Hidden curriculum, hidden feelings; emotions, relationships and learning with ICT and the whole child

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What the resource is:
A research paper presented to the BERA conference in 2002, now available through Education-line. The paper describes early findings from a two year project entitled ‘ICT and the whole child' examining the impact of the provision of enhanced ICT resources on a Year 2 class in a UK primary school.

The aims of the resource:
The aims of the project are to explore the interrelationship between emotional and cognitive development on learning. The authors argue that whereas the national curriculum lays emphasis on the mechanics of teaching and learning, their neuroscientific oriented approach investigates the significance of human relationships in the learning process. Building upon the findings of a previous project (Networked Interactive media in Schools, NIMIS) in which the impact additional ICT resources have on a Year 1 class were evaluated, this project was designed to explore the extent to which ICT resources could similarly engender positive interactions between children, computers and teachers. It is suggested that "positive emotions and relationships can enhance learning and a sense of self and confidence in teachers and pupils".

Key findings or focus:
As indicated above, this is a preliminary report and hence the findings are tentative, being based principally on interviews with the two teachers involved in the project. However, the authors are sufficiently confident to make a number of conclusions.

Their work indicates that computer suites do not encourage rapid learning, whereas the installation of a large screen and several small computers in each classroom which can be used daily is far more effective in developing ICT capabilities and confidence in both teachers and pupils.

Making their classrooms interesting, exciting and ‘child friendly' are important elements of the teachers' approaches. ICT contributes to this through the use of software which stimulates the children's interest and curiosity (eg fantasy programs). The teachers feel that monitoring pupils' self-esteem is a critical aspect of their work. They feel that children with low self esteem tend to be more disruptive and make slower progress. They suggest that multi-sensory computer-based activities in which children work co-operatively and gain successful outcomes in non-threatening ways are extremely valuable in raising self-esteem.

Most significantly, the teachers indicate that computer-based activities enable many children to become absorbed in their ICT work, supporting the development of higher order thinking skills and freeing up the teacher to engage in deeper, more meaningful interactions with children leading to relationships which engender ‘profound empathy'.

The authors conclude that in order for the greatest benefits of ICT to be realised teachers need several reliable computers to be installed in their classrooms for daily usage.

The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
All articles appearing on the Education-line website are peer-reviewed. This paper has been presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and is sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation. Hence it has a sound pedigree.

The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
This paper would be particularly useful in encouraging trainees to consider the wider impact of ICT on children's learning. There is often insufficient time during an intensive ITE programme to consider the role ICT can play in supporting children's emotional and social development. Whereas the concept of the whole child is familiar to Early Years practitioners, its significance for those training to teach older pupils is sometimes neglected. This paper would be extremely useful in stimulating debate amongst ITE students about the place of ICT in supporting the development of a supportive, inclusive learning environment.

The relevance to ITE students:
Although this paper is particularly relevant to those training to become teachers of Early Years or Key Stage 1 teachers, the significance of children's emotional development for their learning is of interest to teachers and trainee teachers in any age phase. The paper not only contributes to the debate about the role of ICT in supporting and enhancing learning and teaching across the curriculum, it will be of interest to those evaluating the organisation of ICT resources in the primary school - classroom-based v suite-based computers.

Most significantly, it would stimulate interest and discussion about the relevance of the hidden curriculum for children's learning and development.

Reviewed by:
Richard (Rik) Bennett