Information & communication technology (ICT) is now integral to teaching and learning in schools. But practices vary from school to school.
There are schools where all the sixth form have laptops, every classroom sports an interactive whiteboard and where the school network, with sophisticated software, is open all hours and reaches into all nooks and crannies of the school (including boarding houses). There are schools where ICT is embedded in all aspects of all subjects – where pupils, as a matter of course, use specialist software (for eg music, languages, art, design, mapping), do virtual physics experiments and bloodless dissections, use digital cameras and interactive teaching programs, undertake research for projects on the internet (usually filtered) or from key sites incorporated in the school intranet, and present their work with the help of spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, DTP etc. Pupils may be able to find past exam papers, last week’s homework or the history notes they missed – much in the way that they will nowadays when they leave school. When pupils can access information this readily, it allows lessons to concentrate on ensuring that the information is understood, putting it in context and exploring ideas.
A few schools have been relatively slow in coming to come to terms with the importance of ICT. Pointers are few computers, limited internet access and restricted opening hours – and where staff believe they have embraced ICT because pupils wordprocess their essays.
There is a bewildering range of ICT qualifications taken by pupils, including Clait (computer literacy and information technology), the GCSE course in ICT (full or short course) and the ECDL (European computer driving licence). One or more may be mandatory or an option for pupils; some of the most sophisticated ICT schools do not bother with these qualifications, believing they are too restrictive.