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Readership: primary, secondary

CLASSROOM PRACTICE:
NEW APPROACHES SUPPORTED BY ICT
The use of ICT in schools offers possibilities for developing new practices and approaches to teaching and learning.A major international study (the Second Information Technology in Education Study – SITES) has collected data about innovative ways in which schools are including ICT as part of their classroom practice. Sue Harris, Alison Kington and Barbara Lee describe ways in which two schools in England (one primary and one secondary) implemented practices supported by ICT.
being carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and is funded jointly by the NFER and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). The main aims of the international research include the following: x x x x to identify and describe innovative pedagogical practices that use technology; to inform practices related to ICT; to provide teachers and other practitioners with information that they can use to improve classroom practices; to add to the body of research knowledge and theory about the factors across countries that contribute to the successful and sustained use of innovative technology-based pedagogical practices.

BACKGROUND
In the UK there is substantial government commitment to ICT for all, not only through primary, secondary, further and higher education, but also as a mechanism for lifelong learning. A range of initiatives at national and school levels is intended to encourage and increase the confidence and skills of teachers in using ICT, and also their opportunities to include ICT within their classroom practice. The use of ICT within the classroom offers opportunities for new approaches to teaching and learning, extending the learning environment beyond the classroom and allowing students to communicate with adults other than their teachers and family members.

The research in England is based on case studies carried out in three primary and three secondary schools during the school year ending July 2001. The six schools were selected on the basis of an innovative practice established within the school that seemed to have a beneficial impact on pupils (in terms of achievement, attitudes, motivation and/or behaviour), and which showed potential for being sustained over time and being transferred into other year groups and/or other schools. In each school, researchers collected data by means of:
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interviews with headteachers and ICT coordinators/ heads of ICT; interviews with teachers using the innovative practices and with others who were not; focus groups with pupils in the innovative classes, and parents of some of these pupils; observations of sessions in which the innovative practices were used; interviews with LEA advisers; analysis of school documents, such as school prospectuses and ICT policies.

SITES
With these new opportunities in mind, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) is currently carrying out a major international comparative study - the Second Information Technology in Education Study (SITES) - which is designed to collect detailed information about ICT practices in schools in the participating countries and to disseminate the findings at international as well as national levels. One aspect of the study is concerned with the collection of qualitative data, and focuses specifically on innovative pedagogical practices using technology (summarised as ‘innovations’), and England is one of the countries involved in this component of the study. Importantly, the emphasis is not on innovative technology, but innovative practices that involve new or changed roles for teachers and pupils, and in which ICT plays a part. The national research is

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The national research team has submitted a report on each school to the international coordinators. Once the study is complete, the case reports from more than 30 countries will be available via the internet (see http://sitesm2.org). In addition, a national report will be published, presenting the main findings from the six case studies in England.

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This article presents findings from one of the primary schools and one of the secondary schools; both illustrate ways in which schools are developing new pedagogical practices supported by ICT. The first concerns the use of email to develop literacy and social skills, and the second focuses on the use of on-line learning materials. In the case studies described below, all school names have been replaced with pseudonyms in accordance with the SITES guidelines on anonymity for participants. The main aims of the project were: x to improve individual pupils’ literacy, communication and social skills by putting them in contact with an epal who would be interested in them and encourage them to enter into dialogues using email; to provide pupils with a role model, that is someone outside their immediate social circle, and crucially, someone in employment who could share experiences from and provide insights into the world of work; ultimately, the school hoped that this contact would help to raise pupils’ long-term aspirations and their ambitions beyond secondary education; to develop pupils’ ICT skills : pupils were introduced to Microsoft Outlook Express email software and learned how to send and open attachments to email messages, and they also continued to use Word.

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CASE 1: WOODFORD JUNIOR SCHOOL – WRITING FOR A REAL PURPOSE
x Woodford Junior School was a coeducational junior school (pupils aged 7 to 11) located in the industrial Midlands, with 261 pupils on roll. It served a large estate with a population of approximately 9,000 people, within a town with a total population of approximately 30,000. The residents on the estate were predominantly white working-class, single-parent and unemployed families. Approximately 44 per cent of pupils were entitled to free school meals at the time of data collection. The innovation was the epals project, and involved one-toone communication by email over an extended period of time between ten-year-olds and employees at the Ericsson mobile phone factory some 30 miles away. The epals project began in the summer term of 2000 and was described on numerous occasions as a way of helping pupils to ‘write for a purpose’. Pupils involved in the epals scheme were allocated times during the school day when they could write and send emails to their partners. They had access to a school laptop computer, which enabled them to do this from either their usual classroom or the school computer suite. Pupils were also able to take the laptops home. Pupils sent emails to their epals about twice a week in school time and sometimes also from home.

Implementation of the epals project
The school selected 25 pupils from Year 5 to participate in the epals project. Pupils were selected taking into account both standards of literacy and underlying social and environmental factors. Teachers mentioned various criteria for selecting children, including lack of motivation, no access to a PC at home, no male figure in the home and the amount of attention they received at home, as the school coordinator explained: ‘One factor we looked at was whether the children get much attention at home, and we particularly picked children that we were worried about – those who need more attention because they were part of a large family or living with grandparents.’ Within the school, the headteacher and the two Year 5 teachers were involved (one more extensively than the other): the headteacher was responsible for liaising with the two external organisations and one of the Year 5 teachers coordinated the pupils’ activities for the project. The incoming emails from the epals were all directed through the school’s email account and the two Year 5 teachers printed them and read them to check the content before passing them on to the children; this represented a time commitment in addition to their normal professional responsibilities. Outside the school, two people had key roles in the project: the coordinators at BITC and Ericsson.

The origins of the project
The project had arisen from the school’s original desire to foster a link with industry that would provide support for literacy. The headteacher approached Business in the Community (BITC), a national organisation which encourages businesses to become involved in the activities of the local community. BITC had approached a number of companies close to the school, but none had wanted to become involved. The BITC coordinator was aware that the Ericsson company encouraged its employees to become involved in supporting the local community, and allowed them time to participate in community activities. BITC approached the Ericsson company and they agreed to take part in a project with the school for one term by email.

The role of ICT in the epals project
As explained above, the reluctance of local companies to become involved in a literacy project led to the involvement of employees at the Ericsson company, some 30 miles away. Email was seen by all involved as an ideal medium for communication between epals, because:

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x it allowed pupils to practise their literacy skills in the context of a real activity, communicating with another person, as opposed to an artificial classroom assignment set and marked by the teacher; it provided opportunities for pupils to develop their ICT skills, both at school and at home: pupils were encouraged to take their laptops home and also to draft and send emails to their epals from home as well as from school; it was a time- and cost-effective way of maintaining contact between the epals, as the Ericsson employees could read and respond to the pupils’ emails at times that were convenient to them without having to leave their desks: the time required was minimal, about 20 minutes per week. One of the teachers mentioned initial difficulties in the communications: ‘Most were graduates and were talking at a secondary school level, not at the level of junior school children … at first Ericsson complained that the emails were too short, but that was a hard task for our children.’

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Outcomes
Reactions to the epals project were very positive from all involved (pupils, parents, epals, teachers and the coordinators at BITC and Ericsson), to the extent that the coordinators agreed that it would continue beyond the one-term duration originally envisaged. Teachers noted that the children involved in the epals project developed improved attitudes to schoolwork, better communications skills, increased motivation and raised awareness of the world of work. Both teachers had identified improvements in the pupils’ literacy: one mentioned improved story- and letter-writing skills, and the other noted increased awareness of responding to another person’s questions and statements: ‘It’s meant to be a proper dialogue between two people, and some children found that hard. [At first] replies were stilted – some children did not respond to questions asked … Towards the end there was much more openness, sharing and having a conversation. They were understanding how to have a conversation, e.g. “listening”, and how to express themselves.’ Inevitably, there had been a number of difficulties to overcome in the initial stages of the project. However, the people involved had reacted positively, and identified possible improvements to the scheme (such as initially trialling the project with five or six pupils within the school before extending it to a larger number of pupils), which could form the basis of guidelines for other schools considering setting up such a project. A significant part of the epals project was the emphasis on developing pupils’ social skills and raising their career aspirations; in an area where education was not valued and unemployment was widespread, the teachers considered these aspects as important as developing pupils’ literacy skills.

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In addition to using email, pupils extended their ICT activities in other areas as a result of being involved in the epals project. For example, some pupils scanned artwork that they had done, so they could ‘show’ it to their epals (as a file attachment to an email); the pupils’ epals also encouraged the children to use the internet to search for information relating to their school work, in some cases suggesting useful web sites. One teacher commented: ‘I noticed with a couple of girls their mentor was asking them about their geography topic and asking them questions, and they used it [to look for information on the internet] which they wouldn’t have bothered to look for in a book.’

Difficulties that had to be overcome
Before the epals project could start, all the Ericsson employees who had volunteered to take part had to be cleared by police checks. This was essential before allowing the Ericsson staff to contact the children, and the knowledge that these people had been subject to police clearance reassured those parents who were initially uncertain of the value of the project. A major problem that had to be confronted was the difficulty of maintaining the flow of emails, as the school had limited internet access via a dial-up connection using a single phone line in the school office. This problem was partially resolved by encouraging the pupils to contact their epals from home, connecting their laptops to their home phone point. Some emails were also sent and received via the home email accounts of one Year 5 teacher and the headteacher. The Year 5 teachers commented that the project would have run more smoothly if there had been additional phone lines, either in the two Year 5 classrooms or in the school ICT suite. Comments made by school staff and the coordinators at BITC and Ericsson revealed that one of the issues that had to be addressed was understanding the prevailing culture in the other organisation and having realistic expectations. The coordinator at Ericsson stated: ‘Teachers must have an increased understanding of business protocol, working methods and expectations in order to bridge the culture gap.’

Potential for other epals projects
The positive impacts that the epals project had on the pupils involved prompted the Year 5 teachers to consider ways of extending the scheme. One commented: ‘I’d like every child who wants one to have one’, and the other explained that children had benefited from ‘… the wider thinking skills through relating to another human being in different circumstances, and learning through widening their horizons. It gives the ones who have done it a wider view of the world.’ As a result of the positive feedback following the first term of the epals project, the BITC coordinator had initiated similar projects in eight other schools, and was hoping to set up a further 20. She also felt strongly that instead of limiting such schemes to secondary schools, where traditionally they have

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promoted links with industry to enable students to find out more about the world of work, there were considerable advantages to involving younger students: ‘Businesses are keen to work with primary schools … This is about sowing the seeds at an early age that enables them to move on to the next phase and inspires them from an early age. [It] is too late to start [with] 16-year-olds – we could do this with seven-year-olds … I think it’s appropriate to work with primary schools as well as secondary schools for this project. Often primary schools appear to have a little more flexibility and are better able to monitor the children’s activity, which can be a challenge for secondary schools where pupils move between subjects and teachers more frequently in a more rigid timetable.’ Companies’ increased enthusiasm for supporting the local community means that opportunities to develop further projects of this type are increasing, and as the scheme at Woodford Junior has shown, ICT offers a time- and cost-efficient medium by which to provide support to young people.

The origins of the project
The college was first approached by letter by another secondary school (Walton High School), offering to provide under licence the materials to run a two-year GNVQ course in ICT leading to an intermediate award for pupils at age 16. Teachers at Walton High School had developed the materials in accordance with the syllabus set out by the OCR examination board, and the school was offering to supply them under licence to other selected secondary schools (the criteria for identifying the schools they approached is not known). A particular attraction of running the course was that for students the accreditation was deemed equivalent to four GCSE passes at grades A*–C. Because of this, the course was seen as a way of helping to raise the performance of students who were otherwise likely to achieve fewer than five GCSE passes at grades A*–C. Furthermore, the entire course was delivered via computer, and it was this difference in delivery that the school felt would be an attraction for demotivated and borderline students. Both the principal and on-line course coordinator spoke of the benefits of such an approach to learning.

Implementation of the on-line GNVQ course CASE 2: COLERIDGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – A TWO-YEAR ON-LINE GNVQ COURSE
Coleridge Community College was a large (1,850 students on roll) coeducational technology college for 14–19-year-olds situated on the outskirts of a large ex-mining city in the Midlands, serving a fairly affluent area. The innovation was a two-year on-line GNVQ course leading to formal accreditation in ICT at age 16. It was deemed innovative because the delivery differed from the traditional teaching approaches used in the school’s existing course. Students worked with a computer on a one-to-one basis for the whole of the course to complete the same content that had traditionally been taught in class by a teacher.
This is about sowing seeds at an early age.

The college purchased the licence for the course materials (£3,000 p.a. for any number of students) from Walton High School, and started running the course from September 2000. The course was split into six units, and one unit was released each term by Walton High School; the materials for the unit were installed on the Coleridge College intranet for students to use. The new on-line GNVQ had been offered to Year 10 students entering the school in September 2000 as a voluntary course out of school hours, and approximately 100 students were involved. All students had one-to-one access to a PC in the course sessions, and worked independently at their own pace, although they had to submit the two assignments for each unit by the specified deadline. Two hours of course work were completed at school, after the end of the school day, under the supervision of an IT teacher: students made a commitment to attend either 1 x 2 hour or 2 x 1 hour sessions per week. Students were expected to work for a further hour each week in their own time (either at home or at school). The on-line GNVQ course covered the same syllabus content as the timetabled GNVQ course that was offered to Year 12 students; one teacher remarked, ‘It’s the same syllabus as before, but with integrated resources use. It’s more appealing because of the multimedia approach.’ However, in addition to the method of delivery, it differed from the conventional course, in that it was offered to Year 10 students for completion in out-of-school hours, used the materials devised by Walton High School rather than Coleridge College staff and had far less teacher input than the traditional course. The teacher’s role was very different compared to other lessons; those running the course commented: ‘My role is more of facilitator than teacher – helping them when they get stuck.’

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There was much less teacher–student interaction because the focus of learning had moved from the teacher to the computers – teachers did not deliver the lesson, instead they assisted individual students with any problems that arose as they were using the on-line course materials. Students also noted the different approach: ‘The course is different because it is not taught by a teacher.’ One teacher described the types of student activity using the on-line course: ‘At the moment, we have worked on the first couple of assignments. The first one was to do with types of documents – e.g. what is an invoice, agenda, newspaper or flyer? They have to find other examples of these documents and evaluate them. Lots of them knew what a newspaper was, but not an agenda, so they followed hyperlinks or searched [using search engines] for what it was and found it. Students helped each other out and talked to each other a lot. The second one is to watch a real video and make minutes of it, and then they are given tasks to do for the school’s “Fame” production. They use whatever software they want to produce these things.’

Difficulties that had to be overcome
The main difficulty that had to be overcome was the requirement for all students on the course to have one-to-one access to a computer – this was largely resolved by organising the students into five separate groups, each of which was supervised by a different teacher in separate sessions. The teachers running the sessions had not been involved in planning the course content, in contrast to the conventional GNVQ course. Although theoretically the online materials provided students with access to sufficient sample materials, some of the teachers commented that they thought it would be useful to collate a bank of real examples of documents, such as faxes and invoices, rather than relying on students using the examples provided in the online materials, or trying to obtain examples from other sources.

Outcomes
There was widespread agreement that students on the course were benefiting in a number of ways, including: x greater access to ICT , which was mentioned as a particular benefit to those students who had not opted to study GCSE ICT; opportunities to develop the ICT skills that they would need in the future, both in an educational context and when seeking employment; the opportunity to repeat sections of the content, if they did not understand it the first time; experience of an approach which required selfmotivation, together with an ability to pace their own work; the autonomous style of learning was seen as useful preparation for students who went on to study courses at A-level and at university; gaining a formal qualification in ICT, such as a GNVQ Intermediate-level award, which is equivalent to four GCSE passes at grades A*–C.

The role of ICT in the on-line GNVQ course
Each term, Walton High School provided a CD-ROM containing all the materials for one unit of the GNVQ course. The course coordinator at Coleridge College arranged for the materials to be installed on the school’s intranet, so that students could access the materials from any of the computers in the school network. All students needed one-to-one access to a computer for the duration of the course in order to access the course materials (which included hyperlinks to other websites, sample documents and video clips), to view the set assignments for each unit and to prepare their own assignments. Students could access the course materials in the following ways: x x via the school intranet; at home, via the internet: students were provided with a user name and password to access the Walton High School course via their website; at home, using a CD-ROM which provided all the materials for one unit (these were offered to students at the cost of £2).

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Although students worked on the tasks at their own pace, they could compare their ideas and approaches with other students. One commented: ‘We work more closely with other students and have more help from them than in other lessons.’ Another stated: ‘We help each other more, get information from someone else. If I’m stuck, I would first ask the person next to me and then Mr X.’ The reactions of students, teachers and parents to the on-line GNVQ course were overwhelmingly positive at the time of data collection (although this was only towards the end of the first of six terms), but some expressed concerns about the addition to the students’ workload (all students were expected to do ten GCSEs). The teachers supervising the course sessions commented positively about being involved: ‘…it is genuinely an innovation. I wanted to do it because it’s a new thing of the future.’

One teacher commented that students ‘…have to adapt to the way the content is delivered – e.g. wearing headphones, looking at what to do and writing down tasks.’ Another summarised the course structure as follows: ‘The key pattern is that [for each unit] they: (1) read/watch on screen; (2) compose (typing or researching); (3) prepare evidence [using a range of applications]; and (4) submit the assignment for assessment.’

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‘…seeing a new method of teaching.’ ‘It’s new to us as teachers, so it’s also exciting to us.’ materials for additional on-line courses: these might be prepared by teachers (as in the case of Walton High School), by commercial companies, by examination boards or others. Are individuals and organisations ready for this challenge, and are teachers and students ready and willing to confront the radical changes of classroom practice that this approach represents?

Potential for other on-line courses
For this GNVQ course, ICT was both the subject and the medium of delivery, and those teachers running it all taught within the ICT department: they therefore had the necessary ICT skills to resolve any technical problems that arose during sessions. However, there were a number of points to consider before the approach could be extended to include other teachers and/or subjects. Could other teachers supervise the on-line ICT course? Could the same approach be utilised for other subjects? What level of ICT competence would be necessary for other teachers to adopt the approach? One teacher thought that the approach would be welcomed by many other teachers, and potentially those without any specialist ICT teaching skills: ‘I would imagine every teacher would like the idea of online teaching – the vast majority … To a degree, other subject teachers could deliver the IT lesson, but would people get into a flap if RealPlayer didn’t work and they got an error message? ’ The course coordinator considered that the on-line course approach could be transferred to other subjects: ‘I certainly think it would work for other subjects if someone produced the materials – if you have a good set of materials covering the curriculum, then lots of departments and schools would jump at the chance, as it’s another way of dealing with learning and catches different types of learners. The only downsides are the cost of the IT, access to the equipment and whether the teachers feel they want to change their role to facilitating the learning. Here, they’ve been very keen, but some might not like the idea. Anyone can do it, you don’t need IT-skilled staff, but you do need teaching skills.’ The head of ICT suggested that other vocational courses, such as business studies and health and social care, could be developed, and went on to say: ‘It would be possible if someone has enough time to do it – it has to be structured carefully. Teachers need to be happy with ICT as a method of delivery, they have to have basic ICT competence.’ There were, then, indications that this pedagogical approach could be utilised for other subjects/courses, although these were of course the views of the ICT teachers (who might therefore be assumed to be more positive than non-ICT specialists about the potential of an ICT-based form of course delivery). It must also be acknowledged that the positive views expressed by all those involved (teachers, students and parents) may change over the period of a two-year course. During the case study, some teachers also expressed concerns that the on-line approach might also reduce the need for qualified and experienced teachers. Undoubtedly, and particularly within the secondary sector, this approach could be further explored not only as an alternative pedagogical practice, but also as a potential solution for schools where there are shortages of teachers for particular subjects. As the teachers quoted above indicated, it would require time and effort to prepare further

CONCLUDING REMARKS
The two very different case studies at Woodford Junior School and Coleridge College illustrate how ICT offers the potential for extending and changing pedagogical practices in schools. In neither case was the technology cutting edge: both demonstrate how existing resources can be utilised to provide new opportunities/approaches to learning. There is a danger that, with the fast-moving pace of technological innovation, schools feel that they must continue to update their hardware and software in order to offer stimulating opportunities to their students. As the case studies above have shown, it is not necessarily the technology that has to be innovative, but the approach to teaching and learning.

Weblinks
Useful sites include: http://Sitesm2.org http://www.dfes.gov.uk/index.htm http://www.ngfl.gov.uk/index.jsp?sectionId=1&categoryId=99

About the authors
Dr Susan Harris is a Principal Research Officer at the NFER. She has been involved in a wide range of research projects, including surveys, case studies in schools and developing materials for students. Her published work spans her curriculum interests in ICT, mathematics and science. Dr Alison Kington is a Senior Research Officer at the NFER. Her work in the area of ICT also includes a study for the OECD which investigated ways in which innovative ICT can support whole-school improvement. Her other areas of interest include teacher–learner and peer relationships, and verbal and nonverbal interaction in learning contexts. Barbara Lee is a Research Associate with the NFER. She has extensive experience in both quantitative and qualitative research methods, with a particular interest in continuing professional development.

Address for correspondence
Dr Susan Harris, NFER, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire SL1 2DQ. E-mail: s.harris@nfer.ac.uk

Copying Permitted
The NFER grants to educational institutions and interested bodies permission to reproduce this item in the interests of wider dissemination.

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