Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

2020 Future: Are you digital-ready?

3d glasses

While adults struggle to get to grips with online shopping and downloading, ICT is
second nature to technology-mad young people. The generational shift has profound
implications for teachers and how we conceive of learning, says Robert Hill.

The information revolution is the phenomenon of our times, affecting work, life and society as profoundly as the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. More households now use mobiles than have a landline. Broadband access has surged, with three out of five households now using the service, and mobile broadband is growing fast. TV viewing habits are changing rapidly.

Young people have grown up with digital media in a way that makes using it almost as natural as breathing. Becta has identified ten trends that, at varying rates, are changing or will change how ICT works in society and in schools:

New approaches to delivering IT - 'Cloud' computing, for example, is already with us, enabling individuals and organisations to access programmes and data via the internet rather than having to install systems and software.

The growth of Web 2.0 - An explosion of programmes and applications is enabling users to move from passive consumers and downloaders of information to active participants in creating and sharing web content via social networking, blogs, online reviews, Twitter, wikis, video, podcasting and web 'mashups'.

Context-aware computing - These are systems that can adapt their behaviour to respond intelligently to who you are, your location, and what you are doing and feeling. They could, for example, schedule a health check-up when raised blood pressure, as measured by biometric sensors, triggered a concern.

Pervasive computing - A range of technologies are being embedded into a multitude of everyday objects. Rather than computing being a desktop experience it becomes one that pervades every aspect of our lives.

Increasing mobility -  The growing performance and affordability of mobile devices such as notebooks, smartphones, media players and games consoles will enable people to have access to a permanent 'info-cloud' that changes how they work and interact with the world about them.

Low-cost mobile computers - Netbooks, mini-notebooks and ultra mobile devices, which run full operating systems and applications and have wi-fi connectivity or mobile broadband, may well provide the means of ensuring every student has access to computing on a one-to-one basis.

New interface and display technologies - Our use of PCs has been dominated by the mouse, keyboard and the screen. But voice, handwriting and gesture recognition and multi-touch touch displays could transform these interactions.

Consumerisation - Technological innovations are increasingly being aimed at the consumer rather than the business market with entrepreneurial users adopting these technologies for their work.

Information handling - Increasing amounts of digital data and content are becoming difficult to store, manage and use. This is leading to more sophisticated and intelligent ways of storing, searching for, analysing and presenting data.

Green IT - While ICT has lots of positive environmental potential (through facilitating more homeworking and use of video conferencing to reduce travel) there are growing concerns about the energy consumption and carbon emissions generated by ICT usage.

We are only beginning to understand the power of ICT to transform what it means to be a learner. Curriculum and pedagogy will need to be centred more on actively engaging students and facilitating learning.

It will require greater reliance on visualisation and virtual worlds, collaborative discovery, creating shared web content, providing and discussing feedback online, students peer reviewing each other's work and more discussion among students themselves, with their teacher and - via the web - with a wider audience.

The role and focus of teachers will change radically as well. This in turn will mean that initial teacher training needs to encourage and equip new teachers to carry their natural familiarity with digital technology into their pedagogy in the classroom.

Some three-quarters of more established teachers, however, say they need 'a little' or 'a lot' of development in the use of particular software packages, according to Becta surveys. Key areas of weakness for teachers, as identified by Ofsted, are in using technology to underpin assessment for learning and in data-logging, manipulating data and programming.

Robert Hill is a consultant leading ASCL's 2020 Futures project.

2020 vision

For each of the eight dimensions in the 2020 Futures project, a paper will be published on the ASCL website, outlining the main issues, and ASCL members are invited to comment on the content.

To read and contribute to the full position paper on changes in technology go to: www.ascl.org.uk/2020future. You will also find the previous three position papers, dealing with population change, climate change and health.

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