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Information and communication technology (ICT)

Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.

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What is Information and Communication Technology?

A good understanding of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is vital given the importance modern society places on using technology in the finding and processing of information.

ICT is taught in schools as part of the National Curriculum from year 1 through to year 11. Students will learn how to find information appropriate to a particular task, and how to judge the accuracy and reliability of the information they find. They will also learn how to develop words and numbers into reports, presentations and spreadsheets, and into information systems and computer models.

Detailed information about what exactly is taught in the different key stages can be found in the Links section below. Generally students will be expected to develop their ICT knowledge and skills by learning and mastering a range of activities including:

•    Technical skills and understanding when to use them, such as how to gather information about a particular subject from a variety of sources (people, books, internet, radio, television etc)
•    Gathering and processing information safely and responsibly.
•    Questioning the information you find and learning the ability to process new information for yourself.
•    Problem solving and using different sources of information to do this.
•    Broadening your knowledge of and giving you access to information and experiences from a wide range of people, communities and cultures.
•    Applying ICT effectively in your continued learning, everyday life and in the world of work ahead.


As well as being a compulsory subject on the National Curriculum, ICT can be a very useful medium in its own right for helping children on the autism spectrum acquire and practise new skills. For some children, working in a private corner with a laptop can be more conducive to learning then being in a noisy classroom environment with a teacher.

Parents may find that a home computer can be an invaluable tool for doing schoolwork and for allowing their child to use some of the software currently available for those with special needs. Interactive computer games, particularly when another person is involved, can be a comfortable environment for a child on the autism spectrum to learn social skills such as turn taking. The computer can offer a safe, predictable environment in which to learn.

However, care must be taken to ensure that the child does not become addicted to computer use, avoiding direct forms of social interaction. Moreover, it is acknowledged that children on the autism spectrum may need additional help in understanding what constitutes safe behaviour on-line, particularly with regard to self-disclosure to others. They may also require closer supervision in their computer use than other children.

The National Autistic Society has produced a very useful information sheet on the use of ICT for children on the autism spectrum. This gives a full discussion of the pros and cons of the use of information technology with those on the autism spectrum. In particular, it questions whether skills acquired through ICT can be easily generalised into real-life situations by children on the autism spectrum.

However, the NAS does acknowledge that ICT can be a very useful tool, and offers an extensive list of further contacts for the supply of equipment and software. It also offers a review of a number of software programmes, some of which are designed for children on the autism spectrum.

The NAS has found that many adults on the autism spectrum go on to excel in jobs involving the use of computers.  Although it is of course important not to pigeon hole children into jobs simply on the basis of their condition.

BECTA, the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning, has produced a number of documents looking at the use of ICT in supporting those with special needs. In particular, it looks at the provision of equipment for those with communication and interaction difficulties, and offers advice on the cheapest way of finding helpful equipment. See the Links section below for further information.

NASEN (formerly the National Association for Special Educational Needs) is the leading organisation in the UK which aims to promote the education, training, advancement and development of all those with special and additional support needs and disabilities. It offers training courses on how ICT can be used simply and quickly to remove barriers to education and differentiate the curriculum.

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Internet for: ICT Free online ICT tutorial to develop internet skills. Part of the Intute: Virtual Training Suite funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee

National Autistic Society produces a useful information sheet on the use of ICT for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

BECTA The government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning. This webpage offers a number of documents looking at the role of ICT for those with SEN.

•    An overview of special educational needs and ICT provision
•    A guide to identifying ICT provision to support behavioural, emotional and social development
•    A guide to identifying ICT provision to help pupils with communication and interaction difficulties
•    Where to find free (or nearly free) software to support the education of pupils with special educational needs

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Detailed information about ICT in Key Stages 1 to 4 including what will be taught and how pupils will be assessed:

ICT in Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2)
ICT in Key Stage 2 (Year 3 to 6)
ICT in Key Stage 3 (Year 7 to 9)
ICT in Key Stage 4  (Year 10 to 11)

ICT Qualifications Information about the range of ICT qualifications available, though not every school may offer these.  

NASEN

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ICT in the curriculum Examples from BECTA (see above) about how ICT skills can be developed across a range of subjects for a range of pupils with practical help and advice.

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