Professional educators and the evolving role of ICT in schools

Joe Nutt

This report explores the claims of how technology can improve educational performance.

Dissatisfaction with the way many government schools perform has led to widespread efforts to change them, and underpinning many of these initiatives is the deployment of expensive and innovative new technologies. Investment in educational technology in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and schools in recent years has been unparalleled and developing countries are increasingly feeling the pressure to pursue the same policies and programmes.

Claims for how technology can improve educational performance in schools are widespread and influential yet the research evidence is extremely weak and the discourse is often clouded and confused by the motives and interests of some key individuals and organisations. Nonetheless, huge investments have been made and continue to be made across the developed and the developing world.

One of the major reasons this has happened is because of an alliance between influential individuals, technology companies and government agencies. A small group of enthusiastic writers and researchers – ‘ICT Gurus’ termed in this paper ‘techno-zealots’ – have allied themselves with the suppliers of ICT equipment and convinced many policy-makers of the remarkable, transforming power of technology. The reports and publications produced by the techno-zealots and their allies often fail to meet high standards of scholarship and evidence. Typically the likelihood of impact and better educational outcomes through technology is simply asserted without a remotely compelling evidence base. There are dissenting voices. There is an increasing body of evidence and research by reputable organisations and educational bodies, which raises serious questions about how ICT in schools is designed, procured and implemented.