Computers V Books-Why Teachers Fear Technology
Byline: By DANIEL DAVIES AND PAUL CAREY Western Mail
Teachers are afraid to use computers in the classroom because they worry technology will interfere with 'genuine' learning from books, researchers said. Many teachers underestimated their job in directing classes, even believing technology would somehow come to replace them, the report, published today, found.
It describes IT in schools as 'sporadic' and 'disappointing'. Computers were particularly shunned in humanities and arts lessons, the study says. It found that teachers preferred to use them for administration instead of teaching.
Professor Rosamund Sutherland, of Bristol University, said teachers lacked the confidence to use computers, even though their schools are well equipped.
She said teachers needed more support to help them incorporate technology into lessons.
Her study also found teachers underestimated the impact of students' experience of technology outside school.
Computer games hindered childrens' concentration, with many treating science simulations as games instead of taking them seriously. The researchers saw pupils getting distracted and using download items from the internet that were not related to lessons. But pop music had a 'positive impact' on composition in music lessons, internet search engines helped language investigations in English and using spreadsheets helped primary pupils handle data.
The study also highlighted the ways children pass on skills they learn in schools to their parents. Some had taught their parents how to use the presen- tation programme PowerPoint.
Prof Sutherland said teachers should not feel threatened by machines. 'No amount of ICT [information and communication technology] will ever replace teachers,' she said.
Her team worked with 10 schools to encourage teachers to use computers in English, history, geography, modern languages, science, music and mathematics.
She said, '70% of the teachers who took part in the study were able to incorporate computers in their classroom. After working with researchers they generally had a more positive view of technology and said that it enhanced their role as a teacher and had a beneficial impact on the learning environment.'
Geraint Davies, of teaching union NASUWT, said, 'There has been significant investment from the Assembly in terms of providing on-line access to educational material for teachers of the last couple of years. There is a need for more to be done to ensure that the computer becomes as much of a common tool in the classroom as has the text book over the years.'
A primary school in Newport has broken down the barriers between IT lessons and other subjects. Malpas Church Junior School head Richard Jones wants logging on to a computer to be as easy picking up a pen.
He said, 'If I go to the travel agent to book my holiday I don't want to be told, 'Come back Friday - that's when we use the computers'.'
The school has won awards for its innovative approach to IT. Some Year Six pupils have been given flat, A4-size tablet PCs which they use as books to do all their schoolwork.
An Assembly Government spokesman said, 'The Assembly Government has invested substantially in ICT in schools in Wales.
'Since 1998-99 well over pounds 70m has been invested in ICT provision, including funding to provide all schools in Wales with interactive whiteboards; and the roll-out across Wales of the broadband Lifelong Learning Network. …