Developing the Role of ‘Values’ Within Information and Communication Technology: An Introduction to the Schools Intergenerational Nurturing and Learning Project (SIGNAL)

Developing the Role of ‘Values’ Within Information and Communication Technology: An Introduction to the Schools Intergenerational Nurturing and Learning Project (SIGNAL)

John Patterson (Liverpool Hope University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch030
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Abstract

This chapter investigates the Schools Intergenerational Nurturing and Learning (SIGNAL) project at Liverpool Hope University and its impact on communities of learning within some of the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom. Embracing the wide aims of Citizenship Education in England, SIGNAL encompasses intergenerational and partnership activities, volunteerism, values education, and entrepreneurial learning shaped to assist with the unique issues faced by diverse school communities. Central to the project is the engagement of service-learning (SL) focussed student teachers, and their use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Whereas the majority of research about SL investigates its value to participating students (Eyler & Giles, 1999, 2002), less documentation can be found demonstrating its value to recipients. This chapter will look at the reciprocal value of SL projects utilising ICT for school communities, drawing its research from past projects delivered across Liverpool since 1999 and celebrated at www.schoolsinteractive.co.uk.
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Government Policy And Community Practice

Coming to power in the United Kingdom in 1997, New Labour’s journey into educational reform followed an exhaustive push to embed social capital theory into the school system. The party’s vision for a complete “moral and social reconstruction” became linked to the willingness of extended families, networks of neighbourhoods, community groups, religious organisations, businesses, public services and parent-teacher associations to involve themselves in tackling economic underperformance, social division and the general malaise viewed by the Commission on Social Justice (1994) as the scourge of the United Kingdom. Governmental efforts to mend the social fabric were punctuated by a myriad of policies, initiatives and processes that at best were aimed at generating community cohesion and a new generation of multi-skilled and employable, entrepreneurial individuals. Outcomes from their interventions are now emerging and, at their worst, are viewed as having evolved into a “pragmatic mix or ‘muesli’ of moralism, care and control, universalism and selectivism” (Featherstone & Trinder, 2001). Within this “muesli,” great efforts were made to enhance the central role of ICT in teaching and learning across communities, with much being expected from closing “the digital divide” for deprived areas in terms of new business developments and employment opportunities.

The new coalition government, although remaining focussed on ICT development, has strengthened a resolve initiated by New Labour through the Russell Commission (2005) to engage volunteerism across communities. The former government’s vision of a network of youth engagement has been replaced with a new vision centred on “empowering communities.” Launched to the media in Liverpool in July 2010, the coalition’s “Big Society” initiative placed a strong emphasis on the perceived value of volunteerism. A clear agenda for how this priority will manifest in education has yet to materialise. It has, however, placed pressure on higher education institutions (HEIs) to consider again their own participation in volunteering. This chapter suggests that what has been missing from the outset and what is needed in the future are projects of clear relevance to school communities that utilise ICT; projects that volunteer student teachers may shape for diverse school community settings; and, furthermore, projects that use activities to engage children and their parents in learning about the potential ICT has in shaping their futures.

In considering how volunteerism among student teachers (those training to become teachers) may be engaged, HEIs delivering teaching degrees must consider the New National Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education (NPSF) (The Future of Higher Education, 2003). As a descriptor-based approach covering six areas of activity, core knowledge and professional values, the “standards” are a means through which to focus learning, teaching and assessments. Institutions are, however, free to determine their own criteria in the application. Furthermore, student teachers themselves must provide evidence of accomplishments to pass their Professional Attributes, Professional Skills, Professional Knowledge and Learning Standards to achieve a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) degree. In practical terms, this places a requirement upon student teachers to provide evidence that is tracked by tutors to demonstrate their strength of understanding within such ‘standards’ as relationships with children and young people, communicating and working with others, personal professional development, assessment and monitoring, achievement and diversity, planning, teaching, team working and collaboration. Predictably, the controversy over the value of asking student teachers to volunteer in the community schools is connected with these standards. For QTS degrees, volunteering and service to community remain for the most part optional, which places pressure on tutors involved in running volunteer programmes to engage student participation by highlighting the opportunities it provides to secure narrow standards, rather than the wider values brought about by creative, school-based volunteering.

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