O. McGarr, A. McDonagh

University of Limerick (IRELAND)
The debate about the use and justification of ICT in schools has been replaced by a discourse of inevitability where schools of the future are presented as technology rich sites of learning. Yet despite this faith in the technology there appears to be a vagueness about what role ICT will actually play and more specifically what way its inclusion will enhance the learning experience. A possible reason for such vagueness could be as a result of the pace of technological change where a lack of specificity future-proofs policy statements, prolonging their shelf-life while enabling them to embrace not yet developed technologies (and future pedagogies that may come into vogue). Alternatively, it could also be argued that another reason for such vagueness lies in the unquestioned belief in all technology. The 'space' created within this inevitable discourse enables schools to construct their own vision free from any guiding pedagogical or philosophical framework. In this context it is worth exploring how schools respond to the ICT agenda and how such responses are viewed by the school inspectorate.

This paper reports on a study which examined school inspection reports from a sample of post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland (n = 75) from September 2013 to June 2014. The research aimed to identify the references made to ICT, and where present, examine what was reported and how its use was evaluated. In the absence of explicit policy and within an environment where all use is perceived as innovate, such evaluations are arguably the articulation of vision of expected use. These evaluations also reflect the values and assumptions about the technology that are often masked by the rhetoric of policy statements and the 'regime of truth' presented within the media.

The research found that, where mentioned, reference to ICT was characterised by a vagueness which give little indication of how the technology was actually used. Where descriptions of use were provided they tended to reflect the use of the technology as a presentation aid for the teacher and limited reference to student-centred use was found. The paper discusses the possible reasons for this type of reporting (and the nature of use reported) and examines the implications for future ICT developments in the post-primary sector.