Making IT work

Last month I received a copy of Vi får det att funka! (We get it to work!) from Lärarnas Riksförbund (The National Union of Teachers in Sweden) which outlines successful teaching practice using information and communication technology (ICT). In this book, a variety of teachers from a wide range of subjects share their experiences and practical tips of using IT in school.

1-to-1 : The digitalisation of school 

There is no getting away from the fact that the use of ICT within education remains a hot topic here in Sweden. In February, Skolverket (The Swedish National Agency for Education) outlined their strategy for the digitalisation of school. This strategy, known as 1-to-1, includes the aim for every primary school student to have their own digital learning device by 2019. Sweden currently ranks above average among the OECD countries in this respect and is therefore on target to meet this aim.Furthermore, in 2013 the City of Stockholm decided that every secondary school pupil and teacher should have access to their own computer, a goal which was realised the following year.

The good news seems to continue for Sweden. According to the PISA report (OECD 2011), Swedish teachers’ and students’ use of social media and basic IT skills such as searching for information, writing and creating presentations are above average.

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We’ve got the tools, now what?

However, when asked about their confidence in more advanced skills such as creating a database, using a spreadsheet to make a diagram or working with moving images, Swedish students ranked 40th out of 45.

ICT also appears to be used more often in some subjects than others. In a recent survey, 32% of secondary school students said they use it ‘often’ in Swedish and Civics, while in Maths 8/10 students said they ‘never’ use it. This is a pattern noted too in Norway where in 2006 a new policy was introduced that stated IT should be used in all subjects (Skolverket ‘IT-användning och IT-kompetens’).

…while many schools in Sweden have invested in technological aids, most lack a strategy for developing teachers competence in using these pedagogically.

Skolinspektionen (The Swedish Schools Inspectorate) noted in 2012 that while many schools in Sweden have invested in technological aids, most lack a strategy for developing teachers competence in using these pedagogically. The result is less equality in the use of ICT. Its use ultimately depends on the teacher’s individual competence or initiative (Skolinspektionen ‘Satsningarna på IT används inte i skolarnas undervisning’).

Will the use of ICT in the classroom improve grades?

It would be too bold a statement to claim that more ICT use in education will lead to higher grades for students. Previously there were so few studies that no firm conclusions could be drawn on the effect of ICT on performance. However, that is changing and many international studies conclude that there is a link between the use of this technology and improved student performance (OECD (2009); Bebell & Kay (2009); Suhr et al (2010); Kang, Heo and Kim (2011); Silvernail et al (2011)).

In the 2015 OECD report, Students, Computers and Learning – Making the Connection, the benefits of ICT were clear. While improved grades cannot be promised and proven just yet, these indirect benefits make a compelling argument for its use:

  • Encourages teacher-student collaboration and cooperation
  • Heightens engagement and motivation
  • Allows for more personalised, differentiated learning
  • Helps create independent learners
  • Facilitates effective communication
  • Saves teachers time

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