How students learn with ICT

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer


You have take the first step towards effectively integrating ICT in your classroom.


Let’s get started!

When we start to think about the way that students learn today with ICT or technology, it often helps to reflect on how first we as adults learnt about new technology. I can remember when I started using ATMs. As an adult I had a better understanding of the concepts involved. It was picked up quite easily. My usual trial and error methodology. Even today, I am sure with you too, it is the same way with any new technology such as the latest iPods or smart phone bought. Moving on, the point that I am trying to get across is that we do learn differently than to children. As teachers in the 21st century, we need to remember that.

Students in our classroom will learn how to use ICT in a variety of ways. These include through behaviourism, constructivism, social constructivism, situativity, ‘brain-based ideas, and then what I consider the most important, metacognition. I know….sounds very theoretical and it is as most of our understanding of how children learn is influenced by theorists and researchers of the nineteenth and twentieth century. However, my aim here is to make this as easy and understandable for you as possible. So in turn I will deliver it to you from a teacher’s perspective.


Behaviourism is the first and it implies that if you provide a very structured piece of work for students using the computer, it not only makes your own role in teaching limited but because the structure might be repeated students can learn without any conscious thought. Research shows that it will involve you or the technology dispensing some sort of reward accordingly. It also states that this practice is becoming less relevant and used today. Computer-aided learning began its influence into student learning. Drill and practice programs are still common in primary schools particularly where students learn literacy and numeracy or use integrated learning systems. I will explain more about those later. This approach is not best for developing capabilities with ICT.


A key part of developing student ICT capability is the continual practice of students reflecting on their ICT learning. Reflection is a constructive process and it helps to create mental structures. It is important that the students in your class learn to reflect on the use of ICT – the techniques used, concepts learnt and the processes that they went through. Conceptual understanding is also significant and in this approach you can help students to challenge any naïve ideas through teacher intervention. In addition, you can help resolve any cognitive conflict through conceptual change. What I like about this is that this can be quite valuable in Learning Areas such as science, mathematics and any other subject where you may need to demonstrate simulations of situations that are difficult to practically achieve, but possible through the implementation of ICT.


Social Constructivism

The ICT industry plays a significant role in the national economy today and well into the future. Collaboration is something that it is well known for and throughout my teaching experiences I have encouraged and prompted many students to do the same in their projects. While the previous approach worked on the individual mind this one focuses on the many. Thus the reason why this idea has become the basis of many approaches to using ICT in the classroom. It is important to note, however, collaboration works best in a technology-rich learning environment.


It is essential for a student today in secondary school to experience real-life experiences and for quite some time now, even before I finished school back in the 90s, this trend has been growing in importance. Apparently, this is what is known as the ‘situativity’ theory. So it refers to taking students outside the typical educational settings and giving them a taste of how different applications that they learnt in the classroom can be used outside of school. Some examples would be possibly doing work experience which the original one, but today in most Learning Areas in secondary curriculum you can apply this to. ICT is no exception to this as today the use of ICT is throughout businesses, organisations and corporations. Providing students with real-life experiences in this industry can certainly inspire, engage and encourage students in their learning. Furthermore, ICT experiences can bring a real sense of authenticity to their classroom activities.

'Brain-based' Ideas

Everyone has a preferred learning style and as teachers we should recognise that in our students. This is to do with what the theorists term as ‘brain-based’ ideas and is based on the claim that, although we all use visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activity in learning we do choose to use one more than the others. ICT devices such as multimedia presentations do help speed up the learning process as it is more effective due to images, animation and sound that it uses. As a result, it is better than any oral/verbal exposition. Kinaesthetic is offered to students too through their interactivity with the mouse and keyboard.

Metacognitive Knowledge

The last one is such that of much importance when it comes to developing ICT capability in the classroom. Higher order skills is vital for students and is mainly concerned with what is known as ‘metacognitive’ knowledge. An ICT capable student is not someone who simply knows all about the various devices that exists and the techniques. What makes a student capable is their ability to know what they what they know and are able to decide if that skill or technique is appropriate for the solution to the problem. With the many ICT devices and applications that we expose students to this makes it very important as it will affect how students will approach a task and how successful they are likely to be. Being successful will give them a sense of self-efficacy and this will enable them to choose to do a task and to be comfortable in taking risks. In addition to this, students must be able to think that their success is due to their effort as opposed to factors outside of their control.

All of the above represent different ways that students can learn using ICT. It is crucial that when choosing to develop ICT capability within the classroom that you take into account the students’ existing experiences and abilities. Understand too that students especially in primary education will learn differently to us as adults. Past research has indicated that you don’t have to demonstrate everything to them as a teacher and that their more capable peers will help. It has also stated that the number of times an individual child will need to see an ICT technique demonstrated and practice to become knowledgeable of it will depend on the age and experience of the child. So when deciding to develop student ICT capability it is best to make sure that it is just right!

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