Encyclopedia of Education and Information Technologies

Living Edition
| Editors: Arthur Tatnall

Implementation of ICT in Secondary Schools

  • Pieter HogenbirkEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-60013-0_26-1



In this document we will address how secondary schools (with pupils in the age of 12–18) can implement ICT in their educational system. We will use three different models or frameworks to guide such implementation. At first we distinguish between two ways of looking at ICT in education. On the one hand, educators can use ICT to improve the quality of the educational setting and the learning outcome. On the other hand, ICT should be regarded as a subject in the curriculum: learning about informatics, computer science and information literacy, and developing ICT skills. Being aware of the differences between those two ways of looking at ICT in education, we can use a model for implementation which will be described in Chapter 2. The model consists of five phases of awareness, involvement, and consequences, elaborated on in a paper written for and commissioned by UNESCO (Hogenbirk):
  1. 1.

    Phase 1 is the acknowledgement that ICT is a not negotiable, integral part of the learning environment in the education of the twenty-first century.

  2. 2.

    In phase 2 we focus on the learning about ICT and ICT skills. In this phase we address ICT literacy culminating in computer science or informatics. But we will also look at the so-called twenty-first-century skills, in which ICT skills play an important role.

  3. 3.

    Consequently or parallel teachers are using ICT in the classroom as a pedagogical tool: learning supported by ICT. Phase 3 concerns a modest way of usage by the teacher him/herself and by the pupils at home. This is a substitution stage of using ICT in the pedagogical process.

  4. 4.

    A next phase is the widespread usage of ICT within the classroom by the pupils and the teacher in a variety of learning activities. This is an integrating stage of using ICT in the pedagogical process.

  5. 5.

    Finally ICT can change the organization of education, by personalization of the learning process. We could call this the transformation stage.


In the chapter “Four in Balance, a Model for Actual Development of ICT-Rich Education at School” we will go into more detail about the conditions of implementing ICT in education. We will use an approach in which four sets of conditions should be in balance with each other, the “Four in Balance Model.” This model is developed by Kennisnet, the Dutch National Centre of ICT in Education (Kennisnet, see https://www.kennisnet.nl/about-us/).

Schools should have a vision on the usage of ICT in terms of the objectives they want to serve with it, how they want to use it, and what results they want to accomplish. Secondly the professional development of the teachers should be in line with the formulated vision. Thirdly the software tools should fit the requirements needed. Fourthly, the hardware infrastructure should be sufficient and adequate to accommodate what is necessary.

Finally we will present in the chapter “The P2V Framework for ICT Implementation” a framework for the assessment of the state of ICT implementation in a particular school, to be used by external inspectors or as a self-assessment tool by the school itself. This framework was developed in the European P2V project (Peer to Peer networking for Valorisation) performed by several European school inspectorates (van Oel et al. 2009a).


Starting in the early 1980s of the past century, the educational community – practitioners, teacher trainers, and educational researchers – has been working on the introduction and implementation of computers in education. These efforts were attached to the notion that society was entering a new phase. Beniger (1986, From the lemma: “Information Society” in Wikipedia.) showed that the term “information society” was one of the many notions used to described this change from an industrial society to a society where information plays a dominant role in economics, politics, culture, and education.

At first, there were attempts to familiarize young pupils with the achievements of the “new era.” Educational materials were written to practice working with computers; educational software was developed for applying in the different disciplines; national projects were established to supply schools with computers, mostly in separate computer labs; and courses were given to make teachers familiar with the new technical and didactical aspects of computers and educational software.

There were two main reasons for all these activities:
  1. 1.

    Pupils should learn to be skilled in using information technology (IT at that time) as part of the core curriculum (“computer literacy”).

  2. 2.

    At least politicians and educational forerunners thought that IT could improve the outcome of the educational process (and as a side effect, make education less expensive). This type of support by IT was called CAL, computer-aided learning.


In these two objectives, we already see the distinction between learning about IT and learning by means of IT.

In the 1990s, the Internet popped up as a source of information. Windows brought a much more attractive design for the software. Computers appeared in the classroom – at the back of the room or at the teacher’s desk. Projectors could be used for demonstration purposes. Administrative software was developed and replaced written reports. Assessment tools became available, electronic calculators changed the mathematics curriculum, and word processors made spelling less relevant. IT became ICT! It was not any longer only about the rather static use of data and information, but the digital revolution also changed the way of communicating.

In many countries politicians declared the usage of ICT in education as an inevitable and thus “normal” way of doing in education. But they forgot that principals, teachers, parents (!), and perhaps also the students did not recognize that importance in the same way, and the full implementation of ICT in daily practice in the classroom did not take place.

In the present decade of the twenty-first century, the smartphone was developed, appearing in every child’s pocket, social media became very important and sometimes dominant, and the information within the Internet is overwhelming: the usage of ICT in daily life indeed became “normal” and inevitable. Nevertheless schools are still wrestling with questions about the necessity, the usability, the effectiveness, and the reliability of using ICT in the educational process, and thus we still see a lot of schooling activities where ICT do not play any role at all.

There is still debate: some doubt if the school should not just resist to the use of ICT in the safe and protected environment of the school. Educational experts investigate the added value of educational computer programs but are hardly capable of “proving” the positive effects. The investments of schools in ICT infrastructure are enormous, and the vulnerability of the systems is a thread for a continuous and stable educational environment. So it may be a good moment to mark time and consider carefully why we should invest in the usage of ICT in education.

Five Implementation Phases of ICT Awareness and Involvement and Their Consequences

We will present a model with five phases, stages, and consecutive argumentations for using ICT in education. We developed this model in a paper commissioned by the UNESCO (Hogenbirk) and applied the model in several cases of advisory processes with individual schools. It brings clarity to the management of schools in where they stand in their implementation process and what they can do to bring that process forward. The phases presented are not necessarily following each other chronologically. Also they are not scientifically independent. They actually address different perspectives of ICT usage in education. Nevertheless they represent in the presented order more or less the recent history of the development of ICT in education and in most cases the way the implementation process in particular schools develops. In all phases we will give some examples to clarify and illuminate the nature of that phase.

We will begin with the phase in which we acknowledge the necessity of bringing ICT into our schools.

ICT in Education Is Not a Choice

Society is rapidly changing due to the tremendous impact of ICT used by almost all people, including of course the youngsters in our educational system, often referred to as the “digital natives” (Prensky 2001); “Generation Z” (see e.g., generationz.com.au/characteristics), for young people born between 1995 and 2009; and the “Net Generation” for pupils who are now growing up. McCrindle (2014, http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/what-comes-after-generation-z-introducing-generation-alpha with illustrative infographics) uses the notion of “Generation Alpha.”

The use of ICT influences to a very high level the lives of the kids who are present now in our educational system. The communication between them, the way they play, the information through the media, and the way they are looking at themselves and at their peers and relatives are greatly influenced by ICT in all forms available: computers, tablets, smartphones, the Internet, apps, social media, etc. There is a lot of positive interaction and communication about things happening in their daily lives (yes, also about school-related issues). But also bullying is done digitally. Lover boys are operating by smartphones and dating sites, and digital fake news is a new word for an old phenomenon.

All of this cannot remain without consequences for education. Pupils growing up in the twenty-first century would consider a school without ICT as an unworldly situation. And it is probably just for this reason that, all over the world, initiatives are emerging to turn over the ways we educate. A class full of youngsters, growing up with new technology all around them, cannot be approached by old-fashioned methods, learning materials, and curricula. In a new learning environment, ICT should play a significant role, clockwise or counterclockwise. So we would state here that education and ICT are an enforced marriage. All other reasons to use ICT are arising from this first notion: we cannot place teaching and learning in an environment that is not mirroring and reflecting the world outside the walls of the school.

It is good to articulate this premise here again clearly, because there are opposing views. One of the most well-known is the view of the German sociologist and pedagogic Thomas Ziehe (1999) who has been fighting since the 1970s for an education that offers students insights and methods just disconnected from their experiences outside the school, called “Alltagserfahrungen.” This kind of noise is also heard in columns in the newspapers and in associations of concerned parents and teachers, with reference to their own childhood and the – often idealized – past.

From the foregoing it will be clear that we should regard these views as background battles, comparable with opposing the (“pernicious”) art of printing in the fifteenth century, the (“dangerous”) transport by train in the nineteenth century, and the (“hazardous”) driving in an automobile or watching television in the twentieth century.

In our view the educational community is obliged to itself to explore new paths for teaching and learning, with conservation of the numerous good elements within the traditional ways of teaching and learning. But only acknowledging this is not enough to fulfill phase 1 in our model. The notion presented here should be reflected in a preamble of the school vision on the way education should be performed, supported by ICT, in a particular school. And this preamble in the vision should be attached to other principles and starting points of the school’s pedagogical identity.

ICT as an Objective of Its Own

Since we now have established the absolute necessity for an ICT-rich learning environment, the need arises to give attention to learning about ICT and the development of ICT skills. Of course this is not a new sound. Since the 1970s, the educational community has been discussing the character of insights, knowledge, and skills of ICT or ICTs. The names of the learning area vary and evolve. We have to distinguish between lower and higher secondary education.

Digital Literacy in Lower Secondary Education

In lower secondary the original name “computer literacy” has been replaced by “information literacy,” “ media literacy,” or “digital literacy.” This area consists of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information in a variety of forms, print and nonprint including messages and also moral and ethical issues concerning the use of social media and the Internet (NAMLE, see National Association for Media Literacy Education, http://namle.net/publications/media-literacy-definitions). There are numerous descriptions of the content of this subject. Good examples are the new curriculum that has been developed recently in Australia (2013) or the somewhat older Standards for Technological Literacy from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, ITEEA (2006). Other recent examples are from the British Open University with the publication “Integrating IL booklet” (2010) and the ANCIL project with a description of information literacy (2011).

Twenty-First-Century Skills

Another way of addressing the skills involved in this subject area is to consider them as part of the so-called twenty-first-century competences. The European Union published a set of eight competences which cover a wide area of education as a whole (2006): communication in mother tongue, communication in foreign languages, mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology, digital competence, learning to learn, social and civic competences, sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression. Organizations like Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, see www.p21.org), NET/ISTE with the National Educational Technology Standards (2007), and Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATCS, see http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-eg/leadership/Pages/assessment.aspx) have performed research in the past years to establish the “ultimate set” of competences needed for the twenty-first century. Voogt and Pareja Roblin (2010) concluded in a comparative analysis that all of these studies have in common that they focus on conceptual and meta-cognitive knowledge and skills with respect to communication, collaboration, socio-cultural awareness, and ICT skills.

Comparing the different views and approaches on these competences, we defined four more or less distinct areas of competences (Hogenbirk):
  1. 1.

    Learning and thinking skills: critical thinking, problem-solving, learning to learn, creativity, and imagination

  2. 2.

    Social skills: communication, collaboration, responsibility, and accountability

  3. 3.

    ICT skills: information, media, and technological literacy

  4. 4.

    Life and career skills: citizenship, cultural awareness, self-regulation, and leadership


So if a school is paying attention to ICT skills, the school is also showing commitment to the wide scale of competences needed to be a responsible and well-prepared citizen and worker in the fast-changing future.

In most countries there are objectives, a curriculum, and materials available for teaching and learning this particular area (OECD 2006). However there is often a debate about the way the subject should be taught and the skills should be developed in schools. The core of this debate is if these objectives should be taught as a separate subject with a specialized teacher or if they should be part of and integrated in other subjects, such as mathematics, sciences, social studies, and even arts. At this moment in a lot of countries, the pendulum is at the side where governmental bodies recognize the necessity of some kind of obligatory curriculum on information literacy. Although pupils might be “digital native,” it seems more necessary than ever for children to learn how to deal with information, which ethical and legal aspects of digital information are involved, how to deal with social media on issues such as bullying or privacy, and how to guard themselves against being constantly online and therefore not being able to concentrate on a more difficult learning task.

In cases where there is no hard curricular obligation from the government to teach the subject separately, we advocate here to consider carefully at the school level if there is a need for a separate discipline with separate teaching classes or if the school and the teachers are able to collaborate on integration of ICT and ICT skills in different existing subjects.

Computer Science

In higher secondary education, the situation is a bit different. Mostly it is expected that pupils already have enough basic skills and knowledge on the use of ICT. What remains here is the somewhat “harder” side of ICT: “computer science” or preferably “informatics,” sometimes referred to as “computational thinking” (Wing 2006), which consists of programming and logical, algorithmic thinking. Other parts of this separate discipline are the hardware technology, information and (big) data analysis, security issues, robotics, and the Internet of Things.

In best cases informatics is offered at higher secondary schools as a nonobligatory choice discipline.

Conclusive Remarks

Defining ICT content and competences on different levels is a major task. First of all because we are talking here about a very fast evolving and changing area of content and applications which makes the educational assignment for every school extremely complicated. It is about creating an environment and a curriculum where all of these skills and content can be practiced, developed, and finally assessed, and choosing carefully what elements should be obligatory and which should be free to choose.

Curriculum elements in which these skills are taught and in which they play a massive role can be found in all subjects in secondary education, in project-based education, in inquiry-based learning, and in more informal outside-school learning activities like excursions and internships. In most of these curriculum elements, ICT plays a supportive or even dominant role. So the boundary between teaching and learning these skills and using ICT for enhancement of the learning in general is in most cases not very strict. That brings us to the third phase of looking at the implementation of ICT.

ICT Usage for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning: Substitution

So far the reasoning in this entry to use ICT in education is as follows:
  • Children are facing and living in a new ICT-rich outside world. To reflect this world and to prepare them properly for a life after school, we are obliged to deliver an ICT-rich learning environment.

  • Children should be able to handle ICT within this learning environment and outside school. For that reason, ICT skills must be taught: to handle information, to be able to use computer programs, and to have some awareness in computational thinking.

  • In the society of the twenty-first century, traditional knowledge is not enough. ICT skills are part of a bigger collection of the so-called twenty-first-century skills, which have to play a much more prominent role in the teaching and learning practice.

  • To design that practice, we have to integrate the use of ICT in every learning situation where it is possible and appropriate.

Recognizing ICT usage as a profitable tool in education leads to the question how far this usage goes. The range of activities where ICT can be used for pedagogical purposes is enormous. In this third phase of looking at it, we focus on the pedagogical use of ICT by teachers in their classes and by pupils doing homework. It is a phase of mostly substituting traditional pedagogics by ICT applications. ICT is mainly used for illuminating specific topics. A biology teacher presents a short movie about the way penguins live, a geography teacher shows a digital map on the screen, in physical education the perfect Fosbury Flop is shown on YouTube, and in art classes paintings can be discussed with the whole class. Teachers can project the timetable of the class or a specific assignment on the screen, which they have prepared at home, and with no waste of time in the classroom.

The advantages of this type of usage are obvious: it is easy doing, motivating, clarifying, clear, and cost-effective. Although the last advantage could be questioned, because the projector is an investment, the bulb has to be replaced, there has to be Internet connection for some purposes, you always have to be prepared for a failure of the equipment, and there is a need for technical assistance. Giving pupils digital assignments for homework is also part of this phase. Sometimes one can make use of digital add-ons to courses in print, sometimes called “iPacks” of “e-packs.” Author teams of educational textbooks have made strong efforts to invigorate their courses with ICT assignments, graphics, exercises, short movies, etc. The advantages are easy to determine. The teacher can still use “old-fashioned” materials, within his or her traditional approach. It is easy to use these little extras for homework, lost moments in the classes, and extra work for remedial or deepening usage. It has also been the ultimate reaction of the educational publishers to this innovation of their text-based learning materials. They do not have to change their business models completely and can just go on selling books as they were used to. But is this way of using ICT enough? ICT is playing a marginal role in the teaching and learning. It just modernizes the traditional teaching and learning a bit.

By using ICT in this way, one is substituting traditional teaching and learning methods and materials by somewhat more contemporary means, but, in essence, not much changes.

ICT Usage for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning: Integration

A next phase in using ICT for pedagogical purposes is to really integrate software in the teaching and learning process. The difference with phase 3: substitution is that this type of usage is really changing the pedagogy, often leading to other learning outcome and surely motivating the learners in a way they are used to outside of the school. We will give some examples of ICT applications a teacher can use.

Educational Software

At first there are specific educational programs. Examples are numerable. See, e.g., the list for educational programs on Wikipedia (2006–2017, see e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_educational_software). Simple programs can be used for exercising foreign language words, topography, historic timelines, chemical reactions, fill in exercises, texts with missing words, multiple-choice quizzes, etc.

Complete and more open environments are available, e.g., in mathematics, to practice calculating, to draw graphs, to explore geometric figures, and to make algebraic or statistical calculations; in music we have the composing programs, and in physics there is software for constructing electrical circuits or controlling and measuring physical phenomena, and there are drawing programs, programs for bookkeeping, etc.

There is hardly any debate on the benefits of these types of programs. They are efficient in using and easy to handle and set up, and they make learning activities possible that were far out of reach before.

Simulation Software

A special category of educational programs are the simulation games. The term “gamification” describes situations in which game thinking and game mechanics are used in nongame contexts such as education. Subcategories are adventure games, puzzle games, role-playing games, strategy games, sports games, and even first-person shooter games (Oblinger 2006). Examples of simulation games are text adventure games, SimCity, a blood typing game, management and business simulations, global warming, soccer playing, etc.

Benefits of using games in an educational setting have been measured when the games are used in a proper context, for a specific goal (Griffiths 2002). They can increase student motivation, stimulate interaction and discussion between students, and place learning stuff into a broader and more relevant context.

Generic Software

While almost all of the programs mentioned here are dedicated to one specific discipline, subject, or curriculum element, a more general way of integrating ICT in the classroom is the application of generic tools. This category contains the word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation tools. Even more generic is the usage of programs like Google apps, Dropbox, etc.

There are also generic programs, especially developed for usage in education. First of all there is the digital assessment software. In this category we find dedicated tests, sometimes as a part of specific learning material. Very usable are the general sites for training exam tests. Thousands of students know how to find these sites without any advice from the teacher. At the other end of the spectrum, we find open assessment tools in which one can import professional tests or in which teachers can develop tests themselves. There exist free to use programs like Testmoz or Questbase and more sophisticated commercial programs like Question Mark and Quayn. Sometimes assessment tools are integrated in the more complete digital learning environment, which will be discussed in paragraph 2.5, because it influences the organization of the teaching and learning.

Other examples of generic programs are Socrative, which enables teachers to engage their students in a class discussion being active with their tablets, laptops, or even smartphones by real-time questioning and visualizing the results; MindMeister, which enables teacher and students to make mind maps of their ideas, foreknowledge, solutions, and brainstorms; and StickyMoose, a tool for collaborative decision-making; etc.

When we look at the usage of iPads, a lot of generic tools are available. We mention some examples: Book Creator or iBook to make your own teaching material or for kids to make their own reports of a project; Explain Everything for writing and importing images and video in one environment; Vittle Free, which is an interactive whiteboard video recorder to teach concepts and show presentations; iMovie to make or use videos; GarageBand to compose and make music; etc.

The advantage of open generic software is indeed the fact that it is open: teachers and students can use it for multiple purposes, at school and at home, at moments they can choose themselves. You may see in schools that pupils are just using this software at their own convenience. This usage contributes to the more or less informal learning of ICT skills or the informal achievement of ICT objectives (from phase 2 in the model we use).

The Results of Using ICT

At this point we should pay attention a bit to the effects of using ICT tools in the pedagogical teaching and learning environment. Over the past 30 years, a lot of research has been conducted to “prove” the positive effects of ICT on the learning outcome. Well-known is the work of John Hattie who studied 76 meta-analyses of almost 4500 papers using statistical methods to compare the effectiveness of all kinds of teaching and learning strategies and circumstantial conditions (Hattie 2009). In this meta-analysis, research on the effect of ICT usage is very well represented. Yet in his “top ten” of aspects which are most effective, the use of ICT as such is not mentioned. But indirectly one can say that some teaching strategies do benefit from the use of ICT. In a comment Steve Moss (2014) identifies six aspects from Hattie’s study which should have most effect on the learning outcome. And for educationalists, these aspects are not really surprising: diversity of teaching strategies, multiple opportunities for learning, students having control of their own learning, and peer-learning and feedback mechanisms which should be optimized to gain maximum outcome. This leads to the conclusion that it is the (difficult but challenging) assignment of practitioners and researchers in education to find the best ways of using ICT for enabling these types of pedagogical success factors.

ICT Use for Changing the Organization of Learning: Transformation

The boundaries between the different types of using ICT and accessory objectives are not always strictly determinable. Yet there is another category of programs and digital environments which is primarily meant to be used as a tool supportive to the organization of the teaching and learning process. It is emphasized here that this type of use could be the most far-reaching. It really could change long-lasting traditional paradigms in education and contribute to the aspects that were mentioned in the previous paragraph that are most effective to improve the learning outcome. So we call this usage of ICT transformative.

Two basic leading principles could change the traditional way of teaching. The first is the recognition that every child is unique. So teaching is most effective if it meets the individual needs of the students and if the responsibility of the learning is basically given to the learners themselves.

The second basic principle is that collaborative learning (or peer learning, group work) is an effective way to organize learning situations. In the contemporary reality of schools, these principles are hard to realize. Many factors, such as class size, available, often scheduled time, and lack of usable learning materials, hinder teachers to respond to differences between pupils and make collaborative arrangements impossible. We will elaborate a bit on both principles in relation to the use of ICT and also try to combine the principles because at first sight they may seem a bit contrary to each other.


The UNESCO Policy Brief on personalized learning (Izmestiev 2012) presents different definitions of personalized learning. Here we will use the following definition:

Personalized learning is a way of organizing the learning process in terms of content, learning environment, and learning outcome, so that it meets the personal (cognitive) abilities, learning style, interest, and context of the learner in the best way possible.

Personalized learning can be accomplished in three different stages: working independently, independent learning, and self-responsible learning. In the first stage pupils work on their own assignments given by the teacher. If the students themselves are in control of the way they want to achieve the learning goals, we call it independent learning. What the goals are and how they are assessed are still determined by the teacher. Finally self-responsible learning is the situation in which students determine themselves (part of) the objectives and the way the assessment takes place.

In all of these different stages, ICT can play a crucial role to realize personal learning paths. Let us sum up the advantages of this way of organizing the learning:
  • Students can learn on their own level of cognition; this also means that learners do not need to be put together in homogeneous groups; pupils of different ages and abilities can be mixed up and work side by side to each other.

  • The learning is less bound by time and place; even holidays can be customized to the wishes of parents and to the need of the children.

  • Various learning styles and various interests can be accommodated.

  • Because of these aspects, the learner’s motivation will increase.

  • The learning can be recorded and constantly monitored by the pupils themselves, by teachers, and/or by the parents.

  • If these data are correctly analyzed, the learning can be made much more adaptive to pace and level of the pupil and make suggestions for the next steps or interventions in the educational process; in this context we speak of a new area of expertise: the so-called learning analytics.

  • If performed with a proper setup and accompanied by proper coaching, the students can better understand their own learning and develop the valuable competence of “learning to learn.”


Personalization does not mean that all learning activities should be strictly individual. On the contrary, many activities could be carried out collaboratively, in social and/or intellectual peer groups. Also in peer groups, the nature, level, and pace of the assignments can be harmonized with the individual demands of the learner. In fact we can distinguish here similar stages of involvement like we did for personalization: we can organize cooperative working when students are allowed to work together on a certain assignment. If the way of performing a learning task is left to the group, we call it collaborative learning. If the group decides itself about the content, methodology, and way of presenting the outcome, we could speak of learning with collective responsibility.

Some schools experimenting with different types of learning, individually and collaboratively, have built common educational areas, sometimes called “learning squares.” In those areas pupils of different levels and ages are mixed, working alone or together on different tasks. Teachers and other coaches are walking around to give support and ask the right questions.

ICT Arrangements for Reorganizing the Learning, E-Learning

Having set the two basic principles of new ways of learning, we can search for using ICT in these settings. If the learning is completely ICT-driven, we speak of e-learning. A new methodology for that is the MOOC, the massive open online course. This is an online course aimed at open participation for all through the web. Some MOOCs provide additionally communities for interaction between learners and teachers. This way of learning is a new phenomenon used at open universities and commercial training, but not too much in secondary education. MOOCs are new, and therefore there is not much research available on their outcome and effectiveness. First experiences tend to the conclusion that it takes very self-responsible learners to perform a MOOC until the very end. Less extended ways of online learning can be found, for instance, at the Khan Academy where more than 150,000 smaller and larges courses at all levels are provided.

Blended Learning

In basic education e-learning is still not very much used. The reasons are well-known. Schools are held responsible to a large extent for the learning outcome, often have to deliver according to the law a specific amount of education time, and therefore hesitate to hand over the responsibility for the learning to the children.

But as we have seen, it could be very profitable for the learning effectiveness just to do that. And there we arrive at the term blended learning. In most cases this is defined as a mix of traditional and online or ICT-driven educational settings. Furthermore Oliver and Trigwell, who presented the term first, point out that blended learning also involves different types of instruction, behavioral principles, and strategies (2005).

Of course all sorts of educational software mentioned in the previous paragraph can be used in different intensities in teaching and learning settings. This intensity determines if one would call the learning blended or just traditional with a modern flavor.

Digital Learning Environment

Personalization and customizing the learning to the learner could also be derived from the intensity with which a digital learning environment (DLE) is used by the school or the individual teacher. Such an environment enables teachers to plan lessons and homework, to set up individual or collaborative assignments and tests, and to monitor results and learning reflections. DLEs are not new. In 1997 we already presented a model for “An educational tool for planning and monitoring the teaching-learning process in Dutch secondary education” (Hogenbirk 1997). Despite a lot of effort, the actual construction of the tool never took place.

Now there are numerous DLEs available. Because of high development costs, most of them are commercial. Moodle is a well-known DLE, free of charge. iTunes U for iPads makes it possible to present all kinds of assignments and materials to the learners and colleagues in and outside the school. ZuluDesk Teacher is a mobile device management tool for iPads with which teachers can manage the learning at the students’ devices.

The functionality of DLEs differs. At a minimum level they comprise the possibility of planning, arranging, and supporting the teaching and learning process. They differ in the way they offer the possibility to arrange different learning paths, to approach learners individually, to use portfolio facilities, and to monitor results through learner tracking and management reporting tools. Especially the portfolio functionality is important. A portfolio allows students to store their learning activities, to present results, and to reflect on their own process. Just those features make a portfolio suitable for self-responsible learning.

Flipped Classroom

Another very promising way to change the organization of the teaching is the flipped classroom. In essence this is a form of blended learning where instruction and processing are interchanged. The homework consists of the watching of an explanation or instruction of a certain phenomenon before the school class starts. In the class students can work out assignments with the things they learned in the video with guidance from the teacher, or they can have extra instruction or explanation. There has not been done much research yet about the learning effectiveness. Jensen et al. (2015) found that the “flip” as such does not benefit the learning. But in this research arrangement, the flipped classroom was embedded in a constructivist pedagogy, meaning that students were actively engaged in the material. And this combination leads to improvement of the learning results.


In order to match the goal of citizenship and cultural understanding, it is useful to mention collaborative international projects for children. Initiatives as iEARN (worldwide) and eTwinning (in Europe) provide many possibilities for projects where pupils collaboratively work together on a certain topic. In a “whole school approach,” there is also a collaboration between teachers of different disciplines and levels to manage and coach multidisciplinary and multilevel projects (Galvin et al. 2007). This type of education is different from traditional methods. It leads to unexpected learning outcomes and is therefore hard to assess. The projects are also quite time-consuming for both teachers and students. But the rewards are tremendous as masses of products and proud students in movies on the web prove.

Pupils: It Kicks

Finally in this entry, we want to suggest reading a little booklet called Pupils: It kicks (Hogenbirk, de Rijcke 2006). This gives some examples in Dutch secondary education of new ways of learning with ICT. In the booklet a model is presented which characterizes educational settings along three dimensions. The first one is the axe of the learning context. This varies from theory-based (the subject is the core) to practice-based (applications and practical issues are central). The second dimension is the extent to which the pupils are self-responsible for their learning. It varies from teacher’s determination up till the situation where pupils are fully in charge themselves. The third dimension is the pedagogical relationship: from the subject-expert role up till the coaching guiding role.

Conclusive Remarks

It is an understatement to say that there are some challenges to meet when transforming the traditional pedagogical environment into a more self-driven, personalized, and collaborative ICT-supported learning environment. In Hogenbirk (2016) we elaborate on five issues:
  • Individual self-responsibility for the learning needs an intrinsic school vision on the position of the learner and the teacher.

  • Often the prevailing national curriculum or exam requirements hinder the possibilities for own learner or teacher choices.

  • The learning materials and the way ICT is used in such an innovative learning environment have to be tailor-made and adapted for the specific subjects, for specific groups of pupils, and for the different levels.

  • There must be very much attention for teacher training and development because most teachers love to be the expert in their subject and love to demonstrate that; instead here they have to evolve to a more coaching and guiding role, even develop a learning attitude themselves if they are not in charge of the choice of content anymore.

  • The final performance of the pupils will be the ultimate determination of the value and validity of these kinds of new teaching and learning arrangements.

Four in Balance, a Model for Actual Development of ICT-Rich Education at School

To help schools to implement the use of ICT, some frameworks and models can be used. In this entry we will explain the so-called “Four in Balance Model” which aims at a balance between school vision, professional development of teachers, digital content, and infrastructure. This model is developed by the research department of Kennisnet, the Dutch National Centre of ICT in Education, and also used to monitor the progress in the use of ICT nationwide (Kennisnet 2015).

Vision of the School

The first pillar in this model is the vision of the school on education in general and the role of ICT to support this vision. We mentioned this in paragraph 2.1 when we were addressing the necessity of acknowledging that an educational environment without attention for ICT and without using ICT is impossible in the era in which we live. In the vision of the school, this acceptance should be the starting point, further elaborated in school-specific objectives for improving the outcome of the education.

How does one look at traditional ways of learning in relation to ICT? How would one use ICT in order to stimulate pupil’s own responsibility for the learning? How is one’s appreciation for using ICT in the balance between “hard” learning outcome, personal development of the pupils, and the way they should be prepared for further education and future jobs? These are some examples of question to be answered in the school vision.

Professional Development of Teachers

The second pillar in the “Four in Balance Model” is the expertise of the teachers. They should be able to use ICT in their daily practice and in their own professional development. The school management should be aware of the possibilities of ICT and of the ways to support the implementation. The support staff should be able to cope with new developments and an increasing complex infrastructure and be able to use applications and hardware in their classes.

Digital Educational Content

The third pillar of the model is the availability of educational ICT application. In the description in previous paragraphs 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5, we have seen that this is about the use of subject dedicated applications, educational content of the Internet, simulations and educational games, generic software, and the DLE (digital learning environment). However in this model it is not only about the availability of the software but also about the willingness of the school to provide licenses, to maintain the software, to instruct the teachers, to provide the financial means to maintain the applications, and to provide user support.

ICT Infrastructure

The fourth pillar in the model is the infrastructure, dealing with hardware, networks and connectivity, smartboards, mobile smart phones, technical support, etc. In this domain the debate is going on if BYOD (bring your own device) is a proper development: if you can allow, or even expect or demand, that pupils use ICT devices which they bought themselves and if you can ask the teachers to be familiar with a variety of hardware in their classes. Some schools developed the CYOD concept: let the pupils choose their device from different possibilities. Of course a school could also provide the equipment for a 1:1 situation (one device for every pupil), but most schools are financially not capable to afford that luxury.

In 2012 an important extra layer was added to the model: the four pillars should not only support the primary process of the teaching and learning but also the secondary processes of organizing and managing the educational practice in schools and accounting for the outcome.

Conclusive Remarks

The “Four in Balance Model” states in principle that four pillars should be relatively balanced to each other. If a school has a perfect infrastructure, but the teachers do not know how to use the ICT, the implementation fails. If the vision is providing a clear direction for using ICT, but there is no suitable software available, successful ICT usage will not take place.

The model can illustrate two ways of working toward a more ICT-rich school environment. The one way that failed was that many schools (and national projects) started in the past with providing infrastructure and some dedicated educational courseware. At the same time these provisions were not accompanied by teacher training and were not attached to the school vision. The result was that most often the implementation failed.

More successful is that nowadays many schools formulate a vision on ICT use at first (there are much more clear images of effective and useful use of ICT), take care of sufficient knowledge and skills of the teachers, and in parallel decide which software and hardware are needed to translate the vision into practical learning activities.

So the model provides a powerful thinking frame for the actual implementation of ICT in a specific school. Schools can evaluate themselves to what extent they are fulfilling the right conditions, in balance, on all of these aspects, in relation to the phase described in Chapter 2 in this document.

The P2V Framework for ICT Implementation

In 2009 the inspectorates of the Netherlands, France, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, and Lithuania finalized within the P2V project the European Framework for the Evaluation of ICT in Education. This framework can be used to assess a school on their level of development on ICT (van Oel et al. 2009). The framework consists of eight domains with several quality indicators in each domain.

In brief: The first domain is about leadership: Is there a vision and a strategy for implementation? The second domain concerns the infrastructure and access: Are these sufficient, suitable for the needs of the school, stable, and efficient? The third domain is about the curriculum planning: Is it coherent, balanced, and consistent? Does the curriculum meet the national requirements? The fourth domain is quality assurance and improvement: Is a cycle of quality control, evaluation, and revision used? Very important is the fifth domain: How and to what extent are the pupils using the ICT and capable of doing that? The sixth domain is the teaching process and teaching staff competence. The seventh domain concerns administrative use. The last domain is about the impact on learning and effects of ICT use on pupil attainment. This framework can be used to assess the ICT development of one particular school, either by an external body (i.e., an inspectorate) or by the school itself through a self-evaluation.

Example of Using the P2V Framework in a School

An example of a self-assessment of the implementation of ICT in a school is given in a series of papers on ICT Action School Development at Helen Parkhurst Dalton School in the Netherlands (Hogenbirk and Braak 2008, 2009, 2011). In September 2007 an assessment on ICT in education took place at this school through a visit of a group of inspectors, by using the European P2V framework. The results of this assessment were extensively described in the first paper mentioned above. We present here as an example only the assessment of the indicators within the framework in the first visit (2007) and at the state of the last self-evaluation (2011). See Table 1.
Table 1

ICT self-assessment September 2007 and February 2011, indicators for ICT quality


Score 2007

Score 2011

C1.1There is a clear vision for the use of ICT



C1.2 There is a strategy to realize the vision



Infrastructure and access

Score 2007

Score 2011

C2.1 The available resources reflect the needs and vision of the school



C2.2 The deployment of ICT resources enables efficient use of them



C2.3 Support systems optimize the use of ICT



Curriculum planning

Score 2007

Score 2011

C3.1 Meeting local, regional and national requirements



C3.2 Coherence, balance and consistency



C3.3 New developments in ICT and pedagogy



Quality assurance and improvement

Score 2007

Score 2011

C4.1 Review and self-evaluation of ICT policy and practice



C4.2 Action planning and implementation



C4.3 Action monitoring and revision



Pupil use

Score 2007

Score 2011

U1.1 Development of ICT skills



U1.2 Enhancement of learning



The teaching process

Score 2007

Score 2011

U2.1 Developing pupils’ ICT capabilities



U2.2 Use of ICT to enhance teaching



U2.3 Teaching staff competence and confidence



Administrative use

Score 2007

Score 2011

U3.1 Identifying issues impacting learning and teaching



U3.2 Communication is supported.



Impact on learning and standards

Score 2007

Score 2011

O1.1 Gains in broad learner achievement



O1.2 Effects of ICT use on pupil attainment



The indicators are assessed with the values 0 or 1 to 4. Their meaning is as follows:

0 no evidence available or not relevant

1 bad, there is hardly any positive evidence for a particular indicator

2 insufficient, there is not enough positive evidence for a particular indicator

3 sufficient, there is enough positive evidence for a particular indicator but improvement is possible

4 good, most or all evidence for a particular indicator is positive

In this example one can see progress but also decline. For the management of the school and for the people responsible for different aspects of ICT, this way of looking at your self is very valuable. It leads to debate and discussion about the causes for the assessment of the indicators and about the ways to move forward.

Conclusive Remarks

The five phases in the “Four in Balance Model,” and the P2V framework are different ways to look at the implementation process in a secondary school. The first one is more or less a tool to provide insight on a bird’s eye level to management and teachers of a school in the phase of development of the school with respect to ICT.

By using the “Four in Balance Model,” schools become aware of the relation between different key issues which play a role in the usage of ICT.

By using the P2V framework as a self-assessment, one can really mark the development of the school in terms of level of performance.

At different times and in different constructs, one can use one of the models to improve the implementation process. We hope that the presented models are useful to guide that process.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Projectbureau Odino BVDoornThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sigrid Schubert
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty IV: Science and TechnologyUniversity of SiegenSiegenGermany