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The effectiveness of different ICTs in the teaching and learning of English (written composition), 5–16

What do we want to know?

The last few years have seen an increase in research studies on the impact and effectiveness of information and communication technologies in the teaching and learning of English. This review follows five previous systematic reviews on ICT and literacy; the aim of this review is to shed light on whether ICTs are effective in the teaching and learning of writing in English for 5- to 16-year-olds.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers, practitioners, researchers.

What did we find?  

  • No conclusive answer was found; the studies reviewed were too varied in their understanding of writing and ICT. 
  • One study found that ICT made little difference to a group of students with learning disabilities in terms of writing quality, but that improvements in lower-order writing skills happened at a faster rate for such students; there was also an increase in self-esteem.
  • Definitions of English, literacy and ICT are still unclear and the relationships between them have still to be fully theorised.

What are the implications?

These are the implications from individual studies, rather than the synthesis:

  • Policy-makers might think about ICT as a range of technologies that can have particular effects on particular parts of the English syllabus under particular circumstances, rather than as a main tool for literacy development.

  • The next version of the National Curriculum for England could view ICT as less peripheral, but more limited and specific in its contribution to learning and teaching.

  • Procurement policies should follow from curricular needs rather than driving them.

  • ICT is best seen as just one tool available to learners and teachers for expression and communication - there are times when the use of ICT is appropriate for a particular writing task, and other times when different media are more appropriate.

  • Teachers should evaluate custom-made programs carefully, as some are more attuned to the writing process than others.

  • Approaches to the understanding of 'effectiveness' need to be re-conceived.

How did we get these results?

Nine studies published since 1998 were synthesised.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Andrews R, Dan H, Freeman A, McGuinn N, Robinson A, Zhu D (2005) The effectiveness of different ICTs in the teaching and learning of English (written composition), 5–16. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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