Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stick With It and ICT

A link to a new practitioners' guide "Using ICT to help Skills for Life learners Stick with it!" arrived in my in-box this morning. This derives from research undertaken during the Stick With It project, undertaken by NRDC, NIACE and Tribal/CTAD, which looks at "persistence" of Skills for Life learners, ie what helps them stick at learning. The guide is published by the QIA.

At first glance it is good to have a document which outlines all sorts of uses of ICT in Basic Education, which is well produced and laid out, which is glossy and freely available. However reading it this morning has brought out a whole lot of long-standing frustrations.

Firstly the only research quoted is the one which shows that among 34 year olds those with Entry Level literacy and numeracy are disadvantaged digitally by being the group most likely not to have a computer at home. The relevance of ICT to persistence is basically treated as self-evident. Maybe something more enlightening will come up further down the research.

The guide certainly gives lots of examples of using ICT. The categories are, in the order of presentation: photos, videos, audio, text (word-processing, presentations, etc), User-generated content (basically Web 2.0), mobile learning, and information management (webquests etc). Each section has ideas for beginners and more confident users and lists benefits and pitfalls. However I suspect that most beginners ideas will be far beyond the confidence of many literacy and numeracy tutors; the first suggestion in the document is to use a digital camera to record learner achievement. Even the order of presentation is a bit daunting.

Having a class blog is suggested first for beginners under User-generated content. Unfortunately this is the one area where there are more pitfalls than benefits listed, with the authors getting serious about online identities and linking up with undesirables.

My main issues are:
  • There is no mention of using computer assisted learning, interactive worksheets and so on. I still feel this is the main way forward to help people move away from the world of printed worksheets.
  • There is no effort to link things to the curriculum which so dominates the teaching of professionals in this country, and few if any examples of good uses for numeracy.
  • It would be nice to know how disadvantaged Skills for Life tutors are in theirICT skills, because I find that barriers start with tutors who know little beyond Word and email, and perhaps Google. Google is often the main way to find a site on the internet, even a site which is used regularly, even the main college website.
I could go on.