstead during the First World War there was nothing on this on the web. There was of course a great deal in the local newspapers published in East Grinstead. There task was therefore to find that information, study it, create a narrative and to publish it on the web. They therefore became producers as well as consumers of historical information. In other words, they became real historians.

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Guest Andrew Moore

As I write this, there is a vast wealth of tools and technologies available free to the end user (maybe some of them show us advertisements or give us cookies, but we can clean them out later with Spybot and Ad-Aware).

The main obstacles to using this stuff lie in two places:

1. Schools or providers of managed services who block useful things like instant messaging.

2. The educational culture which still relies on exams where students write about things on paper, rather than do those things - though maybe that's not so bad outside England.

Any teacher can make radical changes now. You may work in an institution that seems not to be friendly to such change, but if you are complicit in that, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

All the things for which Mike asks are freely available and easy to find - though I would suggest that many are not worth finding. No-one becomes computer-literate suddenly. We learn to use the technology gradually - but we find that at every step there are generous people giving away all the help and tools we need.

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Biggest single thing; for it to be easy to transfer VHS video clips into digital files to play on PC, integrate into PowerPoint etc. I am aware it is doable, but have not yet found time to master the technology for myself.

I have just started doing it using Pinnacle PCTV. I intend to transfer all my old VHS video clips into digital files and set up interactive activities on line with some short clips. It is one of my objectives for the future.

Edited by Juan Carlos
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What would you like to be able to do in future with ICT to improve the quality of teaching/learning, that is currently impossible/difficult to achieve?

In my opinion ICT should emphasize more on the C of communication: communication between students (forums) between students and teachers, between teachers (interactive websites) so that teaching and learning don't depend on time and or place.

I would like to see teachers being able to control their own web-content, share it with collegues, share control of content with collegues in a projectform. Perhaps Content Management Systems can be of help here.

Students should be able to create their own webcontent in any form they (and their teachers) like. This implies using and coupling databases. In my school we're starting an experiment on this next year.

Juan Carlos makes a point here:

As we are working on a European project, we have to think from a European perspective. We badly need a "critical mass" of web history resources in other languages: Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Dutch, Italian and so on.

But Juan Carlos, resources are available in those European languages, but of some materials we need multilingual versions so that they can be used by more students and teachers. Although English is being used as a Lingua Franca on the web, especially younger students need to be addressed in their own language. Then they will be able to work on subjects (with a European dimension) they would otherwise not have been able to use.

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But Juan Carlos, resources are available in those European languages, but of some materials we need multilingual versions so that they can be used by more students and teachers. Although English is being used as a Lingua Franca on the web, especially younger students need to be addressed in their own language. Then they will be able to work on subjects (with a European dimension) they would otherwise not have been able to use.

This point has to be discussed in Toulouse. Although English is the "lingua franca", if we elaborate materials or products only in English we are actually leaving behind a lot of teachers and students in European countries. Probably in the Netherlands or Sweden most of them can get by in English, but, it is not the case in most of Europe. I am thinking in Latin countries: Spain, France, Portugal or Italy... and we are a lot of people down here in the South.

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(2) What would you like to be able to do in future with ICT to improve the quality of teaching/learning, that is currently impossible/difficult to achieve?

During a lot of years of debates and discussions between Swedish pedagogues and people involved in educational matter (to whom I always counted myself) we always dreamed about a possibility to change the pedagogical environment with the help of ICT. And some of us did not only debate, they also actively involved themselves to make these changes. At their schools within their day to day teaching or as participant of different networks or institutions trying to create friendlier atmosphere for ICT and find the ways to fund these changes.

The basic three questions we tried to answer were: What to teach? How to teach? and Where to teach?

Many of us dreamt about breaking the curriculum structure dividing students days into separate subject without very little connection to other subjects taught. Support for cross-curriculum teaching and learning was our battle cry.

Of course this teaching and learning should be done altogether inside and/or with the help of computers connected to internet. Multimedia textbooks with abundance of pictures, movie sequences, music, speeches and text were expected to be doing the pedagogy in the near future. Altogether supported by huge amount of interactivity!

Was it then necessary to teach and learn in schools? No! Internet connection should allow anybody to find his own learning environment; at home, at libraries, far away in isolated houses at the north of Sweden …….

Some of these dreams (or shall I write expectations) have been fulfilled. Internet is indeed a powerful tool ……… but I’m hesitant if the basic of education had been helped by ICT use, namely:

Are our today’s students equipped with bigger and better knowledge when they leave our schools where the ICT have been used? In comparison with yesterday’s students who left educational institutions without being helped in their learning process by ICT?

If a student make a wonderful oral presentation in front of the class with the help of a piece of chalk and blackboard is it pedagogically defendable to force him to make next presentation with the help of Power Point or webbing?

Aren’t our ultimate goals as a teacher to help our students to obtain knowledge of hidden things and connections, to learn them to critically evaluate and also to be able to use the obtained knowledge in the future? I personally always hoped that ICT would help us to achieve these goals in better, faster and easier way. But this hope is growing slimmer for each year …….

Nevertheless when reading contributions on this thread it seems to me that most of the debaters are more hopeful then me. Therefore by joining E-HELP I hope to be better equipped with skills (and optimism) when using ICT in my classes in the future.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda
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