Monday, August 27, 2007

Why the computer is not dominating schools

Have things changed??
Selwyn, N. (1999). Why the computer is not dominating schools: A failure of policy or a failure of Practice? Cambridge Journal of Education, Mar99. Vol. 29 Issue 1 p77

In this paper Selwyn argues a case for shifting the emphasis in educational policy toward “a more limited but integrated and societally focussed role” in regards to the use of computers in the classroom. As I go round schools observing teacher trainees on Professional Practice I often see a computer gathering dust in the corner of the classroom. Does this support Selwyn who argues that computers are “fundamentally at odds with the structure of the school organisation”? He outlines a body of research from 1966 to 1997 that describes how many felt that the computer would become a focal point of the classroom after they were haphazardly put into schools and points out that there is a body of research to state that this has not happened. There is evidence to show that very little thought was given to how the integration of ICT into schools was to be carried out. As long ago as 1990 Ham (1992) points to the Sallis report (1990) which said that if computer technologies were ever to be used effectively as tools for learning in the New Zealand curriculum there needed to be a major focus on teacher development. Brown (1993), in an article, stated that in his view the most effective approach was to build on existing curriculum, make learning more effective and enjoyable and enable teachers and students to do things in ways that were not possible before. Selwyn however argues that the “computer’s limited integration into schools is merely a replication of the catalogue of previous educational technologies which have also failed to make an impact …”. He makes no attempt to explain the technologies he means and how these were to be integrated into the classroom. He also states that the computer “follows on from a long line of previous innovations all of which have quickly faded from prominence” – again he makes no mention of what previous innovations he is discussing. Many of these statements are sweeping generalisations without explanation or evidence to back them up another example of this “educational computing policy has remained fundamentally flawed.”
However Selwyn also makes very good points which are backed up by evidence regarding the integration of the computer into school classrooms focussing on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ of computing and developing long term use and positive attitudes towards computing.
This article gives the reader food for thought and offers some interesting ideas.

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