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ICT and Learning: Dust or Magic?. Prof Angela McFarlane Graduate School of Education University of Bristol. "An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it." Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Dust or Magic?. ICT improves learning Assessment drives up standards.

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ict and learning dust or magic

ICT and Learning: Dust or Magic?

Prof Angela McFarlane

Graduate School of Education

University of Bristol

"An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it."

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

ict improves learning

ICT improves learning

Dust or Magic?


ICT can make a contribution to educational outcomes

    • for some learners
    • under certain circumstances.
impact 2
Impact 2
  • 2 Preliminary studies
  • Main team at Nottingham, MMU and OU
  • 60 schools
  • Teacher researchers
  • Pupil researchers
  • Ended July 2002 funded by DfEE
impact 2 questions
Impact 2 - Questions

(1) What is the involvement of pupils with computers and the Internet at home and in school?

(2) Does curriculum centred usage have a measurable effect on performance and attitude ?

(3) Are these effects confined to usage in school?

(4) Are all kinds of computer usage equally productive of learning?

(5) If ICT based learning involves interactions between home and school, what are the attendant problems and how can these be met?

impact 2 answers
Impact 2 – Answers?

75% primary pupils, 90+% secondary pupils have a computer at home

Use in school subjects – never or hardly ever

5 from 13 subjects show a small positive correlation between ICT use and added value of attainment

Use at home seems to correlate to improved attainment in school

The data on types of ICT usage was inconclusive

impact 2 answers9
Impact 2 – Answers?

There is no consistent relation between the average amount of ICT reported for any subject at a given key stage and its apparent effectiveness in raising standards.

It therefore seems likely that the type of involvement is all-important.

ICT is not a single entity or experience – it has many facets which are entirely different from one another.

Aspects of ICT that can contribute to learning



Representation of dynamic processes

The ability to edit

Multiple representations of knowledge

Shared work space

All depend on the prevailing learning culture

and style of the teacher.

ICT seems to be at its most powerful in the support of learning as part of iterative, productive tasks that include assessment for learning
dust or magic
Dust or Magic?

Assessment drives up standards

perspectives on ict and testing
Perspectives on ICT and Testing
  • Testing ICT skills/competences
  • Testing what we have always tested better/cheaper
  • Testing a very different set of achievements – skills, understanding, ‘digital literacy’

Assessment in Education: Assessment for the Digital Age

Theme One: the use of computer-based assessment tools

which broadly replace conventional measures—although they usually if not always in fact change and/or develop the measure, e.g. through the use of adaptive testing in computer-based tests. The key point here perhaps is that the assessment criteria remain largely unaltered between conventional tests and the computer-based versions of them.


Assessment in Education: Assessment for the Digital Age

Theme Two: the use of computer-based technologies to assess skills and/or knowledge which are difficult or even impossible to assess using conventional media.

Here the assessment criteria will differ from those used in conventional tests, although they may well apply to formative, task-based and teacher administered assessments.


Assessment in Education: Assessment for the Digital Age

Theme Three: the use of computer-based technologies in learning, and an examination of the outcomes and how to measure them.

Currently there is little evidence that the kinds of learning validated through tests, and the kinds of learning supported through the use of ICT, necessarily overlap.  


‘It is very noticeable that all the authors, to a greater or lesser extent, address the way in which assessment shapes the curriculum.

There is a recognition of the phenomenon of ‘teaching to the test’ and the subsequent damage poor tests, or tests that credit only a restricted range of valuable learning, can do to education.

There is also a common view that the advent of digital technologies has led to a shift in emphasis, or even a complete change, in the skill set that will serve pupils well when they enter the world of work.

Key learning outcomes are seen as skills not knowledge, and require a dynamic environment in which to capture the practice of these skills in action.’

McFarlane 2003

from ridgway and mccuster 2003
From Ridgway and McCuster 2003
  • Promoting meta-knowledge
  • Using new representations and symbol systems
  • Finding rules and relationships
  • Constrained decision making
  • Handling complex data
  • Modelling complex processes and problems

Speed is a task for 13 year-olds which presents students with a video of a car travelling along a road. They are required to represent the journey as a graph, which they build from line segments. Students find this task easy.Ridgway and McCuster 2003

Understanding and representing problems


SUNFLOWER is a task for both 9 and 13 year old students which presents students with the task of growing the world’s tallest sunflower, using some combination of the two nutrients that are provided. The task rewards systematic work such as controlling variables, recording results, and careful exploration of the search space.

Problem exploration


ICT and Assessment for Learning

  • ….research indicates that improving learning through assessment depends on five, deceptively simple, key factors:
      • ·The provision of effective feedback to pupils;
      • ·The active involvement of pupils in their own learning
      • ·Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment
      • ·A recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of pupils, both of which are crucial influences on learning;
      • ·The need for pupils to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.
  • From Assessment for Learning 1999
The Magic Ingredient?

The intended outcomes must be part of a wider vision of the curriculum and its assessment, which are compatible with the chosen application of ICT to support learning.

There must be a shared model of valid learning and its manifestations.


[There has been] a chorus of pronouncements that "the information society" both requires and makes possible new forms of education. We totally agree with this. But we do not agree that tardiness in translating these declarations into reality can be ascribed, as it often is, to such factors as lack of money, technology, standards or teacher training. Obviously there is a need for improvement in all of those areas, But the primary lack is something different - a shortage of bold, coherent, inspiring yet realistic visions of what education could be like 10 and 20 years from now.

Papert, S. and Caperton, G., 1999


Key Texts

Becta (2002/3) Impact2 reports see http://www.becta.org.uk under ‘Research’

Burns, T. C and Ungerleider, C. S, (2002) Information and Communication Technologies in Elementary and Secondary Education. International Journal of Educational Policy, Research and Practice, Vol 3 no 4 p 27-54

Harlen, W and Deakin Crick, R. (2003) Testing and Motivation for Learning Assessment in Education, Vol 10 no 2

Kozma, R.B. (ed) (2003) Technology, Innovation and Educational Change – a global perspective. ISTE ISBN 1-56484-230-4

McFarlane, A.E., (2003a) Learners, Learning and New Technology. Educational Media International (Routledge) Vol 40 3/4

McFarlane, A..E. ed (2003b) Assessment for the Digital Age, Assessment in Education vol 10(3)

ict and learning dust or magic27

ICT and Learning: Dust or Magic?

Prof Angela McFarlane

Graduate School of Education

University of Bristol