Problems with using ICT in science
42. The revised National Curriculum, introduced in
September 2000, for the first time required Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) to be used for teaching subjects across the curriculum,
including science. Illustrations given in the National Curriculum
of how ICT could be used for teaching science include using data
handling software to analyse data from fieldwork, using the internet
to find out about current developments and issues and using automatic
datalogging equipment to record results. DfES's memorandum states
that "the investment we are making in ICT is transforming
the way science...is being taught".
They give interactive whiteboards as an example of where developments
in ICT "allow teachers to access data and images and share
[them] with the whole class, in a way not before possible".
Indeed, when we visited Quintin Kynaston School in London we were
impressed by the use made of interactive whiteboards. However,
the lack of time available for training meant that those teachers
who were confident using the technology were not able to pass
these skills on to the other staff. Teachers from schools in Bolton
said that they particularly needed more support from technicians
with expertise in ICT. They were having to prepare "backup"
lessons in case the ICT equipment failed.
Michael Terry, a teacher at Copthall School in Barnet, tells us
that the "increased emphasis on teaching using ICT [has been
introduced] without any understanding of the practical difficulties
involved in using ICT in the classroom".
This is reinforced by Sylvia Thomas, a teacher at Darlaston Community
School, Walsall, who tells us that "ICT requirements are
impractical in all schools I have worked in".
ICT may have the potential to revolutionise science teaching
but the evidence would suggest that it has not yet had a real
impact in many schools.
43. The Science Museum's survey of young people asked
about their use of the internet in science. While 44% reported
enjoying using the internet for research, only 8% thought that
it was a useful way of learning. Joel Brown, a student at Dixons
City Technology College, Bradford told us "Everybody likes
going on the internet and surfing around but in terms of how effective
it is we are really concerned".
Mark Towers, a student at Farnborough Sixth Form College in Hampshire,
thought that the problem was that while it was possible to find
lots of information using the internet "it does not really
have any relevance because it is of a standard that is beyond
you at that time".
The BBC Bitesize website, which is specifically designed for students
revising for their GCSEs, was mentioned to us by several students
at Quintin Kynaston School, London as one that they had found
useful. It is not enough to invest in computers for schools.
If students are to gain skills that will be useful to them in
the future, ICT needs to be used intelligently to support other
subjects areas. There needs to be a clearly defined role for
ICT within science teaching if it is to have any real educational