ICT in primary education : a perspective study into the use and selection procedures of software designed to support the development of basic literacy skills for able and less able pupils (KS1)
The British government is heavily committed to successfully applying technology in primary education through a series of expensive initiatives stressing the importance of technology in teaching across the curriculum and the belief that technology can contribute to pupils' academic achievement. One would assume that educators use it regularly in their classrooms in the subject of basic literacy. One of the factors that may impede the use of technology in teaching is the good quality software. There are numerous software available but of poor quality. Unfortunately, no criteria are available for teachers to select computer packages. Pupils' contribution to designing software is highly recommended but their views have been ignored in relation to what elements should be included in computer packages. This study was set: a) To explore the use and selection procedure of initial literacy software in primary / nursery schools, and b) To explore young pupils (KS1) thoughts on using basic literacy software and on the technical features and instructional characteristics in such programs. This inquiry investigated the above aims involving the views of the three stakeholders - teachers, developers, and children. Namely, 112 primary school teachers, mostly mature in age and experience, of five LEAs in Southwest area of London, 98 KSI (62 Yrl and 36 Yr2), and 10 software companies. The constructivist paradigm by Cuba & Lincoln was employed to reach joint constructions by comparing and contrasting differences, but mostly to give weight to the perspectives of the less power - children - to "give voice". The study has found that young pupils do not have frequent access to such programs, and to computers in general, though schools are equipped with computers and literacy software. The ratio of computers to pupils is large, 1: 13. Schools opt for the ICT suite in order to secure equal access. Just over half of the teachers feel sufficiently trained in using ICT. The older in age and in teaching experience teachers feel less confident in using technology. Developers share the view that teachers' ICT skills are poor. Half of the available software does not undergo any testing before reaching classrooms since only half of developers evaluate their products, and equally half of teachers preview it, but both without pupils involved. Young in the profession teachers and teachers who feel sufficiently trained tend to preview software more than the rest of their colleagues. No criteria are used in order to select computer packages and teachers feel that they need more skills for that reason. The older in the teaching profession educators find more influential software that has been tried out with children. The criteria found in this study are the same as the ones provided by the literature and the ones used by few teachers. Pupils like to work on computers. They believe that computers contribute to their learning, and equally literacy games contribute to the development of pre-reading skills. They like to work in pairs and explain why. The views of pupils on the difficulties they encounter match the views of teachers and developers. Regarding the software elements the study has shown differences between the two age groups (Yrl and Yr2). Similarly, differences are found between the three stakeholders in relation to technical features in software. The study provides a list of recommendations for classroom teachers.