The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency’s (Becta) has released the results of its ICT Test Bed project, a four-year study exploring how ICT can be used to support the Government’s wider agenda for education reform. The primary finding of the project, which involved 23 primary schools, five secondaries and three further education colleges, was the direct relationship between high levels of ICT in schools and improvements in primary and secondary school test scores, when compared to similar institutions and national averages.
Commenting on the report, Geoff Kontzle, Head of Public Sector at Syscap, says: “As Becta’s results confirm, technology is an engaging, motivating and highly versatile learning and teaching resource, but with tight government targets and budgetary restrictions, it’s knowing when and how ICT should be applied that can really make a difference. Every individual school will have its own degree of ICT understanding, ability and resource so it’s clearly not just a case of buying lots of hardware and software: one size certainly doesn’t fit all. To maximise on the effectiveness of ICT and its value for money, it is vital that schools receive bespoke advice and only acquire ICT solutions that have been specifically tailored to meet their needs.”
Kontzle continues: “Introducing technology into the learning environment shouldn’t just happen overnight – it has to be carefully managed and planned for. An appropriate infrastructure first has to be in place to deal with the additional procurement, administrative and logistical requirements, not to mention the adequate provision of technical support and training.”
One of the issues highlighted by Becta’s ICT Test Bed project was that “increasing home access to ICT and the Internet was operationally very difficult for schools. It was time consuming and required careful planning.”
Kontzle comments on a visionary solution for providing connectivity in homes without Internet access: “Syscap is currently in talks with several schools about providing a wireless network that points towards the school during the day to provide mobile Internet coverage for its teachers and pupils and points outward, towards the neighbouring streets, during the evenings and weekend. This solution would genuinely encourage mobile, one-to-one learning and provide Internet access to all, whether they are inside the school gates or logged on at home.”
Many schools – and indeed parents – are finding it hard to balance the Government’s directives on one-to-one access with the funds they have available to spend on ICT. The e-Learning Foundation is one of the few organisations dedicated to resolving the funding gap that inevitably remains. The “digital divide” lives on.
To bridge that gap schools will need to raise their own funds or introduce a parental contribution scheme such as Syscap’s Learn Anywhere. Learn Anywhere helps address the funding deficit and bridge the digital divide to help deliver personalised learning for all. It works by taking up the financial slack left by the government allowance, and provides pupils and parents with a cost effective way to acquire the IT they need to access the wealth of information available to them.