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Education in a changing world: teachers and technology
by Peter Twining

Changing demands
Today's young people face careers and lives in a rapidly changing, increasingly technology-enabled world. Education has a vital role to play in preparing them for this: both laying the foundations for the nation's future technology professionals and helping all students to develop the skills to use technology effectively.

Technology also has a great deal to offer education itself. The use of ICT in the classroom can enrich every subject at every level, inspiring and motivating students through new types of experiences and resources.

Prensky (2001) suggested that young people today are 'Digital Natives', growing up surrounded by technology. Many of them are avid users of digital technology: from mobile phones to the internet and social media. Every year they arrive at school with more advanced technology skills. Their education needs to cater for a wide range of prior experience, stretching students with very different existing expertise. It needs to provide the depth of knowledge and understanding to turn informal, ad hoc skills in the use of technology into a solid basis for future study and careers in the digital economy.

There are also changes to the curriculum in schools. Competence in the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is already a statutory part of the National Curriculum for students aged 5 to 16 (Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4). Recent government reports (e.g. Rose 2009, OFSTED 2009) have set out a series of changes to the primary and secondary curriculum, including a greater focus on the use of ICT in all subjects and recognition of its growing importance as a core competence alongside literacy and numeracy. The new Diploma in IT for 14 to 19 year olds has recently been introduced, and there is continued evolution of other technology-related qualifications for students in this age group, in particular the GCSEs and A-levels in ICT and Computing.

All of these factors have far reaching implications for the way in which technology is taught and used in education, placing new demands on the professional skills and knowledge required of teachers. In recognition of these new demands, a new programme of professional development is being established for primary and secondary school teachers across England.

Professional development
Led by The Open University, working in partnership with e-skills UK, the £5.6million programme will provide development opportunities both for those teaching technology (IT / Computing / ICT) as a subject, and for those who wish to use ICT more effectively in the teaching of other subjects. Funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), the purpose is to help teachers improve the learning experience for young people. The Programme brings together the world leading virtual learning environment of The Open University with e-skills UK's extensive employer reach. As the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology, e-skills UK has a track record of creating employer-backed resources for education that reflect latest industry thinking and practice.

The Programme recognises that across the teaching profession there is a huge range of experience, expertise and confidence when it comes to technology, resulting in a wide range of development needs. This will be reflected in the range of professional development opportunities to be offered. The Programme will identify and build on the best of what is currently available, developing new provision where required, and making it easier for teachers and their schools to find the courses and learning opportunities that best meet their needs.

New opportunities
The Programme recognises that, to succeed, the opportunities provided need to be practical and realistic. They must address real needs, relate to actual classroom contexts, recognise the expertise that teachers already have - and the constraints they have to work under - and provide inspirational new ideas and resources. The Programme will therefore combine a range of flexible, state-of-the-art online learning opportunities with whole day and 'twilight' face-to-face sessions, enabling teachers to choose options that best meets their needs and schedules. It will also encourage the development of dynamic online communities, both for specialists in technology subjects and teachers of other subjects wanting to better exploit new technologies in their lessons. The online communities will enable teachers to share with and learn from each other, training providers, and others engaged in the field.

Support for specialists
Professional development for teachers specialising in technology subjects -for example the IT Diploma and Computing qualifications- will include firsthand experience of ways in which technology is used in business and to drive innovation. It will make use of resources designed by employers, and some of the learning will take place at employer venues.

Support for teachers of all subjects
For teachers of all subjects, there will be the opportunity to build skills in the use of ICT, helping them to stay up to date with the latest developments and meet the needs of an increasingly technology-literate generation. It will help teachers to understand the potential of ICT as a valuable pedagogical tool and how to help their students build their own capabilities in the use of ICT.

The development phase of the Programme will be completed by the end of 2009. This includes identifying suitable existing provision, developing new courses as required and establishing a regional presence to support teaching staff. The Programme will launch formally in January 2010. It will be subject to ongoing review and evaluation to ensure it continues to meet the needs of teachers and the changing curriculum.

In summary
The UK already has many excellent technology teachers as well as teachers who are inspirational in their use of ICT in lessons in other subjects. This Programme aims to raise the overall standard to that of the very best. It will give education professionals, whatever their current level of expertise and skills, the confidence to make choices about how to teach technology as a subject and how to use new technologies in all subjects, enhancing and enriching education for all young people and their teachers. It's about helping teachers to do what they do best.

Teachers and schools can register their interest in the Programme with Peter Twining at The Open University:
Employers and organisations interested in offering training for teachers through the Programme can contact Debbie Forster at e-skills UK:

Peter Twining
Director of the ICT CPD Programme
The Department of Education, The Open University

OFSTED (2009) The importance of ICT: Information and Communication technology in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008. London: OFSTED. Ref 070035.

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon Vol.9 No5, pp1-6.

Rose, J. (2009) Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Final Report, London: DCSF Publications. DCSF 00499-2009DOM-EN

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