Virtual Learning Environments

Source: Department of Education and Skills, Digital Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment, P.19. In light of your understanding of pedagogy and technology please provide a critical commentary on the following statement:

“The concept of teaching and learning through the use of ICT is highly complex. The introduction of ICT into a learning environment does not in and of itself bring about change in pedagogical practice. (Butler et al., 2013; p.5)”



ICT has completely changed the world over the course of the past two decades and we have seen an excessive influx of it in modern jobs and teaching is no exception. With this, there is a question surrounding whether teachers are pedagogically using ICT in the classroom is it just being used a replacement for traditional resources. ICT does not, nor should it bring about the change in the pedagogical practice, a good teacher should not be defined by what kind of resources that they use but instead how they use these resources, if they need them at all. Having said all of that, there is by no means any reason why these influx of ICT resources should replace sufficient teaching strategies. ICT is a bonus opposed to an assistance or replacement in education for both teacher and student material. However with this recent introduction of ICT there is a simple question then to follow, what training is provided to teachers to use ICT to ensure the obstacles of ICT competency for teachers is managed first before using it for the pupils. What is the point of using ICT at all if the teachers are not trained in how to appropriately incorporating them into their pedagogy. Schools find it difficult to effectively integrate ICT into their everyday practice.’

For the purpose of this essay,  I will be examining the 2014 Horizon School Report and the OECD report on ICT in education across the globe, the NCCA key skills in Ireland in addition to appraising to the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, Enhancing teaching, learning and Assessment.


Department of Education; Strategies for Digital Learning

The Publication by the Department of Education and skills on digital strategy acknowledges the issue that incorporating ICT into the classroom is not a simple matter and requires more than just simple teaching. The ‘difficulty in integrating ICT arises from traditional school practices rather than teachers’ views of teaching.’ Through my own research regarding the teacher’s’ view on the use of ICT in class, many teachers hold a strong view that both students and teachers need to have skills in using ICT with 82% of 50 people seeing it as vital for students and 62% completely agreeing teachers need to have the same skill. It is undeniable that ICT has paved the way for a new and easy way of living but in no circumstance should it be our replacement.

The strategy claims senior cycle pupils should be encouraged to build on their previous knowledge of ICT, but I think there needs to be an argument made for the lack of specific subjects relating to ICT at senior cycle in a total. With all of these new reforms to Junior Certificate subjects they do little to prep students for the senior cycle examinations as it stands. Incorporating more assessment and CA to be digitally submitted would encourage teachers to become familiar with ICT basics. This however would not be utilising ICT as a replacement for teaching and learning but more so an appropriate way to play on senior’s prior development of skills developed at junior cycle. On top of that, LCVP and and TY, which are optional in comparison to the mainstream leaving certificate all offer ICT modules and assessment even though some teachers may not be as accustomed to using ICT and may not receive the appropriate training due to lack of numbers in these programmes.

The NCCA highlights how the use of ICT can be used to promote certain key skills. Their most notable is that of information processing and communicating. It suggests using ICT such as powerpoints etc but I think there needs to be more practical uses of ICT if hoping to promote ICT in this area.

My main argument is that a teacher is not defined by what sources and how up to date they are with modern technology. Having said that, I am not denying that certain ICT tools are not phenomenal for helping pupils. Web 2.0 Tools have certainly proved useful in helping to enhance such skills. PodOMatic delivers as a strong device for both skills, as WordPress and other forms of online sharing sites certainly enhance literacy and numeracy especially for students with dyspraxia and dyslexia allowing them to make corrections easier and building on other skills.

Concern for ICT pedagogy in curriculum has been address by the Tpack program. The Tpack is a ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework to understand and describe the kinds of knowledge needed by a teacher for effective pedagogical practice in a technology enhanced learning environment.’ It attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology their use and integration of such into the classroom. The framework of which extends on Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical content knowledge. ‘Shulman defined pedagogical content knowledge as teachers’ interpretations and transformations of subject-matter knowledge in the context of facilitating student learning.’ With this, teachers can appropriately introduce ICT into their teaching without relying on ICT to drive the class, but instead their prior multifaceted knowledge of teaching.

Horizon Report Europe – 2014                  

The Horizon Report Europe – 2014 School Edition details some of the finding in recent years as to what impact ICT is having on education and what obstacles are arising including using tablets in the classroom and most notably combating ICT incompetence.

A question raised that I find to be of keen interest is ‘Which technologies will be most important to teaching, learning, or creative inquiry in European schools within the next five years?’ The Horizon report depicts the issue for the necessity of adolescents becoming familiar with ICT in schools. Statistically, it shows 90% of jobs in Europe by 2020 will require some ICT skills which is highlighted by the progression at which ICT is replacing filing and hard copy records. However, Horizon clarify this as a compatible issue, however it is vital we address is properly

Currently teaching students, I can see the necessity for familiarity with ICT and how it can engage pupils in a topic. However coming from a DEIS school I can still see an issue of funding and students overall competence with technology.With that ICT does not necessarily assist in classroom management, yes powerpoints and short videos from YouTube are beneficial for focusing students but in no way clarify a topic for them if not appropriately related back to their own unique understanding and comparative thinking.

Jean Piaget conducted insightful research into the stages of intellectual development. At this stage of an adolescent’s progress they are becoming more capable of mentally figuring things out over practically. ‘Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child’s cognitive development, because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought.’ In addition to that, if we look at Piaget’s work on constructivism, and from this we can see the necessity of strategy in appropriately using digital sources in the classroom. ‘Fifty years of experience have taught us that knowledge does not result from a mere recording of observations without a structuring activity on the part of the subject.’ People construct their own understanding and knowledge through their own experiences, a teacher’s role is to promote this form of learning.  We incorporate things knowledge such as where the student comes from, their interests and domestic trends; we use ICTas a means to encourage this similarly as to how we appropriately use a poster in class, by customising and individualising the resource to accommodate the pupils prior understanding. ‘Piaget does place enormous stress on the fact that the young knower is both mentally and physically active; indeed, knowledge growth is described by Piaget in terms of the dynamic processes of assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration, and the construction and internalization of action schemas.’ To relate this statement to our ICT and pedagogy, a teacher provokes the pupils’ mental and critical development; ICT cannot provide the pupils with a challenge unless it has a purpose for form of assessment. Therefore strategy and curriculum for independent thinking come into vital effect.

Furthermore, if we examine the role of the servant leader, promoted by Robert Greenleaf, one does not rely on ICT or any form of practical resource for a good lesson, but instead to rely on pupils cognitive development as Piaget suggested. Our job as teachers is not replaced by machines, instead it is more apparent than ever that teachers are present to accommodate the new ethical issues that arise with adolescents using modern technology and ensure the new generation are not over reliant on ICT to promote their practical and basic understanding of their cognitive development.


Ireland’s Position in the ranks of how much ICT is used in schools across the globe.

The OECD report recently published statistics regarding how much ICT is used in schools in countries around the world. The stats showed that Ireland was placed in the centre illustrating a happy medium between reliance on ICT and practical resources.

‘Ireland is ranked fifth from the bottom for use of ICT in schools, and fourth from the bottom for the use of ICT for schoolwork at home, the report shows. Irish teenagers spend on average 16 minutes on the internet at school during weekdays compared to an OECD average of 25 minutes, and a high of 58 minutes in Australia.’

Other countries such as Australia however had a stark contrast with a high percentage of time allocated to students using ICT in school. Furthermore we rank one of the lowest for use and dependance on the Internet in schools. To some, including myself, this comes as a surprise as more and more schools in Ireland are adapting to virtual classrooms such as Edmodo, Google Classroom and Eportal being more frequently used in classrooms throughout the country. A simple question arises from this statistic, does this sue of ICT work? I furthered examined Australia’s ICT policy in schools to receive a clearer image as to what exactly is dividing the youth

Examining the Pedagogies and Digital Content in the Australian School Sector by Robert Baker we can receive a coherent reason as to why and how Australia has focused so much on ICT  in schools. They have taken part in a lot of research regarding the necessity of ICT for pupils in school. ‘Theories of learning have been promoted and adapted, models of online learning design identified, pedagogy and professional development frameworks developed, standards established for teachers to work towards, and extensive professional support provided centrally and in schools.’ Cross examining this with Irish schools we can see differences in ratios of number of students to computer;

‘The student-computer ratio (SCR) in Irish schools is 9.1:1 at primary level and 7:1 at post-primary level. Information available from the OECD suggests that countries that have taken the lead in the provision of ICT in schools are aiming for or achieving a SCR of 5:1.’

In return Australia, aimed that by the end of 2011, there would be a ratio of 1:1 in terms of number of computers to students, a significant difference to Ireland’s 7:1 at post-Primary. Australia, will have the country will have supplied ‘individual desktops, laptops and iPads for more than 500,000 students between grades 9 and 12.’ With these drastic differences in recent years to Australian education, only time will tell how effective or ineffective it will become. Their excessive reliance on ICT should not be frowned upon but neither should it be applauded as ICT is in Steve Jobs word, is alone not enough. ‘Technology married with liberal arts [and} humanities, that … makes our hearts sing.’

The most striking find in the OECD report and analysis is that “Another interpretation is that we have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology . . . Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.” Teachers are still the ones who make a lesson great. Even MOOC courses quality are based on what effort is placed on the teaching, learning and assessment.



To conclude, I think there is a lot to the said for the title of the text published by the Department of Education and Skills. The text is a digital strategy to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It does not in any way show how good a teacher is if there is a fancy ICT tool in the class. Simply returning to the point that the resources does not make the teacher but the teacher makes the resource whatever that may be. I recently engaged in a conversation on twitter regarding how could certain video games be used to teach students about a subject like history. Certain games create immersive worlds which illustrate how historical time periods such as the Middle Ages and Renaissance Italy. Undeniably ICT use with smart phones, video games and the internet provide quick and easy access for people for information and self motivated learning. However, it is still the case that a teacher needs to incorporate ICT and not to use it as a fit replacement for their pedagogy.

Works Cited

Charlier, Nathalie, and Bieke De Fraine. “Game-Based Learning in Teacher Education.” International Journal of Game-Based Learning 2.2 (2012): 1-12. Print.

Doering, Aaron et al. “Using the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge framework to design online learning environments and professional development.” Journal of Educational Computing Research 41.3 (2009): 319-346.

“Education and Technology Development.” (2013). Print.

Howell, Jennifer. Teaching with ICT: Digital Pedagogies for Collaboration & Creativity. Print.

Humphreys, John. Irish teens among best at using internet – The Irish Times. 2015. 17 May. 2016 <>

Johnson, Larry, Samantha Adams Becker, Victoria Estrada, Alex Freeman, Panagiotis Kampylis, Riina Vuorikari, and Yves Punie. The NMC Horizon Report Europe: 2014 Schools Edition. Luxembourg: Publications Office, 2014. Print.

“Key Skills.” – National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Web. 20 May 2016.

Lehrer, Jonah. “Steve Jobs: “Technology Alone Is Not Enough”.” The New Yorker. 07 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 May 2016.

Mulkeen, Aidan. “The Digital Divide in Irish Schools: Should We Be Worried?” Irish Educational Studies 22.1 (2003): 165-81. Print.

Schmidt, Denise A et al. “Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) the development and validation of an assessment instrument for preservice teachers.” Journal of Research on Technology in Education 42.2 (2009): 123-149.

Shulman, Lee. “Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.” Harvard educational review 57.1 (1987): 1-23.

“Strengthening Education for Innovation.” OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2012 OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook (2012). Print.

Transforming the Way We Learn: A Vision for the Future of ICT in Schools. London: Dept. for Education and Skills, 2002. Print.