Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability is more than just a 21st-century skill embedded in the Australian Curriculum. It is a tool for learning where students can use “ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school” (ACARA, 2016).
The core strength of ICT capability development lies in a teacher’s ability to judge the decisions that students make in order to complete a finished product.
A student needs to be able to demonstrate their knowledge of a wide variety of ICT software and hardware together with their awareness of this knowledge-base and their ability to make informed decisions as to whether this knowledge is appropriate to use.
The learning progression and continuity of student ICT capability in education is a crucial plan for teachers from early childhood education through to secondary education to consider.
When individually examined, learning progression is more concerned with an individual’s learning and refers to how a student can learn concepts and skills of an increasingly difficult nature.
Continuity focuses more on the experiences offered to students and this can be achieved by students if they are presented by the teacher with “tasks that are designed to follow on from one another with no sudden jumps and no repetition” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 166).
Both aspects of ICT capability are valuable to the management of students as work that is duplicated can lead to the stagnating of learning for them and this in turn can result in disruptive behaviour (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000).
It is imperative, therefore, that teachers design activities that build on a student’s previous learning and provide achievable challenges (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000). The sharing of views by teachers with their colleagues is also then a key player to ensure that this occurs.
According to Kennewell et al. (2000), it is the increasing scope and transferability that defines learning progression in ICT capability.
The development of ICT capability combines both practical and theoretical elements and this means that teachers need to ensure that students are continually working at a higher standard while undergoing complex hands-on tasks and are demonstrating their comprehension of increasingly sophisticated ideas and concepts.
The use of sophisticated software and techniques is essential to support a students’ learning if they are to progress through school (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000).
Learning Progression and continuity in student ICT capability is about teachers ensuring that their students are prepared for 21st-century life by being an ICT capable student.
To be ICT capable is to have the disposition to construct ICT solutions to problem situations that are relevant to the context and are based on the knowledge of the opportunities and constraints of the ICT tools available.
Teachers should provide opportunities for students to go beyond developing knowledge of a wide range of techniques and skills.
The Australian Curriculum has emphasised the importance integrating digital technology to use in the classroom throughout all key learning areas by ensuring that ICT capability is included in teaching practices.
So what is ICT capability? The Australian Curriculum defines ICT capability as the integration of technology to use in the classroom. It states:
“….students develop Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school. ICT capability involves students learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve, and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.”
These skills are significant for students in a knowledge-based economy and will be developed through key learning areas as you integrate digital technology to use in the classroom.
The 5 components of ICT capability are:
- ICT techniques (skills);
- Higher order thinking skills.
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While routines and ICT techniques may be easily understood, it is important to comprehend the significance of how conceptual understanding underpins the learning of ICT techniques.
This ultimately enables these ICT techniques to be transferrable across different learning areas.
Therefore, you should encourage students to reflect on the use of ICT techniques across contexts and situations.
Processes are a series of ICT techniques and learning processes require a substantial degree of personal autonomy on behalf of the student.
The processes described in the Australian Curriculum ICT capability represent a significant part of the knowledge, understanding, and skills for students.
Despite this, processes are not associated purely with ICT, but more with the way in which ICT interacts with problem-solving situations in other subject areas or in the real world.
Higher order thinking skills are essential in order to execute processes the student has to apply.
An ICT capable student is someone who has the disposition to construct ICT solutions to problem situations that are appropriate to the context and are based on the knowledge of the opportunities and limitations of the software and hardware involved.
In a study of schools in the UK, high levels of ICT capability in students demonstrated that they could:
- Use ICT to support their learning in all subjects.
- Use common ICT tools used in classroom teaching.
- Take responsibility for their own learning, developing strategies to help them learn how to use unfamiliar ICT tools, and work collaboratively.
- Use current hardware and software and understand its potential and limitations.
- Understand that using ICT affects social processes.
(Crawford, 2011, p. 6)
Kennewell et al.(2000, p.38) states that:
“ICT capability requires not only technical knowledge and skills but an awareness of this knowledge base, so that effective choices can be made.”
Laying the Foundation in the Early Years
Information and Communication Technology capability goes beyond the teaching of ICT skills or techniques and its development should be the central focus in the early years.
Scholars such as Siraj-Blatchford believe that ICT capability can be integrated in early childhood learning activities so that ICT is appropriately and creatively used in a way that they learn about the ICT potential of situations.
In his view, ICT capabilities can be facilitated in digital role play situations where early childhood teachers enable play with developmentally appropriate technology in early childhood education.
As one of ACARA 21st century skills, ICT capability development is a primary goal of early childhood and primary teachers. It is about equipping the children with sufficient experience to enable them to use ICT without having to stop and think.