From 1990 to today I.C.T. has become embedded in our lives and work. Schools are expected to use I.C.T. to enhance learning, teach pupils to use computers competently, teach pupils to use internet services critically, teach children to cope with online bullying and attacks on their privacy, lead pupils away from over dependence on I.C.T. for social interaction, encourage children to maintain an active lifestyle away from I.C.T., decide what can be removed from the traditional curriculum to make place for the above and be able to meet I.C.T. challenges that have not yet been set. These challenges are real and should not be ignored. We have created this policy to meet them.
Our policy will be guided by O.E.C.D. (2015) Students Computers and Learning: Making the Connection P.I.S.A. O.E.C.D. Publications. (OECD ’15).
Digital strategy for Schools – Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment (D.S.F.S.).
We need to combine our own schools vision statement with the D.E.S. vision for I.C.T. integration.
School Vision Statement
It is our hope that our school would be an inclusive Catholic School where all children are treated equally, are helped to grow in knowledge and understanding and are encouraged to live a healthy, responsible Christian life.
Digital Strategy for Schools
“Realise the potential of digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment so that Ireland’s young people become engaged thinkers, active learners, knowledge constructors and global citizens to participate fully in society and the economy.”
I.C.T. Policy Objectives
- Use I.C.T. to enhance learning.
- Use I.C.T. to enhance teaching.
- Teach pupils to use computers competently.
- Teach pupils to use internet services critically.
- Teach pupils to react appropriately to online bullying and attacks on their privacy.
- Lead pupils away from excessive internet use.
- Meet I.C.T. challenges that await in the future.
Children’s use of Computers at Home
There was a time when schools played a role in introducing children to computers. In 2012 86% of 12 year olds had started using the internet. There is every reason to believe this has risen since as it had risen from 2009 -2012. OECD ’15.
One implication of this is that we do not need to introduce the pupils to the internet. Another implication is that we have to teach pupils to use internet services critically. We should teach them to cope with online bullying and attacks on their privacy. We also have a role in leading pupils away from over dependence on computers as PISA data shows that “extreme Internet users are particularly at risk of being less engaged with school”. (OECD ’15).
We will continue to teach Stop, Block, Tell as an approach to help children cope online. Our anti-bullying policy plays a role here. Guiding children through project work shows them how to use internet services critically.
Activities such as teaching swimming, encouraging sports, taking the children on Library visits, school tours, facilitating Scout and Guide groups, encouraging environmental awareness and enjoyment in Science, S.E.S.E and S.P.H.E., encouraging Dance and Drama, having a Choir and supporting music lessons and appreciation all help reduce over dependence on computers. Encouraging children to be active on yard or to play board games during wet days also helps.
Using Computers in School
Coding and Programming
There is constant debate about what computer skills to teach children and whether coding for example should be taught in Primary School.
Coding is a job related skill that while in use now will become outdated. D.E.S. guidelines quote New Zealand writing that “learning today needs to entail more than knowledge acquisition; there needs to be an equally strong emphasis on skill development particularly 21st Century Skills? (D.S.F.S.).
As a school we must decide on how to spend the limited time we have. We should not spend too much time teaching skills like coding as they become outdated. Larry Sanger cofounder of Wikipedia writes – “which would have been better for me to learn back in 1985 when I was 17: all the ins and outs of Word Perfect and BASIC or U.S. History? There should be no question at all? What I learned about history will remain more or less the same, subject to a few corrections: Skills in Word Perfect and BASIC are no longer needed”. Sanger L. - An example of educational anti-intellectualism (2011).
There is, however, an argument for introducing coding if it can be used to develop problem solving skills, higher order thinking and digital literacy. If a teacher can organise their curriculum provision to allow time for coding that develops the skills listed we as a school will support such lessons.
Digital Literacy is a combination of Digital Reading and Computer Navigational skills.
“Good readers usually are able to perform at similar levels regardless of the medium, low-performing students in digital reading also encounter difficulties when reading print documents”. (OECD “15)
The best start we can give children towards being digitally literate is to teach reading. This point is reaffirmed in the “strong association between countries digital reading performance and the quality of students’ navigation (task-oriented browsing). (OECD “15)
The N.C.C.A. explain digital literacy improvement as when “students improve their capacity to know what they are looking for, what information to ignore or discard and how to identify what can be useful or significant”. Digital Media Literacy Short Course (N.C.C.A.).
Having taught children to read we need to develop a wide range of skills to improve their digital literacy. We do this through scan reading, reading comprehension, oral discussion that trains children to stay on the relevant topic, developing concentration through extending listening skills, problem solving, training pupils to stay on task until a task is completed and developing their screen navigation skills. These skills are developed throughout the curriculum. Specific tasks on the computer such as finding answers, information or completing a short project also help develop digital literacy.
How to use Computers in St. Rynagh’s N.S. to achieve our Objectives.
To Enhance Teaching
Each Class teacher will have a laptop, a digital projector and a white board. They will also have access to visualisers.
We deliberately choose digital projectors, white boards that can be written on and visualisers as these give the teacher greater freedom in how they use I.C.T. than an interactive white board. All learning support teachers will also be given computers or laptops. Each class will also have access to a computer in the classroom for pupils use.
To Enhance Learning
The D.E.S. notes “the mere presence of I.C.T. in a school does not equate to its effective use”. (D.S.F.S.). The O.E.C.D. notes “Technology can amplify great teaching but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.” (OECD “15)
PISA data informs us that “in countries where it is more common for students to use the Internet at school for schoolwork, students’ performance in reading declined, on average. Similarly, mathematics proficiency trends to be lower in countries/economies where the share of students who use computers in mathematic lessons is larger.” (OECD “15)
These results show a need to exercise caution in whole classes using I.C.T. to improve literacy and numeracy. We will not be encouraging whole class use of tablets or notebooks etc. as this type of use does not guarantee improvement in educational outcomes in literacy and numeracy.
In relation to targeting digital literacy P.I.S.A. notes “even specific digital reading competencies do not appear to be higher in countries where browsing the Internet for schoolwork is more frequent”. (OECD “15)
This informs us that considerable whole class use of screens is not the best way of developing digital competencies let alone extending knowledge or improving other skills.
There are, however, some positive outcomes for pupils connected with I.C.T. use. “In 16 out of 25 countries with available data students who browse the Internet at school once or twice a month score above students who never do so on the P.I.S.A. digital reading scale”. (OECD “15)
There is evidence also that in relation to educational outcomes you get “stronger effects when computers were supporting traditional teaching rather than seen as its alternative”. (OECD “15)
We will use computers to complete project work, to pre teach or consolidate work in learning support, to present work in a different format and to aid differentiation for all levels. We can achieve this through having at least one computer in each classroom. The teacher can set individual or group tasks using the computer. The teacher should ensure that all pupils are given an opportunity to use the computer and that if group work is being undertaken that all members of the group are given the opportunity to navigate. When children are using the internet for project work they should be developing the following skills, “planning a search, locating information on a website, evaluating the usefulness of information and assessing the credibility of sources”. (OECD “15 P188)
Our final objective of preparing children to meet I.C.T. challenges that await in the future ties in with our own vision of helping children to grow in knowledge and understanding and the D.E.S. ‘s digital strategy of enabling young people to be global citizens able “to participate fully in society and the economy”.
Teaching coding or any other computer programming is teaching children workplace skills that will be obsolete when they are ready to enter the workforce. What we need to teach to prepare children for the I.C.T. challenges of the future are the foundation skills that are needed in a digital environment. We must teach reading and writing first. “Today even simple interactions and transactions often require writing and reading, rather than speaking and listening – e.g. asking information from a helpdesk, making a professional appointment, sharing information with team members etc. As a consequence, students who leave school without sufficient reading and writing skills may be even less able to participate fully in economic, social and civic life that they were in the past”. (OECD “15 P187)
Next we need to teach the digital navigation skills we mentioned earlier. These skills of evaluation and navigation are specifically practised as outlined earlier. Through teaching the rest of the curriculum we also develop these skills as a core body of knowledge is needed by a good navigator in order to understand the research questions they are presented with, locate information that is sufficiently specific to the question, evaluate the information, discount irrelevant information, avoid giving back too much information in a cut and paste approach, judge the worth and credibility of their own research and present their findings intelligibly. “Many evaluation and navigation skills may be acquired more easily if students are already proficient in higher order thinking and reasoning processes in other domains”. (OECD “15)
Through teaching literacy, numeracy, extending knowledge, developing problem solving, developing critical higher order thinking and teaching digital navigation skills we can prepare our pupils for future I.C.T. challenges.
Our school website is www.strynaghsns.com It is a great source of information about our school. Parents can find out about activities, school work and policies on the website. Pupils can see their art work and pictures of themselves enjoying special days at school or on tour. Activities such as green schools can be recorded and presented to the wider school community. Our school secretary, Tracy, keeps the website updated. It is a good example of how I.C.T. can be used to support all aspects of school life.