Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age: Part One

While the use of ICT tools in schools is potentially one of the most significant changes to face education in the 21st century, it appears to be a change for which many schools are ill prepared.  London School of Economics Academic, Sonia Livingstone pointed out recently that, “children [are] often the ‘canary in the coal mine’ – experiencing life in the digital age before parents, teachers or governments have caught up.” (2019).  Given that the internet is now 30 years old, making it the same age as the key formulation of children’s rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is timely to evaluate and discuss the significance challenges and opportunities posed by learning in the digital age.

Not surprisingly, the research base in effective use of ICT is quite substantial but the lack of action on recommendations from the research seems to suggest that many schools believe the mere existence of the tool is sufficient, and do not acknowledge the need for a shift in teaching and learning that is required to make best use of these tools. James Cengiz Gulek and Hakan Demirtas seem to describe the positive results possible when effective pedagogy is tailored to the use of 1:1 laptop learning. They claim, “Past research suggests that compared to their non-laptop counterparts, students in classrooms that provide all students with their own laptops spend more time involved in collaborative work, participate in more project-based instruction, produce writing of higher quality and greater length, gain increased access to information, improve research analysis skills, and spend more time doing homework on computers.” (2007) While these claims seem to confirm the powerful potential of ICT in schools, other research paints a more pessimistic picture.

Field, for example, argues, “that students who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and that the laptop use posed a significant distraction to both users and fellow students. Most importantly, the level of laptop use was negatively related to several measures of student learning, including self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance.” (2008) It seems that the potential of ICT as tools for effective learning is best realised when the pedagogy is matched to the new ICT environment. The number of different companies offering classroom computer monitoring software also supports the notion that students need additional support to stay focused on learning expectations.

Certainly, Educational digital learning management platforms have become a lucrative business this century- it is a shame that professional learning for teachers in how best to organise effective teaching and learning experiences in this environment seems less a priority.  Such platforms are particularly insidious in that they are developed as a business model, rather than as a means of prioritising teaching or learning.

Certainly, Livingston is correct in arguing that it is pastime to discuss how the educational needs and rights of children might be best served in a digital world.

Sue Burvill-Shaw 2019



Bennett, S. & Matson, K. & Kervin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate a critical  review of evidence, The British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5) pp.775-786,  


Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S. 7 Heinecke, W.F. (2007), What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning?. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23: 440–452. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00227.x

Gulek, James Cengiz, &  Hakan Demirtas (2005) Learning With Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student Achievement, The Journal of Technology Learning and Assessment, 3 (2)

Fried, Carrie B, (2008) In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning, Computers and Education, 50 (3) Pages 906-914 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2006.09.006

John, P( 2002), Teaching and Learning with ICT: New Technology, New Pedagogy?, Paper presented at BERA Conference, University of Exeter, UK September 12-14,

Livingstone, S. (2019). Rethinking the rights of children for the Internet Age, London School of Economics Impact Blog, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2019/03/12/rethinking-the-rights-of-children-for-the-internet-age/

Loveless, A. DeVoogd, G. & Bohlim, R., (2001), ‘Something old, something new... : Is pedagogy affected by ICT?’ In Loveless, A. & Ellis, V., ICT, pedagogy, and the curriculum: subject to change, Routlefge Falmer, London.  pp.63-83.

Mckenzie , Jamie, 9 June 1998, ‘How teachers learn technology best and beyond technology’,  Tuesday March 28, 2000, <www.abc.net.au/rn/falks/lm>

Wilson, Steve and Cameron, Rob (June-July 1992) Developing Reflective Student Teachers: A Professional Development Program” Paper presented at the 22nd ATEA National Conference, Ballina, NSW

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