The National Assessment Program (NAP) is fast approaching again not only for Literacy and Numeracy, but also 2017 makes the reappearance of the ICT Literacy tests (NAP – ICTL) for students in years 3, 6 and 10. With the previous performance levels indicating a “significant decline”, teachers need to provide strong and effective support in their classrooms when students use ICT. The online test comes out every three years and students are tested on their general ICT skills and knowledge rather than their technical skills.
In the 10 year strategic vision for the ICT sector (2007), it was stated that ICT literacy must become an integral part of the nation’s ICT strategy. Australians, like the rest of the world, must learn to maximise their ability to use ICT. As the country continues to evolve into a technology-dominated society, lacking ICT literacy skills will be something that will work to the disadvantage of those who are not prepared. Vision 10 of the strategy emphasised the need for Australians to become ‘highly ICT literate and truly technology proficient’.
As two of the NAP – ICTL tests fall within the Primary education sector (Years 3 and 6), it is no wonder that the Australian Curriculum has placed the responsibility of the developing ICT capable/literate students with Early childhood and Primary educators. In the ICT Capability Learning Continuum, students can progress within the top four levels in terms of their capabilities. With this in mind, below I have outlined my tips for ensuring that students are prepared for this occasion.
The first point that I would like to emphasise is quite significant and lays the foundations for what should be effective teaching of ICT capability in your classroom. An ICT capable student is not someone who simply knows a lot about technology, but is someone who has acquired the knowledge of techniques and skills and furthermore, knows that they know this and are able to decide whether such knowledge is appropriate to create a solution to a problem.
ICT capability goes beyond the use of ICT techniques and has more to do with conceptual understanding and making use of higher order skills. It is essential that you help students become associated with the values of lifelong learning. The ability of students to carry out the set of processes that constitute ICT capability that will ensure progress in their capabilities.
When you teach ICT capability to children try to remember what your experience of learning about a new technology was like. How might your experience informally help you to plan your approach? The use of ICT in the classroom can be a great source of motivation for students and this in turn is a precondition for learning. So for example if there are graphics programs, adventure games or digital video cameras that are easy to use then a good teaching strategy is for you to allow them to freely explore and discover new things through their own curiosity. In the process, you can walk into the classroom as a learner alongside the students and share new techniques with them. Once they have become familiar with basic techniques then, with your guidance, you can help them to build on their ICT capability by combining and applying techniques purposely and independently.
It is crucial that when demonstrating techniques to students that is carried out effectively so that they are able to understand the concepts involved. For example, the number of times an individual student will need to see an ICT technique demonstrated and the amount of practice they will need to become competent will depend ultimately on their age and experience. If a student requires a demonstration, carry it out by explaining the processes and decision making at the same time and then, remove the effect of it and ask them to show it to you in the same way.
Another point to consider when designing realistic but challenging activities to develop ICT capability, is to take into account the students’ existing experience and abilities and ensure that it is not too difficult, not too easy, but just right. Challenging students requires you to ensure that there is a gap between the student’s abilities and the requirements of the problem situation. Research indicates that if there is little to no gap between the abilities and affordances in the use or application of the software in a curriculum subject, then only learning in that subject is likely to be enhanced. In these circumstances, progression in ICT capability is unlikely to occur. So it is significant that you aim to maintain an appropriate balance between the factors and ensure that the gap is manageable.
Learning also occurs when students are not only able to find, but overcome difficulties. However, if the IT interference factor is too large, the student will be left with little processing power to use for the application of the software to the problem. On the other hand, research points out that if there are only a few difficulties in the use of the software or in its application to the problem situation, ICT capability would not be developed in the lesson.
Other tips include:
- Plan and seek opportunities to develop all components of ICT capability;
- Focus on concepts behind skills;
- Use a range of ways for supporting students;
- Use a combination of criteria when assessment of attainment;
- Only use sophisticated software if the task demands it and;
- Help students to become autonomous users of ICT.
It is impossible to fully develop ICT capable students who are literate in the use of ICT. The values associated with ICT capability have strong links to lifelong learning. As the NAP-ICTL approaches, remember that it will judge how students will apply techniques to problem situations that it presents. Being able to teach ICT capability effectively is a vital 21st century strategy that you need to ensure you are capable of doing. Being an ICT capable teacher will ensure that not only will students’ capabilities will progress in your classroom but also in future tests.