From micro-evolutions to macro-revolutions: ICTs in Education

When we speak about the impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Education, there are two main approaches that we can follow.

The micro-level approach deals with the impact of ICTs on learning processes and/or the different components of a learning process. The point in the micro-level approach is to tell what the impact will be on how things work and howshould or will they change. The micro-level is about evolutions.

The macro-level approach puts the stress on the system and its foundations. The point in the macro-level approach is to tell what the impact will be on what things work into that system and why. and which will be the new foundations upon to which build a new system. The macro-level is about revolutions.

See, for instance, the following examples, picked at random and with no aim of comprehensiveness:

Item Micro-level approach
Macro-level approach
Teacher How can the teacher use an interactive whiteboard to support lecturing?

What is the role of the teacher? A mentor? An instructional designer?
Who is the teacher? Who is an expert?
Is there a need for a teacher?

Student What is the use of laptops when attending classes or doing homework? What is a student? Does the dychotomy student-worker still apply?
Will ICTs empower people so that they can master their own learning processes?
Textbook What will be the e-book like? Can it be interactive? Searchable? Is there any need for a textbook?
How can we turn any information resorce into a learning resource?
Who should design learning resources? What is the role of publishers in this (new) scenario (if any)?
Classroom Can we use (or ban) wi-fi in the classroom? For what purposes? Will meeting physical spaces become irrelevant in a no-time- and no-space-boundaries digital environment?
What is the added value of physical gatherings?
Is there a reason to keep thinking in terms of classmates and cohorts?
Assessment What is the best way to apply self-correcting surveys for assessment? Do we need assessment or certification?
Is peer-to-peer assessment possible?
Can we redefine reputation and authority in an open Knowledge Society?
Syllabus Should the syllabus self-adapt according to performance of the student? Just-in-case or just-in-time learning?
Can we unstructure learning?

Both approaches are worth being followed. Most times, there will be no revolution without a well paced set of little evolutions (contradictory as this may sound), and evolutions may eventually lead to sheer revolution when all added up. But. But when a revolution is — a digital revolution, as it now seems to be — clearly coming up in the horizon, time is of the essence: the debates on the evolutions that might be should give way to the debates on the revolutions that may or very likely will be.

Two reflections or corollaries arise from the former statement.

  1. The first one is that we have to be able to tell evolutions from revolutions. Statement the like of tablets — or laptops or interactive whiteboards or e-books or iBooks or you-name-it — are going to revolutionize Education are very likely to be either misleading or plain wrong. At least in the way they are usually stated or framed. All the aforementioned examples-in-the-classroom belong to the world if evolution, of innovation: they improve or even radically change the way we do some things, but not things themselves. In other words, tablets may revolutionize lecturing and, as such, make a huge contribution to the evolution of Education. But not revolutionize education.
  2. The second one is that if a revolution in Education is about to come — as many people see sings of it, and even work towards it — we certainly should put the focus on systemic changes and not in changes within the system. In other words, we should analyse how evolutions relate to or can contribute to a deep revolution, instead of focusing on evolutions themselves.

It is just normal that, as educators, we feel the urge to deal with the present, with solving the impact of ICTs in our daily lives inside our classrooms. But I believe we should put more effort in looking ahead in the future, in making our evolutions shift towards the path of the systemic change and not in parallel or diverting from it.

During the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (TIES2012) I felt like there was much concern on the micro vision of ICTs in education and just a little bit on the macro side of things. And I sometimes wondered whether that was thinking on your pedicure before having your leg amputated — and, by the way, not having a plan for the upcoming haemorrhage.

TIES2012 (XII). Educational policies on ICTs and educational innovation: Analysis of the programme Escuela 2.0

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

Educational policies on ICTs and educational innovation: Analysis of the programme Escuela 2.0

(this symposium, coordinated by Manuel Area Moreira, is framed in the research project Las políticas de un “ordenador por niño” en España. Visiones y prácticas del profesorado ante el Programa Escuela 2.0. Una análisis comparado entre Comunidades Autónomas.)

Manuel Area Moreira
An introduction to Escuela 2.0

Escuela 2.0 is a 1-to-1 or one laptop per child project that aims at:

  • Offering social equity.
  • Develops a national industry in the Knowledge Economy.
  • Breaks the isolation of the school.
  • Prepares the student to be a XXIst century citizen.
  • Enables the innovation of teaching-learning methodologies.

But is technology changing the way we teach and/or students learn? What is being the impact of this project at the methodological level?

Juan de Pablos Pons (Universidad de Sevilla).
Educational policies and good practices with ICTs.

Beyond the typical issues related to infrastructures, it is still difficult that the teachers accept ICTs as an educational tool. And only after this has happened we will be able to talk about producing and/or reusing educational content.

To foster this adoption of ICTs in teaching, a good practices project was started so that actual implementations were shared and, after them, critical elements of success be identified. Good practices, to be qualified as such, must generate a transformation and cause a change.

Good practices were chosen in the field of training, pedagogical guides, teaching innovation, usage of the LMS and international projection.

As an overall conclusion on how the Andalousian teachers felt about Escuela 2.0, they are happy to have more infrastructure, quite well on being able to be trained on the use of instructional technology, but not very confident on the impact of ICTs on teaching.

Cristina Alonso Cano (Universitat de Barcelona).
Policies and practices around ICTs in compulsory education: implications for innovation and improvement.

The consolidated research group “Esbrina, Subjectivitats i Entorns Educatius Contemporanis” (2009SGR 0503) is dedicated to the study of the conditions and current changes in education in a world mediated by digital technologies and visual culture. The research group has a clear goal to acknowledge the potential of ICTs in education.

What should change in policies, schools and people so that the potential of ICTs in education can be realized?

  • Questioning policies is a healthy exercise to be able to tell what is causing an impact and what not.
  • It is very different to speak about Information and Communication Technologies and Learning and Knowledge Technologies, which ones are we talking about when we speak about technology and transformation in the learning process?
  • Local and educational leaders and the community are normally banned from participating in ICT for education policies.

José Miguel Correa Gorospe (Universidad del País Vasco).
Eskola 2.0 Programme: What is it bringing to the educational change in the Basque Country?

(Eskola 2.0 is the Basque version of the Spanish state-wide Escuela 2.0)

Teacher training has been one of the most important flaws of the Eskola 2.0 programme. The programme was also imposed to the Basque school system, ignoring the dynamics of the centres, causing several tensions within the educational system and within schools.

Jesús Valverde Barrocoso (Universidad de Extremadura).
Escuela 2.0: unlearning and transformation vs. continuity and tradition.

During 2002, the region of Extremadura began introducing computers at school, on a one-computer-per-two-children basis. This happened in a much broader initiative (LinEx project) in the region to opt for free software and technological autonomy for the government as a whole, and for the educational system in particular.

Escuela 2.0 had several (and sometimes opposing) goals:

  • Academic performance.
  • Economic development of a local IT and digital content industry.
  • Equity and fight against the digital divide.
  • Digital competence.
  • Quality of teaching.

Reality in schools: 1/3 of teachers use computers in the classroom on a daily basis, 1/3 use it occasionally, 1/3 never use it. 4/10 teachers use often the interactive digital whiteboard in the classroom.

Related to the methodologia, lectures are still the norm and there is few collaborative work. Indeed, the textbook is the pedagogical resource per excellence, even if there is an increasing demand of digital content.

The role of the IT coordinator is highly valued.

What are the effects of ICTs in the classroom? Above all, engagement. Then, digital competence. And at a distance, some minor improvements in academic performance in general or in some specific tasks.

Hints for the future:

  • Flexibility in the kind of resources at the students’ reach.
  • Adaptability, getting rid of the syllabus, use of Personal Learning Environments.
  • -kess teaching, more learning.
  • Sociability, teamworking, networking.
  • Creativity.

Ángel San Martin Alonso (Universidad de Valencia).
Educational policies on ICTs and educational innovation: Analysis of the programme Escuela 2.0

When we foster innovation, is it to solve an emerging problem or because we need to keep the wheel of innovation moving and some innovation niches be fed?


Teacher training appears on and on during the discussion. There is a total agreement that teachers have to be trained on the application of ICTs in education, on changing curricula, on adapting and transforming learning methodologies. But ICT for Education policies keep on insisting and spending most of the resources in infrastructures.

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)

TIES2012 (XI). David Istance: Technology Use and Broader Models of Schooling and Learning — common arguments re-examined

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

David Istance (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD)
Technology Use and Broader Models of Schooling and Learning — common arguments re-examined.

ICTs in education have been a matter of analysis and research since 1980s, including lot of work on adults and lifelong learning and technology, role of technology in higher education (especially e-learning), schools, digital literacy, curriculum change, students assessment, equipment, teacher training, leadership, open educational resources, millennium learners, etc.

More recent reports show the importance of digital literacy and competence in two ways: as a tool in itself, and as a means to achieve better performance on traditional disciplines, especially writing and reading.

Innovative learning environments

ILE aims to inform practice, leadership and reform through analysis of innovative configurations of learning for children and young people, on three strands: learning research, innovative cases, and implementation and change.

Learning conclusions. Environments should:

  • Make learning central, encourage engagement, and be where learners come to understand themselves as learners.
  • Ensure that learning is social and often collaborative.
  • Be highly attuned to learners’ motivations and the importance of emotions.
  • Be acutely sensitive to individual differences including in prior knowledge.
  • Be demanding for each learner but without excessive overload.
  • Use assessments consistent with its aims, with strong emphasis on formative feedback.
  • Promote horizontal connectedness across activities and subjects, in-and out-of-school.
  • All these characteristics should be present, and not just one or two of them.

So, is technology on of the learning principles? Maybe not. Technology is more implicit rather than explicit in the learning ‘principles’. There is the important distinction between technology-centred and learner-centred approaches to learning with technology:

  • Fostering engagement.
  • Learning with others.
  • Supporting targeted respondses to difference and facilitating personalization.
  • Underpinning assessment for learning.
  • Providing connectedness (to others, to knowledge, etc.).

Motors and locus of innovation in education

OECD (2004). Innovation in the Knowledge Economy: Implications for Education and Learning analysed four sources of innovation or pumps:

  • The science pump: knowledge and research.
  • Networking pump: creating scale and synergies.
  • The reorganisation pump: modular restructuring.
  • The technology pump: more efficiency, new ways and means.

Education is not strong on any of these. On the other hand, technology is integral to all of them, not just in the technology pump.

There is a common framework implicit in much research and discussion of schooling an learning: system -> school -> class -> teacher -> learner. But, when we think about innovative learning environments, can we go beyond that framework? Can we go beyond institutional structures? Do we have to assume that institutions are given and are the existing ones? Does non-formal learning has a place in this framework? Can we have a look at the environment, and not at the single school, the single class, the single teacher, etc.?

New dynamics and organisation of learning environments:

  • Who: learners.
  • With whom: teachers.
  • With what: resources.
  • What: content.
  • How: reorganized learning activities and pedagogies.
  • Learning leadership.

This scheme has a result, which is learning, information about learning activities, learners and outcomes, upon which evaluation and assessment can be applied. Learning feedback comes at the end and can be used by the learning leader to restart the whole process.

This learning environment has to be embedded in a wider systemic framework. On the one hand, and at the micro level, it is closely related to the institutional environment. On the other hand, a+dn at the meso level, there are networks of environments and networks of practice. Last, and at the macro level, policy-setting and framing conditions determine the whole system.

The report Connected Minds, from the New Millennium Learners project, compares the competing ‘evangelist’ vs. ‘sceptic’ theses, states that technology and social media are importantly changing social and cultural environment, but there still is no evidence that young people want radically different learning environments. In fact, they want engagement, convenience (any time, anywhere) and enhanced productivity. There is, also, a need for working out the implications of the changing digital world for what schools should do.

How does the future of schooling look like? The OECD schooling scenarios:

  • The bureaucratic system continues, and even gets stronger.
  • Re-schooling I: Schools as focused learning organisations.
  • Re-schooling II: Schools as core social centres.
  • De-schooling I: Radical extension of the market model.
  • De-schooling II: Learning networks and the Network Society.
  • De-schooling III: Teacher exodus and system meltdown.

We need to reflect on what we want education for youth to look like, and see whether we can go beyond a single model (and single stereotype) of school for all aged 3 to 19 y.o. It should be possible to have an intense shared schooling experience, high quality and resourced for 3-13yo (bureaucracy and re-schooling), and diverse experiences, programmes and hybrids for all 14-19 y.o, including basic university (re-schooling and de-schooling).

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)

TIES2012 (X). José Antonio Millán: Digital prostheses in education: opportunity or consumerism?

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

José Antonio Millán
Digital prostheses in education: opportunity or consumerism?

There are, literally, hundreds of conferences around the world in the field of education, and hundreds of ways to use Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, as a quick search can tell. Almost everything can be used in a classroom. But, why should we?

Thoreau says, in Walden, our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. So, can we really do now more things we previously could with our new pretty toys? Or are they just distractions?

Teachers tend to suffer from the “shiny penny syndrome”, that is, their attention (and efforts) gets caught by the latest technology or device. It is only natural, but it sometimes falls into technocentrism or technoeuphoria.

Educators should definitely have a critical approach to technologies and just say no to the fast and mindless adoption of the newest technology. That is not being a Luddite, but just do a rational use of technology.

Of course there are pros on the use of ICTs in education:

  • Immediate access to huge amounts of information.
  • Enhancement of creativity.
  • Share and build knowledge collectively.

We have to try not to think on shiny devices and go back to the source instead. Understanding the code, made by people, by real humans, is getting back in touch with what humans intended with the technology they created.

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)

TIES2012 (IX). Educational projects based on laptops in the school

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

Educational projects based on laptops in the school

Jesús Valverde, María José Sosa, María del Carmen Garrido (Universidad de Extremadura).
Expectations of educational change before “one laptop per child” or “1:1” projects in the classroom.

Evaluation of the project “Escuela 2.0” in Extremadura (a region in south-western Spain)

In projects based on laptops in the classroom, there has been a dominance of technological innovation over pedagogical innovation, without the educational community taking part of the decision-making, and with insufficient support of the educational system to this new organizational and conceptual model.

Surprisingly enough, ICTs tend to preserve the traditional teaching styles, and the “adaptation” stage usually takes quite long, as teachers do not take up on new roles.

Innovation happens without the support of either formal teams (e.g. departments) or informal teams (e.g. social networking sites), thus leading to frustration: only those that work collaboratively, share experiences, help others “survive”. Technological and organizational problems only come to worsen the situation.

Conclusions for policy:

  • Necessity to build a community of teachers.
  • Training in educational centres, with the help of virtual learning environments.
  • Enhance the role of the ICT coordinator with a trainer in the same area of knowledge of the teacher.
  • Strengthening of the technical support and improvement of infrastructures.

Fernandez Olaskoaga, L.; Losada, D.; José Miguel Correa (Universidad del País Vaco).
1 to 1 model: An implementation study in the Basque Country.

Evaluation of the project “Escuela 2.0” in the Basque Country (a region in northern Spain)

Prior to the “Escuela 2.0” state-wide initiative, there already was a 1-to-1 initiative in the Basque Country. The state-wide initiative “only” implied a change of model, but not the development of a brand-new project.

“Escuela 2.0” provided netbooks for the kids, wifi connectivity in the classroom and digital classrooms (mainly digital interactive whiteboards).

An initial training was also scheduled, but only consisted in a very small test on general “computer science” knowledge. “Eskola 2.0” (the basque version of “Escuela 2.0”) introduced some more training by programming several workshops. At last, a digital material aggregator was created (Agrega) where schools would upload their digital production.

Eskola 2.0 had three axis:

  • A provision of resources: one laptop per child.
  • A technological training, based on the TPACK model.
  • Digital materials, uploaded to the Agrega initiative.

The teachers of the project answered a survey on the expectations about the project.

The most interesting outcome of the survey is that, in the short run, it was good to get devices (laptops, whiteboards) but that the rest (training, information, educational model, etc.) was negative or very negative.

In the medium run, though, the teachers expect to have the opportunity to follow some training, that there will be some pedagogical innovation, that the communication with families might be enhanced.

Telma Panerai; Gomes de Carvalho, A.B.; De Souza, B. (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco).
Embedding digital culture in some public schools in Brazil: the case of the one laptop per child.

One of the biggest problems in Brazil when it comes to the use of computers at school is cost. Cybercafes are an option for accessing the Internet or using a PC, but still, it does cost money. On the other hand, international connectivity is far from being optimal.

The first OLPC projects in Brazil started in 2007. In 2010 the project got to Pernambuco (a poor state in north-east Brazil). 4,000 laptops where provided to a 26,000 inhabitants city: that was quite a shock. Students would own the laptop, which provided both empowerment and responsibility… and the possibility of being robbed up. The computers were made by the Brazilian firm CCE and were called “uquinha” (small UCA, from Um Computador por Aluno – one laptop per child).

An action-research project was conducted from June to December 2010.

Students quickly stablish a process of digital immersion. The teachers, on the other hand, were anxious and insecure in the pedagogical application of the laptops, fearing loss of control. The learning process, though, was deeply changed: more students attended classes and the way they learnt was transformed. Public spaces were also reshaped, as students used them to access the Internet or study.

Noemí Martín; Cabré, J.; Sampé, M. (Universitat Rovira i Virgili).
Dialogical learning in a digital society: the experience of a rural school in Ariño.

(project in a rural school in Ariño, Teruel, a rural province in middle-east Spain, quite isolated from its surroundings)

How has the usage of ICTs in a rural area? How has affected learning? And kids’ lives?

What means “dialogic”? A dialogue amongst all the members of the community, where goals, means and processes are acknowledged by consensus.

The centre decided becoming pioneer in adapting ICTs in learning and evolving into a learning community. The centre, thus, went through different projects since 1999, ending up adopting the state-wide programme “Escuela 2.0”.

The project has implied new ways of learning, but also new social relationships, new relationships between the two local schools (which operate under the centre’s guidance), etc. Motivation of students increased, as did academic results. Families also were more implied in the learning process of their children, learning too how to operate computers, how to use them to learn, etc. And not only kids learn more, but master different competences that are understood to be crucial in an information society, like problem solving, autonomy, etc.


Joan-Anton Sánchez: how can we go from the laptop as a mere digital container to a learning tool? A: it depends on your starting point. If, like in many Argentinian schools, books are scarce, having 100% of the children having a (digital) textbook that is a great improvement.

Joan-Anton Sánchez: laptops as institutional infrastructure or bring your own device? Again, it depends on whether the student already got an own device (and the new one is just an added cost) or the device is but a means to overcome the digital divide.

There is a growing consensus among the participants that more resources should be devoted to training, but not to courses or workshops, but to building communities of practice, not relying these communities of practice on everyone’s good will, but on liberating resources or workload for specific leaders.

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)

TIES2012 (VIII). Looking into the future of Education

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

Round Table: Looking into the future
Mark Bullen (British Columbia Institute of Technology), Roni Aviram (The Center for Futurism in Education), Norbert Meder (University of Duisburg-Essen), Martha Stone Wiske (Harvard Graduate School of Education).

Mark Bullen

It is very unlikely that the technologies that we might here identify as revolutionary will actually be that revolutionary in the following years. Take the LMS as an example: almost every university in the world is now using it, but has it brought the revolution in education it promised 20 years ago?

[personal reflection: I’m actually teaching with my LMS in ways I could not offline: collecting tons of news on RSS aggregators, collaborating with wikis, sharing with slides (the students’ slides), debating with fora 24×7 amongst a group of 30+ people, etc.), staying tuned also 24×7 with microblogging, etc. LMSs being non-revolutionary, whose fault is it?]

How do we engage the faculty to try and get the best from LMSs? [that was exactly my point] How do we promote revolution within institutions?

Roni Aviram
Navigating through the Storm: A vision for a humanistic ICT-based education for liberal democracies in the 21st century

(based on Aviram, R. (2010). Navigating through the Storm: Reinventing Education for Postmodern Democracies).

We have witnessed 30 years of failures on the practical and theoretical/academic levels. “So much reform, so little change” or “the more it changes, the more it remains the same”. ICT have not made a sustainable contribution to learning or led to meaningful change in education.

So much talk, so little solid knowledge. There is no common language or methodological infrastructure, no value-oriented systematic thinking, very limited rational discussion, limited accumulation of knowledge (just anecdotes).

There should be well defined, systematic, value-oriented paradigms relating to the goals of educagtion and the ways to realize them in the crazy, chaotic, digital world we live in. And a formation of rational discussion and learning processed to go with it.

We need a humanistic vision for ICT-based education, based on the values of liberal democracies: personal autonomy, dialogical belonging, morality. The new humanistic vision should support flexibility, personalization, analytical abilities, support for reflection, infrastructure for exploration.

At the technological level, all of this is feasible. We “just” need to overcome 2,500 years of “Platonic” educational paradigm and the total “economization” of our societies.

Norbert Meder

We need to refocus on understanding, not on information collecting.

Media can be used for problem solving, for rephrasing old problems, for trying new things.

Martha Stone Wiske

Data, information, knowledge, understanding, wisdom. Too much of information is focused on the transmission of information and not enough on enabling understanding.

Mobile and multimedia tools are helping people to get closer to knowledge but, are we paying enough attention at how they are affecting too the way we think?

There are two axis to deal with: long-wide learning (at the school, at home, at work) and long-life learning. And they deserve different approaches.

We must extend our work as educators outside of the school and the university: we have to engage our learners with their learning in a way that lasts longer than their schooling years.


Ismael Peña-López: I honestly think that the revolution will not come from us, the insiders, but from the outsiders. Institutions might be able to perform an evolution — which is good — but times are of a revolution. Political parties, newspapers, the entertainment industry crises, and it is not politicians, newspapers or artists the ones that will lead the revolution, but the people who love politics, journalism and culture. Same with education: there already exist things as open educational resources, remixing culture, badges, alternative reputation systems, crowdsourcing, MOOCs, PLEs that are providing good and sustainable alternatives to the educational system as we know it. It is just a matter of time that these new approximations to education are sustainable in time. We can now separate the content from the container, and think of ways of getting rid of assessment, evaluating teachers, credit recognition, reputation, promotion and tenure, research and focus on learning. We should start thinking about education and educators and not the educational system or educational institutions (Martha Stone Wiske points that this is especially true in college and higher education, and I fully agree with her in that point).

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)