Too much info

As I have got underway unloading my brain into the Broadie Associates website, it has really re-inforced just how diverse the ways of using ICT to improve education are. There is just so much that can be said it’s small surprise that it is all a bit too mind-boggling for many teachera.

This was an absolutely key insight when we first set up the European Education Partnership. We had monthly meetings to try to work out how best to use the E.E.P. to stimulate the development of ICT for learning across Europe. We had some of the most experienced people from the leading companies involved, but it took us the best part of a year to work out that the problem was not a lack of information about the benefits of ICT in education.

The problem was too much information.

The decision makers, both at policy level and education institution level, were getting so many different views about how best to use ICT that they really couldn’t see the wood for the trees. They didn’t know where to start. That was what led us into the various analyses we made such as value-add from ICT and ICT-rich pedagogy. There had to be a simple starting point for the leaders. Even so, we couldn’t get the areas of value-add down to less than eleven no matter how hard we tried. In the ICT-rich pedagogy analysis we were absolutely determined to keep the change-statements to a single page. We had to reduce the point-size as we couldn’t get the teachers’ change statements to fewer than 17 – each statement justified it’s place. And even working on the one or two statements a teacher might choose as most relevant, could take a whole year. This is a massive change that education is undergoing.

This diversity puts a real premium on schools and teachers having a clearly worked-out vision – an educational vision not a technical vision. Unless they have some sense of where they are trying to get to in changing learning processes and interactions, they will have no idea what to ignore and what to look at. They will drown in the too much info problem.

Of course you do need some experience of how ICT can change things in order to decide what to do, but the starting point should not mention ICT at all. Look at the statements in the Value-add analysis. A statement like “improve communication and collaboration” or “increase access to resources” is a human statement. When I taught in Skipton the problem was increasing communication and collaboration, as many of the kids had to leave immediately at the end of the last lesson in order to get home right up the dale. In Sheffield all the kinds were within a few minutes of the school and saw lots of each other after classes, but most of the homes were very resource poor.

The key differentiator between those schools now improving rapidly through good use of ICT and those slipping behind is the vision of the Head and senior leadership team.

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