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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 18:41 GMT


Education

Computer training 'failing teachers'

Some teachers are unwilling to change, report says

Most school teachers in the UK still lack confidence in using information technology, according to researchers.

A report from the National Foundation for Educational Research says the sort of training teachers have had has not worked - and lessons need to be learned before a big new round of training gets things wrong again.


[ image: The prime minister using an electronic whiteboard - teachers are often more reluctant to sign up]
The prime minister using an electronic whiteboard - teachers are often more reluctant to sign up
"The report shows that most teachers lack confidence in the use of information technology, despite more than 10 years of training for teachers in this area," said the foundation's Senior Research Officer, Sue Harris.

"As we approach the 21st Century and the opportunities to be provided by the National Grid for Learning, the importance of effective in-service training for teachers cannot be underestimated," she said.

Disadvantaged

"With a major national training programme about to begin, will the shortcomings of previous training be avoided? If teachers lack the necessary skills or motivation to use the latest resources effectively, is it they or their pupils who will be disadvantaged?"

The report shows that the numbers of computers in schools has increased dramatically over the last 10 years - but the percentage of secondary school teachers using computers twice a week or more has remained constant, at about 32%.

In primary schools, however, the majority of teachers use computers twice a week or more.

Gender gap

The report says there are still factors deterring women and girls - teachers and pupils - from becoming competent in using the technology.


[ image: Old story: Kenneth Baker, later education secretary, promoting IT in 1982]
Old story: Kenneth Baker, later education secretary, promoting IT in 1982
For one thing, information technology teachers and co-ordinators tend to be male, so role models are scarce. More subtly, there are also organisational obstacles: school course options make it difficult to combine information technology with subjects that tend to appeal more to girls.

The research suggests that, as recently as last year, a large percentage of teachers had not received on-the-job training.

Where it is available, the short nature of many of the courses was regarded by teachers as being a quick way to get technical skills - without giving them much, if any, opportunity to consider the educational implications of the technology.


[ image: Many if not most teachers feel intimidated]
Many if not most teachers feel intimidated
It is also hard to keep skills current. Rapid changes in technology have caused problems, because of incompatibilities between different systems and the constant need for more training in new hardware and software.

Sue Harris thinks some teachers choose not to use information technology because it challenges them to amend their beliefs and ways of working.

"The use of information technology in the classroom has not necessarily led to innovative teaching and learning," she said.

"Is it reluctance on the part of some teachers to confront changing roles that appears to make them unwilling to use information technology in their classrooms?"

Ongoing staff development, mutual support among computer-using teachers, and other support structures within schools, all helped teachers to become good users of the technology.



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Internet Links


National Foundation for Educational Research

National Grid for Learning

BBC Education: Computers Don't Bite - Teachers


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