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4.

Survey on the use of ICT in History Education in Europe


By Herbert Crijns - EUROCLIO secretariat

Introduction

Prior to the EUROCLIO conference History Teaching and Information Technology -


Will IT enhance History Teaching? held in Helsinki in March 1998, a questionnaire
was sent to all participants: representatives of European History Teachers
Associations and other Institutes and organisations connected with history education.
This questionnaire contained 13 questions about the use and potential use of
information technology in history education in every country. Questionnaires from 25
different countries were returned and the results provide an interesting overview of
the use of ICT in history education in Europe.

Many people found the questionnaire difficult to complete. In many countries


information was not available so the answers had to be estimated. Other questions
could only be answered from the (limited) experience of the person in question. This
analysis is, therefore, not a piece of scientific research on the state of ICT use in
history education in Europe. It is possible that some of the conclusions drawn in this
article are based on inadequate information. Notwithstanding these limitations, this
research provides us with very useful and interesting information about the use of
ICT in history education in Europe.

Hardware

In most European countries all schools are equipped with computers. Central and
eastern European countries the figures have less equipment. In Romania, only 10% of
the schools are equipped with computers. In Belarus and Croatia between 50 and 60%
of schools have computers. But these figures do not provide any information about
the classroom use of computers.

The provision of computers in History Departments varies widely. In countries like


Iceland, Estonia and England almost every history department has its own computers.
But in many European countries, for example, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland,
Malta and Russia this is not the case. And of course there are computers and
computers.

There are significant differences in the number of computers which have CD-ROM.
In countries like Slovenia, Belgium and Portugal all school computers have CD-
ROM. In countries like Poland, Belarus and England only a few (5-10%). Similar
differences occur with Internet connections. In some countries all schools are
connected to the Internet (Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Iceland), in some countries
almost no school has (Croatia, Malta, Belarus, Latvia). Only in a few countries do
history teachers have computers in their history classrooms. More commonly, history
teachers can use special computer classrooms for separate lessons.

Access to computer hardware is the first requirement for the use of ICT in history
education. If there are no computers available for classroom use, nothing is possible.
In almost every country insufficient hardware is available. Only Norway, Iceland and
Switzerland say their hardware equipment is sufficient. For several other countries
hardware not the first priority. Their first need is often appropriate software.
Software

Effective use of computers in history education depends on appropriate software.


History teachers who make use of computers during their lessons complain about the
shortage and the high price of software. History-specific software is still being
developed. The range of titles is growing, mostly on CD-ROM. But the costs of
development are high and for small countries or countries with minority languages
with small numbers of speakers, production is often too expensive. Most available
software is in English.

CD-ROM is the most widely used form of ICT in history education, but its use is
almost limited to western European countries. Next to CD-ROM computers are used
to gather information from, or communicate with other people via the Internet. But
this approach is only used in a few countries like Finland, Malta, Belgium and
Portugal. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Denmark, have special
websites for educational purposes.

Although we can see that ICT is used in history education in several countries, in
none of them it is generally and very frequently used. Even in what we could call
leading countries, like the United Kingdom, Denmark and Finland, ICT use is still
in development and restricted to certain schools and certain teachers.

Teacher skills

The use of ICT in education demands specialised skills from the teachers using it. In
various countries special courses for initial and in-service teacher training are being
developed. Only recently has ICT capability been introduced into the compulsory
curriculum for initial history teacher training in countries like Slovenia, Malta,
Belgium, Norway and Latvia. In Scotland it will be compulsory from next year. In
most countries developing ICT capability still depends on the individual initiative of
teachers. Often it is the computer enthusiasts who do the pioneering work. There is
no country in Europe where the majority of history teachers are able to use ICT in
their lessons. Next to hardware and software, skilled teachers are a major
precondition for the use of ICT in history education. In those countries where schools
are well provided with hardware and software, the lack of skilled teachers is the
bottle-neck. Examples of these countries are Switzerland, Portugal, Norway and
Finland.

This will change, but it will take time. Most European governments consider
computer education more and more important. As a result in most European countries
there are plans to train teachers, equip schools and produce teaching materials for
ICT. But in general history education is not a priority area for this. And there are
other problems. In many countries, such as Switzerland, Latvia and Romania, the
government is mainly focusing on providing the schools with hardware and little
attention is being paid to training teachers to work with this hardware. In Poland,
there is no consistent long-term policy about this issue. In Portugal there are plans,
but they have not had any impact on the classroom as yet.

Teachers attitudes towards ICT

In many countries teachers are on average a relatively old group. There is widespread
prejudice that young people are able to computers while some older people have
strong resistance to them. A question on this issue was included in the questionnaire.
In many answers this prejudice was confirmed. (Which can also be because it is a
general prejudice!) Younger teachers were believed to be more interested and better
skilled at using computers. They are more enthusiastic about using them in their
lessons. However, in Russia there is no difference in attitude observed between
younger and older teachers. They are all interested. In Malta the general attitude to
using ICT in history education is negative, in the case of both older and younger
teachers.

Conclusions

The differences between the European countries are significant. A few countries are
clearly more advanced in the use of ICT in history education, for example, the United
Kingdom, Denmark and Finland. But even these countries are still in a development
phase. Here ICT is regularly used by a limited group of history teachers, some good
software is available already and schools provide proper hardware.

There is a rather big middle group of countries which are in an initial phase of ICT of
using in history education. Countries belonging to this group are, for example, the
Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, France, Portugal, Slovenia, Estonia and
Russia (Moscow region).

A third group of countries has still a significant shortage of elementary hardware and
as a result a complete lack of everything else in the field of ICT. These are all central
and eastern European countries, like Belarus, Romania, Lithuania and Poland.

The main problem in Europe is still the lack of good hardware, followed by a lack of
software. In a few countries, that are better equipped in this field, the bottle-neck is
good teacher-training in the use of ICT.

As a final conclusion we can say that the use of ICT in history education is still in its
earliest childhood and, even in countries which are more advanced, it will take
several years before using ICT will be everyday classroom practice. For the bulk of
Europe this is still somewhat further away. It is important that governments and
educational authorities develop a stable and balanced policy in which hardware and
software, as well as teacher training receive sufficient attention.

Herbert Crijns - EUROCLIO secretariat