The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) schools and academies is about learning, especially e-learning. It is about improving children’s life chances in education through the use of established and emergent technology to enhance learning outcomes. It is about academic results, certainly, and the tangible results that show improved breadth as well as depth of achievement. But it is also about those activities and experiences that enhance leadership and teamwork. In this sense, the Communications element of ICT sometimes takes precedence over the Information element. The use of interactive communications technology can enhance those attributes that are valued by further and higher education as well as by employers and parents. However, the use of ICT brings with it new concerns about attitudes and values. It is our task to ensure that these attitudes and values evolve to maximise students’ opportunities to evolve into responsible citizens.
Adherence to a common mission is one of the tests that must be applied to the use of ICT in schools and academies. Clear goals should be spelt out in each school and academy, a vision must be articulated for the way forward and leadership needs to be shown in the implementation of ICT at all levels. Underpinning all of these is an ethos in which shared values and beliefs are reflected.
For ICT to be used successfully in a school or academy there must also be a climate conducive to success. This is predicated on the involvement and responsibility of all those who contribute to the use of ICT across the institution, from those with strategic responsibility, teaching and learning support, network planning and technical support. The physical environment and resources to support this must also be in place. Systematic network migrations and upgrades must help improve ICT infrastructure, and schools and academies must continually work together to ensure that the resources are in place for curriculum and administration delivery. It is important that policies are in place to guide and support those who utilise ICT.
Positive outlook and behaviour should be promoted through a number of policies, including sections on responsible ICT usage and Internet safety. Technological safeguards go hand-in hand with promotion of best practice, responsible and appropriate usage.
In the implementation of ICT to support e-learning, there should be a commitment to raising standards. Although there is a great deal of technical infrastructure to maintain it must never be forgotten that ICT in education is about learning and teaching. Schools must put in place educational and technical policies that will make ICT live up to its promises.
Each school and academy should have a curriculum that is designed to specifically reflect national and local aspirations, career and Higher Education opportunities and the skills and talents required in the community. ICT installed in institutions should reflect this curriculum, as well as providing technological tools to enhance high-quality teaching and learning.
Both students and teachers should have access to computer resources, e-learning material and a learning platform. The ICT should be driven by sophisticated Local Area Networks (LAN) that ensure safe, secure and timely access to e-mail, e-learning resources, printing, the Internet and educational software.
Other facilities within schools and academies should include computerised administration systems as well as specialised equipment used for specific subject areas. The curriculum should be supported by the learning and teaching resources provided, which must include up-to-date ICT facilities. High quality professional development will help ensure that teachers are amongst the best trained ICT practitioners in the country. This training, along with ICT resourcing combines with exciting and innovative teaching practices to help ensure that students enjoy the best learning experience possible, giving them the skills and the knowledge necessary for success in the 21st century.
The responsibility for the development of the detail of the specific educational ICT vision policy lies with the individual school and academy. It is the Head’s or Principal’s responsibility to satisfy themselves that policies are in place that adequately reflect the ethos and curriculum of the school as well as informing practice. It is the responsibility of every staff member, both teaching and non-teaching, to ensure that the spirit of the policies is implemented across all relevant areas of learning, teaching, administration and support.
The use of ICT within the school or academy to support learning, teaching and administration is not an optional extra to be avoided. Neither is it to be used indiscriminately. ICT should be used where appropriate to enhance the learning experience of students and to facilitate best teaching practice by teachers. Administrative systems must be used to improve effectiveness, achieve efficiencies and promote best practice.