How should we choose ICT tools for our schools? And what about digital content and supporting the development of early computational thinking of our pupils?
In my opinion, school principal but also teachers directly using ICTs in their classrooms should be involved in the decission. Criteria for prioritizing investment should be, from my point of view:
– Serve as many students as possible: adjustable to various curricular activities and difficulty levels.
– Start simple! It is necessary to be realistic and strecht to the school potential and experience; otherwise, we risk to spill the money.
– Favour first global needs (e.g. educational style: interaction among students, teachers and families), then particular learning goals (e.g. promotion of computational thinking) and only lastly aesthetical questions (are we more keen on Mac than on PC/ Android/ other systems?)
The DATEC project (Siraj-Blatchford and Whitebread, 2003; Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2006) suggest 9 criteria od developmental appropriateness: In summary, a good ICT tool should be educational but promote play, encourage collaboration and integration. The tool should be transparent and intuitive and transparent, leave child in control but involve parents. It should avoid any violence or sterotyping and support the development of awareness of heath and safety issues.
And according to the Book ICT in Primary Education, Volume 2 (UNESCO, XXXX), additional criteria should be the age of children, safety and ergonomics, ease of use and possible upgrades.
One of the most prominent advantages of ICTs is personalized (one-to-one learning), which is developed in this study of the e-learning foundation.
– Digital content:
From the broader perspective, digital content is any type of content that exists in the form of digital data. In the context of education, we usually refer to digital libraries of images and other data, all sorts of multimedia resources, and educational applications for simulations, interactive microworlds, games… and various subject-specific applications.
It is sometimes underestimated, but in fact is one of the key components of the whole process. In general, only rarely do schools have a formulated system of selectio ncriteria: they often rely on the previous experience and critical judgement of their teachers. When asked which kind of digital content they use, teachers most list digital materials and general creative tools, what they create, download for free or susbscribe for. Would I be a manager and had to support any activity, I would probably go for a blend of two strategies:
- Invest in the development of public information educational portals: Schools might have access to expert information and guidelines to find a good selection of free educational content from all over the world.
- Fund expert groups that would professionally develop high quality content and make it freely available to all schools.
Creating educational content could be an objective in itself, but I think as a rule -of-thumb that consuming content developed by experts save time and gives best results. I think this is the most efficient strategy: although creating educational materials can be a learning activity or a learning goal in itself, neither teachers nor pupils are professionals. I think that professionals (informaticians, psychologists, experienced teachers, pedagogues) should be hired to develop high quality content, then freely distributed (and as an extension maybe customed to particular needs of the schools), so that teachers and students can concentrate at what they are best at.
Computational thinking is nowadays recognized in more and more countries as an important part of the skills for the 21st century learning. In several countries it has recently been integrated into national curricula for several stages – including primary education – sometimes even as a separate core subject. Some schools from our survey already have a lot of experience in this context, using programmable digital toys, educational robotics sets, educational programming languages like Scratch, Logo, Kodu or others.
Computational thinking is just opposite to which I defended in my last bullet: if we can create (produce, create…) digital content, instead of just using, we’re powerful! and pupils can do it from the very earliest stages (e.g. Bee Bots or other programmable toys). And it’s not (just) for fun!: computational thinking is an important skill for learning and living in this world. There are different models to implement it: integrated in primary curriculum, ICT as a distinct subject or computing… as a distinct subject.