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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 12, Number 1, September 1999

Conditions for success

by Larry Kuehn 

“Conditions for Success” tells the story of what is needed for more effective use of information and communication technology in B.C. classrooms. It is the title of the report of the Teaching, Learning, and Education Technology Advisory Committee. And the message is: pay attention to what teachers need if you expect them to be able to integrate technology into their daily practice in classrooms.

The committee that produced the report included teachers from a range of grade levels and subject areas, selected by the BCTF. In addition, the ministry appointed a district superintendent, a university professor, two ministry staff—one from education, the other from finance—and the president of the Open Learning Agency. The report reflects a consensus of this diverse group.

Key conditions for success are identified—each representing a significant change from existing practice. Most importantly, the agenda for education must be driven by curriculum, not by technology. Support teaching and learning by integrating information technology into curriculum, the committee says. Develop applications useful to curriculum—and provide support for teachers to utilize them.

Technology decisions in the past have often been led by the enthusiasm of “early adopters.” A more systematic approach is required, the committee said, to integration into teaching practice. It can no longer be left for each district or school to decide, as has been the situation over the past 20 years. To carry out a systematic approach, focus additional resources for technology in priority areas, so students across the province are ensured a basic experience in learning with the assistance of the technology. The committee did not reach consensus on what that area of focus should be, but sees the debate about this in the education community as contributing to the integration process. It also says that separate technology courses (other than electives at the secondary level) would detract from the effectiveness of integration into curriculum.

Funding in the past has been largely focused on “infrastructure”—such as computer hardware and the Provincial Learning Network. A key condition for success, the committee indicates, must be a shift to funding that sustains programs, including training, technical support, and quality learning resources. The ministry has made changes to funding for 1999–2000, allowing up to 25% of district technology grants to be used for professional development and training, rather than for infrastructure.

In its deliberations, the committee found very little relevant research on the educational effects of the use of technology. Virtually no research has been done in B.C., and little conclusive research has been conducted in other jurisdictions. The committee said that a portion of technology funding should be devoted to research, so that more systematic information is available for making future education technology decisions.

The full text of the report and recommendations can be found through the BCTF web site http://www.bctf.ca. The BCTF will also have an online forum for discussion of the recommendations and teacher ideas about priorities for a systematic approach to integration.

Larry Kuehn is the director of the BCTF’s Research Division. 


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