ICT – to use or not to use?*

For this research journal I am going to look at the factors affecting teachers’ use of ICT in the classroom. By ‘use’ I specifically mean integrating ICT into meaningful learning events, not the use of ICT in researching lesson ideas, finding and preparing resources  or administration. I chose this topic for two reasons: firstly, I am interested in why, despite the growing importance of ICT in everyday life (and the accompanying need to educate students in the effective and safe use of ICT), many teachers choose not to use ICT in their classroom. Secondly, I would like to create a framework in order to reflect on my own use of ICT in the classroom. I hope that by having a greater understanding of why other teachers use/don’t use ICT in the classroom, I can make informed decisions about my own teaching practice and perhaps stop myself from falling into a ‘business as usual’ approach to (not) using ICT in an integrated and meaningful way.

So, in order to find out why many teachers choose not to use ICT, I looked for some information that would summarise the common arguments against ICT, especially from currently practicing teachers. On reading this blog by Peter Kent, which outlines some arguments he has heard as an educator and as laid out in his book Teaching with ICT, I began to classify the main arguments against ICT into 3 main categories: physical limitations, knowledge limitations, and pedagogical/philosophical limitations.

Physical limitations include reliability, and ICT “that doesn’t always work and it needs to” (Kent, 2011). My own experiences in schools suggests that access and affordability are also issues, but for this research journal I am more interested in the behaviour of teachers who have technology available to them and choose not to use it. Knowledge limitations include both lack of knowledge of ICT and how to use it, as well as not being aware of or fully understanding the research surrounding ICT and education outcomes. Pedagogical limitations are related to how teachers view learning, and if they believe students learn better or worse with ICT. Similarly, philosophical limitations relate to teachers’ beliefs, specifically if they think it is the role of educators to offer students ICT rich experiences.

I am going to use these categories to explore the issues surrounding use/non-use of ICT in the classroom in coming posts.

* Many apologies to the Bard and any readers for my truly appalling pun.

Kent, P. (2010, September 12). I don’t need to use ICT in my teaching [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://practicalinteractivity.edublogs.org/2010/09/12/i-don’t-need-to-use-ict-in-my-teaching/

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Creativity and Constructivism

Ward, C. (2009) Musical exploration using ICT in the middle and secondary school classroom. International Journal of Music Education 27:154. doi: 10.1177/0255761409102323

There are a number of excellent points made in this article. Ward explores how his constructivist views of education can be  supported through the use of ICT in the music classroom and foster a learning environment where students go beyond the superficial to construct deeper, more personal meanings. Students are not empty vessels, but are immersed in the culture and musical artifact of our time. Using ICT to link into this prior knowledge creates more chances of learning. A constructivist, student-centric application of ICT in the music classroom made music a more popular subject and raised the status of music within the school.

In his classroom Ward has seen a need for increased use of what he terms “non-musical sonic events” and instruction in 20th century compositional techniques. He labels compositions in more traditional styles as “pastiche”. Ward perhaps values contemporary styles over traditional, viewing them are more creative because they are more unfamiliar to the ear, despite his own assertions that creativity means “acting from within your own ‘self'”.

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Good Teaching?

Mills, J. and Murray, A. (2000). Music technology inspected: good teaching in Key Stage 3. British Journal of Music Education, 17:2, 129-156. (link)

This survey of 52 schools in England sought to show through examples what is ‘good’ music teaching with ICT. The schools surveyed were those music educators had identified as being likely to display good practice.The general conclusion of the article was that good music teaching with ICT is good teaching.

This article took a broad view of ICT, including examples of ICT being used in combination with acoustic instruments or voice. As a broad survey of English schools, I believe this article to be most representative of how ICT is actually used in most music classrooms, rather than how a minority of extremely skilled ‘digital’ music teachers wish ICT was used. This article gave many examples of ICT being used to scaffold students learning, such as using a sequenced ostinato so that students can focus more closely on their improvisation skills.

A problem with this article is its age. ICT developments have moved quickly and at 11 years old, some parts of the article (such as a prediction that IWBs will come into general usage, or marvelling at new quadraphonic surround sound) are outdated. However the strength of this article lies in its observations of good music teaching that successfully uses ICT as a tool to improve students learning and engagement.

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A Global Classroom

Burnard, P. (2007). Reframing creativity and technology: promoting pedagogic change in music education. Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 1 37-55. doi: 10.1386/jmte.1.1.37/1

In common with other authors, Burnard makes the argument that innovative use of ICT in music classrooms following constructivist principles can help make lessons more engaging and relevant for students. However she extends this idea of creating a classroom community of learners to include a global classroom that makes connections through Web 2.0 such as www.soundjunction.org and www.sonicpostcards.org. The social space in which students learn is increased through ICT, and the ease of input of Web 2.0 removes the need for specialist knowledge in order to create meaningful, substantial musical works.

Burnard states that technology and creativity are now  inseparable, especially as so many students use technology in their daily lives. Examining and reflecting on the relationship between technology and creativity will help inform pedagogic change. Burnard’s asserts that many students currently consume technology passively. I argue using ICT to create original works of personal meaning and sharing them with a global community will result in students using technology actively and becoming more aware of their position in the global, digital age.

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Defining Music Education in the Digital Age

Cain, T. (2004). Theory, technology and the music curriculum. British Journal of Music Education 21:2, 215-221. doi: 10.1017/S0265051704005650

In this article, Cain argues that the practical changes in music education brought about by recent technological developments, require us to rethink some of the most fundamental theories of our discipline. Sampling, sequencing and music software have blurred the lines between composing, performing and listening.

ICT must be adapted into music lessons in a meaningful way, with ICT used not as a novelty, but as a tool to improve students learning. Challenging our traditional notion of composing as purely creating (not involving performing or audience-listening), and allowing music to reflect and create new ideas is necessary to achieve this, rather than simply forcing new technology onto old frameworks.

Cain suggests that a major stumbling block to such new thinking is the lack of autonomy experienced by many classroom teachers. He uses the example of singing: many teachers say it is a vital part of music education, but are do not feel able to include it as a classroom activity. Cain attributes this unwillingness to government policies that discourage creativity, and a lack of confidence among teachers. However, based on my reading of Crawford (2009) and personal experience, I would argue that it is the more immediate school environment that mostly contributes to the successful application of new technologies in the music classroom.

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An all too common problem, but is there really a solution?

Crawford, R. (2009). Secondary school music education: A case study in adapting to ICT resources limitations. Australasian Journal of Education Technology, 25:4, 471-488. http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/crawford.html

I chose to examine this article because it has an Australian focus and because it addresses a problem that many music teachers face: lack of resources. Crawford proposes that by focussing on authentic teaching and learning, even schools with few resources can successfully incorporate ICT into the music classroom.

This article raised the important issue of defining music technology. Many schools surveyed included MP3 players, CD players and amplifiers in their list of music technology owned by the school, despite the survey cover letter clearly stating that such items were not to be considered as ICT. Many teachers surveyed also included time students spent researching assignments on the internet or word processing as examples of ICT in action in the music classroom. Different definitions of ‘ICT in music’ must be taken into account when comparing different journal articles and surveys.

Although this article claims to focus on authentic teaching and learning, much of the article is devoted to problems experienced by music teacher ‘Ms Smith’ at ‘Ocean Blue Secondary School’. Ms Smith is frustrated by the disconnect between what the school says (promoting ICT and having state of the art facilites) and the reality of the music classroom (no computers in the class, access to school computer lab not prioritised due to low status of music at the school). Executive staff at her school are often unaware of the need for technology in music education and therefore unsupportive or uninterested. This is an argument for the importance of educating school leaders about the benefits of technology in music classrooms.

Authentic teaching and learning that relates to the students’ ‘real life’ is called upon as a solution to low resourcing and support, but the article mentions many times that almost all students have access to a computer at home, modern rock and pop music now is inextricably linked to technology, and students find technology relatable and even expect it. Music technology also removes the barrier of music notation when composing, allowing students to explore sounds and notes they can not write down or read. Relatable teaching therefore requires good ICT integration. I do not feel that this article showed that authentic teaching and learning is a solution to low resource levels, but that modern, reliable and age-appropriate ICT resources are necessary for authentic teaching and learning in the digital age.

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Ed Foundations Module A – comments

I have commented on Luci Knight’s post here and on Ty Quinn’s post here.


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PPLE Module C reflections

This week I read two articles on non-interventionist theories.

The first was Improving Students’ Interest in Learning: Some Positive Techniques by Leslie Leong. Leong is a tertiary teacher at Central Connecticut State University, so this piece was written with older students in mind. The article provided 12 techniques to promote interest in learning, but I found some of the advice a bit trite, such as ‘learn the students names’. It seemed to cater for those who wanted a broad brush-stroke checklist of things to do to be a ‘good’ teacher. It didn’t specifically address behaviour problems (surely less of a problem/a different kind of problem at tertiary institutes) or any theories, but in a secondary context relies on the idea that more interested, engaged learners means less behavioural problems.

The second article was Social and Emotional Learning Hikes Interest and Resiliency by Kathy Beland. Beland works at a high school in Maryland that implemented social and emotional learning (SEL). The program looks at social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, relationship building and responsible decision making. Explicitly teaching SEL skills through the English curriculum led to teachers finding that classes were faster paced, students were more prepared for and involved in class, and there was less off-task behaviour.

Through this weeks Education Foundation lecture, I have seen connections between SEL and adolescent brain development. During adolescence brains break down old neural pathways and build new ones, and students can have trouble with reasoning, decision making and impulse control, among others. Using SEL in the secondary classroom is one way that students can be taught these skills, helping their learning and behaviour.

Another point that interested me this week was ‘freedom to’ and freedom from’. One way of understanding it, is that ‘freedom to’ are the rights we all have as Australian citizens as well as those we share with all people (human rights). ‘Freedom from’ is our responsibility as citizens of Australia and the world to ensure that everyone has their rights protected, and that our actions are not preventing others from enjoying their freedoms. All students should have freedom to a culturally accessible education. My responsibility as a teacher is to ensure that I am providing my students freedom from a culturally homogeneous classroom environment and curriculum. I acknowledge there are lots of ways to understand freedom to and freedom from: this is just the one I am currently thinking about.

What other freedoms are my students and I entitled to?


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STS 1 Module B Reflections

I feel this week has really been about expanding my horizons. Previously I would have defined curriculum as a document produced by a school or government body that tells teachers what they have to teach students. I am now starting to consider other aspects of curriculum. In particular I have been thinking of assessment as part of a curriculum, especially front-loaded assessment to determine prior knowledge, and the hidden aspect of curriculum, or the parts of the curriculum that aren’t formally written down and acknowledged.

Teachers, school and governments all have values and motivations that are brought into the classroom and are informally and unknowingly passed on to students. It’s becoming clearer to me that in order to be an effective teacher and facilitator of learning, that I need to know what values I and those around me are bringing to the classroom and its hidden curriculum. Knowing more about myself and my students will allow me to make more informed decisions about what skills and content to teach my student, and how to help the students learn in the most relevant and appropriate way.

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Education Foundations Learning Journal 1

Scenario: Wayne(1)

Wayne teaches at an inner city public high school. While he is really excited about his new job close to the inner city suburb where he lives and went to university, he’s finding that not all the students share his enthusiasm for learning. Wayne really enjoys the subject matter of his senior classes and spends a large proportion of his planning time ensuring he has the depth of content covered. However he is finding that his class is falling into two groups. In one a group a number of apparently highly motivated students are intellectually pushing him. Another group seems to consist of students who don’t really want be there. Both groups are causing Wayne concern as it appears that the ‘motivated’ group don’t engage at a deep level and instead want to know the ‘correct’ answers, while the ‘less motivated’ group are difficult for him to engage.

In finding himself in an inner-city school, Wayne is faced with a school population of changing demographics. Traditionally working class suburbs in the inner city are quickly becoming gentrified as white-collar, university educated workers move to the area to take advantage of short commutes and desirable heritage homes. Within Wayne’s school there are now students and families with differing histories and philosophies of education.

Historically, educating the working classes served two purposes: to create a literate and numerate workforce, and to instill values and habits useful to the governing majority, such as punctuality and obedience (Churchill, 2001, p. 37). However, society has changed greatly over recent years, with the focus no longer on manufacturing of material goods, but on ideas and communications (Megan Poore, 2011). The level of education required to get a ‘good’ job has increased and parent’s expectations of their children have increased. The ‘motivated’ group in the above scenario could be those students of working class parents, who view education as a vehicle to a job. They do not view education as an opportunity for personal growth or societal change, but instead want to know ‘the right answers’ to pass exams and standardised tests in order to reach university and then a job.

The second group of students could come from the recent residents of the area. More affluent and with a family history of participation in tertiary education, these students have developed a different philosophy of education. They may expect to have control over their education, and also demand the ability to choose materials and topics that are relevant to their lives. Confronted by a curriculum lacking in relevance and choice, these students may be disengaging from the learning process.

So where does this place Wayne? Wayne is passionate about his subject and has spent many hours planning lessons. However Wayne’s lessons reflect his depth of knowledge and his passion. Learning is chosen by the teacher and focussed on the subject , not the student, an essentialist philosophy of education (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 169). This raises the provocations Will I be allowed to be the teacher I want to be? and Should we teach students or subjects?

In this scenario Wayne is teaching a subject, not his students. By more deeply reflecting on his teaching, he may discover that he has been engaged in ‘practice as usual’, or acting out of routine and taking for granted information about his students, such as the relevance of the curriculum to their lives (Churchill, 2011, p. 34). Wayne is presuming that the students are entering the classroom with the same values, philosophies and needs as he has. However as has been shown, the students in Wayne’s class come from different backgrounds and have different aims in their education. Wayne’s preference for teaching subject over student is failing to engage students, and so he is not able to be the kind of teacher he wants to be. Wayne could benefit from examining the educational philosophies and theories of progressivism, which places emphasis on making learning and teaching student-centric as well as relevant (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 175). By involving students in inquiry based learning, students will engage in learning more deeply (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 176).

Churchill, R. et al. (2011). Teaching: making a difference. Australia: John Wiley & Sons.

Kaplan, L.S. & Owings, W.A. (2011). American Education: building a common foundation. California, USA: Wadsworth Publishing

Poore, M. (2011) Unit 6705 ELPC G1 Lecture Module B: ICT in Teaching and Learning [Lecture Slides]. Retrieved from http://ucangraddip.wikispaces.com/ELPC+G1+Module+B



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