Why don’t all students value ICT?

Epson's Hans Dummer explores why around 30% of students don’t expect ICT in education to benefit their future lives.

Why don’t all students value ICT?

Why don’t all students believe ICT in education will benefit their future lives?

Imagine you are addressing a group of 100 European school students.

You say, “put up your hand if you disagree with this statement: It is worth using a computer for learning, as it will help me in my future life.”

Your audience is composed of sixteen and seventeen year olds, the generation that has grown up with computers, social media and mobile technology of all kinds. How many raised hands would you expect to see? A dozen, maybe fewer, five or six? Not even that? Then you would be surprised.

According to a benchmark survey on information and communications technology (ICT) in Europe’s schools, as many as 30 students would disagree (some strongly) with the view that learning with a computer would help them in later life. Similar statements about the value of using a computer to learn because it would help later with finding and thriving in work meet with a similar response.

Why? My curiosity aroused, I started to hunt around for expert studies on ICT in European education to see if I could discover what was going wrong.

The reports I read shared a common and optimistic theme. ICT had the potential to revolutionise teaching and the students’ experience of learning. I came across excited talk of ‘creative classrooms’, of ‘hybrid learning models’, of ‘virtual learning environments (VLE)’ where students and teachers interact online and where there is 24-hour access to learning materials in and out of school. So far, so good.

Nor did these reports ignore the outside world. They understood the growing importance of technology beyond the classroom, how ICT was a preparation for life and work as well as being an important school learning tool. Here’s a quote from the Horizon Report Europe: 2014 Schools Edition, published by the European Commission (EC) and the New Media Consortium. ‘…the EC has projected that by 2020, 90% of European jobs will require digital skills.’

But reading and searching further I started to come across underlying concerns that ICT’s full potential in schools was not being realised. There were references to lack of ICT skills among school staff and to the significant minority of students who were taught in classrooms where ICT was not used properly. Or they were in schools that were badly equipped.

I came across this in the 2014 Schools Edition report. ‘The European Commission recently reported that 63% of the population’s nine year-olds and 50% of 16 year-olds attend schools that are missing important digital equipment. Twenty percent of secondary school students have never – or almost never – used a computer in class.’

Although I read about good practice and innovation – a project in Turkey to put more than ten million tablets into the public education system; 90% of students in Luxembourg and Belgium attending schools with virtual learning environments – I discovered some bad.

For example, between 18-28% of students, depending on their year, have low access to ICT at home as well as school (so school is inadequately addressing the digital divide). More than 50% of students have almost never used digital textbooks or multimedia tools.

Also there are wide variations between schools in different countries. According to the benchmark 2013 survey (Survey of Schools: ICT in Education), 55% of 16 and 17 year olds are in the most digitally equipped schools with desktops, laptops, interactive whiteboards, data projectors, fast broadband and high connectedness. The rest are in partially-equipped schools with slow or no broadband and some or no connectedness.

Now I think I understand why those 30 percent of students would have put up their hands. Too many still haven’t experienced the full potential of ICT in their schools. No wonder an important minority doubts its value to help them in later life or with getting a job.

Click here to find out more about Epson’s range of solutions for education.