How do we know or measure what effect ICT is having on achievement levels?

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During April 2006 there was a fascinating debate on the impact of ICT on achievement and learning. The debate was started in the NAACE discussion lists, but it was very quickly picked up by MirandaNet members on MirandaLink. The simplistic notion that the only significant impact of ICT that we ought to be measuring was very quickly kicked into touch by the membership, who contributed some extremely pertinent observations to the debate.

Evidence | ICT and Learning | Qualifications | What is being measured? | Observations

Evidence from the classroom

The use of ICT promotes achievement
ICT reaches the parts that other forms of education can’t. I have children on my Gifted and Talented ICT list who have no achievements in any other subjects. They are motivated to work independently and are happier children as a result of this.

Improved achievement
Some reading scores have increased over 4 grade levels from their previous year's test scores. Overall, my students showed increased motivation.

Additionally, many of their previous years' teachers were so surprised at how the kids were so motivated by ICT. Many special education teachers in the U.S. don't use that much technology in their classroom.

Regarding the classroom curriculum based assessments, reading software programs such as Scholastics READ180 http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/read180/ have helped. Before learning of READ180, I would tape record each student reading then code their reading patters (e.g. prosody, phonemic awareness, fluency) and adjust their curriculum accordingly. I hope someday students and teachers will be able to chose various software together.

Individualised learning
Furthermore, I've found that often ICT saves me time! In conclusion, I've found some similarities between ICT with both students with special needs and gifted kids, in that, ICT motivates and inspires our students. For teachers, ICT helps teacher tailoring more individualized curriculum (thereby leading to increased test scores) as well as motivates and inspires us.

Pupils manage their own learning
Typically when special education teachers think of technology their schema is focused on assistive technology. Whereas, when cyberkids (including students with special needs) think of technology they see the wide possibilities of ICT. ICT has helped in this process. Hence, I use ICT with my informal curriculum based classroom assessments and include that in the portfolios. Next year, if I teach students with special needs again I've decided that I will be using e-portfolios upon seeing the technology at a recent conference.

In the project I'm currently working with in Wolverhampton, children are equipped with their own ICT including sketching, animation, sound, still photo and video recording facilities (for example) which are available to them every minute, whether they are at home or at school. For the teacher, this fund of material was available as a source of further work to extend the children's learning - and editing, assembling and presenting it was an obvious set of follow-up activities.

ICT and Learning

ICT provides a learning experience in and of itself. Learners are constantly trouble-shooting, applying the technology to new contexts and solving problems. The Bricolage they apply to create work is a demonstration of skills, understanding and concept development.

Bridget Somekh’s latest work, PELRS, talks about higher quality work rather than better results.

'Higher quality' learning appears to be much more in keeping with what teachers believe in for their pupils / students.

Teachers can then gauge individual growth. Also, I was thinking about student motivation and gifted students. Are our gifted students bored or are they engaged enough to stay in school?

The real trick is to understand the new pedagogical opportunities that ICT can help to lever. Thus, a different question needs to be asked, “ what new pedagogical opportunities does ICT help to enable in alternative learning environments?” and – “What new curriculum opportunities does ICT open up c.f. previous methods?” I really enjoy reading this online discussion and am learning so much from everyone. Also, in my reflections on ICT and learning, I've come to believe that there are many benefits via ICT that are not testable...yet. For instance, when we look at cognition and ICT we are still laying the groundwork. Here's a pop-media one from CNN that's pretty interesting:


The neural plasticity of children's brains are remarkable. Eventually teachers and doctors will be able to collaborate more and target areas of the brain that need further stimulus and development, and no doubt ICT will play a big part in education of the future.


Firstly ICT isn't 'merely a tool'. Secondly, ICT does/can define pedagogy.

The availability of so much ICT with the skills and ownership to utilise it to the full places children in a significantly different relationship both to their technologies and their learning. How should the teacher respond?

The pedagogy is in part driven by the technology and we have to work it out. Whilst the children may be doing all of these things using technology, they could just as well have played the games.

What is being measured?

But how do we know or measure what effect ICT is having on achievement levels in the rest of the curriculum? Technology alone will never change the RESULTS. The results of integrated invisible technology, when assessed qualitatively from the personal perceptions of the 'students ... and I also refer to teachers here' show a SIGNIFICANT difference in the transformation of learning to learn and my latest longitudinal research with pre-service teachers in traditional and On-Line learning environments conclusively proves this point. Technology enhanced learning environments which soulfully, meaningfully and responsibly recognise the exceptional genius of all will show RESULTS beyond the traditional ....

It's significant that higher quality work and improved test scores and examination results are not necessarily synonymous.

If motivation is a common thread then what do we know about ICT and formative assessment rather than summative? Do children build a wider portfolio or deeper in particular areas? Just a thought!

The omnipresent pencil or pen enables achievement within all areas of the curriculum and similarly, ICT is merely another tool to enable achievement. Alongside ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ ICT is the fourth ‘R’ (though don’t know what ‘R’ it would be!). We regularly measure achievement of the 3 R’s through other areas of the curriculum and similarly we are able to assess achievement of discrete ICT skills within other subjects. Rigorous assessment of ICT capability, initially as discrete skills within ICT lessons and subsequently within other areas of the curriculum, provides evidence of progression of ICT achievement (or regression).


In this section MirandaNet members reflect on their experiences of using ICT to facilitate learning.

As a veteran of 23 years in the IT industry – just about the same age as some of the engineers I work with – and an interest in learning based ICT for about the same length of time, I have seen ICT based teaching evolve from pretty picture/jolly sound based arithmetic drills through to sophisticated network based environments linking schools across the globe. In industry we have come to accept ICT as an inherent part of our working environment. We do not question whether ICT is adding value, it is simply ‘there’.

I've learned to cherish my multicultural background and always question education "systems" as a whole too…especially now that I'm a teacher. Hunter/gather and high technology cultures are both products of the neocortex. It is my contention that ICT naturally cultivates polymath thinkers. Because ICT provides multiple perspectives, etc…that many teachers and/or schools do not provide. How will the education of our young affect future politics and world peace? How will ICT change our children’s world? Also, a concluding thought...a great deal of the research that I find related to ICT comes from the UK...both as a teacher and a scholar.

ICT is merely a tool to enable human communication processes. ICT doesn’t define or improve pedagogy in its own right – so the question is misguided. Industry also accepts ICT as merely a tool to improve business activity and I think education needs to take the same attitude and informed perspective.

Perhaps I should clarify what I was fully mean to say regarding ICT. Firstly, I don't regard ICT is a singular tool, so yes, it certainly represents a range of very different tools and applications across many fields, for which education is but one. My perspective is looking at ICT, beyond the world of education, in which people do not always regard ICT as associated with learning/pedagogy. So yes, ICT can define pedagogy within educational applications. However, this particular purpose of ICT is not always obvious to the wider society of onlookers.

The fact that ICT bends towards a skills based curriculum within the UK suggests a lack of understanding of pedagogical application. I tend to view the ICT tools as requiring first-order skills, by the users. I genuinely believe that that context and purpose of ICT is not fully understood. Having said that I fully support the project you are doing and welcome the potential benefits for children's learning. The fact that we have a skills based assessment across all curriculum fields (including ICT as a stand-alone subject) is the worrying issue at stake. If the education system is to be impaled upon a skills-based agenda then it will be very difficult to include deeper learning pedagogy that embrace higher-order thinking and creativity. Sorry - meant to say 'content-heavy curriculum for Primary children' (the Foundation stage curriculum is not).

Few schools have yet undertaken the systemic changes needed in order to fully realise the transforming power of ICT (although there are many good individual examples)

No - so the pedagogies to support learning rigorously from such capabilities have not been developed.

Kress's Literacy in the New Media Age (2003) and Pahl & Rowsell's Literacy and Education: understanding the new Literacy Studies in the classroom (2005) explore such issues.

You can see some of my recent ICT work at http://www.cfkeep.org

Web-based tools and networked information systems. To me this indicates that if we want to stay in the same old teaching routines in 'pedagogical isolation' in our classes and 'andragogical sterility', we ignore the role of ICT tools in learning. If we don't enhance we are not supporting learners to operate in an ICT enabled world and here I mean both teachers and students as learners. We are also ignoring the potential of ICT to enhance ped-/andra-gogy.

Great debate. I am enjoying learning from others' creative engagement, Sarah

Thank you for sharing about Notschool.net. It is so encouraging to see as a special education teacher such a wonderful program. Thanks for sharing.

I wish I felt confident that the often-rash adoption of technology by many teachers and schools, sweetened by political correctness, hadn't seriously undermined that quintessentially human interaction.

If you have limited time look at: Be Very Afraid 2 - the Background then Capel le Ferne School Matching Green School and Ravensbourne College 1

"I wish I felt confident that the often rash adoption of technology by many teachers and schools, sweetened by politically correctness, hadn't seriously undermined that quintessentially human interaction".

Completely agree with your comment about thought-less use of ICT. This relates to my previous email about sharing 'better' usage of ICT that can raise achievement among students (and teachers) in schools.

I've really enjoyed reading this intellectual forum and am learning a lot.

There are teachers and schools that are innovative, compassionate, and want the very best for their students.

I am looking at teachers' research work with their students using web-based templates from Bitterne Park School, Southampton. I would think that intellectually stimulated teachers teach better too??? Thanks to Steve Coombs' Critical Thinking Scaffolds we 'see' teachers learn. Look at http://www.teacherresearch.net/tr_cmcasestudy.htm - a teacher's study on using ICT - Catherine Meacher at a Wiltshire school.

John Cuthell, May 2006

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