Teaching the ICT General Capability in your Curriculum

By Michael Hilkemeijer

The teaching of the ACARA general capability or 21st century skill, ICT Capability, is a significant component in the Australian Curriculum. ICT capability is defined in the national curriculum as the integration of digital technologies and key learning areas such as English make a lot of use of its capabilities to develop literacy alongside its learning.

As a primary and early years teacher, this is of particular importance to you as the Learning Continuum for ICT capability points out the role of teachers to ensure learning progression occurs from Foundation to Year 6. Thus being responsible for the majority of learning to happen.

So I have broken down the best teaching practices and methods for primary teachers to use. However, it is essential that Secondary teachers need to also apply these principles and practices as learning progression will only continue if all teachers share the same perspective of ICT general capability which means that they all use the same or similar practices.


This is what I call integrating technology in the classroom by supporting its use with evidence based strategies in the classroom.


In this article, you will learn how to:

  • What the components of ICT capability
  • Fundamental concepts behind ICT capability
  • Understand the best way to develop ICT capability
  • Establish a starting point for learning
  • Plan for learning progression in ICT capability
  • Sharpen the focus of your interventions (teacher knowledge of resources)
  • develop each component of ICT capability
  • Employ formative assessment strategies.
  • Repeat these steps.


What are the components of ICT Capability?

Research shows that this can be broken down into 5 key components and typically it is the ability of a child to carry out these components which makes them ICT capable.

  • Routines
  • Techniques
  • Processes
  • Concepts
  • Higher order skills


It is the latter two which is of most importance to understand when seeking to teach ICT capability effectively. You must always teach the concepts behind the ICT skills and strive to ensure that there is conceptual understanding for students. Higher order skills is well-known for being developed with educational tools like ICT. It is its use in developing ICT capability which makes it stand out more than ICT skills. You can learn more about this here.


Fundamental concepts behind ICT capability

Research indicates (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 22) that the concepts behind ICT capability are as follows.

Concept Informal Meaning
















Data structure






Hypertext structure




Monitoring process





A unit of data that can be saved, loaded and printed


An area of the screen which can see part of the file


A list of objects which can be displayed and selected


A continuing string of characters including formatting codes


Something which can moved, formatted, copied, selected, resized, deleted and transferred to other locations


A set of text and objects, animated suitably for communication in screen form


A set of text and objects, positioned suitably for communication in printed form


A store data which can be searched and selected information displayed


A representation of relationships amongst variables


A grid of cells which contain either a value or a formulae


A set of text and objects containing links which allow quick access to chosen options


A sequence of instructions to achieve a desired goal


A system that records data automatically from sensors at intervals of time


A sense of text and objects together with a destination and return address


A hypertext structure which can be accessed remotely from any location

Given this fundamental information on ICT capability, you are now ready to fully appreciate its value in the classroom.



Teacher ICT Capability

When talking about student ICT capability, it is not just about assessing what ICT skills they have been taught, but how they make use of those ICT skills in another context. The very same principle can be applied to your own understanding of how to use ICT in your teaching career. Here is an example which might help you better understand.

You might know already how to use a presentation program like PowerPoint and with the use of data projector, you can use a presentation for each class. However, you need to decide when such a presentation is an effective piece of technology in addition to making a judgement about the class of students that you are teaching. You need to make the decision about why this would be better than other teaching techniques.


Use the following free teaching resources to determine your own capabilities in ICT today.


Teacher Knowledge of ICT Tools and Resources

If you have a clearly defined purpose for the task then you will be sharpen the focus on your interventions. By being familiar with a program, it will help you identify the circumstances when students are ready to move onto a new feature or to use the software for a more demanding purpose. It is more important for you to be knowledgeable about one program that your students will use than to have an acquaintance with a large number.

This won’t limit their ICT capability development.

It is also better for the students to work with a small number of versatile programs and progressively develop their skills and confidence in these through carefully structured activities than it is trying to learn how to use a large number of them superficially.



What is the best way to develop ICT capability?

The general capability ICT is inextricably associated with practical outcomes in meaningful subject-related contexts. Therefore, the most effective way to achieve ICT capability in the classroom learning is to provide with meaningful activities embedded in purposeful subject-related context. Give them something interesting to do and then monitor the approaches they use when completing and ICT task, activity or project. 


Establish a starting point

When you plan to develop a child’s capabilities in ICT, it is essential that you find a starting point for their learning journey and then give them accurate directions that will enable them to achieve their goals. It is important that you have an appreciation of where the children are, where they ought to be and where they might be heading next.

So create a small ICT activity within a subject-related context and list the ICT skills which you believe they need to use and what they should know.Then follow this up by monitoring their progress in the task and track what ICT skills that each student can and can’t use. From here, you can plan for the effective progression in ICT capability.



Plan for the Progression of ICT capability

This is one of the greatest problems faced by many primary and early childhood teachers. You must ensure that children are supported in their development of ICT capability while providing them with context which stimulate learning in other subjects as well. First up, you need to decide the purpose of the ICT activity in the subject. You literally have three choices to make:

  1. Is it to develop student ICT capability?
  2. Is it to support the subject context?
  3. Or is it for both the above?


I recommend that it is the last one because the ultimate purpose of using technology in the classroom is remain transparent in the background whilst students are learning subject context. You could give them a meaningful ICT task in the subject and have them develop their ICT capability at the same time.


It’s a win-win situation!


Next, you need to decide if they need to be monitored. My answer to this is yes, because the rich context of the computer or the Internet can be distracted for one, so at times they appear to be working effectively when in fact, they are not. 

Another question which should consider is whether or not ICT will be used as a tool by the students. My advice is that it always should be recognised as a tool, a tool as a medium for learning and not always for one for fun.

If your answer is No, then the purpose of the ICT activity is not appropriate in the classroom.




Progression in ICT capability cannot be achieved unless you have embedded formative assessment strategies to determine their learning progress. For this reason, there must be planned opportunities for you to assess their ICT capabilities. 

An important note to remember is that progression in ICT capability is facilitated through broadening and elaborating contexts in addition to using more sophisticated software in response to the demands of the tasks.

The increased use of sophisticated software does not constitute progression in ICT capability. It will only constitute a little more development on their ICT techniques. Students need to be able to find and overcome difficulties for learning progression to occur.


ICT capability examples

Develop all components of ICT capability

There was a reason why I wanted you to become aware of the components in the first place. Each of these components needs for you to plan to develop them.


Here is how it is done:


Routines: students who are slower with routines will make slow progress in curriculum tasks. If they do not meet the ICT techniques sufficiently frequently, then provide them with practice tasks for homework.


ICT techniques: give each one an appropriate name which should be seen not as something extra to learn, but as a means of communicating and thinking about the actions and effect.


Processes: at the appropriate times, discuss with students what they are doing at the process level and avoid just identifying the next technique. Draw on relevant images and analogies where it is helpful.


Higher order skills: you might handle these yourself as a teacher, but then involve students in the process through whole class teaching. Ask strategic and evaluative questions to model to students what they need to do themselves.


Conceptual understanding: this is very important as you need to focus on the concepts behind the ICT skills. Use whole class teaching to discuss examples and non-examples of a concept with and without ICT, in order to highlight the important features of the concept.


You also need to challenge naïve ideas about using particular ICT tools and techniques both in whole class teaching and monitoring individual work.



ICT capability examples

Embed formative assessment strategies


As the key elements of ICT capability are practical you need to understand that a finished product will only provide partial and very limited evidence of a student’s ICT capabilities. There is a series of sub-skills in routines and techniques, for example, some of which are more sophisticated and effective than others. Would a finished product reveal these methods used to complete it?




Here is what to do:

  • Decide what evidence is needed – the expected or anticipated outcomes should exemplify the learning they represent and relate closely to the learning objectives.
  • Gather the evidence – this is best achieved through continuous observation. You might also save or print documents at very stages of the activity for example.
  • Keep track of student progress – record the evidence throughout the year. This is to do with the student’s learning progress in ICT capability.




Other teaching strategies for technology in the classroom include: All included in the workshop are...

Understand the nature of ICT capability

This 21st century skill comprises of five key elements that together constitute ICT capability. They include routines, ICT techniques, processes, higher order skills and concepts.

Conceptual understanding underpins the ICT techniques that students use in a lesson to create an ICT solutions to a problem and an ICT capable student is someone who has the disposition to construction ICT solutions to problems.

They must develop an awareness of the power and limitations of the software and hardware systems available together with a prediction to seek ICT solutions.


Employers today demand a basic understanding of ICT rather than a specific knowledge and the vocational justification of ICT capability does not demand knowledge of specific skills, techniques or applications of ICT.


Understand how students learn with ICT

At the heart of every good integrator of digital technology is a teacher who understands the key elements of learning theories that underpin the way ICT supports learning. 

Learning theories such as behaviourism, constructivism and social constructivism together with situativity, ‘brain based’ ideas and metacognition. This is start of an effective online PD in ICT integration.


Boost your competence in the integration of digital technologies

There is clear evidence that links the level of ICT capability of a teacher to that of students’ ICT capability. By conducting a self-audit, you can forget about your weaknesses and capitalise on your strengths. Remember, it is impossible for you to know all there is to know about digital technologies with the rapid rate of development today. For you to become an ICT capable teacher it will require you to develop an understanding and judgement about how to use those skills appropriately, just like it is for students.

For example, you may know how to use MS PowerPoint for a presentation by creating a PowerPoint for every lesson. However, this would be rather to miss the point about what ICT is useful for. As a teacher, you need to decide when such a presentation is an effective use of the technology, and also to make a judgement about the class or group of students that you are teaching.


Develop the ICT capable classroom

These classrooms are a combination of teachers who are prepared to model the effective use of digital technologies to the students, ICT capable students (students who have the disposition to construct ICT solutions to problems that are appropriate to the context), and the ICT resources available.


Develop the ICT capable school

An ICT capable school is one where the students have a positive attitude towards ICT and a disposition to apply ICT to curriculum tasks. They plan and apply ICT to tasks, describing and evaluating their work with ICT with a high level of knowledge, skill and understanding. It also contains strong roles in ICT in the teaching and learning culture of the school and teachers help students to develop their ICT capability.


Facilitate capabilities in ICT

The third part of Kerrie’s online learning involved the application of scaffolding and support for students. Do you know how to effectively demonstrate capabilities to students? Structuring and stimulating student ICT activities throughout learning areas is important if you are to facilitate student capabilities in ICT effectively.


Selecting the appropriate ICT tools

Digital technologies in schools these days is so widespread, but did you know that only specific digital technology can fully develop a student’s ICT capability? You may think that using subject-specific software such as Literacy software will do the job. On the contrary, it does the opposite as it will most likely help you as the teacher develop your ICT capability as you use the tools it provides to monitor their work.



ICT general capability

Finding Examples 

When understanding ICT capability examples, it important to first grasp the concept behind them. For example, progression in ICT capability is seen in two major groups:

  1. First, strategies, processes and personal qualities relating to the application of ICT to the solution of problems and;
  2. Secondly, on the range of problem contexts, sources and ICT tools and resources applied.


It emphasises strategic planning, increasing self-regulation, deep understanding and transferrable knowledge.

So key ICT capability examples should indicate that students do have an understanding of the ICT potential of situations and this, in turn, is dependent on the second factor that is a wide range of problem situations for which an ICT solution has proved appropriate.


A reasonable ICT capability definition would then be the follow by Kennewell (2000) when he defines what an ICT capable student is.

“…not merely to have secure knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ICT skills, techniques, processes and strategies. It includes also the deposition to construct ICT solutions to problems which are appropriate to the context and are based on knowledge of the opportunities and limitations offered by the systems available.”


In a study conducted, they found key ICT capability examples in students such as:

  • They were able to use ICT to support learning in all key learning areas;
  • They could use common ICT tools used in teaching and learning;
  • Students could take responsibility for their own learning, developing strategies to help them learn how to use unfamiliar ICT tools and work collaboratively;
  • Use current ICT hardware and software and understand its potential and limitations;
  • Understand that using ICT affects social processes.


The above ICT capability examples combined with that of the ACARA general capabilities ICT represent the ability of teachers to develop the 21st century skill in meaningful and context-driven subject learning areas.

The ICT general capability in the Australian Curriculum key learning areas such as English/literacy learning can be a means to enhance subject learning in a transparent way that student’s do hardly notice they are using ICT to achieve the learning outcomes set for them.

The use of ICT throughout the curriculum not only allows for these ICT capability examples to be realised, but also is to supposed to encourage ‘critical thinking’, imagination, creativity, problem solving such as numeracy, initiative, and independence, teamwork and reflection.

Online PD Course for Teachers on Developing student ICT capability