The challenge identified by the authors is to make sure that the technologies resonate strongly with teachers’ sense of professional and moral purpose so that they can employ digital technologies fully - that is, for understanding, reflection, ingenuity and creativity, and, through these, support their own learning in new ways. The problem is that there is very little fundamental research that investigates how teachers might learn with digital technologies. Such research is needed, but it must be seen in the light of a holistic approach since many studies have indicated that the broader canvas of globalisation and the information economy influence, both directly and indirectly, how education and the work of teachers is changing (Fisher et al 2006: 4-6; 39-41).
Thus, policies on developing teacher training should look not only at quantitative measures such as significant investments and numbers of training courses but also at the qualitative impact of the actions promoted. It is particularly interesting to note that these considerations emerge not only in countries where eLearning is still in the early stages but also in countries usually considered to be forerunners. This means that the need to re-think teacher training actions emerges clearly at EU level (HELIOS 2006: 104).
The Futurelab study reveals positive results from a review of a number of UK case studies on teacher training. Although they are not representative, most of these case studies highlight positive impacts of teacher training with digital technologies, such as increasing teacher confidence and competence in the use of IT resources by providing them fully equipped multimedia portable computers (MPTP) (Fisher et al 2006: 27-28) or by supporting online teacher communities. The “Talking Heads online community” pilot showed that informal online communities can help to reduce head teacher isolation; enable head teachers to generate and exchange insights regarding practices for school improvement; and provide an effective way for gaining quick access to a spectrum of perspectives on key topical issues. Smaller communities within the network also provide an effective support environment to head teachers (Fisher et al 2006: 28-31). Another 2002 UK pilot reviewed by Futurelab on learning to use ICT for science teaching showed that for the 40 schools that participated, the impact of equipped computers (with relevant software, support by a coach and access to a dedicated website for information sharing) reached far beyond individual teachers. It prompted department-wide exploration of new teaching strategies and renewed enthusiasm for sharing and collaboration. As a result, this approach was extended in 2004 to other subjects in science teaching and integrated into the teacher training curriculum ESTUICT (Enhancing Subject Teaching Using ICT) (Fisher et al 2006: 31-35).
6. e-Assessment and e-portfolio
Training teachers to use digital technologies could also include the use of ICT for assessment of learning outcomes, although teachers are not the only actors concerned with assessment. Assessment is indeed central to educational practice and performance. Several Member States, such as the UK, are very committed to establishing an e-assessment strategy. This would include, according to a Futurelab literature review by Ridgway et al (2004: 2-4), different components such as ICT support for current paper-based assessment systems; online and on-demand testing; and fully implemented ICT-based tests for the assessment of, for instance, ICT capabilities.
There is good research evidence to show that well designed assessment systems lead to improved student performance. Studies have found that e-assessment can be justified in a number of ways. It can help examination by avoiding the meltdown of the current paper-