Influence of Information Technology in the National Curriculum



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Influence of Information Technology in the National Curriculum

(aims and implementation)

Bernard COUAPEL
29 April 1999

Abstract


Information technology is a major issue for the society of the 21st century and therefore for education, as the aim of teaching is to prepare students to match the needs of employment and everyday life in the future. There is much discussion and debate about this challenge by philosophers, politics, sociologists and of course those responsible for education. The aim of this essay is to address the impact of this new technology on education in UK after considering the global perspective on the means of communication in the 21st century world and their effects in terms of the global village concept and then advent of a new world consciousness to people.

British government has made a priority in its education policy to improve the use of ICT in schools and to give a minimum of knowledge and understanding in ICT to pupils by embedding this activity in the National Curriculum. The official Department for Education & Employment and its independent counterpart the British Educational Communication and Technology Agency have echoed the message of Tony Blair, “to build the biggest partnership in any education system anywhere in the world”. This resulted in the UK Net Year in 1998 which had for objective to give 75% of teacher and 50% of children an email address by the year 2002, and to boast the use of ICT in the NC activities.

This essay makes a point at the beginning of 1999 of this huge project, and the weaknesses that appear at this state of the project. The schools minister Charles Clarke and the chief executive of BECTA, Owen Lynch stated recently that the goal which had been fixed for 1998 have not been completely reached, and that the development of ICT structures and use in the NC was a bit out of steam. Their contributions to the general evaluation are quoted in this report, as they are the sources of future directives and investments in order to achieve the goal that has been fixed by the government.

The main weak points of the present situation are the co-operation between the education sector and the business sector on one hand, but also the reluctance or incapacity of many teachers to change their habits in delivering their teaching. The study of one implementation of ICT in a new technology college in Didcot, in terms of material, ICT teaching, and ICT cross curricular activities gives evidence of the difficulties of the new age revolution that the government is trying to put into gear, even if this example seems to be successful.

All this effort from directors, teachers, managers, and other executives seems very far away from the ease that youngsters show to enter the new age of learning and communication. But the observation of children playing with their play-stations and other video games should not hide the fact that there needs a global framework for the British society to enter into the new age, even if the co-operation between schools and business could seem strange to some observers.

In all changes in society, there is a minimum delay that remains in spite of what forces a government brings to hasten the movement. This can be considered like a limit to the flexibility of man, but also like a proof of continuity in humanity. Anyway this is something that should be taken into consideration if the executives want to avoid the negative reaction that could result from too much pressure. This element will hopefully be taken into account, so that the targets are reached in reasonable time.



Introduction

Information technology is a major issue for the society of the 21st century and therefore for education, as the aim of teaching is to prepare students to match the needs of employment and everyday life in the future. There is much discussion and debate about this challenge by philosophers, politics, sociologists and of course those responsible for education. The aim of this report is to address the impact of this new technology on education in UK after considering the global perspective on the means of communication in the 21st century world and their effects in terms of the global village concept and then advent of a new world consciousness to people.

How does the UK manage to implement the new technology in the National Curriculum? What is the relationship between government policy and the market forces that are now more and more influencing the trends of education in this country?

On the other hand, how does the implementation of these decisions happen in the everyday reality of schools? What experiments are made in cross curricular teaching, embedding IT in traditional school subjects? How can we assess these initiatives?


This dissertation presents official documents and information that have been gathered on Internet about the new trends in teaching that include the use of IT. Very few recent books present this subject and IT specialists admit that although this domain is in complete evolution, they have not yet much information about what is done on a general basis. Most teachers experiment cross curricular teaching by themselves and in their own ways…
A review and a reflection about these trends are therefore of great interest, as, from this bubbling field of education, new strategies will soon emerge for the future. This is the aim of this dissertation, to summarise government directives and their echo from market forces on one hand, and the expectations of new pupils, born in this cyberworld, and the responses of teachers on the other hand. After presenting the place of IT in the National Curriculum, this essay will try to reflect on this challenge by searching information and results in the literature provided on this subject, and by observing IT and cross curricular teaching in St Birinus School of Didcot. Some experiences will be presented and we shall try to emphasis the problems related to this new approach.


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