PCs top of the class in twenty-first century schools

PCs in schools increase creativity and team working, say teachers
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

PCs in schools increase creativity and team working, say teachers

PCs and PDAs are becoming a common sight in the classroom as teachers switch on to the power of technology as a tool for education.

Only a quarter of schools now have a single dedicated IT suite, compared to three-quarters last year, which suggests that technology is increasingly integrated in the classroom, according to new research by Dell.

And nine out of 10 teachers said IT is very important to their school - compared to 68 per cent last year, reflecting an increased emphasis on IT as a learning tool.

Three quarters of schools interviewed said they have computers in every classroom and one in eight schools claims to use technology in every lesson. And nine out of 10 teachers said IT has changed the way they teach, according to the survey of 277 schools in the UK.

Schools are certainly far more switched on than a few years ago, according to figures from government school IT agency Becta. As of March last year the ratio of students to PCs was around five to one in secondary schools and 7.5 to one in primary schools, while over 95 per cent of secondary and nearly half of primary schools now have a broadband connection of 2Mbps or higher.

Notre Dame School in Glasgow is one school that has embraced the benefits of technology. Its deputy head and ICT coordinator, Isobel Taggart, explained: "The impact [of IT] difficult to describe. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because each teacher has access to resources from across the world."

And despite fears that computers in schools will simply breed a playstation generation, Taggart said computers are helping children interact better.

"The difference IT is making for us is that the kids are becoming much more independent and much more collaborative learners. We are finding that there is a team element to their work," she said.

The school of 800 girls has 200 networked PCs, a wireless network and 40 laptops.

"We are very well resourced in terms of IT," she said. And it has come a long way quickly - 10 years ago the school had one PC in its library and was trying to decide where to put the second.

Now it uses 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'-style voting handsets when working on projects such as mock elections, and students' work is displayed on large plasma screens as well.

According to the Dell research a third of teachers found boys more receptive to being taught with technology than girls. But Taggart said this is not always the case.

"My view is that the gadget aspect of IT switches boys on. But I see 800 girls switched on to IT and using it on a daily basis. If you expose them to it on a daily basis it just becomes second nature for them."

Taggart said the key to getting the most out of IT is to find the time to let teachers mess around with it.

The issue is to give staff the time to play - formal training is good but you learn through wanting to do something and playing until you are comfortable.

And Dell's UK head of schools, David Todman, said that the key to successful use of technology is to expand its use beyond the usual suspects. He said: "It won't be just the ICT coordinator or the maths teachers that see the benefits of this. It will spread out and you will see it used in PE [for example].

"I'm hoping that as the teachers' confidence improves they can use IT effectively and embed it in the curriculum subjects because then we will see even greater attainments by the learners."

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