Essay: The evolution of ICT in education

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  • The evolution of ICT in education
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Anderson and Glen (2003) explain the origins of the educational application of the term information and communication technology (ICT), as deriving from previous terms like information technology (IT) and new technologies. They comment that the addition of communication to information technology (IT) emphasizes the growing importance attributed to the communication aspects of new technologies. They define ICT as generally related to those technologies that are used for accessing, and gathering, manipulating and presenting or communicating information. The technologies could include hardware (e.g. computers and other devices); software applications; and connectivity (e.g. access to the Internet, local networking infrastructure, and video-conferencing).
ICT refers to information-handling tools that are used to generate, store, process, distribute and share information (UNDP, 2001). The use ICT in education is obviously not a new rally for the protection and promotion of life. There are many evidences that the use of ICT in education provides positive pedagogical, social and economic benefits (Rodrigo, 2001).
According to Okebukola (2006), quality is judgement which determines the extent of preparation and efficiency of teachers, adequacy and accessibility of materials and facilities needed for effective teaching and learning, and how the teachers can cope with the challenges ahead of their job. The principal contribution of a university to society turns out on the quality of knowledge it generates and impacts, the habits of critical thought and problem-solving it institutionalizes and inculcates in its graduates, and the values of openness and democratic governance it promotes and demonstrates. The easiest way to ascertain these contributions is the caliber and commitment of lecturers to continuous improvement in teaching, research and community interactions; the range and quality of the curriculum and pedagogy; the quality and extent of educational facilities; commitment to evaluation and review of the activities to seek continuous improvements (Sawyer, 2004; Liston, 1999).
According to Shyamal Majumdar, director general of the Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education (cited by Oliva, 2008), ICT in education has at least four stages: emerging stage which means awareness, applying stage which means learning, infusing stage which means the use and integration into the curriculum, and transforming stage which means innovative learning by developing new ways of teaching-learning using ICT. For developed countries, ICT in education is undeniably has produced significant positive impact. ICT is changing the developed world’s attitudes and approaches to education” (Loxley, 2004). Education in these countries becomes more flexible, accommodating and increases reach of potential learners. E-learning, blended learning, open and distance learning, learner-centered environment, mobile learning are just the few dramatic changes in these countries. ICT generally changed the way students learn, the way teachers teach, and the way school operates. In contrary, ICT in education in the developing countries has been a long way to go and ICT infusion in education is an emerging issue. On the positive side, government, non-government organizations, industries and other stakeholders have closely work together to promote ICT for the promotion and betterment of life of every citizen.
Tinio (2002) concurs noting that that the groundswell of interest in the newer computer and internet technologies to improve educational efficiency and effectiveness, distracts attention from the longer and richer history of older technologies such as the radio, television and print to support instructional delivery.
Unwin (2004) laments the tendency to interpret ICT as being restricted to the newer technologies. He considers that our understandings for ICT use in professional development should be broadened to include the value of blended learning solutions which he defines as the ‘combination of printed text materials, radio, video and face-to-face practical experiences alongside the use of computers and the internet (to enable) people to learn effectively in ways that are appropriate to their needs.
Leach and Moon (2002) defend a differentiation in interpretation between older and newer technologies in terms of their potential impact for educational transformation. There have been they note ‘past disappointments with technologies’. In line with several writers they believe that it is the reach of new cybernetic technologies that can provide new and potent opportunities to revolutionize both access to, and the quality of professional learning. The ‘revolutionary’ potency lies principally in new technology features such as web 2.0 where interactive written communication, multi-media text/image/sound/video combinations, hypertext creation, many-to-many communication in forms hitherto thought of, provide opportunities for learners to become producers of knowledge and not just consumers of information (Papert 1993, 2004; Leach and Moon 2002; Kirschner and Davis, 2003; Warschauer, 2006; Thompson, 2009).
The rhetoric of revolutionary potency inherent in new tools is carried forward in Haddad’s (UNESCO, online) description of ICT as a ‘third revolution in the dissemination of knowledge and in the enhancement of instruction’. Drenoyianni (2006) questions the validity of the rhetoric pointing to international evidence which argues that technology ‘cannot revolutionize but can only strengthen, further and reinforce established educational goals, curriculum contents, teaching and learning methods. Pulkkinen (2009) concurs pointing to evidence from more recent reports on technology for development (UNCTAD, 2007) which make clear that ‘introducing a technology, no matter how innovative, does not necessarily change the reality at school level, if there is insufficient capacity and knowledge to develop new processes, to alter the institutional settings and to effectively utilize the given technology’.
Shafika (2006) defines Teacher Professional Development (TPD) as ‘a systematized, initial and continuous, coherent and modular process of professional development of educators in accordance with professional competency standards and frameworks’. Teacher professional development would also include training in the adaptation to the evolution of change of the profession of teachers and managers of education systems.
This is a definition that hints at the state of flux in which the teaching profession finds itself – a state exacerbated with the introduction and gradual infusion of new technologies into education systems. The definition presents a concept of Teacher Professional Development in ICT which ‘should equip teachers not just with basic ICT skills, but should encourage the evolution towards integrating technologies into teaching subjects and practices’ (emphasis added). The implication is that TPD in ICT is not simply about how to use technologies but also about why and when to use them in transforming teaching practices (SchoolNet Africa 2004).
Hallissey (2009) notes that whereas most national ICT plans contain the term ‘ICT integration’ there are few explicit definitions of the concept and how it can be measured. Despite this lack of clear criteria there is agreement in the literature that ICT integration denotes a change in pedagogical practices that make ICT less peripheral in classroom teaching (Law, Pelgrum&Law, 2006)
The integration of ICT in teacher professional development according to Perratonet al. (2001, cited in Anderson and Glen 2003) involves two sets of activities or roles:
One is training teachers to learn aboutICT and its use in teaching as computers are introduced to schools.… The other role of ICT is as a means of providing teacher education, either as a core or main component of a programme, or playing a supplementary role within it (emphasis added)
Collis and Moonen (2001, cited in Davis and Kirschner, 2003) elaborate on the goals of professional learning about ICT as centered on learning how to use ICT and learning with ICT. When learning how to use ICT the instructional focus is on the use of products in or outside the classroom. In learning with ICT, instruction is presented and distributed primarily through ‘web environments or systems offering an integrated range of tools to support learning and communication’. Davis and Kirschner, (2003) clarify the distinction between the role of ICT as a core and a complementary (supplementary) technology for professional learning settings. A core technology role refers to ‘the principle way of organizing the learning experience’. In contrast a complementary technology roleis ‘optional serving a valuable function but able to be compensated for via the core technology if so needed, or dropped altogether if not functioning or feasible.
Butler (2001) contends that new models for TPD represent a ‘reconceptualization’ of teacher professional learning for a digital age. The models look beyond how teachers ‘engage’ with technology, to how teachers use technology as they work alongside their students to redefine learning itself and to become ‘co-learners’ in the process. It is through learning about their own learning styles and about the phenomenon of learning itself that she believes that teachers become empowered ‘to contribute both to inspirations for new technologies and to the education of new generations of technology innovators’
Kirschner and Davis (2003) present a theoretical framework in which to situate new TPD programmes for technology integration based on twelve dimensions of interactive learning each presented on a continuum. TPD in the use of technology should be designed and implemented to move teachers (and eventually, students) toward the right hand end of the continuum. The theoretical principles underpinning the new models tend towards a kinship with social constructivist epistemologies to learning.
Haddad (2002) cautions on the limitations of the ecological ecosystems of education environments to make shift happen, noting that:
Bureaucratic walls, conventional methodologies, attitudes about innovations and reforms, and management of the teaching/learning process under the influence of examinations and timetables, represent powerful forces that tend to pull teachers back into pre-training modes.
Drenoyanni (2006:405) explains that the assimilation of new technologies cannot be understood in isolation from the broader context of the prevailing and more powerful social, economic and political contexts and dynamics. The incorporation and use of ICT in teacher professional development will ‘mirror to a certain degree contemporary socio-economic problems and prevailing educational conditions’.
Related Studies
A related study conducted by del Rosario (2007) entitled “Technology Integration in Teacher Education Programs in the Philippines,” revealed the complexity of integrating technology because of many variables, that are by themselves complex, impact technology integration. Accordingly, these variables include national, state and school policies; state and local technology plans; funding; teacher skills; the rapidly changing nature of technology; learning goals and objectives; teacher training and professional development; and technology support. The results of del Rosario’s study also point to emerging themes found to be attendant in technology integration, to wit: within the framework of developing countries, the influence of modernization and the desire of these countries to become modernized and developed by using ITs as strategic tools; whether IT is introduced as an added course or infused in the curriculum; the evolving nature of technology, in particular the emerging trend of mobile technology and how this impacts technology use.
Research has indicated that the use of ICT can support new instructional approaches and make hard-to-implement instructional methods such as simulation or cooperative learning more feasible. Moreover, educators commonly agree that ICT has the potential to improve student learning outcomes and effectiveness. Integration has a sense of completeness or wholeness, by which all essential elements of a system are seamlessly combined together to make a whole (Chang & Wu, 2012). Schools have seen an exponential increase in the range of ICT being utilized for learning and teaching over the past decade, especially with the advent of the Internet. What is exciting is not just more technology but that there are more types of technology which teachers can pick and choose from, based on their own pedagogical preferences (Choy, Suan & Chee, 2012).
Moreover, the study of Tan (2011) concludes that “HEIs should try to capitalize on 21st century tools and technologies to address 21st century issues and challenges”. These technologies include computers, the Internet, broadcasting technologies, and telephony that enable people to work together, and combine to form networks every corner of the globe. ICT, as defined by UNDP (2001), is basically a various set of applications, goods and services. It allows teachers and students to produce, share, connect, and comment on their own knowledge and that of others (UNESCO, 2011). Similarly, the Philippines’ Commission on Information and Communications Technology defined ICT as the totality of electronic means for end-users such as computer systems, office systems and consumer electronics, as well as networked information infrastructure, the components of which include the telephone system, the Internet, fax machines and computers. ICT tools are evolving and so implementation strategies have changed to better align on the current needs. A good illustration of the evolution of ICT in education is the Singapore’s ICT Master Plan in Education (cited in UNESCO, 2011). It has three high-level goals of ICT in Education. Year 1997-2002 described the stage of shifting from acquisition mode of learning to one that engages higher order thinking like application, synthesis and evaluation. The Internet, email and videoconferencing tools were among the example tools used. Year 2003-2008 described the shift learning from information receiving to information processing and knowledge creation. Integration of ICT into the curriculum and leveraging ICT for formative assessment and summative assessment are among the implementing tools on this stage. Lastly, 2009-2014 it aims to have better integration of ICT right from the planning of curriculum and assessment, and calls for teachers to consider pedagogical applications of ICT starting from lesson design and planning stage.

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