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Bett2000 Friday, 14 January, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Technology boost for key skills
girl anon using computer
Teachers need to guide pupils in their use of technology
Children's literacy skills improve five times more quickly than average in primary schools where teachers make good use of computers, according to a study.

The findings, published by researchers at Newcastle University, also suggest that effective use of information and communication technology (ICT) helps boost pupils' numeracy skills by almost three times the average.

The research team stressed their findings did not prove the gains were made as a direct result of pupils using ICT.
teacher and pupils using computers
Teachers need to be 'confident and competent' when using technology in class
"What they do show is that with professional support and a focus on clearly identified subject objectives, teachers can use computers very effectively to help raise standards," a spokesman said.

The main conclusions drawn by the research team included the view that "learning gains are unlikely to occur without enthusiastic teaching".

They also concluded that not all areas of literacy and numeracy could be supported efficiently by ICT, so it was "as important for teachers to decide when not to use it as when and how to use it."

The findings have been published in a week when teachers' technology skills, or lack of them, have been the focus of much debate.

A survey published by the computer supplier Compaq at the BETT 2000 educational technology show in London showed that more than 70% of children believed their teachers needed help getting to grips with new technology.

It also showed that more than 40% of the pupils questioned said they learned more about the internet and technology at home than at school.

'Training is the key'

It could be suggested that if children are so adept with new technology, the teacher's role in their education is of diminishing importance.

Not so, according to experts, who say that the recipe for raising standards is a combination of good teaching and technology, and that the key ingredient is effective technology training for teachers.


Many teachers do not have the same level of confidence as their pupils. They may be able to use computers, but they may not have the same access to them.

Brian Neale, Compaq
Brian Neale, general manager of education at Compaq, is himself a former teacher.

While he says that technology is vital to pupils' learning, he is also adamant that teachers are just as important as they ever were.

"A computer will never replace a teacher," he said. "Teachers are there to motivate and mediate. There is also a lot of teaching to be done which doesn't involve technology."

What had become increasingly obvious was the need for effective training in technology for teachers, who were often unconfident in their abilities to use it as an everyday teaching tool, he said.

Bett2000
While this training had not been in place in the past, the government was now addressing the problem, by putting money into making teachers more familiar with education technology.

The government's efforts are being spearheaded by a training programme, funded by 230m from the national lottery-supported New Opportunities Fund.

And at the BETT 2000 show on Wednesday, the Learning and Technology Minister, Michael Wills, announced details of a 20m scheme in which teachers who are taking part in information technology training schemes can get a 500 subsidy towards buying computers.

Confidence

Mr Neale said: "The findings of our survey did not surprise us. Many children do not only have access to computers in their classrooms, they have access to them in their homes as well.

"They are familiar with the keyboard, screen, language and metaphors. They also spend time watching other children - their friends - using computers.

"Many teachers do not have the same level of confidence as their pupils. They may be able to use computers, but they may not have the same access to them.

"In order to use technology to teach, they need the confidence and knowledge to be able to plan lessons to motivate children. You don't motivate children by saying "Watch me press the return key".

"Once you have built up confidence, competence and the rest will follow. This is now starting to happen with the training on offer to teachers."

See also:

13 Jan 00 | Bett2000
12 Jan 00 | Bett2000
15 Mar 99 | UK Education
27 Aug 99 | UK Education
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