Labour Conference: Teachers should learn IT from their pupils, says minister

Teachers need to learn the benefits of IT from their students, according to Jim Knight, minister for schools.

Teachers need to learn the benefits of IT from their students, according to Jim Knight, minister for schools.

Speaking at a Labour party conference fringe meeting, the MP for South Dorset said teachers must always be "in charge" but should listen to young people on how best to use IT in the classroom.

"People born into this tehnology will always use it more confidently than people who are more adaptive," he said. "The effect in the classroom will be that teachers must always be in charge, but if they are really going to realise the benefits of the technology, then they need to learn from the young people themselves about how best to use it.

"There is a huge amount of learning generated from IT, and it is largely generated by young people themselves."

He said the UK is a "world leader" in applying technology to education. The government's plans to give a means-tested voucher to families to enable their connection to the internet at home would, he said, "not only close the digital divide amoung families with school-age children, it will have a massive impact on the classroom.

"Teachers are understandably reluctant to assume people can access the internet at home, and have the confidence and skills that go with that. Home access to the internet is worth an extra two terms of schooling or an extra half grade at GCSE. It is wrong that 1.4 million children are denied that opportunity."

Lesley Gannon, from the National Association of Head Teachers, said the growth of IT in schools is challenging for some teachers, adding, "The divide of knowledge and experience of IT cannot be drawn along straightforward lines."

She added that better sofware was needed to help staff manage IT in schools. "We need school systems and filtering systems that are going to provide adequate protection for young people, but at the same time are not stifling and frustrating users who are already highly skilled. We need software systems that will reduce the workload and problems.

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