Why is technology in schools so behind the times?

by , Technology Researcher Technology 1 April 2011
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A recent Ofsted report has described design and technology lessons as ‘out of date’, identifying a number of challenges schools and teachers face. So are kids too ahead of the game to benefit from tech classes?

School kids sat at computer

The major difficulty Ofsted (the schools inspector) identified was teachers keeping apace with the relentless charge of technological advances. As a writer on the subject of consumer technology, I don’t find this surprising.

A cursory search on the internet suggests that the average age of a teacher these days is around 43 years old, and a lot has changed since those teachers were students themselves.

How technology has changed

In the last 20 years we’ve seen the explosion of the internet into our lives through PCs, laptops, smartphones and now even tablets. While these aren’t the subjects that I’m saying should be on the technology curriculum, their emergence reflects today’s fast-paced tech world as a whole.

My earliest memories of technology are of my father bringing home from work some fibre optic cable when I was about seven. And I can fondly remember using the Logo Turtle and Acorn computers in school lessons. These classroom wonders of technology were used by classes year after year with very little dating.

Tech gets trendy

Nowadays, not only do computers date quicker than ever, but some have also become fashionable. When I was at school all computers were cool, but these days the school computers might not be as cool as the Mac that mum or dad has at home.

And this exposure to technology away from the school also plays a part in this issue. Children are growing up with technology and are developing their own understanding of it.

Parents complain of their children frittering away the hours on the internet, but it gives them a good understanding of how to apply their technology skills. And as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if many teachers see teaching IT as a daunting event – how can they speak with authority on a subject that some children may know better than them?

How can IT teaching improve?

I wrote my university dissertation on a word processor, but many of my fellow colleagues were beginning to buy £1,000 laptops with 10GB of memory. It’s been about 10 years since I was last in a classroom and I’m sure much has changed in those years.

The Ofsted report wasn’t all bad, as inspectors found excellent examples in primary and secondary schools of design and technology teaching. What’s needed, however, is more consistency, and more opportunities for teachers to develop their skills and benefit from specialist training.

6 comments

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richard

Sorry – this is yet again Ofsted and the Government blaming teachers for circumstances beyond their control.

The age of the teacher has nothing to do with it – I’m 80 and keep up with technology.

The problem is MONEY MONEY MONEY – Teachers need the new equipment to teach with – who buys it? The Teacher? Don’t make me Laugh! Who pays for their training? Or do they simply do it in their spare time out of their own pocket?????

Typical rubbish from Ofsted

And it is going to get worse!!!!

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wavechange

It is out of the question for most schools to provide trendy equipment and I am not convinced that ‘computers date quicker than ever’ if fashion is discounted. As long as computers are replaced/updated at appropriate intervals and maintained in good working order that is all that is needed.

If those teaching IT in schools have not kept up-to-date then that is disappointing, but training is available. There is no point in attempting to teach children what they already know. That will be resented and it is better to get them to work together so that skills are shared and the weaker pupils get up to speed.

It is good to encourage students to be creative but IT teachers should cover good practice too. For example, when teaching word processing, the most important skill to teach is proofreading. My experience as a university lecturer suggests that school IT classes do not encourage attention to detail.

Some schoolteachers put in considerable effort to discourage their students from copying and pasting material from websites into their essays. Many do not, and universities have to cope with students have never been told that this is plagiarism and regarded as cheating.

Teaching attention to detail and avoiding plagiarism are just two examples of teaching that belong in up-to-date IT classes. With older teenagers these can be presented as a professional approach to computer use.

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dieseltaylor

I agree with Wavechange on what is important is not the speed of the equipment but the smarts to use it correctly. I think this is where the important distinction comes in, rather like reading comprehension. – knowing how to use technology effectively.

You say “Children are growing up with technology and are developing their own understanding of it.
Parents complain of their children frittering away the hours on the internet, but it gives them a good understanding of how to apply their technology skills.” I do feel that should be qualified. Evidence suggests that not all children benefit equally from computers.

This article below actually suggests the opposite is true in terms of maths and English where increased computer use has lead to a decline in scores.This research was pre-Facebook and Twitter so there is no reason to expect that the position has improved but if anything become worse.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7844273/Home-computers-harm-childrens-test-results.html

BTW I was interesting to note ” buy £1,000 laptops with 10GB of memory.” I assume you mean storage as currently 10 GB of memory, even now ten years later, would be exceptional in a computer.

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Chris

Q: Why is technology in schools so behind the times?
A: Tech costs money.

I need more words?, Ok
Need more wonga, cash, folding stuff, oh and teachers with real world experience, (they’ve never had any)

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Inside View

The company who repair the computers in our schools are only interested in money by telling schools they will not be repairing the old RM computers and our schools are in big trouble most will need £40,000 to replace with new PC’s all of the above was done at short notice, but no end insight as to how to find the money we need to buy new also with job cuts on the way we have no-chance our computer IT department will get smaller, our schools need help right now the old computers are too slow ask any teacher about Sims in the morning roll-call they all say the old machines are dreadfully slow.

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Maggi

The first thing that caught my attention in your introduction was ‘A recent Ofsted report has described design and technology lessons as ‘out of date’’. Did they mean Design and Technology ( D & T ) or Information Technology (IT)? The former deals with designing and making things, eg. cooking, woodwork; the latter with computer-y things eg. word processing, databases, graphics, creativity, programming ( next generation Logo turtle robots).
The difference is important! Or perhaps you just mis-quoted Ofsted?

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