How not to use computers in schools

How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

In 2007 at a conference in Bratislava in Slovakia, Dr Brian Harvey made the presentation that you can access in the link above.

There has been quite a lot of discussion about this lately as there have been some who have stated that the examples given by Dr Harvey are atypical of what is going on in ICT in schools today but I have to admit that watching his presentation most of it resonated with me as the kind of thing that I see all too often in schools that I go into.

I have been saying for a long time that many schools play with the idea of Information and Communications Technology (which is after all what ICT stands for). Many schools have still got the eponymous computer suites where children are marched in to use computers on a timetabled basis maybe once or twice a week.

I see a lot of children still doing Powerpoint presentations that Dr Harvey quite rightly says are all about the presentation and the whizzy effects and little about the content.

The Google search still tends to be about the children taking the first two or three links and then cutting and pasting the information. It is laughable the examples of information that Dr Harvey says the children got hold of and the way that it can lead to real misinformation!

The communicative power of modern technology is hardly used in many schools. Yes you can tell me about the exception schools that communicate with the world or at least one partner school in Italy or maybe China but I see little of this actually going on.

I still se too much use of the computer for old fashioned rote exercises and in particular I am concerned about the use of computers for Special Needs children as a means to go over boring and repetitive exercises in the morning (I have actually witnessed this in a school that I have been working in this last academic year). The children looked heartily bored of doing yet another phonic or spelling exercise.

The strange thing is that these bored children probably have exciting games that they play at home and by Year 5 they are almost certainly on Facebook and maybe using Twitter.

I think that we must seriously examine the points that Dr Harvey makes and realise that we need to really make some progress in getting effective use of the existing ICT equipment in school. We do not need rote software, hours spent on presentations that mean nothing and computers used only a timetabled basis.

We must think about really getting schools to the point of using their equipment as effectively as I have seen it used (sadly only on video not in my local schools) in some outstanding and forward thinking schools.

About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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4 Responses to How not to use computers in schools

  1. John McLear says:

    Good post. In Bradford we do a lot with embedding ICT into the classroom and giving pupils a feeling of ownership of ICT. We could do a lot more though.. Giving pupils a choice of what tools they use is one way I want to start going about achieving this in the next 12 months.


    • malbell says:

      Hi John,

      I’m aware of what you are doing in Bradford and in fact it is people such as yourself who are taking ICT in the direction that it needs to go. Thanks for adding my blog to the RSS Feed!
      Good luck with your efforts to give pupils choice in what tools they use.. this is exactly what I mean by getting them to use the tools that they know so well to learn with in school.
      I also feel that the communications aspect needs to be developed in schools…. there needs to be much more use of things like Primary Pad that you have shown the rest of us can be a very powerful tool.


  2. AlexFin says:

    I agree with this article, however effecting change is so hard, when school leaders are so out of touch with ict, as their own experience is using powerpoint & paint.
    The second most frustrating point is equipment in school. There is nothing worse than exciting a teacher with some ideas for ict, only to discover they are still using 6 year old RM machines with 15″ crt screen that just can’t run basic web 2 tools, let alone other software.


  3. Removing the fear is the key in the first instance I have found especially the fear in respect of the scary internet when dealing with primaries. Earlier comments re fear of tech as those in charge have limited knowledge are also very relevant. But you are so right in your post


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