NP3 for policy makers

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Recommendations for policy makers[edit]

Policy makers need to be clear about what they see the purpose(s) of school to be, and what outcomes they want children in schools to achieve. They then need to align their policies and regulations, including curriculum, assessment and accountability requirements, with those purposes and desired outcomes.

The data suggest that developing advanced ICT competence requires sustained engagement over a prolonged period of time. It seems highly unlikely that this could be achieved through one computing lesson per week. Embedding ICT across the curriculum is essential.

The data from this study supports the findings of the Educational Technology Action Group (ETAG) that was set up by Ministers from the DfE and BIS (including Michael Gove). Thus we recommend that ETAG’s recommendations be implemented, which are available from http://etag.report.

Impact of policy[edit]

Schools take up policy structures and specifications in ways that reflect their economic, political and social organisation and the participants within them. School arenas therefore vary. These variations in practices and the values that underpin them mediate how teachers and children are positioned. These different positionings impact on the opportunities to use ICT in school in ways which transform teachers’ pedagogies and the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of children’s learning.

ICT used for drill and practice[edit]

In England, the National Curriculum for example, advocates a particular approach to teaching and learning which reveals traces of behaviourism. For example, drill and repetition in developing pre-requisite basic skills is evident in the rationale for the focus on phonics in literacy lessons and in national assessment tests for school children aged 4 to 6 years-old in England (Ellis & Moss, 2014). Within this approach, learning to read is viewed as a process of decoding symbols rather than meaning making. This is apparent in the policy guidance which separates the process of decoding (‘reading’) and the development of comprehension. This results in word level work and comprehension being taught independently. The research project’s findings that ICT was used for drill and practice of early reading (or decoding) skills provides a clear example of the ways in which policy shapes ICT use in schools.

View of learning and the value of ‘outside school’ experiences[edit]

The legacy of behaviourism underpinning policy has also led to the continuing belief that the teacher controls learning and that learners are passive imitators in the teaching and learning process and require extrinsic motivation to learn. Policy in England that advocated a three-stage structure for lessons (DfES, 2004) emphasised the need for pace to keep children on task and this has been an enduring feature of policy on pedagogy (DCSF, 2008). This has an impact on the extent to which teachers acknowledge, value and build on children’s ICT skills and understandings developed ‘outside school’ .

Hybridised policies and pedagogies[edit]

Central government policies do not necessarily have a unified and clear theoretical underpinning. This lack of clarity is reflected in the hybrid pedagogical approaches of many teachers. So, for example, in addition to behaviourism, Piagetian theories have been, and continue to be very influential in shaping educational policy and teachers’ practice (McPhail, 2015; Murray and Passey, 2014; Fosnot, 2013; Richardson,1997). This has led to two important shifts in approaches to teaching and learning which have, in turn impacted on digital practices within schools. The first shift is a move towards viewing the learner as agentive and intrinsically motivated. The second shift is a move away from a view of knowledge as being about rules and algorithms for routinized problem-solving towards and a constructivist view with less emphasis on memory and recall and more emphasise on co-constructing meanings and contextualised and ‘relevant’ knowledge and skills which pupils can use utilise in a range of ways across the school curriculum and in everyday life. When using ICT in school teachers’ pedagogical practices reveal element of both behaviourism and constructivism

e-safety policy advice for schools and parents[edit]

Despite the concept of ‘digital natives’ having been problematized (McQuillan & O’Neill, 2009; Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008), the Select Committee report, ‘Growing up with the internet’ (House of Lords, 2017) has used the concept uncritically. This suggests that government policy around digital technology and e-safety will be led by the view that children are growing up in a world where “user-friendly digital technology surrounds them, which they can learn to use intuitively” (House of Lords, 2017, p.11). Policies using this concept are likely to be inadequate as they will mask the changing nature of the digital landscape and the diverse ways children engage with ICT and also trivialise the fact that children, in common with other users of ICT, need to learn how to use the digital technologies to which they have access.

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