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Schools criticised on computer use

UK schools are spending more than 450 million a year on hi-tech computing equipment, with "little or no evidence" about the impact on learning, a report has warned.

The report from the innovation charity Nesta warned that schools were "buying into the hype and lure of digital education" without thinking through how new tablet computers, whiteboards and games are going to be used. As a result, millions of pounds worth of cutting-edge technology is sitting unused in school cupboards.

The report, entitled Decoding Learning, found that modern technology was largely being used to support existing teaching practices, rather than transforming the learning experience.

Nesta chief executive Geoff Mulgan said: "A tablet replacing an exercise book is not innovation - it's just a different way to make notes.

"There's incredible potential for digital technology in and beyond the classroom: but as in other fields, from healthcare to retail, it is vital to rethink how learning is organised if we're to reap the rewards.

"The danger is that the technology of the 21st century is being applied using teaching methods of the 20th. The emphasis is too often on shiny hardware - rather than how it's to be used."

Nesta said there was scope for changes to teacher practice and school organisation to make better use of new technology. And it argued that the technology itself should be designed around how students learn.

It called for innovation in the areas of "social learning" technologies which allow teachers and pupils to swap information inside and outside school, as well as technologies to assist in practising and assessment.

The chief executive of the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education, Mark Chambers, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We welcome the report from Nesta. The emphasis that we particularly pick out from the report and find complete accord with is that no technology has an impact on learning in itself.

"It's actually how it's used, it's the structures that are put around it, the strategic thinking in terms of whole-school management, the planning an individual teacher does, the strategies that they use to teach with technology, that are more important than a shiny bit of kit."

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