Information and communication technology (ICT) is a broad term. It is used to describe a wide range of communication devices, applications, and channels (Vanderlinde & Braak, 2010). It is also associated with a number of opportunities. With the help of technology, some of the traditional barriers associated with access to information, such as geographical distance, can be avoided.
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The concept has also helped educationists and other stakeholders to purvey knowledge regarding contemporary issues. In today’s society, ICT is seen as a means through which social and economic goals can be achieved. It is also seen as a way of increasing efficiency and boosting productivity. There is no doubt that ICT plays a vital role in today’s learning environment.
Its incorporation into the education system in a given country would help in the increase in the number of persons with a high capability to innovate (Apple, 2012). Their vast knowledge on contemporary issues would also make them competitive (Makrakis, Larios & Kaliantzi, 2012). The realisation has made several state and national governments across the world to institute reforms in their curriculum.
Stakeholders in the education system in Scotland have discovered the importance of ICT. Consequently, they have come up with several decisions touching on this issue. The main challenge entails how to apply this technology into the already existing subjects in the country’s schools.
It has also been difficult to anticipate the changes that would come with the curriculum development and reforms (Vanderlinde & Braak, 2010). The main aim of this paper is to assess the impacts of ICT in curriculum development and reforms in the United Kingdom. More emphasis will be on Scotland.
The Effects of ICT on Curriculum Development and Reforms
It is the dream of every country to have an ICT-literate citizenry. The reason behind this is that such individuals would act as a catalyst to economic and social growth (Nutbrown & Clough, 2013). As such, the importance of ICT in learning cannot be overemphasised. Subsequently, the United Kingdom has over the years made efforts to reform its curriculum to incorporate ICT.
For example, in 2005, the authorities formed a Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce. The aim of this agency was to investigate underlying issues that would affect curriculum development and reforms (Nutbrown & Clough, 2013).
According to the findings made by the taskforce, ICT literacy is regarded as the ability of the individual to use technological devices, applications, and platforms to access and evaluate information. It also involves one’s capabilities to understand such events and pass them to others.
Information management was also found to be a key aspect of ICT literacy. It is concerned with the manipulation of information to achieve a wide range of goals desired by the individual. It also entails its storage for future references.
The taskforce made a number of findings. For example, it came to the conclusion that the use of ICT as a learning tool in schools was associated with a number of advantages to the students. To begin with, the learners would be in a position to access digital information in an effective and efficient manner.
As a result, their ability to investigate issues would be improved (Capel, 2007). Subsequently, they would be in a position to solve problems within their society based on the existing knowledge. With the help of ICT, the students will be able to develop practical solutions to support their learning (Baichang, 2012).
For example, the learner is able to identify new methods of solving mathematical problems that even the teacher may not be aware of. As a result, learning is simplified. What this means is that ICT enhances the ability of the learners to grasp the various concepts taught in class. Students across the globe are also in a position to share knowledge among themselves (Baichang, 2012).
Better results can be achieved in instances where such sharing is coordinated to increase interaction between persons in the same educational level. New learning and thinking skills can also be developed (Capel, 2007). After being exposed to vast information on an issue through ICT, students can develop new solutions to problems. Such developments would go a long way towards supporting learning (Capel, 2007).
The Status of ICT and Curriculum Development in Scotland
In Scotland, schools have been increasing their capacity to integrate ICT into management, teaching, and learning activities (Harlow & Cowie, 2009). There has been a steady increase in the number of computers and other communication devices in learning institutions. In fact, many schools have achieved their baseline computer-to-student ratio targets (Harlow & Cowi, 2009).
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However, there are variations between and within schools, especially with regards to matters of accessibility to reliable technology and broadband connectivity. Even so, there is no doubt that ICT is the most effective means through which learning experience can be enhanced (Harris-Hart, 2010). In the past, teachers have been able to incorporate a number of ICT aspects into their teaching.
To begin with, they have used such devices as laptops and tablets in classroom activities (Logan, 2013). The use of the internet and interactive whiteboards has also become a common practice in Scottish schools today. It is associated with various benefits to the learner and the teacher.
For example, the combination of the software, hardware, and connectivity aspects of ICT has led to highly innovative teaching and learning methods in the sector.
For ICT to be successfully incorporated into the education system, it is important to enhance cooperation between the various stakeholders. The administration is regarded as one of the main parties involved in the issue.
In this case, the government of Scotland, in collaboration with that of the United Kingdom, has worked together with other stakeholders in the education sector to improve the quality of education offered to students in the country (Harlow & Cowie, 2009). The two parties acknowledge that ICT is one of the main social and economic pillars of any given society.
In 2002, the Scottish government called for a national debate to discuss the issue affecting the country’s education system. One of the key elements addressed was whether or not to integrate ICT into the nation’s curriculum.
Following the public discussions, it was clear that there was need to make learning activities in the country’s schools more comprehensive. Many felt that this could only be achieved through curriculum reforms and development. During the debate, technological skills and knowledge were viewed as critical elements in modern societies (Logan, 2013).
Consequently, the new Scottish curriculum was developed in 2004. It came to be popularly known as the Curriculum for Excellence [CFE] (Logan, 2013). More emphasis was put on secondary education. In the curriculum, ICT was to be integrated in every subject taught in secondary schools operating in the country. It was one of the ways of enhancing technological adoption in the country.
Over the years, numerous curriculum developments and reforms have taken place in the United Kingdom. The interventions have increased the effectiveness of integrating ICT into the existing subjects (Savill-Smith, 2005).
In the past, more emphasis was placed on learning outcomes and experiences. In Scotland, a 2004 survey showed that students found ICT training to be a generally boring aspect of learning. As such, there was a need to make changes to the curriculum. To this end, the number of computing lessons was significantly reduced in the country.
Stakeholders in the education sector noted that the curriculum in place at the time emphasised on fact-based thinking. They came to the realisation that what was actually required was different. The learners needed a learning environment that promoted thinking skills. In 2011, the government of Scotland rolled out the new Curriculum for Excellence (Lumadi, 2013).
The main aim of the reform was to shift the focus of the teachers from facts to abilities, competencies and skills. Under the new curriculum, the government maintained the importance of teaching the science of computing. Each student in Scotland was to be introduced to at least level 3 experiences and outcomes before they attain the age of 14 (Lumadi, 2013).
At this stage, they would be required to develop a computational artefact. To achieve this objective, the learners would be required to put into use a wide range of introductory computer programming environments, such as Alice and Scratch. Game engines would also be instrumental in the learning process.
The development of the Curriculum for Excellence has been left in the hands of the Scottish Qualifications Agency (Lumadi, 2013). The body was charged with the responsibility of developing the qualification for students aged between 14-16 and 17-18 to complete the new Curriculum for Excellence.
Following the complete overhaul of the curriculum, the government of Scotland hopes to have a single qualification stream for students. It will be referred to as computing and information science. In addition, it will be assessed at five levels (Logan, 2013). The phases will include Access 3, National 4, National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher levels.
There will be a strong focus on the development of software following the introduction of programming education. Other elements of computing that will be emphasised on include information, networks, as well as databases (Lumadi, 2013). With the introduction of the new curriculum, attention has been shifted to the capacity of the teachers to impart computing skills and knowledge to their students.
Subsequently, an exemplification group has been formed by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Logan, 2013). The main aim of the group is to avail exemplary teaching materials to teachers, particularly those dealing with students in the pre-14 level. The focus on these teachers is informed by the fact that they expose students to computational thinking. Their work forms the basis of all the other levels (MacConville & Rae, 2012).
Impact of the Reforms on Educational Leaders
The integration of ICT into the Scottish curriculum has prompted educational leaders to undergo training to understand how technology can be used to enhance learning and teaching (Hanlan, Darby & Conole, 2006). Training increases their capacity to develop effective and efficient strategies. It helps them to formulate policies that can be implemented successfully. At the same time, they are able to set realistic goals for their learners.
For example, school heads need to understand what integration of ICT in the curriculum entails (Hulme, Menter & Conroy, 2007). As such, they can set targets that their staff and students can meet easily. Training also makes them conversant with the issues raised by other stakeholders. As a result, they boost their confidence in the ongoing curriculum developments and reforms.
They are also able to fulfil their responsibilities as representatives of the government on matters involving education. Once they are aware of the underlying issues, they are able to assess the needs of their institutions. For example, they can determine the number of computers needed to effectively roll out the curriculum reforms and developments. Upon assessing the needs of their institutions, they can be able to source for funds.
The integration of ICT in the Scottish curriculum has made technology an important part of strategic planning in learning institutions. Educational leaders have to maintain the ICT capability of their agencies (Dulude, Spillane & Dumay, 2015). To this end, they seek ways to procure technological devices and applications for their school. School heads across Scotland have to look for additional funds to support their ICT programs.
In most cases, the funds provided by the government are inadequate to support the implementation of the curriculum. As a result, administrators have to sacrifice other developmental activities in their schools. Leaders in secondary schools are the most affected compared to their counterparts in primary institutions (Cater, 2004).
As of 2005, only 50 percent of primary school leaders in Scotland had developed e-learning strategies. The figure in secondary schools was 67 percent. The reason was that the first qualification assessment was for students already in secondary institutions.
The integration of ICT led to additional responsibilities for educational leaders (Dulude, Spillane & Dumay, 2015). They were expected to enhance the technological capabilities of their organisations. Initially, only technological devices were used to facilitate teaching and learning.
However, developments and reforms in the Scottish curriculum have made it necessary to provide internet services to both teachers and learners (Cater, 2004). At the same time, there is a need to link schools to facilitate the sharing of knowledge.
In most cases, educational leaders resolve to hire ICT professionals. In such situations, they still need to supervise the learning activities to ensure that their institutions’ technological capabilities are enhanced. They also have to be involved in the maintenance and upgrading of the ICT infrastructure in their institutions (Reyes, 2014). As such, they can assess the needs of their schools in terms of promoting e-learning activities.
Educational leaders need to develop policies to ensure the successful integration of ICT into teaching and learning activities. They are required to set targets for their schools (Reyes, 2014). It is their responsibility to ensure that the set timelines are followed. Unlike most changes in the curriculum, the integration of ICT into learning and teaching is an intensive undertaking.
It involves the attainment of the set targets in terms of student-computer-ratio and the development of long term strategies. The integration process has also proved to be extremely technical for the educational leaders (Pilat & Wolfl, 2004). Unlike most curricular implementation processes, the undertaking requires continuous financing.
The reason is that the infrastructure is complex and calls for regular maintenance. Improvements must be carried out regularly to increase efficiency. Administrators must foresee such changes and prepare adequately.
Besides the formulation of policies concerned with the integration of ICT into teaching and learning activities, educational leaders are also charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all stakeholders are committed to the implementation of the curriculum (Razzaq & Forde, 2012).
The main challenge faced here is making sure that policies become practice. In some instances, the CFE is criticised by both teachers and students. Many see it as boring. Consequently, learning outcomes are not always met as intended by the educational leaders.
Administrators across Scotland also face the challenge of changing people’s attitudes towards the curriculum developments and reforms touching on integration of ICT into the education system.
To ensure successful implementation of the reforms, they have to sensitise both teachers and students on the need for change (Yeung, 2011). The leaders are forced to come up with new strategies to improve the learning experience. The use of presentations in classroom is one of the strategies proposed to address the issue.
Educational administrators stand to gain from the adoption of ICT. Their institutions get connected to the outside world (Padfield, 2006). Networking of schools to support the implementation of the curriculum developments and reforms has also made it possible for educational leaders to undertake their administrative duties with relative ease (Dulude, Spillane & Dumay, 2015).
One of the ways through which this is achieved is through better communication. Record keeping can also be done in an organised manner (Pilat & Wolfl, 2004). Staff members and teachers can upload information to a centralised system. As such, school heads find it easier to monitor progress within their institutions.
Educational leaders at the national level are also able to monitor learning and teaching activities more effectively (Dulude, Spillane & Dumay, 2015). The reason is that they can be linked to intranets that inter-connect schools. At the same time, they monitor sharing of resources. In addition, learning and teaching activities can be standardised.
The Consequences of Reforms in Current and Future Contexts
With the curriculum developments and reforms in the Scottish education sector, every teaching staff has to be conversant with ICT (Desai, 2011). As a result, they can impart the same knowledge to students. Individuals with adequate ICT skills and knowledge also tend to have a positive attitude towards the integration of technology into the education sector.
They understand that students must be taught computing to help them survive in today’s society (Voogt, 2010). As such, it is important for teaching practitioners to have skills and the confidence needed to adopt a wide range of technologies. To ensure that teachers are effective implementers of the CFE in Scottish schools, the government insists training programs to be organised.
The instruction of these teachers takes two major forms. It can be done through in-service or pre-service programs (Voogt, 2010). In-service training is meant for experienced teachers who are not familiar with new technologies.
Pre-service programs, on the other hand, are convened before persons start their teaching career (Siraj & Blatchford, 2006). Such individuals are also likely to be more receptive to curriculum developments and reforms revolving around matters of ICT.
Most teachers in the Scottish education system undertook their professional training before ICT was introduced into the sector. As such, the government had to come up with in-service training programs to expose them to new technologies. Since they have no prior interactions with ICT, it becomes difficult for them to grasp concepts within a short period (Silova, 2010).
As such, the training takes several days. By the end of the program, most of them are still not able to comfortably integrate ICT into their teachings. However, frequent training sessions would boost their competence and increase their confidence.
In-service training is considered to be a form of career development in the teaching profession. In Scotland, such programs are supported through New Opportunities Funding (NOF). The use of web-based resources for teachers undergoing in-service training is discouraged. The reason is that the resources contain complex information that needs to be explained further to enhance understanding.
At the same time, there are concerns that such resources are detailed. An individual with no prior knowledge of the technologies being discussed may fail to comprehend the information (Townsend, 2007). As a result, the services of a trainer are required to simplify the concepts.
Teachers also need to be guided through practical application of ICT in learning and teaching. As such, they find it easy to replicate the steps in a classroom setting.
Teachers who are not conversant with the new technologies have no option but to participate in in-service training (Desai, 2011). The government of Scotland is committed to offering quality education to the country’s population. It can only achieve this through a competent teaching workforce. As such, failure of teachers to participate in the programs would lead to loss of employment.
Since ICT has already been made part of the Scottish curriculum, such instructors may lose their competitiveness in the job market (Townsend, 2007). Policymakers in the education sector believe that training increases the willingness of practitioners to adopt new technologies.
However, some teachers who undergo in-service training are not confident enough to try new teaching approaches. As a result, they fail to come up with innovative teaching methods.
New teachers are required to undergo training to learn how ICT can be integrated into the teaching and learning activities. Pre-service training takes place before individuals become practitioners (Voogt, 2010). The professional is exposed to new technologies throughout their learning process.
Today, institutions charged with the responsibility of training teachers have come up with programs aimed at instilling knowledge on different ways through which ICT can be used in the teaching profession. The knowledge is imparted throughout the pre-service training. Practitioners who completed their training recently are exposed to new technologies when they were learners.
Prolonged exposure to technological devices enhances their confidence when it comes to the implementation of the curriculum developments and reforms requiring the integration of ICT into learning and teaching activities in Scottish educational institutions (Agarwal & Ahuja, 2011). The reason is that they have interacted with the technologies for both personal and recreational uses.
Teachers exposed to ICT when learning may be considered to be advantaged as a result of their vast knowledge on new technologies. However, they may lack the confidence to teach the new CFE. One of the reasons behind this is that some of the technologies they became familiar with during their pre-service training have changed slightly (Desai, 2011).
In some cases, in-service training is offered only upon the introduction of curriculum developments and reforms to ensure that the existing practitioners gain skills. The new teachers who have just come out of training may not be advantaged enough to undergo such. As a result, they are forced to use their knowledge and skills on outdated technologies.
In such cases, they lack confidence in their abilities to teach the new curriculum. They may also not be able to manipulate the current technologies to achieve better learning outcomes (MacConville & Rae, 2012). As such, they continue to rely on the old teaching techniques.
In such instances, their innovative capabilities may be lower than those of teachers who underwent training when the integration of ICT into the education system had not taken place.
In future, all teachers will be required to undergo in-service training. Their skills and knowledge will get outdated at some point during their teaching career. The main reason behind this is that technology is dynamic (Voogt, 2010). As such, the curriculum for Scottish schools will need to be updated regularly.
Developments and reforms in the curriculum are aimed at incorporating the important aspects of the new technologies into the education sector. Teachers will be required to familiarise themselves with the emerging technologies. By doing so, they introduce them to their students by incorporating them into the learning and teaching processes.
In this case, teachers who underwent both in-service and pre-service training are required to sign up for the programs organised by educational leaders to boost their competence and confidence when it comes to matters of integrating new technologies into their classroom activities (Martin, 2003).
Through frequent training, the Scottish government can make sure that any curriculum developments and reforms arising from ICT changes will be implemented successfully.
The use of ICT in today’s society is on the rise. Governments all over the world have come to the realisation that the use of emerging technologies is vital to the promotion of both social and economic growth. The United Kingdom and Scottish governments have not been left behind in the enhancement of technological literacy (Onyia, 2013).
To achieve this, ICT has been integrated into the learning and teaching processes in Scottish schools. As a result, there have been numerous curriculum developments and reforms. The use of ICT has had a great impact on educational leaders and teachers. For examples, the administrators are required to undergo training to enhance their technological skills (Onyia, 2013).
The aim is to ensure they can formulate sound policies to govern the integration of ICT into the learning and teaching processes within schools. They also have to cope with the additional responsibility of ensuring that their institutions maintain their technological capabilities.
However, administration has become easier, especially owing to improved communication and record keeping. On their part, teachers are required to undergo training to boost their competence and confidence. It can be in the form of pre-service or in-service training.
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