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Ruth Kelly: transforming teaching with IT

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Ruth Kelly, the new Secretary of State for Education and Skills, opened the education technology fair BETT with an overview of how IT should be used to transform teaching and learning, and a few specific announcements.

Teachers TV, a new digital channel, goes live on Sky, NTL, Telewest, Homechoice and Freeview on 8 February, Kelly said. The channel is funded by, but editorially independent of, the DfES and will carry classroom resources, education-related news and information. The DfES has also launched a set of CDs aimed at secondary teachers, with advice on incorporating ICT teaching in other subject classes.

There was no announcement on the future of Electronic Learning Credits, which are funds earmarked for multimedia resources that schools already receive. Kelly said the issue is complex issue and a decision could not be rushed.

She presented her vision of technology embedded in schools and in education policy to a packed seminar room. Education ministers from 34 other countries, including representatives from countries affected by the Asian tsunami, were in the audience.

Kelly stressed the importance of personalising education, so that learners could study at a pace, place and time of their chosing. Parents will be at the heart of taking education forward, she said. Technology has the potential to open the education system up more to parental involvement.

"We have achieved a lot, but there is still a long way to go" she told delegates.

Pupil to computer ratios have improved since 1998, and most schools have broadband internet access - 99 per cent of secondary schools now have fast connections, Kelly said. She cited Ofsted reports proclaiming the positive influence of technology in education to support the government's claims that technology can, and does, raise standards, despite recently published German research suggesting the reverse.

Next, listeners were treated to a feel-good case study of a Midlands school that has embraced technology in a big way. In the clip, happy teens happily do homework on laptops; and footage of children doing backflips presumably conveys that technology in the classroom gives you more time for gymnastics. A teacher intones: "Technology will never replace teachers."

"What have we just seen?" Kelly asks the audience. "We have seen ICT underpinning and supporting every aspect of teaching, learning and school management; ICT motivating pupils; ICT enabling pupils to have better access to learning beyond the classroom; and ICT empowering individuals to take more control of their own learning." The next trick, she argues, will be to build on this kind of success.

"We know now what good practice looks like, so this needs to be shared. Teachers can learn from each other, and these practices should be made system wide. We have to squeeze every ounce of innovation from emerging technology, because we can driver better technology development by better articulating what it is learners need," she concluded. ®

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