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The Context

1 On a point of definition we talk in this report of ICT, adding "communications" to the more familiar "information technology". This seems to us accurately to reflect the increasing role of both information and communication technologies in all aspects of society.

2 Few of us go about our lives in places which have not been profoundly changed by the ability of technology to use information more swiftly and more subtly; as well as by the ability to communicate that information in ways that would not have been thought possible five to ten years ago. Who could have predicted, for example, that:

at the press of four digits on a machine in a wall, you would be able to find out the balance in your bank account, order a cheque book or take out cash from your account
... and be able to do this in most countries across the world


that sitting at home in front of your computer you could not only re-design the layout of your garden but cut and paste every plant available, however exotic, into your new design and ask friends all over the world with similar interests what they think of it via the Internet.

There is also in society at large some feeling that "the machines are taking over." We do not share this view; but we strongly believe that students at school, and their teachers, need to be able to use and control ICT, and to have the sense that they can do so.

3 Given the pervasive influence of ICT on the rest of society it is hardly surprising that so much attention should have been given in recent times to the use of ICT in schools. While a great deal is happening:

ICT has yet to have as dramatic an effect on schools as on most organisations(1).

There is huge variation between schools in the application of ICT; many schools have yet to reach first base(2).

There is already beginning to emerge a gap between the haves and the have nots(3).

There is great variety in experience, knowledge, skills and even attitudes among teachers(4).

4 ICT in schools works in different ways(5). We suggest that in addressing its effects it is important to recognise that ICT may be used for a wide range of purposes:

to administer schools

to train students in skills which they will need in further education and ongoing learning throughout the rest of their lives and for their future jobs, eg. word processing, computer programming, etc

to provide access to information and communication outside the classroom walls, eg. video conferencing with students in other countries, using the Internet, etc

to support teacher development, eg. through external networks

to support and potentially transform the learning/teaching process in many and diverse ways.

Cross referecnes to McKinsey:
(1) The Challenges and Opportunities, (2) Exhibit 7, (3) Exhibit 36, (4) Exhibit 30, (5) Exhibit 11

© The Independent ICT in School Commission 1996/7. All rights reserved. Contents page