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M. Allyson Macdonald and Thorsteinn Hjartarson Iceland University of Education


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“Please don´t talk while I am interrupting!”

Voices heard in the construction of the information and technology curriculum in Iceland



M. Allyson Macdonald and Thorsteinn Hjartarson

Iceland University of Education


Reykjavík, Iceland
Talk presented at the Annual Conference of the Scottish Educational Research Association

Perth, 25th-27th November 2004


Abstract


Iceland is no exception to the increasing use of information and communication technology (ICT) in schools. The aim of this study is to consider some of the competing discourses affecting educational practice. In September 2003 Robertson et al. reported on some of the research carried out by the InterActive Education project in Bristol. Drawing on the work of Bernstein, pedagogic discourse and recontextualising fields, the British team suggested that four different voices could be heard in the classroom space, namely the voices of policy, of the teacher, of the pupils and of software developers.

This study is part of a larger Icelandic project LearnICT in which researchers and students are studying the use of ICT at several levels of schooling. This particular study considers the development of the national curriculum in Iceland during the period 1997-98 and developments in four case-study schools since then. It builds on document analysis, interviews with curriculum developers, principals, teachers and pupils, and visits to schools and classrooms. The use of discourse analysis, as suggested by Robertson et al., has proved useful in understanding the complexity behind the implementation of an ICT curriculum. Our data confirms the different voices of policy, teacher, pupils and software designers, but it suggests that there is also a fifth voice to be heard, namely that of principals. The role of principals in schools and school management, in the use of ICT in educational situations and in development work suggests that their voice can be distinguished from those of policy and of teachers.

Reference: Robertson, S., Shortis, T., Todman, N., John, P and Dale, R. 2003. ICT in the Classroom: The Pedagogical Challenge of Respatialisation and Reregulation. Talk presented at the BERA Annual Conference, Edinburgh, September 2003.

Key words: curriculum policy, information and communication technology, discourse




INTRODUCTION


This paper is concerned with the discourse surrounding the construction of the information and technology education (ITE) curriculum in Icelandic schools following the introduction of a revised national curriculum in 1999.1 It reports on a study in four schools in one district in the urban southwest of Iceland.2 We are interested in the ways in which different voices can be heard in the construction. But we are also concerned with testing a scheme for uncovering the data and we still need to assess whether the approach is useful for a larger study of eighteen schools.

By the late 1990s the transfer of compulsory schools from national government to local authorities had more or less been completed in accordance with a new law from 1995.3 Many local authorities supported initiatives to encourage the use of information technology: schools country-wide upgraded their computer facilities, school districts were using the number of children per computer as an indicator of investment, and facilities were being upgraded within schools. Teachers were being sent on courses to upgrade their IT skills. What was needed, it seemed, was to institutionalise these developments.

In August 1997 a preparatory group presented a proposal for a new curriculum area in Icelandic schools under the title Goals for information and technology education in compulsory and secondary schools (MESC 1997). Innovations were goals for the areas of Library studies (later renamed Information studies) and Innovation and application of knowledge. It was suggested that these two areas be cross-curricular. Carpentry had become Design and construction and had been moved to the new ITE curriculum area from the other creative arts and practical subjects.

The workgroup elaborated on these goals with some minor changes in emphasis and presented the National curriculum for information and technology education in three areas in 1999 – information studies, innovation and application of knowledge; design and construction, with a fourth chapter on prerequisite computer skills (MESC 1999b). Detailed objectives were presented on computer skills up to the 10th grade and for information studies up to the 4th grade. Each school then prepares a school curriculum based on the national curriculum.

We begin by reviewing some literature on curriculum activity. The methodology is briefly summarised and then some results are presented and discussed. We use activity theory as a framework for our analysis of the data. In particular, we focus on those parts of the curriculum which consider computer skills and information studies, the latter being a hybrid of computer skills and some aspects of information literacy.

CONSTRUCTING THE CURRICULUM

Analysing ICT in educational practice


In September 2003 we heard a talk given by Robertson et al. (2003) at the BERA conference in Edinburgh. They suggested that it could be useful to consider “force fields” in educational situations and the way in which using information and communication technology (ICT) can disrupt pedagogical practice (Figure 1). Their analysis is built on theories developed by Bernstein on competing discourses. We found their ideas attractive and our work last autumn was influenced by their framework (Macdonald and Hjartarson, 2003).

Figure 1 Force fields in the construction of the ICT curriculum (adapted from Robertson et al., 2003)

Voice of policy – official Voice of the teacher – professional

initiatives and programmes and curriculum interests





Voice of ICT-interests of Voice of the pupils – out of

software developers school use of ICT

Robertson and her colleagues said (p. 5):

Some of this disruption relates to the specific properties and path dependencies of ICT as it is manifest in pedagogical spaces. Some of it relates to the competing discourses or “force fields” which operate in the context for classroom practices. Once examined these pressures seem to show that the addition of ICT into a learning environment cannot be understood by explanations that suggest we have person plus a tool……

We noted immediately that the Robertson framework challenges the notion of a sequential process of curriculum construction and/or development, which was in accordance with our views of curriculum, and provides the opportunity to consider the views and experiences from inside and outside the classroom which are brought to bear on any curriculum, a view that was in line with our own ideas of curriculum-making. The notion of ‘voice’ was also useful as the “collective expression of common interest, and in the problem of articulating or ‘voicing’ diverse viewpoints in a stratified society” (Florio-Ruane and Smith, 2004, p. 627).

Robertson et al. added:

Rather our work suggests that ICT seems to rupture more fundamental arrangements and as a result changes the relationships and relations these dimensions carry.

We found an echo of their last comment in activity theory, developed by Engeström (1987) and others, where activities take place in a cultural historical activity system, in an arrangement of relationships. A curriculum is being constructed through mediation by voices inside and outside the school.

As the data-gathering in our project proceeded though, we began to wonder whether there were indeed only four voices in the construction of the curriculum. Indeed one of us (TH) had taken as a point of departure the notion that a principal’s view of information and communication technology (ICT) influences the way in which a school is run. In an earlier paper we have considered the voices of policy-makers and pupils in the ICT curriculum in some detail (Macdonald and Hjartarson, 2003). In this paper we will consider both principals and teachers and will ask whether the voice of principals is perhaps a “fifth” voice, not accounted for by Robertson and her colleagues. The paper will also distinguish voices outside the school from those inside the school.

In a recent survey in Iceland Elvarsdóttir (2004) considered the question of whether the views of school leaders on ICT had an effect on the way its use was developing. Her sample was made up of principals and assistant principals in the urbanised southwest, where 60% of the population of Iceland lives. More men were found in leadership positions, with women in the majority among deputy leaders. The renewal rate and mobility among school leaders is relatively high with 30% of leaders having been less than five years as school leaders and 55% less than ten years. 46% had been less than five years within the same school and 71% less than ten years. On the other hand teachers were much more sedentary in her sample. Class teachers tend to stay longer in the profession and in the same school, 41% more than 15 years in the same school.4

The use of ICT is wide-spread was considered widespread by both leaders and teachers. Leaders’ use was however more varied and more frequent than that of teachers. Schools were considered to be generally well-equipped, with good services and good support and provision of continuing professional development. The study indicated that there was however limited use of Internet and specialised teaching packages in teaching itself. Only 12% of teachers said that they used the Internet a lot in teaching and only 10% used teaching programs a lot. Very few teachers receive assignments by e-mail, a full 86% never do. Older teachers are less likely to use ICT. While 97% of leaders said it was important to integrate ICT into teaching, only 16% of teachers felt the same. We see here that there are differences in demography, mobility and attitude – teachers tend to be conservative with regard to using ICT and are sedentary and older, while school leaders are more progressive and are more likely to be moving into news positions and schools.

Activity systems


Activity theory makes the assumption that activity occurs in a socio-historical and socio-cultural context and is made up of a series of actions. The activity itself changes as a result of our interactions with the context and our consciousness with regard to those actions (Engeström, 1987). An activity system has a purpose/object which leads to an outcome, and is based in a context. Actors carry out a task using mediating tools change the task. However the task is also mediated by rules which govern the system, by a division of labour within the system and by the community of which the actors are a part.

More recently Engestrom (2001) has spoken of the multi-voicedness of activity systems (p. 136):

An activity system is always a community of multiple points of view, traditions and interests. The division of labor in an activity creates different positions for the participants, the participants carry their own diverse histories, and the activity system itself carries multiple layers and strands of history engraved in its artifacts, rules and conventions. The multi-voicedness is multiplied in networks of interacting activity systems. It is a source of trouble and a source of innovation, demanding actions of translation and negotiation.

None of the components of an activity should be considered in isolation nor deemed stable in time or place; an activity system is always dynamic. Part of the power of the theory lies in the consideration of the way that actors change the task and the way that other parts of the system influence the nature or extent of the change. Perhaps even more valuable though for the construction of the curriculum is to consider the primary contradictions, found within components of the system, and the secondary contradictions which arise between components (Engeström 1993, quoted by Barab et al..:7). These contradictions are necessary if the activity system is to develop; it is in their consideration or resolution that the opportunity for the system to change arises and moves the system perhaps closer to the object/task and the outcome which is intended. In this paper we are considering ways in which different actors or voices come to act on the object, the ICT curriculum. These actors carry out the task bound by rules, developed within a community, according to a division of labour and with mediating tools.

Lim (2002) has discussed the implementation of the ICT curriculum in Singapore and reminds us that, although activity theory focuses on the activities mediated in the immediate environment, it is useful and necessary to place these activities in a broader context, which can be differentiated into several levels. The specific contexts in the study being reported here are the educational systems into which the curriculum is being introduced. We can consider several levels; national, district, school and classroom.

Curriculum approaches


The study of curriculum can be approached in many ways. Understanding curriculum as institutionalized text is what Reid (1998) calls the Dominant perspective. Thus we might consider the process of constructing the curriculum as a rational process, from planning to preparation to implementation. Other approaches, for example, historical, political, racial, gender, phenomenological, postmodern, biographical or aesthetic, belong to the Reconceptualist perspective that emerged in the 1970s (Pinar et al. 1995).

Put simplistically Reid suggests that the Dominant agenda has been more about the setting of aims and objectives and the selection of appropriate learning experiences whereas the Reconceptualist agenda has concerned people and education. What proponents of the Reconceptualist perspective wanted to do was to “put the person back into the curriculum”, their main concern being educational principles, rather than learning experiences. Several tensions exist between the two perspectives: is curriculum-making a sequential or a simultaneous process? We assume that the activity of construction is never complete, that the curriculum is not ‘developed’ and then ‘implemented’, that it is continually under construction.

Johannesson, Geirsdottir and Finnbogason (2002) have written about governance discourse in Iceland in the late 1990s, including discourse on the national curriculum. They found that there was the implication in institutional texts that the 1989 curriculum had not been clear enough in its statement of learning objectives. They noted that in the preparation of the 1999 curriculum policy-makers had encouraged an emphasis on the individual and his or her needs, as well as on their independence, the possibility of stronger individuals, the need for a strong base in Icelandic and mathematics, the development of foreign language skills, the diagnosis of special needs and the necessity of ‘information technology’ as ‘a tool in every school subject’. Their study indicates a tension between individualism and common learning objectives in the construction of the curriculum. Is the curriculum for schools, for pupils or for teachers? What is the role of principals?

Simola (1998) has discussed curriculum reforms in Finland and has spoken of ‘wishful rationalism’ as the voice of reform, which at the same time appears to be a ‘school-free’ pedagogy. He chooses to use the term pedagogy for a theory of schooling where the school is considered to be a social system, embedded in history and culture. He then uses the term ‘didactics’ for the development of models and theories of teaching. He says that official texts in Finland tend towards didactics rather than pedagogy, as the view of teaching has become abstract, non-historical and decontextualized. We find here a contradiction which is worth keeping in mind. What view of the information and technology curriculum is dominant in schools? Is it a ‘pedagogy’, a theory of schooling, or is it ‘didactics’, a model of teaching?

Research on school leadership indicates that the principals themselves, their staff and those engaged in professional development feel that the construction of the curriculum is an essential part of educational leadership (Neil et al., 2001, Hansen, Jóhannsson and Lárusdóttir, 2002, Ruebling et al., 2004). The division of labour with regards to leadership includes the extent to which the principal is willing to delegate some responsibilities and whether such delegation to the role of subject leader or specialist teacher can alleviate the need for principals to ground their activities in the basic object of the school and the classroom, the teaching and learning experiences. Recently Spillane, Halverson and Diamond (2004) have argued for a distributed perspective on school leadership, where leadership practice is found in the interaction of school leaders, followers and the situation.

METHODOLOGY


As mentioned earlier, this study is part of the larger LearnICT research project being carried out on the use of ICT in Icelandic schools. This study builds on work being done in compulsory schools and is also part of the shared component where the national curriculum itself is under study. In the project component on compulsory schools, the work of 18 schools in five different locations is being studied. The data in this part of the study draws particularly on information from four schools in a well-established urban location5 that were all built in the 1950s. One author (MAM) is involved in both components and is the project director. The other author (TH) is preparing a thesis on the views of the future held by school principals and the role of ICT in that vision. Both authors have focussed particularly on this group of schools in their contribution to the project.

The largest school has 590 pupils and the smallest has about 350 pupils. In 2001 in a survey of self-reported ICT skills of teachers in three of these schools were all very close to the national average based on a sample of 1365 teachers (Lemke, work in progress). The teachers judged themselves to be reasonably competent in word processing, and the use of e-mail and the internet, but much less competent in using spreadsheets, databases or multimedia programs.



    Data collection

    Preparation interviews were taken in the four schools about approaches to ICT, taken with principals (two male and two female) and those members of staff responsible for ICT development in three of these schools (all men). Three interviews were taken in spring 2003 and one in autumn 2003 (Macdonald and Hjartarson, 2003). The preparatory interviews with three principals and ICT staff members were not taped, but detailed notes were taken and a summary of the interviews written up immediately afterwards. Two other members of the LearnICT team participated in these three interviews with one of us (MAM). The fourth principal was interviewed by the other of us (TH) and was taped and transcribed.

    The national curriculum was revised and developed over the period 1996-1999. Interviews were taken in autumn 2003 with four key policy-makers from that period in order to gain information on the process of developing the curriculum. At the same time we undertook a careful reading of the national curriculum. A focus group interview on education and ICT with six pupils aged 13-14 from the three schools was taken in autumn 2003. In spring 2004 we took two focus group interviews with teachers. In each case there were six teachers, three each from a school in our sample. The interviews focussed on what the teachers considered to be good teaching, the role of ICT in their daily work outside and inside classrooms and their view of management and leadership in schools. All the interviews were semi-structured, with the pupil interview being the most spontaneous. The pupil interview was taped and transcribed. The focus group interviews with teachers were taped and transcribed. Notes on the field visits were written up immediately afterwards.

    Field visits were made to eleven classes in two schools, carried out in early and late spring 2004. ICT was being used in some of the lessons and teachers showed us examples of other use. All the visits were carried out after the interview with the pupils. We were interested in seeing the type of activities in which pupils were actually engaged in school and the extent to which ICT was part of these activities. We also heard from teachers in these on-site visits about expectations regarding homework and the use of ICT at home.



The data was analysed by using a matrix of the different voices suggested by Robertson et al. (2003) against the features of the activity system which mediate the voices as they undertake the task of constructing the curriculum (see Tables 1 and 2). We added the principal´s voice by way of hypothesis and we differentiated the voices of pupils reflecting both their out-of-school use of ICT and their views and experiences on in-school use. Each voice is part of its own activity system but together the voices construct the curriculum although at different times and places one of the voices may be heard more loudly than the others. To some extent we can interpret the voices policy-makers, ICT sector and pupils as voices from outside and principals, teachers and pupils as voices from inside. We also suggest that the outside voices may reflect a view of schooling (pedagogy) and the voices inside a view of instruction (didactics) (cf. Simola, 1998).

Table 1- The voices outside the school, the voices of schooling

Schooling/school

Policy-makers

ICT sector

Pupils

Key contradictions

Tools













Rules













Division of labour













Community













Voices – in summary










The curriculum from the outside

Table 2 – The voices inside the school, the voices of instruction

School/instruction

Principals

Teachers

Pupils

Key contradictions

Tools













Rules













Division of labour













Community













Voices – in summary










The curriculum from the inside

the CONSTRUCTIon of THE CURRICULUM

Voices

Voices of policy-makers


The policy-makers in Iceland wanted a curriculum that would promote analytical rather than descriptive thinking and that would encourage a methodology that would promote innovation. They hoped for a cross-curricular approach and envisaged topic work across several subjects where computer use, the development of information literacy skills and the creation of new knowledge would be an underlying theme in teaching and learning.

Voice of software


The voice of software has clear foreign accents with imported software, particularly MicroSoft and globalisation having a effect.

Voice of pupils outside schools


Out-of-school the pupils engage in a wide range of computer-related activities, using the computer to communicate with friends and keep track of them, and in some cases to create web-pages or music. They see the computer as a tool and in their out-of-school activities, their use of ICT is collaborative through games and web-site construction, it is communicative through using MSN and blogg-sites and it is creative through web-sites and in some cases programming.

Voices of pupils in schools


The experience of pupils with respect to computer use in schools is of two kinds. First, the more competent pupils have been through a period of fairly unrewarding IT lessons over the last few years where few demands have been made on them; sometimes they know more than the teachers. Basic computer skills have been taught, including touch typing. Second, the most common use of the computer across the curriculum is in presenting slide shows or preparing essays. There is an indication that the advantages of computer work for reviewing one’s work is starting to be emphasised during in middle-school years and we saw examples of teachers trying new approaches. Those currently finishing lower secondary saw less of this.

Voices of teachers


When it comes to individual teachers, teachers seemed to be willing to try, though by some accounts reluctantly, to ‘integrate’ ICT into their subject teaching plans but only the occasional teacher is highly skilled in the area and then teaches IT in specialist courses in the upper grades. In the lower grades, everyone is expected to be able to teach IT and indeed the principal used this as a lever to encourage interest in ICT. Attempts were being made to change teaching styles through inservice work with teachers.

Voices of principals


From the interviews we see that the principals have a considerable influence on the way in which the curriculum is constructed. They can employ staff and deploy them according to policies which preferably have been worked on with teachers. They can involve teachers in the use of facilities and one of their strongest weapons is in managing the timetable. Above all teachers expect the principal to have a vision, a policy and to manage the school in terms of that policy.

Components of the activity systems

Tools


Policy-makers and pupils indicate considerable alignment with regard to ICT as a tool:

I understand it as a tool that you use to communicate with others and to collect information - you use the computer as a servant and give it instructions to fetch data for you, and to make a myriad of things. (pupil, boy)

There is no real conflict between the views of the ICT sector and what is considered reasonable by policy-makers and pupils, not surprisingly, since their experiences are regulated in part by the hardware and software that is available.

Principals generally want ICT to be used as a tool in learning but this may be a particularly sophisticated consideration of ICT in teaching and learning. One tool which the principal could manipulate was in the provision of facilities (time, space, hardware, software) which constitute a tool for the way in which computers can be used during the school day. Teachers saw its practical advantages but were not using it much, even though they were reasonably competent users themselves. Pupils were experiencing both the reluctant side of some teachers and the specialist skills of other teachers within regard to the use of ICT.

Rules


The rules in the policy-makers’ curriculum have two faces, a wide view of what a thinking curriculum is with an emphasis on ICT as a tool and a very narrow view of how one is to obtain computer skills. Using ICT for management also regulates what might be done with ICT; the management function dominates the view that everything should be ordered and controlled; chaos is not welcomed though creativity is expected. Detailed rules for using ICT are laid out in the national curriculum, which schools have not found easy to convert into a school curriculum which is meaningful. Indeed it seemed that only a few teachers in each school had been required to read the curriculum. The teachers found the curriculum, be it national or school, to be demanding.

The school timetable also regulates the options available for teaching and learning. Refuge is sought in the rules by some principals who force teachers to acquaint themselves with ICT by requiring them to teach an “ICT lesson” every week. Through looking at the discourse on rules we get a picture of a curriculum that many find unwieldy, perhaps unnecessarily so. We also get a feeling that there is something to be feared in its use. For example, pupils are generally not allowed to work unsupervised on computers in school buildings.


Division of labour


New teaching methods needed to cater more for the individual, said the pupils. The path from the national curriculum to the daily learning experiences was not addressed by policy-makers; that issue was to be addressed elsewhere. ICT companies provide courses and manuals to build up ICT skills in isolated areas, but there are relatively few options for a contextualised study of ICT in daily school operations except for the courses offered in the graduate department at the Iceland University of Education. Pupils have extensive skills in some areas but these are not always welcome in schools.

Novice and expert users are found in the teacher and pupil groups. General and specialist knowledge found in teacher groups. Questions arise of pupil vs teacher expertise, but some suggest that pupil expertise may be over-rated. Pupil expectations of teaching do not necessarily encourage the use of ICT; according to pupils teachers were supposed to ‘teach’ with short inputs, with good explanations and assignments being returned on time. Arrangements differ between schools for specialist ICT support, not all of which were successful. It would appear that informal support, from colleagues, is considered useful.


Community


Policy-makers provided direct support to six schools for three years to develop innovative practices in schools thus trusting a centralised development and dissemination model, but otherwise made no plans for assisting teachers in the ‘implementation’ of the curriculum. Annually the policy-makers contribute to the community of ICT users in education through a conference attended by up to 1000 teachers. The ICT sector is very visible at these annual conferences. Pupils are by and large invisible at this event; their community of users does not appear overlap with the other voices.

Clearly the principal has a great deal to say about the community, the way in which it develops within the school and the use of continuing professional development to support the evolving community. Our informants indicated that some of the teachers were not happy with their lot at being assigned to teach ICT but felt a need to “keep up”. The principal is in a position to manipulate the community and indeed some teachers expect him to do so.


conclusions


Policy-makers have a vision of the use of ICT based on wishful rationalism (Simola 1998) and a view of schooling whereby pupils will be encouraged to think through the following of the aims and objectives set forward in the published curriculum. Software use seems to be mainly based on management rather than on thinking. Hardware and related software undergoes rapid change, change which pupils seem able to be touch with outside school. As such they can be quite critical of what is available in school, where the response time for renewal is much longer than that of the home in the high technology society of Iceland. Pupils simply use ICT and don´t stop to think whether it is “integrated” with another subject or not – it simply is there, waiting to be used.

Of the three areas which constitute the official curriculum in information and technology education only one area, Information studies, seems to be implemented to any degree through time-tabled lessons or cross-curricular work. There is little evidence of the area Innovation and application of knowledge being approached systematically. There are indications that Design and construction has not been well-accepted by all traditional carpentry teachers, but we do not have enough data on that in this study to draw any conclusions.

Considerable time and energy is however being put into the ‘prerequisite’, Computer skills, perhaps at the expense of higher-order thinking and the demands being made in the other curriculum areas. Computer skills or Information studies appear on most school timetables and are generally taught separately rather than across the curriculum in the schools we visited. The national curriculum thus undergoes a fairly narrow interpretation within schools - as being for IT skills, not for using ICT as a tool in learning nor for the broader vision and rationale of information and technology education.

Twining (2002) suggested three categories where the computer is used as a tool for learning: support, extension and transformation. The curriculum of the policy-makers encompasses all three, but it would be fair to say that in the three curriculum areas - information studies, creativity and applied knowledge, and technology and design – the policy-makers set their hopes on transformation. Here learning would be built on new content and new processes and requiring the use of a computer. The use of computers was expected to be as common-place as pen and pencil use and the skills to be learnt in the three areas of the ITE curriculum were indeed considered the key to both individual and national development.

The constructed curriculum bears only a few signs of transformation; basic teaching and learning practices for pupils in basic schools have changed little with the advent of ICT. Perhaps a clear sign is the way that school curricula and teachers speak of “integrating” the ICT with other subjects – this usually means that IT skills required for the use of Microsoft software are required to complete standard learning and teaching tasks.

There is a sharp contradiction between the vision of the policy-makers and the way in which the vision is mediated in schools. The physical book, the national curriculum, the artefact which becomes a tool for teachers in constructing the curriculum, is a tool which does something else entirely, as it is moved from the standard format of aims and objectives into school curricula, classrooms and timetables. Pupils’ learning has been bound by rules – activity is supervised while in school, and students must keep pace with one another.

The roles of teachers are changing however, new rules are being established and ICT is having an effect on teachers as a community. There are questions about the division of labour within the teacher group and between the pupils and the teachers. There are also questions about the delegation of subject leadership in schools; when does the principal delegate his educational leadership, and if there is delegation, what might ensure the credibility of those who carry new responsibilities. Some of the credibility will come with the authority of the principal, but the views, experiences and daily pressures of the community itself will also influence the way in which specialised knowledge is sought.

The ICT curriculum is under construction, with new windows, floors, walls and chimneys being added all the time. Whose voices are heard in or above the noise of construction? The construction is a complex interplay of several voices, and is bound by several regulators and mediators. If we look to activity theory, theories of leadership and consider the ways in which ICT is introduced at both the school and the classroom level, that the voice of the principal and the roles of those with specialised knowledge should be heard if the construction is to have form and coherence. Principals have considerable power over the rules, community and division of labour which characterise current educational practice.

There remain questions about how much the object of the activity system has actually changed. No clear picture of a constructed curriculum has appeared – it is a collage, a mix of values and practices, being constructed by a cacophony of voices, few of which are heard. Who is listening and whose voice is the preferred voice?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We thank the policy-makers, pupils, teachers, principals and ICT supervisors for their contribution to this study. We thank the Icelandic Centre for Research and the Iceland University of Education for their financial support. We thank our colleagues in the LearnICT project for discussions.


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1 This study is part of a larger cooperative project LearnICT which is still in progress. Its purpose is to consider the nature of the opportunities presented when information and communication technology (ICT) is used in teaching and learning.

2 Data is being collected from eighteen schools, in five districts, at the compulsory school level.

3 The school system is small with about 45.000 children aged 6 to 15 enrolled in about 180 compulsory schools, of which about half have fewer than 100 pupils and only a handful have over 600 pupils. There are over 3000 teachers in the compulsory system, with average age a little under 40. Nearly 20% do not have teaching qualifications though some are well-qualified in other areas.

4 Here it should be kept in mind that teachers are by and large an elderly profession in Iceland. The average of entrants into teacher education is nearly 30 and the retirement age is 70.

5 The other four locations are urban-newly established; urban-all schools in a small local authority; coastal-rural and agricultural-rural.



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