ICT coordination and policy: the situation today in Flemish schools
This report is the first result of the two-year project 'Digital transformation in Flemish education: reforming ICT teams in schools'.
The project is funded by the European Union through the Technical Support Instrument (TSI) and implemented in cooperation with the European Commission. The consortium consists of ICF, IDEA and international expert Jan Hylèn.
The objective is to support the Knowledge Centre ‘Digisprong’ of the Flemish Government in the implementation of the spearhead 'a strong supportive and effective ICT school policy' of the ‘Digisprong’ action plan, more specifically by developing a strategy and guidelines to support schools in primary, secondary and adult education in the transition to the effective use of ICT for learning and teaching.
This first report offers a description of the current state of affairs in the area of ICT coordination and ICT policy in Flemish schools. We summarise the most important conclusions below.
Context: ICT in Flemish schools
- Because of the recent ‘Digisprong’ investments, it is difficult to get a picture of the current ICT infrastructure in Flemish schools.
- In terms of hardware, there is a generalised introduction of wireless devices, especially laptops and tablets. Digiboards are omnipresent, but their added value is increasingly being questioned.
- The use of specific didactic software and digital pupil monitoring systems is increasing, but still only slightly innovative. Almost every school uses an electronic learning environment such as SmartSchool.
- Connectivity, management, and security of the infrastructure are becoming extra important for schools.
- Almost every Flemish school, in primary, secondary and adult education, has an ICT coordinator. The average number of hours appointed differs according to the type of education. Schools supplement this to varying degrees from their own resources. Although there are no diploma requirements, it is difficult to fill this position.
- ‘The Digisprong’ envisages an expansion of the resources for ICT coordination and a strengthening of the statute.
Role of ICT coordinators
- ICT coordinators take on a variety of tasks, within the 4 roles: planner, budgeter, technical supporter and pedagogical-didactical supporter.
- The COVID-19 crisis and the ‘Digisprong’ led to a strong expansion of tasks.
- In reality, the emphasis is mainly on technical support, often at the expense of pedagogical-didactical support.
- It is rarely one and the same person who takes on all the tasks: often a distinction is made between a pedagogical ICT coordinator and a technical ICT coordinator. The variation in this area is related to scale/available resources and vision.
- The recent expansion of tasks led to more outsourcing of technical tasks to commercial partners.
ICT policy plan
- An ICT policy plan is not compulsory, but as a result of the ‘Digisprong’ and the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more schools are drawing one up, either with or without the help of the school group/community or an external partner.
- Kennisnet's 'Four in Balance' model is a commonly used reference framework. It points out four important areas: vision, expertise, content and applications, infrastructure.
ICT and leadership
- In many schools, the management - ICT coordinator (s) tandem plays an important role. The management mainly determines the school vision and budget.
- As a result of generalised distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the involvement of teachers grew: their needs in terms of didactic translation received more attention.
- ICT teams already exist in quite a few Flemish schools. These usually bring together the technical and didactic ICT coordinator(s), the headmaster and interested teachers, and are the hub of cooperation and communication.
- ICT coordination at the level of the school group/community creates economies of scale, allowing the schools to focus more on pedagogical-didactical issues.
ICT support and professionalisation
- There is a great need for support, both technical and administrative, as well as pedagogical.
- ICT coordinators need to share knowledge. There are too few tailor-made training courses, so that they are mainly dependent on self-study.
- Existing initiatives include support from educational umbrella organisations and the ICT practical day.
- It is expected that the new ‘Digisprong’ knowledge centre will respond to the prevailing needs.
Between now and the end of April, we will work on the following tasks:
- Developing (a) job profile(s) for ICT coordinators: description of the role, responsibilities and competencies needed to fulfil the various aspects of the role.
- Strong ICT teams: description of the characteristics of strong ICT teams and development of guidelines for making the transition to team-based ICT coordination.
For this, IDEA Consult consults existing good practices and experts in Flanders. At the same time, ICF and Jan Hylèn will introduce us and the people from the Knowledge Centre to international good practices.
Next school year, the guidelines will be tested in Flemish schools, in order to ultimately arrive at a tool with which ICT teams can actually get to work.
- Flemish government
- European Commission