Stop calling it ICT!

I very much enjoyed following the NAACE Annual Strategic Conference via Twitter earlier today. Those present gave a flavour of the event and all that was being discussed via a tagstream labelled #naace2010, and I engaged with the discussion a few times. One of the most interesting discussions came out of a remark made by OFSTED's ICT Advisor David Anstead, who gave the second keynote of the day. He apparently said that we should remove the 'C' from ICT, and this predictably provoked a few responses. What on earth did he mean by this? Perhaps someone who was there and heard it first hand could comment on this blog?

There then ensued a Twitter discussion on whether ICT was the right term to use now that technology and its pedagogical applications have moved on. Doug Woods (@deerwood) suggested that the 'I' could also be removed. Then he came back and said let's remove the 'T' as well - which leaves only learning. I agreed publicly on Twitter, and then suggested that perhaps ICT should be ditched completely - let's call it Learning Technology - I said. Ben Nunney (@bennuk) made a good point that some kinds of computing should still be taught in schools, but it's more appropriate to teach things like networking and programming than it is to teach how to create a PowerPoint slideshow.

A flurry of comments went back and forth. Doug Dickinson (@orunner) agreed that ICT is a passe term, but others weren't so sure. Dave Garland (@thegreatgar) asked if ICT as a subject could break the mould in a curriculum which seems to be stagnating. I responded that I didn't think ICT should be a taught subject at all, but that it should be embedded into the rest of the curriculum, related to and underpinning all subjects. John Rudkin (@montydoodles) liked this idea, and said that all subjects should be integrated. He extolled the virtues of 'challenge based learning' saying they should be siezed. I assume by this he meant what I would call problem based learning, in which case, I fully agree. Paul Luke (@pluke17) made a neat comment: We should also stop using the name e-learning, he said. 'There's only one 'e' in learning.' Mira Danon-Baird (@mdanonbaird) made one of the most incisive comments when she remarked: 'Key issue: Embed edutech till it's invisible and the learning isn't. Simple'.

@deKay01 remarked "Learning Technology"? Why don't we just call it what the kids do: "Pooters, Innit"? I responded with '... and DS, and Wii, and XBox, and mobile phones...' meaning that it isn't just about computers anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. It's about the whole spectrum of what we have for so long called ICT. But to me, ICT doesn't cut it anymore. It's no longer an adequate term for what we see happening. Information and communication are merely outcomes of learning through technology. Technology Enhanced Learning is another term proposed, but again, this is a byproduct of learning technology that is appropriately used. It's still all about the learning, but we are using technologies to support that learning. When we do, let's stop calling it ICT - let's call it learning technology.

Image source


Mike Arsenault said…
Here in Maine our 1:1 laptop project has always been referred to as MLTI, Maine Learning Technology Initiative. I care so little about the term ICT that I actually had to Google it to know what it stands for. Technology use in school is for the purpose of enhancing instruction. We don't talk about chalkboards/whiteboards, pens/pencils, paper and books because they are embedded into our learning culture. Technology should be as embedded and just how we do business in schools.
Daniel said…
I had the same thoughts while on an observation day at a local school.
ICT as a subject is broken, it bare little resemblance to what is actually going on. Teaching 14/15 year olds how to make a newsletter in publisher is simply ridiculous.
I plan to train as an ICT teacher (as its called) but I already despise the curriculum.
There is no challenge for the pupils at all.
Anonymous said…
As one who attended the Naace session I agree that learning with technology makes the most sense, unfortunately Ofsted seem to be pre-programmed to assess ICT use discretely and therefore expect to see it explicitly used into KS4 as an IT lesson. Maybe not in the same world as me I wonder...
Frances Bell said…
I am a bit bemused by this debate, probably because my view of it has been tweet-sized. Is it about ICT (or whatever you want to call it as a subject discipline? Employer engagement in planning the Diploma in IT indicated an equal emphasis on business, interpersonal and technical. You could portray that as other subjects e.g.g Personal and Social Education becoming embedded in IT.
Surely, enabling 'skills' and competences (including criticality, technical, ethics, etc.) should be embedded in most subjects.
What I would have against calling all this Learning Technology (apart from turning off students) is it sounds a bit too much like a rehearsal for life instead of living it. Granted performativity is threaded through with learning why foreground it?
Lisa Chamberlin said…
I like the term Learning Technology to encompass "all things learning supported by technology". I do believe, however, that there is still room for the eLearning term if only because its connotation is not "electronic learning" but "online learning" as opposed to f2f classroom-based learning/teaching. Since the methods and pedagogies should differ between online and f2f courses, the need for the distinction is still there. "Distance Ed" departments still have some old hold outs like telecourses and correspondence course which eLearning does not represent.

In the four higher ed institutions I've worked for and public high schools - none used the term ICT on a regular basis (except in the course catalog).
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for all your very useful and thoughtful comments everyone. Some may think I'm just having another one of my rants at this, and I know that we aren't going to change anything. ICT will still be called ICT by those who use it/them for a long time.

But the underlying argument is much deeper than simple nomenclature. I think I tried to address this in an earlier post entitled 'What's in a name?'. The issues are not so much about the name, but the connotations of the name and the driving philosophies of the name. By discussing this issue, we are exposing curriculum and governance problems and pointing the way forward for a more fruitful reappraisal of what we actually do in schools. It's got to be more than just teaching...
James Clay said…
Let's stop calling it furniture and call it desks.
Alison Lones said…
I agree with many of the comments above, especially about how silly it is to teach how to design newletters using Publisher. But until the powers that be listen we will be forced to teach like this to meet the syllabus (just look at Functional Skills ICT). This in turn will turn people off 'ICT' and we will continue to have young people (and new teachers) who actually have very little IT savvy.
Doug Woods said…
David Anstead's original proposition was that we should take the C (communication) out of ICT. I'll get on to his reasons why later (and why I disagree perhaps).
Following David's initial suggestion (no pun intended) I suggested taking the I (information) out of ICT on the grounds that nowadays people use technology to create and share much more than just information.
A bit later, I suggested taking the T (technology) out of ICT on the grounds that the technology is only a tool, it is really what or how why use it that matters in education.
With the I the C and the T gone, the question arose 'what should we call it'. 'learning' was one suggestion!
Why was David suggesting we take the C out of ICT? He was really talking about the ICT curriculum in schools and evidence produced by Ofsted suggested that the Communication and Presentation aspect of the curriculum was well covered whereas other aspects of the ICT curriculum were not. Rather than praising staff and learners for their achievement in Communication and Presentation (which would have been my first response), David's suggestion was that we remove this element and concentrate upon the others.
Why do I disagree with David? Well if a group of my learners got 10/10 for an element and consistently got 10/10, 10/10 what would that tell me? Well first it might tell me that I'm a great teacher (natch!) but it might also tell me that I am probably not stretching the learners, not challenging them, possibly underestimating their ability and losing their interest or engagement. In which case, rather than cutting that element, I would seek to stretch the learners further and challenge them more in order to regain their interest and raise their achievement further.
Paul said…
At our school in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada it is ..... Technology Integration!
cosmico said…
Dear Steve,
I am sure these are not "rants" (as you amusingly call them). I did have some similar problems in using the term ICT, which seems quite obsolete by now: perhaps, a better definition could be "WSK", Web Shared Knowledge. I know it's not such euphonic to use as ICT (this comes out smoothly enough). Let's consider what is happening just now: masses of information are being variously tagged, acquired, digested, manipulated, and this is a vision of life too. In other words, leaning on WSK would represent a really different approach both to the technological tools and to the content (Oh, the eternal couple of form and substance...!)
Cheers, :)
Nick Sharratt said…
In terms of symantics, if the term is used to describe 'what is the subject being studied' then it's not Learning Technology is it? Pupils don't study specifically technology used for learning and neither should they.

I also tend to feel 'learning technology' is a tautology - I can hardly think of any technology which couldn't be used for learning.

ICT defines specific aspects of technology to be studied, ie those technologies related to information communications - although that could equally include biros, blackboards, cave paintings too, so probably isn't that useful to narrow the scope either.

ICT as a term does not tend to be used in the IT proffession except in relation to school curricula.

To me, a subject called 'Information Technology' to specifically study the technology (rather than simply how to use it) would work for those pupils with that interest and possible future career, but if the use of tech in education is well established across the rest of the subjects then is there any need for a fairly superficial 'ICT' subject at all? What is it intended for as a stand alone topic for everyone?
Steve Wheeler said…
Aye there's the rub Nick - I'm not talking about a subject that is to be studied - because my view is that ICT is not a true subject (computer science is). A lot of ICT stuff taught in schools relates to 'how to' rather than subject related. My argument is that the underpinning technologies should be embedded across all subjects in the curriculum, and should essentially 'disappear' - i.e. be less apparent - they are a set of tools, and we don't study the pencil or the notebook, do we? As Cosimo says, ICT is outmoded and does not challenge younger students anymore.
Neil said…
Unfortunately, I missed David's session as I had to go early. (Ill.)

E-skills people talked a lot about IT - I feel this puts a barrier up with teachers, suggesting e-skills is out of touch. Somehow, IT sounds formal, geeky, old-fashioned.

I think people may be missing the fact that ICT is becoming the de facto term across a range of intergovernmental orgs and businesses. People taught ICT are entering the workforce and calling it ICT. So, you get both UN and EU talking about ICT in preference to IT.

Yes, you probably could call it something better now, and yes, it was education's fault that we now have confusion about the two existing terms (let alone the suggestion of a whole host of alternatives). I never liked the initial distinction brought in by QCA in the (?) early '90s. But it is the term we have got and it is widely accepted.

In the end, ICT describes a section of the compulsory curriculum. We could get rid of it and all "subjects", but there would still come a point at which we needed to describe and classify so, like "geography", it's never going to go away. (Oh, and BTW, the QCDA doesn't say such "subjects" should be taught in discrete blocks. It's all in favour of developing new approaches to delivery - or was last time I looked... when it was called QCA!)

I know academics love to discuss definitions endlessly, but I feel we should just get on with the job of developing learners who are capable of applying technology appropriately to all aspects of their lives.

Meanwhile, we do need people coming in to the workforce who have real deep ICT skills. I feel that e-skills, BCS et al should give up with "IT" and bow to the inevitable, while the education system looks seriously at itself to see how we deliver that depth.

PS. Apols if someone has said all the above - not read all the comments
P@ said…
Leaving aside my objection to ICT on the grounds of one or other of I and C being redundant if the other is present, I wanted to pick on Nick's comment about whether students should study technology for learning.

I have to disagree, I think they should - at least briefly. They should critically examine a number of different technologies for learning so that they can learn to select the ones which they can work with best. They should learn how to determine what affordances a system offers them - it is a practical example of how to use IT skills for something which both directly benefits them (in that they gain a useful skill, sadly lacking amongst the general population), as well as one which can be assessed.

I'd also disagree with you Steve about whether IT is a subject (Note my cunning switch to IT from ICT; I would have to agree about ICT on the grounds it is made up because someone had too many capital-Cs lying around). But IT involves some elements which don't really have much of a place in Computer Science - the social, fluffy humanities side of things. Indeed, I would also happily argue (over a pint or two) about the preferred place for requirements analysis and specification writing - I would say that is much more an IT skill than a Computer Science one. Certainly an awareness of IT is needed in CS and vice versa, but I am firmly of the opinion they form different academic domains.
Phillip D. Long said…
ICT is and never was 'the point', IMHO. It's rather a strategy for institutions to find a way to mitigate the potential disruption this domain can cause. This reminds me of Seymore Papert's,"Why School Reform is Impossible". You make a "curriculum" to insulate things, separate and containing them from doing harm.
Nick Sharratt said…
P@ - I actually agree with you on the need for pupils to learn tools for learning - we teach them how to use books after all :), and other 'technologies' are surely just extentions and updates of the same principle.

But I wouldn't make it a subject in itself, in the same way that 'books' isn't a subject although reading is taught. It's the skills and capabilities gained from the effective use of the tools that's important, not the tools. So call it 'study methods' or something eles related to the abilities gained and include all technologies as just part of it?
simfin said…
I worked in Durham LA in late 90's employed as an ICT CST - Curriculum Support Teacher and my role was to help embed ICT (Information Communication Technologies across the keys stages - across the curriculum. Even in those distant days I had no time for the subject ICT - dragging kids kicking and screaming through Access so they could make a data base for a hypothetical theme park. (There are ofcourse innovators within the subject area and by no means am I critical of those people involved at the mousemat of delivery)

My view hasn't changed, ICT teachers are nice people, the discreet subject sends confused messages. Far better to see their innovative activities linked to the curriculum studies of the children at that time. If they're studying weather in geography then why not use data analysis activities in ICT. Better still - get the infrastructure sorted so they can access technology from within the geography room.

I suppose, when I do talk about this I refer to communication technologies and never ICT, as this allows me to include games consoles, phones, cameras, audi devices, web and even computers.

To add a further log on the fire - is there any reason for NAACE? Shurely the debates within NAACE conference would be better placed within more generic curriculum/education events/forums?

uh oh.. start the car, there's a rumble going down ;-)
Mr Pittman said…
I dropped the use of ICT in our Primary school. I used to be Head of ICT, but now I'm the Learning Technologies Leader. This describes what I do far more accurately. Guiding, advising, training pupils & staff in using technology for learning. We no longer have an ICT subject. Instead, all technology related skills & experiences are embedded across all subjects.
P@ said…
@Nick I agree it should be part of a study skills 'package', but I think it should also be available as a subject to learn about at GCSE/A level, distinct from, say Computer Science (and, for that matter, both of those should be distinct from Programming)

I'm a bit out of touch with what gets taught at schools, but none of my teenage friends have ever told me about getting taught how to learn - in fact, one of them told me recently that it was inconceivable that you could learn how to learn. I wasn't impressed, but aside from that, it does make wonder whether this sort of education is available in schools?
mvallance1234 said…
re" We don't talk about chalkboards/whiteboards, pens/pencils, paper and books ... "
Yes Mike Arsenault .. I agree.. which is why I just had to post a BLOG entitled 'So much fuss" at JISC's BLOG competition. See

As an aside, the first Singapore Masterplan for IT in Education in mid 1990's was referred to in 2005 as Singapore Masterplan for ICT in Education .. jumping on a terminology bandwagon. I wonder what they will refer to it as in 2015?

The point. Does it matter?

Michael Vallance, Future University, Japan
N said…
This is a very interesting debate but what is most important is that educators are giving serious consideration to ICT as a subject. What it stands for, dropping letters etc is not the issue really. The issue is the subject, what it is deemed to cover and most importantly how it is done. Like any subject if we address the "how it is done" element then that is where high standard teaching/learning takes place. Have a look at my muses on how I have taught a particular project in ICT:
Hopefully this begins to prove my views.
Cheers @largerama
garybau said…
seems there is a fair bit of cross purpose in this thread...

IT or ICT at high school is very far removed from teachers using information technologies(IT) in schools

in fact many teachers would benefit from knowing just a little more about the IT setup...

but, that is a long way from employing IT for teaching and learning

learning about IT is different to using the IT/ICT...

witness the distinction about learning how to use MS-WORD and using MS-WORD...
most use maybe 5% of the APP capacity..many have ditched MS office altogether as unnecessary and use web based word processing or open source

depends on needs, purpose and the intended outcomes! which varies between teachers, learners, classrooms schools, states and countries...

diversity is a good thing!

maybe it's all about the learning anyway??
and not the teaching
Anonymous said…
I'm probably confused but I can't work out if this is a general debate about the term ICT or if it is specifically about ICT as a curriculum subject? I can't comment on the latter, since I know nothing about the curriculum! On the former, I think I would argue that ICT still has some value (at least until something better comes along). At Eduserv, for example, we need a label to broadly describe those things within scope of our charitable remit. Many people here want to use IT for that. I've tended to argue that IT is too narrow (and low-level) and that ICT is better, both because it is a broader term and because it is in line with usage elsewhere (JISC and Becta for example). Learning Technology is no good for us because we are just as interested in the use of ICT to support scholarly research, health information and government engagement as we are in its use to support learning. IT feels, to me, to be too concerned with the nuts and bolts these days - I wouldn't see social networking as falling under IT for example, whereas I would include it under ICT.

Technology (on it's own) is far too broad.

So, if ICT is to go (in it's more general sense outside the curriculum) I'd like to know what replaces it - and learning technology doesn't do it for me.

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