IT, ICT, LT - Where do they fit in education ?

"Information Technology (IT)" and "Information and Communications Technology (ICT)" refer to a "discipline". i.e. a coherent section of the taxonomy of human knowledge mirrored by separate university departments and dedicated sections of many businesses as well as being the focus of a rather large industry.
"Learning Technology (LT)" refers to a service provided to disciplines (like the library or does anyone remember the AVRB ?) where skills and knowledge are provided to students and teachers so that they can achieve higher standards. The skills and knowledge themselves are usually NOT the core business.
The problem/ confusion/ angst etc. arise from the fact that being both continuously novel and ubiquitous, technology BECOMES part of core business in all subjects. We are talking about "information" technologies (which automatically include the unnecessary fashionable "C" tag) for the past 50 years. We may well be talking about biotech in the next 100 (Would we still call them computers if they lived inside us ?)
In maths, computer solution of algebra is not only an accepted part of modern academic proofs, but also required for students to be competitive. Just as effective use of the Kay & Laby Log Tables, or a slide rule, or a compass and rule were in olden times.
The problem/ confusion/ angst etc. arise from the fact that the technology is so new that it is only partly differentiated. Currently, a very large number of applications is served by a single type of physical machine. This encouraged centralization of resources as the most efficient way of serving multiple needs (central shared computer rooms are cheaper than duplication and specialization around the school).
As equipment differentiates to meet special needs AND becomes more and more frequently required in each study, we have had a management move to "pods" as a more efficient way of getting technology close to the learner as well as attempting to force teachers to allow more student autonomy (movement and self-directed study).
This trend will increase until computers are in high numbers in all classrooms and/or in personal possession of all students.

Where does this leave "IT teachers" ? As IT resources grow, there will be an increasing need for teachers to be encouraged and assisted to use them effectively. There is "technical coaching" (efficient use regardless of purpose) and "educational coaching" (effective use for education). These coaching approaches should always be combined. Otherwise techs can end up as teachers aides actually slowing skill development ("why learn how to use the projector, when I can get a tech anytime I need one ?").
Thus IT teachers should fulfill roles like many other curriculum specialists in trailblazing, providing on site formal PD, but MOST importantly, providing on site assistance at the point of readiness to any teacher needing help and guidance in effective educational use of the technology. Without this approach, we will continue down the path of abuse that has virtually killed the reputation of the "video" as an educational aide. Remember, technological power has no relationship to application - I remember the TV being introduced to Australia as a wonderful medium for the education of all Australians ! The internet has already duplicated this level of intellectual corruption. i.e. "IT specialist" should become an extra "tag" in schools that recognizes (and rewards ?) teachers who can provide on site advice and PD in particular educational techniques and technologies.

VELs has placed "ICT" very firmly as "Interdisciplinary" i.e. NOT a discipline. VEL's has merged the 1980's tags of "Learning With" (open ended learning tool); "Learning About" (study of IT as a formal discipline) and "Learning From" (computer based learning packages - mainly sold privately to parents these days). Thus, the subject looks intellectually vague and subservient to "real" disciplines. Even at VCE, the subject continues to be a mix of historical demands to provide training for the workforce cf. education for the citizen (these are VERY different concepts still hard fought even after the demise of Tech schools, the rise of TAFE and VET and now CAL).

I believe that IT teachers should continue to promote the study of IT as a discipline. But, here the current courses are far more problematic. Many of them have been justifiably criticized as vehicles for the promotion of teacher skill sets. Courses are often constructed on the basis of "what am I expert in" rather than "what should student be taught". More innovative teachers have followed the course design maxim of "what do the students want to do ?" which is a basic course design question - among many.
IT course changes have been at the mercy of a number of factors: a sense of vulnerability; a growth in the desire to improve student engagement by sliding into the pit of "give them what they say they want"; the increase in middle school curriculum structures that decide on courses based on student enrolments (votes); increasing admin budgets for "tech toys" allowing courses with extreme costs per student to proceed in IT when they would not be considered in any other area; hype promoted from high levels of government that "if it is ICT, it is highly educational" (try this statement for logical comparison "if it is on TV, it is highly educational").

IT discipline courses have a CENTRAL focus on the science and technology of IT itself (see the contents list of any encyclopedia (e.g. Wikipedia). There are 100 ways to skin a cat, but an understanding of these concepts, fundamental science & technologies must be central. Otherwise, it is just learning Visual Basic for fun; or learning databases for ??; or learning PowerPoint for pretty presentations; or (more recently) learning how to make better home movies etc etc.
VCE IT is likely to survive as a useful subject for middle of the road students to get some IT skills and confidence prior to the workforce, or more able students to do a year ahead as a dry run for their year 12. Most informed teachers and careers counselors will encourage able students interested in tertiary IT qualifications to study higher maths and sciences at year 12.

The other alternative for IT teachers is in creating essential "interdisciplinary" skill sets and making the case that they are most efficiently and effectively delivered by IT teachers as a separate subject at some year level(s). I think that this may work for a short time (especially where it ties in with the needs of the timetable to maximally utilize all available staff). Sooner rather than later, the "disciplines" will want to integrate the special skills within the actual context of their use.

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