[iDC] unfulfilled promise of ICT for learning

Armin Medosch armin at easynet.co.uk
Mon Jun 14 06:41:26 UTC 2010


having done some research recently for an education authority - not one
responsible for universities but for schools and lifelong learning - I
have come across the issue of the 'unfulfilled promises of ICT for
learning'. It appears that especially those countries who have invested
a lot in information technologies for schools backed by research,
teacher training, rewriting curriculae, etc. found it increasingly
difficult to justify that investment, as either it did not bring the
hoped for benefits for teaching and learning or they found it difficult
to provide empirical evidence of those benefits. now, ministries or
departments fopr education face a backlash from politicians bent on
cutting budgets. the worst case example is the new tory-dem government
in Britain scrapping Becta, an agency that was spceifically set up to
promote ICT for learning and which also funded a lot of research and
online resources for teachers and schools. Becta had existed since 1988
but now it seems the new government does not see a necessity for such an
institution - http://www.becta.org.uk/

This is a rather extreme case and I would not grant the Tories to have
made a sound judgement based on careful evaluation - they probably just
axed it as they saw it an easy target for cutting 'waste'. But the
problem is encountered by other education authorities too. Maybe one
reason among others is that in the past excessive claims about the
benefits of ICT for learning have been made. In particular
constructivist learning theorists promised nothing less than a
'cognitive revolution' in learning. Pupils wouldnt need teachers
anymore, they would learn all by themselves through human computer
interaction building their own worlds. That's 1980s - 1990s stuff but it
keeps coming back redressed with the emperors new clothes - the OLPC
project is such an example, constructivist sans phrase. 

One issue is that behind the hyperbole about 'new' learning theories
(which are actually quite old) linger concrete economic interests of
those wanting to sell chips, laptops, digital blackboards, softwares,
interests so powerful that they override concerns such as 'how are we
actually gonna use that stuff'. 

The overall problem now is that the baby is thrown out with the bath
water. while some of those promises were ill founded and/or rested on
cold war epistemic frameworks of AI, probably most of the people on this
list would agree that there is a connection between ICT and learning,
that those 'tools for thought' as howard Rheingold put it a long time
ago do open up possibilities for improved way of learning, alone, with
or without teachersm collaboratively, peer-to-peer style or in a mroe
traditional setting. Yet it seems that the situations is double messed
up both by ICT boosterist gurus on one hand and ignorant politicians on
the other hand, who just want to make 'easy' savings. Which makes it
more important to find examples of good practice, interesting teaching
and learning projects and the related scholarship which provides the
evidence for further investment in the link between people and
technology in sound and progressive ways


thenextlayer software, art, politics http://www.thenextlayer.org

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