Becta publish Emerging technologies for learning (vol 2)

31 March 2007

Becta – Emerging technologies for learning

These publications consider how emerging technologies may impact on education in the medium term.

They are not intended to be a comprehensive review of educational technologies, but offer some highlights across the broad spectrum of developments and trends. They highlight some of the possibilities that are developing and the potential for technology to transform our ways of working, learning and interacting over the next three to five years.
Emerging technologies for learning

This publication includes the chapters:

* Emerging trends in social software for education (PDF 470KB, Lee Bryant, Headshift)
* Learning networks in practice (PDF 508KB, Stephen Downes, NRC)
* The challenge of new digital literacies and the ‘hidden curriculum’ (PDF 385KB, Jo Twist, ippr)
* How to teach with technology: keeping both teachers and students comfortable in an era of exponential change (PDF 311KB, Marc Prensky)
* Games in education (PDF 596KB, Keri Facer, Futurelab; Tim Dumbleton, Becta)
* Ubiquitous computing (PDF 866KB, David Ley, Becta)

Pupil voice

29 March 2007

So what of my aim about personal constructs of learning?

I had an interesting meeting about some research into undertaken by Barry Mearns, ICT consultant with Leicestershire’s School Improvement Service. The stimulus for his work was the latest round of subject leader development meetings and his belief (with which I wholeheartedly concur) that pupils (or students) have much to tell us about the way in which learning and teaching is organised. The students that Barry interviewed are currently in year 10 ICT groups in a county 14-19 college and there is an opportunity here for me to build on this in my future research by talking to the same students next year. Thanks to Roy Roberts at the college for making the connection for me.

This notion of “pupil voice” is becoming increasingly visible in teacher development activities that I come across. Initially with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and now with the DfES.

Looking on the DfES’ research informed practice (TRIPS) website I see that Pupil Voice is an emerging strand in the literature also. Some findings from the papers ther are given below. The first with its comment about constructivism is interesting itself. Maybe there is something here about the climate in the particular classes? Was uncertainty not a feature students expected n the mathematics classes investigated? How generalisable is there claim, given its surprising nature.

Dorman and Adams (2004) concluded “that teachers need to ensure their classrooms are high quality teaching and learning environments. Student confidence was likely to be raised in classrooms characterised by high levels of co-operation, harmony, genuine teacher support, student cohesiveness, task orientation and equity. Teachers who dwelt on student failures rather than helping them to build progression and who created an environment characterised by competition and conflict did not improve levels of student confidence.”

They went on to say that “Two particular concepts have been found in other research to have a positive effect on student learning. The first is constructivism, in which students make sense of the world by linking new ideas to understandings they have already built up. The second is pupil dialogue, which proposes that pupils develop their understanding through discussion. There is a broadly accepted view that constructivist learning environments support academic efficacy. So the researchers were surprised that their results showed little variation in student academic efficacy that could be accounted for by the … scales specifically intended to look at constructivist classrooms.

One possible explanation, proposed by the researchers, is “that constructivism is concerned with critical thinking and higher order learning, whereas academic efficacy concerns one’s ability to perform specific academic tasks. They suggest that it is feasible that constructivism engenders a degree of uncertainty which, in a traditional school system which values certainty, could create a loss of confidence in students. “

Whitehead and Clough (2004) “set out to explore the views of students on the factors which they thought helped or hindered their learning. The 139 Year 8 pupils came from two schools in an EAZ. In this first stage report, the researchers found that students preferred learning activities which enabled them to work in friendship groups through practical work and discussion with peers. Many students disliked whole class work. They were motivated by a variety of factors, including future prospects. 80% of pupils identified poor behaviour by others as the main factor hindering their learning. The research found the majority of pupils responded positively to being consulted about their learning environment.”

McIntyre et al (2005) “found considerable agreement between pupils in their views of teaching and learning. They preferred lessons that were less teacher-led and appreciated interactive teaching that gave them ownership of their learning. They also wanted more opportunities to collaborate with their peers.”

Elsewhere, a study by Cresswell et al (2006) for the NCSL looks at the links between personalisation (or flexibility as they conclude it to be) of the 14-19 curriculum. Here they cite the importance of pupil voice and the key role played by applied qualifications, including ICT, in leveraging personalisation.

Cresswell, L et al (2006) Personalising the curriculum at 14–19, NCSL Research Associate report available online at accessed March 2007

Dorman, J. and Adams, J., (2004) Associations between students’ perceptions of classroom environment and academic efficacy in Australian and British secondary schools in Westminster Studies in Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, April 2004

McIntyre D et al (2005), What can teachers learn from listening to their pupils? in Research Papers in Education, 20 (2) pp. 149-168

Whitehead, J. and Clough, N. (2004), Pupils, the forgotten partners in Education Action Zones in Journal of Education Policy Vol. 19, No. 2, March 2004

QCA annual report on ICT for 2005/06

25 March 2007

QCA  have published their annual report on ICT (and other subjects) as part of their “monitoring the curriculum” exercise. The outputs from this report will (or at least should) influence their review of the secondary curriculum. The report formed part of the basis of this BBC article

Some key points in my reading of the report:

The aims of the national curriculum:

  • There is a clear recognition (by schools) of the potential of ICT to help develop pupils’ enjoyment of, and commitment to, learning.
  • Almost half of year 8 said that they enjoyed ICT compared with only 14 per cent who said that they disliked it.
  • More than a quarter of teacher disagree that the PoS ‘helps give pupils the opportunity to be creative, innovative and enterprising’ supporting previous findings that a significant amount of ICT learning and teaching continues to focus on elementary application of basic skills.
  • QCA believes that there are enormous possibilities in ICT for creativity, enquiry and innovation and the secondary curriculum review has enabled us to bring this to the forefront in the ICT programme of study (PoS). However, there may be additional barriers to using ICT in this way in schools and this needs further investigation.


  • There is work still to be done to assist teachers with assessing ICT. Schools  say they need teacher assessment guidelines/materials for assessing pupils’ progress and continued professional development.
  • QCA has recommended that the on-screen key stage 3 test should be rolled out on a non-statutory basis, but will work to develop the test as a formative assessment tool to support teaching and learning.
  • In the survey of year 8 pupils, nearly a third of pupils felt that the level of ICT work they were being given was too easy.

Questions particular to ICT

  • There remains a lack of consistency and coherence in the ICT qualifications currently on offer, which is unhelpful for users and employers.
  • Although uptake of ICT qualifications continues to rise, enquiries to QCA indicate that for some schools the choice of qualification is made on the basis of points for league tables rather than on the appropriateness of the qualification to the learner.
  • QCA has commissioned an in-depth research probe into the qualifications offered in schools and the progression routes offered post-16. For example, if, at A level, more than 45 per cent of pupils are deciding not to continue with ICT at A2 because of their poor results at AS, it would be useful to find out the prior qualifications of those pupils who decide not to continue or whether there are other factors involved.

DfES “Making Good Progress” report

25 March 2007

This is the report that the previous post refers to… and here is an apposite quote…

A key part of the pilot is to try new approaches to
assessing when pupils are ready for moving ahead.
That judgement will of course come initially from the
teacher, but pilot schools will use external tests to
validate teacher assessments, and provide a clearer
benchmark by which parents and pupils can
measure progress. The pilot schools will identify
pupils in the relevant key stage whom they believe
are at or close to achieving a full level of progress,
who would be likely to pass a “test for progress” in
December 2007 (and at six-monthly intervals
thereafter). That decision would be discussed and
agreed with pupils, and involving parents to the
fullest possible extent.

If this is the policy for pre-14 what is the concomitant for 14-19? How does this square with the threat to the Diplomas (which seem to provide much of this flexibility – albeit with ’employers’ added into the last sentence).

Are school tests on their way out?

25 March 2007

BBC NEWS | Education | Are school tests on their way out?
Something extraordinary seems to be happening to school tests in England.

It could be the most radical change since the tests began in the early 1990s, when they were still called Sats.

Yet this is a “softly, softly” revolution. The tests appear to be on their way out, at least in the form we know them today. But ministers do not want to give the impression they are easing up on accountability.

Meanwhile others keep letting the cat out of the bag. This week it was the turn of the head of the examinations watchdog, Ken Boston.

He suggested that national tests for all pupils could be phased out within three years and replaced by a test taken by just a small sample of pupils, sufficient to give a national picture of education standards.

Also reported in the Guardian and elsewhere … including this with some “firefighting” comment by the DfES

TALL blog Some real data on Web 2.0 use

24 March 2007

TALL blog » Blog Archive » Some real data on Web 2.0 use

Results of a survey into the use of Web 2.0 tools in FE and HE (via Derek Wenmoth)

The relatviely low use of these tools (except for Wikipedia), despite their hype and evangelistic use by a few, seems to concur with my infromal findings at HE level. It will be interesting to see what it’s like for 16-year olds…

Diplomas may go horribly wrong

20 March 2007

The BBC report Alan Johnson’s message to the Association of School and College Leaders with the headline  “Diplomas may go horribly wrong“. If horribly wrong means that  they won’t bring parity of opportunity and esteem then I guess he’s right. The Telegraph report has it that they are being scrapped post-16. So just as we prepare for another attempt to make the curriculum relevant then the goalposts are moved…