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Gaining inspiration from the past: building on previous research

iTEC is taking shape by keeping previous experience and project work by partners in mind. This article, provided by Manchester Metropolitan University, discusses two such projects carried out in the United Kingdom. The first one is a small-scale project called “Discover” which investigated how ICT-enhanced pedagogy can be introduced in secondary schools. The second one studied the actual use of Web 2.0 tools in secondary schools in England and Wales.

Article provided by Cathy Lewin, Manchester Metropolitan University

Discover, a small-scale case study, focused on pedagogical changes introduced for a cohort of 11-12 year olds in a UK secondary school in September 2008. The intention was to provide pupils with personalised learning enhanced through the development of self-management skills, within a technology-rich environment.

The cohort of approximately 120 pupils were based in a large open-plan space with five break-out areas designed to hold no more than fifteen pupils and facilitate a seminar/small group approach. All pupils were given a school-owned laptop that enabled an ICT-led presentation of the curriculum to be followed. The traditional timetable of five lessons per day was abandoned. Instead, pupils organised their own timetable (‘learning journey’) signing up for 15-minute subject tutorials and planning independent study periods (which did not necessarily mean individual study). In addition, pupils signed up for practical lessons, such as science and technology, which took place outside the open-plan area. This self-management process was structured by weekly time requirements for each subject (for example, three hours for mathematics).

Teachers changed their pedagogies to deliver the curriculum through 15-minute tutorials and activities to support independent study. There was a shift in emphasis from teacher-centred approaches to pupil-centred approaches. Staff also played a role in supporting all learners engaged in independent study across the whole range of subjects within the curriculum.

Technology facilitated pupil-centred approaches as well as having supported the management of tutorial booking and assessment. The achievements included greater flexibility in terms of staffing (and balance of professionals and para-professionals), pupils developing self-management skills, enhancing personalisation through choice and flexibility, and staff perceived an impact on attainment. In addition, there was an unexpected growth in peer-supported learning.

This innovative transformation demonstrates that change is possible although benefits from strong and visionary leadership, a willingness to take risks, together with a consultative approach through engaging staff, learners and parents in the process. One of the scenarios created in Cycle 1 of iTEC closely matches the Discover approach. That is, iTEC is generating feasible and realisable scenarios that will push some schools to reconsider classroom pedagogies.

To learn more about the school’s innovation journey, including a video clip illustrating the project, go to

In September 2007, Becta commissioned a year-long study of Web 2.0 use in secondary schools in England and Wales. It was grounded in an increasing awareness at the time of young people’s uses of technology to network, collaborate and to produce their own resources online. Data were collected from twelve representative schools and twelve schools identified as innovating with Web 2.0 technologies. However, it proved challenging to identify schools which had embraced the participatory approaches to learning that Web 2.0 technologies can support. Instead, schools which had a number of enthusiastic and proactive individual teachers were identified.

The use of Web 2.0 tools at this time, even by the innovative teachers who were identified, was limited. 41% of teachers surveyed reported that they had never used Web 2.0 tools to support collaborative learning in the classroom. Social networking use in schools was very rare. Blogs were used by some teachers but sometimes simply to provide information rather than engage learners in online discussion and debate. Discussion forums were more commonly used, often within the closed site of the school learning platform, to support debate and discussion, peer-assessment and knowledge sharing. A small number of teachers perceived that publication of content by learners was an important aspect of Web 2.0 use suggesting that the potential was recognised by some.

Within the same project Becta also investigated the extent of Web 2.0 use outside school. The assumption that the majority of young people were engaging with Web 2.0 tools in very productive and rewarding ways was incorrect. Rather, digital youth culture was far more complex with only a few young people fully exploiting the possibilities.

Whilst there is growing use of Web 2.0 technologies in school settings there are still many opportunities to make use of these tools to support pedagogical change in the classroom. This study revealed the complexity underlying the adoption of digital youth cultural practices in formal settings but also highlighted the potential of these tools to support teaching and learning through examination of innovative practices. This serves as a good benchmark for iTEC whilst providing evidence that some changes are achievable.

Research reports available:

  • Crook, C., Fisher, T., Graber, R., Harrison, C. and Lewin, C. with Cummings, J., Logan, K., Luckin, R., Oliver, M. and Sharples, M. (2008). Implementing Web 2.0 in secondary schools: Impacts, Barriers, Issues. Becta: Coventry.
  • Crook, C. and Harrison, C. (2008). Web 2.0 technologies for learning at Key Stages 3 and 4: summary report. Becta: Coventry.
  • Luckin, R., Logan, K., Clark, W., Graber, R., Oliver, M. and Mee, A. (2008) Learners' use of Web 2.0 technologies in and out of school in Key Stages 3 and 4.
  • Luckin, R. et al. (2009). Do Web 2.0 tools really open the door to learning: practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16 year-old learners. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 87-114.