Sunday, January 11, 2009

Integrating ICT in Education: On a Road With no U- Turn

The scope of computing in education is really vast. There are a number of perspectives to take into account. At the end of the course, I believe that techno-optimism is the way to go- but not with blind faith. There are a number of pitfalls along the way and educational institutions and even government institutions (National Grid for Learning, UK) have been baffled when the returns on ICT investment are poor (Nichol and Watson, 2003).

I am convinced that the benefits of ICT integration outweigh the drawbacks and the concerns can be addressed or at least alleviated.

Embracing ICT in education is like starting on a journey with no U-turn as predicting the future is not easy. The pace of change accelerates and with it brings changes that that will have a dramatic impact on our lives. Nobody is immune. Teachers and students have to learn to understand the changing environments and adapt to it.

The experiences that students today undergo are richer, complex and varied. When I was a student, I had finished all my primary schooling even before I had a black and white TV at home. Radio and audio cassette players were the only other “gadgets” I had exposure to. Students today have exposure to manifold devices: Television, HD Television, Cable and Satellite TV, Free terrestrial TV, personal computers, Internet, PDAs, Mobile phones, portable games, game consoles, online multiplayer games, MP3, audio-visual projectors, Interactive whiteboards and multimedia DVDs.
The Internet is possibly the one factor that has irreversibly changed our lives on earth. It has brought us into contact with people and resources in a way that we would have never imagined. High speed internet has expanded the scope of exchange from plain text to audio and video as well. Email, instant messenger, SMS, MMS, voice message, video chat, voice and video conference, asynchronous discussion and online collaboration tools (concept maps, wikis, and Google docs), social and professional networks have all changed the way we are expected to communicate and collaborate in our academic and professional lives.

“Whatever way we slice it, it's a different world
• Things have fundamentally & irrevocably changed
• It’s not just change today and status quo tomorrow
• It's constant, relentless change today and change tomorrow - change forever”
(Jukes and McCain, n.d.)

The urgency

The world around us is changing rapidly and by the time students finish schooling, it would have changed even further.

Take a look at the jobs that will be in demand by 2020 (Canton, 2007, p111):

Knowledge management advisors
Nano-bio entrepreneurs
Artists, Writers, Poets
On demand supply-chain designers
Global headhunters

Taking in such information, the education system has to be restructured to ensure that there is a match between industry needs and 10-15 years down the line and what is taught in the school today.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” Wayne Gretzky (Canadian professional ice hockey player)

ICT Literacy in a Knowledge Society
ICT literacy is essential to ensure that they are employable and can function in a knowledge society. The computer can be used either as a tool to enhance productivity, as a resource to learn something or as a “Tutee” and can be taught to do something - manipulate and process data to obtain the desired result.

This has evolved further. Smaller devices like PDAs and mobile phones allow you to store files, use productivity tools like spreadsheets and word processors and access the internet. Even secure banking transactions can be done over mobile phones. These devices only differ in the user interface they offer.

I therefore prefer to use the phrase ICT literacy instead of computer literacy and define it as done by ETS (Educational Testing Service) in Digital Transformation, A Framework for ICT Literacy (2002, p2.):

“ICT literacy is using digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society”.
This moves the emphasis from the device and places it on an individual’s ability.

ICT Implementation
Involving everybody
ICT integration is not a unilateral policy designed or implemented by a single entity. The interests of school administration, teachers, parents, students, government and businesses must be represented in the framing and implementation of policies.

How does the role of the teacher change?
The computer is another tool, just like pen, paper or a calculator. It changes how information is organized and accessed. Setting up a computer lab or providing students with laptops is only a starting point. It’s what you do with them and what you put in them that make the difference.

Computers have not yet transformed the teaching practices of a majority of teachers (Becker, 2000; Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon and Byers, 2002). Conditions that are favorable for successful integration of ICT are:
-Teachers’ motivation and comfort with the use of computers
-Easy access to computers or other ICT resources for classroom activities
-Teachers’ adoption of student centered, constructivist pedagogy
-A supportive school culture (administration and peers) and
- The relevance of ICT to the topic being taught
Some examples:
-Electronic journals that allow recording of laboratory work in the form of images and video instead of plain hand-written journals (Bell, Park and Toti, 2004)
-Use of videos to learn oral history, making it a more personal experience and something that can be shared with others- effectively becoming creators of content (Levin, 2003)
-Project based learning where ICT enables students to learn using real-life examples, even for subjects such as mathematics, which may seem to be irrelevant to future employment (Levert, 2003)

Education is also a business and there will be hardware and software manufacturers, activists, politicians and parents who will exert their influence on the implementation of ICT in the classroom. It is the responsibility of the teacher to evaluate the options and choose an ICT solution that contributes most to meaningful constructivist learning.

Changes for a student
What has to change for a student is not just the way he/ she studies it but also how he/ she is assessed. Assessments that focus more on memory recall are not relevant any longer as the body of knowledge has multiplied in the past few years. Accessing large volumes of information/ data at high speed has become very easy. The student skill set has to therefore move on to skimming and scanning the large volume of information, critically evaluating it for currency, relevance and authenticity and using it to find solutions.

Students are not passive participants- they have the potential to co-create content that is authentic and powerful to be shared with people all over the world. (Levin, 2003)

Students must learn to use both strategies- competition and collaboration, depending on what is most appropriate in a given situation. In an ICT integrated environment, this extends to dealing with people they may know only in an online environment. Online communication skills therefore become very important.

Managing resources

In an environment where getting budgets for ICT implementation are not easy to come by, differentiating between needs and wants is important (Kozma, 2003). Not all applications need the fastest processors, high resolution monitors, high speed broadband internet or Wi-Fi connection or expensive software. Even older technologies like radio and terrestrial TV can offer low-cost alternative solutions. A number of resources are available for free and some software is available at subsidized rates for educational institutions.

Developing nations- different solutions for a different world
India is one of the best examples of the digital divide. At one end, India has made great progress in the areas of IT, space exploration and nuclear technology, and has world class engineering and business schools. At the other end, it has inadequate number of teachers, little teacher training and poor basic school infrastructure, especially in semi-urban and rural areas.

The ICT and the Telecom sectors (services) have made a huge contribution to the GDP growth, making India among the ten fastest growing economies in the world. However, it is only in recent years that application of ICT education has received attention. Catching up with the developed nations without spending huge sums of money means identifying low cost, innovative solutions that reach geographically dispersed students living in rural areas and overcoming barriers due to socioeconomic conditions, language and gender.

Meaningful ICT integration is a change beyond simple amplification of current practices in schools. The ultimate goal of school and university education should be where students, depending on their abilities and interests, can study at a place of their choice , be assessed at a pace they choose to and have the opportunity to discuss issues with teachers and students across the world. ICT can be the enabler of such an environment. Having set off on a road with no U-turn, this goal will be reached. What we don’t know is the distance and the time it will take.

Digital Transformation- A Framework for ICT Literacy. (2002). Retrieved 06 Nov, from

Becker, H. J. (2000). Findings from the teaching, learning, and computing survey: Is Larry Cuban right? Paper presented at the School Technology Leadership Conference of The Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. Retrieved 31 May, 2004, from

Bell, R. L., Park, J. C., & Doug Toti. (2004). Digital images in the science classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(8), 26-28.

Bharadwaj, V. (2005). Pilot Testing of Performance Indicators for Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in India. Retrieved 23 Aug, 2008 from

Canton, J. (2007). The Extreme Future: Plume. ISBN: 978-0-452-28866-9.

Jukes, I., & McCain, T. (n.d.). Welcome to the wired world. Retrieved 6 Nov, 2008, from

Kozma, R. B. (2003). Global Perspectives- Innovative Technology Integration Practices from Around the World. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(2), 6-9, 52-54.

Levert, B. (2003-04). We're Poppin for Math. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(4), 20-23.

Levin, H. (2003). Making History Come Alive. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(3), 22-27.

Nichol, J., & Watson, K. (2003). Editorial: Rhetoric and reality—the present and future of ICT in education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(2), 131-136.

Taylor, R. P. (1980). Introduction. In R. P. Taylor (Ed.), The computer in school: Tutor, tool, tutee (pp. 1-10). New York: Teachers College Press.

Veen, W., & Vrakking, B. (2006). Homo Zappiens- Growing up in a digital age: Network Continuum. ISBN: 1-85539-220-8

Wayne Grtezky, retrieved 06 Nov, 2008

Zhao, Y., Pugh, K., Sheldon, S., & Byers, J. L. (2002). Conditions for Classroom Technology Innovations. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 482-515.

No comments: