Teachers need more training in new technologies, but should not be replaced by computer terminals, students from OECD countries told educational policymakers at a meeting in December. The 28 students, aged 17-20, were worried that many teachers were ignorant not only of the technical aspects of the new technologies, but also about how to use them as an effective learning tool. This can lead to tension between self-directed learning using computers at home and activity within school, the students told the meeting, which was one of the first of its kind, set up to get students’ views on new technology in education.
The students also raised the question of the quality of the information being provided via new technologies. They said many CD-ROMs cover a subject with great breadth but not depth, and that much time can be wasted searching on the Internet, with no guarantee of the authenticity of the information recovered. And while computers provide enormous learning potential when used wisely, they do not and should not displace books, teachers and basic human interactions.
Another key area of discussion was how to help those less privileged than themselves – these students were accustomed to using a computer for educational purposes at school and at home and had been in touch electronically for the past year. They applauded moves to keep schools open for long hours as community ICT resources, but drew attention to the problems of vandalism and organised theft that stood in the way in some countries. Many of the students were prepared to accept at least some responsibility for helping their less able peers to become computer literate, recognising that in helping others they would also be strengthening their own understanding.
The work with students is part of an international OECD project, ICT and the Quality of Learning. The results of the meeting in Aix-en-Provence, France will be published. The balance and awareness within the views the students expressed was itself justification for them to become more overtly part of the decision-making process – although one, in a moment of candour, indicated that they had not really expected their views to be taken seriously.
©OECD Observer No 224, January 2001