An imminent report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will offer the most forward thinking framework yet on how to integrate information and communications technology into primary school education.
The document – ICT in the Primary School Curriculum – has been seen by siliconrepublic.com at the same time as other initiatives have come to light (see links below) which suggest that the deployment of technology has become an urgent priority for the Department of Education.
In the framework there are pages of practical information advising teachers on how to integrate technology into the classroom. “It’s not just ICT for the sake of ICT,” says education officer Mary O’Leary. “And we’re not into ICT as a discrete subject, it’s part of the curriculum, a teaching and learning tool.”
This manifests itself through various exemplars such as using word processing to develop personal writing or PowerPoint for presenting essays, but the NCCA are careful to avoid endorsing any software. O’Leary argues that while a centralised approach to purchasing and software selection has its merits, there are also advantages in letting individual schools retain some of their own buying power. “Where is innovation going to be if schools are going to be dictated to constantly about what they can and can’t use?” she says.
The core message in the framework is that technology must be treated as part of the curriculum rather than delivered to pupils as a standalone subject. “Research shows that learning is much better if the ICT is integrated,” said O’Leary, “but that’s not to say there won’t be a need for the discrete provision to support the integration to begin with.”
The origins of the new report date back to 1999 when the new primary curriculum was first brought in. At that time ICT was discussed as part of the teaching methodology but there were no resources to support its integration until now.
The NCCA are now working on a framework for secondary schools which should be ready by the first quarter of 2005.
By Ian Campbell