ICT in Education Toolkit
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ICTs for Education: Analytical Review
1 Introduction
2 Myths and Realities
3 Challenges
4 The Role and Nature of ICTs
5 The Potential of ICTs
  Expanding Educational Opportunities
  Increasing Efficiency
  Enhancing Quality of Learning
  Enhancing Quality of Teaching
  Faciliating Skill Formulation
  Sustaining Lifelong Learning
  Improving Policy Planning and Management
  Advancing Community Linkages
6 From Potential to Effectiveness
7 Conclusion

ICTs for Education: A Reference Handbook
1 Decision Makers Essentials
2 Analytical Review
3 Resources
4 PowerPoint Presentation
  6. From Potential to Effectiveness
 

If ICTs possess all the potential, cited above, to improve the teaching/learning process significantly and revolutionize the education enterprise, in the same manner that they revolutionized business and entertainment, why have we not experienced such drastic effects? If technologies are the solution they claim to be, then what or where is the problem?

In attempting to answer this question, it is essential to distinguish between potential and effectiveness. No ICT potential is realized automatically—not in education, in business, or in entertainment. In fact, many computerized businesses are managed badly and go bankrupt, and many movies are a complete failure. Placing a radio and TV in every school, putting a computer in every classroom, and wiring every building for the Internet will not solve the problem automatically. The problem is not strictly technological; it is educational and contextual; constraints must be alleviated and conditions met. Experience points to eight parameters necessary for the potential of ICTs to be realized in knowledge dissemination, effective learning and training, and efficient education services. [17]

6.1 Educational Policy

Technology is only a tool; no technology can fix a bad educational philosophy or compensate for bad practice. In fact, if we are going in the wrong direction, technology will only get us there faster. Likewise, distance learning is not about distance, it is about learning. Just as we can have bad education face to face, we can have bad education at a distance. Therefore, educational choices first have to be made in terms of objectives, methodologies, and roles of teachers and students before decisions can be made about the appropriate ICT interventions. (See Section 4.2).

For instance, if teaching is demonstrating and telling, and if learning is memorizing and reciting, using learning technologies and multimedia programs for this purpose will not have the desired impact. Also, if students are not asked to search and work collaboratively, and if teachers function independently, investment in connectivity will not be cost effective. The effectiveness of different levels of sophistication of ICTs depends to a large extent on the role of learners and teachers as practiced in the educational process and on the reasons behind using ICTs for student learning and for teaching; see figures 6.1.1 and 6.1.2. Before investing in ICTs, therefore, it is essential to determine:

  • The roles expected of teachers and learners
  • The educational purposes for which ICTs are to be used

6.2 Approach to ICTs

Classrooms are constrained environments, and conventional instructional materials are static. If technology-enhanced education programs are taped classrooms, digital texts, and PowerPoint transparencies, then we are missing out on the tremendous potential of technologies that can animate, simulate, capture reality, add movement to static concepts, and extend our touch to the whole universe. Movies and TV programs are not replicas of theater—packaged theater plays; they tell the same story in a more dramatic and multifaceted manner. So should ICT-enhanced education.

 

In October 2001, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued Learning to Change [18] the results of a study of how ICTs are being put to use in the most advanced countries. Essentially, according to the report, they are being used to do traditional things in different ways. Examples include "putting on screen what can be found on the page of a book," using material from the Internet to "support conventional teaching practices," and employing didactic software to rehearse basic skills. This merely replicates existing learning methods in technological form. If ICTs are to fulfill their potential, "innovation and change are called for at all levels of the school environment." And that requires "a far-reaching review of teaching policies and methods."

The challenge, therefore, is to rethink learning objectives and teaching methodologies, and to align learning technologies with them. It was never satisfactory merely to be efficient in helping learners to achieve mastery of content and basic skills, but the issue has now become vital. As knowledge in itself becomes a perishable item, the ability of learners to think independently, exercise appropriate judgment and skepticism, and collaborate with others to make sense of their changing environment is the only reasonable aim for education. Perhaps the most profound shift is from systems of teaching and supervision of learning to systems of learning and facilitation of learning. These shifts will be difficult in different ways for both rich and poor school systems. In advantaged communities, change is an upheaval for established authorities, systems, and capacities. In disadvantaged communities, the infrastructure must be put into place, along with serious attention to pedagogy.

There is also a basic difference between using technology as an add-on to make the current model of education more efficient, more equitable, and cheaper, on the one hand, and integrating technology into the entire education system to realize structural rethinking and reengineering, on the other. It is the difference between a marginal addition and a radical systemic change. It is in the second scenario that technology can have the greatest impact. This opportunity was articulated by Louis V. Gerstner Jr., chairman and CEO of IBM, in a 1995 speech to the U.S. National Governors' Association:

Information technology is the fundamental underpinning of the science of structural re-engineering. It is the force that revolutionizes business, streamlines government and enables instant communications and the exchange of information among people and institutions around the world. But information technology has not made even its barest appearance in most public schools.... Before we can get the education revolution rolling, we need to recognize that our public schools are low-tech institutions in a high-tech society. The same changes that have brought cataclysmic change to every facet of business can improve the way we teach students and teachers. And it can also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how we run our schools. [19]

6.3 Infrastructure

In the case of computer infrastructure, questions about what is appropriate are more complicated.

  • Selecting a computer involves decisions about technical specifications: speed, memory, type and size of monitor, etc. Selecting a computer for educational purposes involves decisions about educational goals, classroom methodologies, teachers' role, students' role, modalities of group work, role of the textbook, external sources of knowledge, etc.
  • Although the price of computers is coming down, these costs are still prohibitive for many developing countries if their goal is to provide computers across the school system in numbers that serve their educational objectives. There have been some promising efforts in countries such as Brazil and India to address this issue and produce a less costly computer with a longer operational life. Other attempts to develop affordable PCs include Intel's Affordable PC and Classmate PC, and the US$100 laptop designed by MIT Media Lab (see Resource 3.2.1).
  • Where and how should computers be distributed, connected, and used in schools? Different educational and institutional objectives are served by different configuration options: computers in classrooms, on wheels, in computer rooms or labs, or in libraries and teachers' rooms. Should computers be stand-alone or connected to form a network? If the latter, which network option is the most cost effective: peer-to-peer, client/server, or thin-client/server? (A thin client is a low-cost, centrally-managed computer usually without CD-ROM players, diskette drives, and expansion slots.) Finally, should computers be connected by wiring the classroom or the school, or should they be wireless?
  • Turning computers into powerful communication tools requires access to the Internet; however, getting a school online, particularly in a developing country, is not a straightforward task. First, schools need to figure out why they need to connect and to what. The next problem is communication infrastructure; in many areas, it is either nonexistent or expensive to use. Some forms of terrestrial wireless and satellite technologies are being introduced that do not require installation of wireline networks and are ideal for remote and isolated areas (see Resource 3.1.4).). Finally, schools need to determine whether they have the resources, beyond the initial investment, to cover connectivity's operating costs.
  • Computers are not dying of old age; however, every so many years they need to be replaced because they cannot handle new operating or application software. This creates a major problem for schools and national governments with limited financial resources. In fact, school systems spacing the introduction of computers over a period longer than the life of a computer will never be able to cover all of their schools. Some organizations are trying to address the problem by providing software packages that can be run on any computer, from a 286 to the newest Pentiums (see Resource 3.2.2).
  • ICTs in schools require supporting infrastructure, including electricity, communication, wiring, and special facilities. Just as countries are experimenting with wireless connections, some are using solar energy to run computers (and radios) in remote and isolated areas.

Tool 3.2 and Tool 2.3 assist strategists and planners to consider appropriate aspects of infrastructure and hardware and their use in schools and other learning centers.

6.4 ICT-Enhanced Content

ICT-enhanced instructional content is one of the most neglected areas, but, evidently, the most crucial component. Introducing TVs, radios, computers, and connectivity into schools without sufficient curriculum-related ICT-enhanced content is like building roads but not making cars available, or having a CD player at home when you have no CDs. Development of content software that is integral to the teaching/learning process is a must.

Should countries or institutions acquire or create ICT-enhanced content? This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Should a country acquire existing educational radio and TV programs and educational software, or should it develop new ones in accordance with its curricular and instructional framework? Acquisition saves time but not necessarily money. In most cases, a country has to buy the material or pay a licensing fee. There are also important suitability issues from the point of view of both learning objectives and acceptability of the means of communication. On the other hand, creating new materials requires sophisticated expertise, substantive time, and significant upfront financing. Depending on the number of schools using the materials, the unit use cost may be very high.

This question of whether to acquire or create may be answered in different ways for different available materials and different instructional units. Ideally, the aim should be to

  • acquire, as is, when suitable and cost effective;
  • acquire and adapt when not exactly suitable but cost effective; or
  • create when no suitable or cost-effective materials are available

To follow this decision chain, three interrelated mechanisms are needed:

  • Reliable information on available audio, video, and digital materials, as well as relevant educational Websites
  • An evaluation scheme to ascertain the quality of available materials or Websites
  • Identification of specific sections of Websites and relating them to curricular and instructional needs. Selecting relevant Websites is like building a large reference library that is cumbersome and overwhelming to the user. Experience is proving that students and teachers make better use of the Web if their needs are linked to specific sections.

Toolbox 4 deals with these issues of planning for ICT-enhanced content. It contains a set of tools that:

  • offers a system to evaluate the quality and adequacy of existing courses/materials in addressing identified educational problems or issues;
  • provides guidelines to ensure quality products for users who are planning to develop their own courses/materials; and
  • supplies assistance in extracting educational content from the Web.

The toolbox contains the following five tools:

Tool 4.1 - ICT-Enhanced Content Requirements

Tool 4.2 - Identification and Evaluation of Existing ICT-Enhanced Content

Tool 4.3 - Exploration of  the Web for Educational Content

Tool 4.4 - Evaluation of Course Authorship and Management Systems

Tool 4.5- Design, Development and Testing of Curricular ICT-Enhanced Content


6.5 Committed and Trained Personnel

People involved in integrating technologies into the teaching/learning process have to be convinced of the value of the technologies, comfortable with them, and skilled in using them. Therefore, orientation and training for all concerned staff in the strategic, technical, and pedagogical dimensions of the process is a necessary condition for success.

Cuban examined the history of attempts to use technology to promote school reform; his 1986 conclusions apply equally to present-day practices:

He concludes that most of these attempts failed to adequately address the real needs of teachers in classrooms. Instead, the efforts too often attempted to impose a technologist's or policymaker's vision of the appropriate use of the technology in schools. Teachers were provided inadequate assistance in using the technology, and the technology itself was often unreliable. As a consequence, the technology was not used by teachers or became very marginal to the schools' instructional activities [20]

Appropriate and effective use of technologies involves competent, committed interventions by people.  The required competence and commitment cannot be inserted into a project as an afterthought, but must be built into conception and design with participation of those concerned.

Tool 3.4 assists in planning for orientation and training of educational personnel involved in the implementation of ICT-enhanced interventions decided upon by the appropriate authorities.

6.6 Financial Resources

As mentioned earlier, acquiring the technologies themselves, no matter how hard and expensive, may be the easiest and cheapest element in a series of elements that ultimately will render these technologies sustainable or beneficial. Computers, in particular, need highly skilled and costly maintenance to operate most of the time. Yet, in almost all cases, schools invest in buying and networking computers but do not budget sufficiently for their maintenance and technical support. It is important, therefore, to plan and budget for the total cost of ownership (TCO). [21] Elements contributing to TCO include:

  • acquisition of hardware and software;
  • installation and configuration;
  • connectivity;
  • maintenance;
  • support, including supplies, utilities, and computer training;
  • retrofitting of physical facilities; and
  • replacement costs (in five to seven years).

The annual costs of maintenance and support for a healthy education computer system are estimated to be 30%–50% of the initial investment in computer hardware and software. This makes some donated computers quite expensive, especially when they are old, outdated, and require a lot of maintenance.

Substantive additional costs include:

  • Acquisition and creation of content materials
  • Orientation and training of staff
  • Testing, monitoring, and evaluation

Tool 2.2 (Section 3) of the Toolkit provides an interactive mechanism, Scenario Cost, to calculate the capital/development and recurrent costs as well as unit costs of an ICT intervention, to assist planners in comparing the affordability and sustainability of different ICT options. Tool 5.1 of the Toolkit provides an instrument to budget the necessary resources for the selected ICT intervention.

6.7  Integration

The success of ICTs in education depends on how they are introduced into the system. Here are some strategic options:

  • ICTs may be used as an additional layer of educational input that leaves the current system intact but adds hardware and software for enrichment. The problem here is that both students and teachers may not take the additional materials seriously or know how to relate them to the current program. Also, this may not realize the full potential of, and consequently returns from, ICTs.
  • ICTs may be treated as an integral part of the existing instructional system. This strategy involves articulating learning objectives, translating objectives/standards into teaching/learning activities, producing multimedia curricular materials, training staff, establishing a distribution communication network, assessing learning achievement, and evaluating the program. Here, ICTs are not a substitute for the classroom setting; rather, they enhance the role of the teacher as facilitator and the role of the student as learner.
  • ICTs may be introduced through a parallel system such as distance education or e-learning. This option may be used in situations where schools are not available or cannot be provided, or where individuals cannot enroll in regular schools because of lack of availability or for personal reasons, as in the case of working youth and adults.

From an instructional architecture perspective, technology-enhanced materials may be designed in one of three ways:

  • They can be enrichment materials that are used in addition to existing materials at the discretion of the teacher or learner, in the same manner as a library book is used.
  • They can be a structured multimedia program that covers a particular course—similar to a textbook-plus that is used by all students in all schools in the same way. Many publishers have evolved their textbooks into packages of printed (or digital) text plus related slides, videos, audiotapes, and CDs.

They can be multimedia modules that are constructed in a flexible way to serve as building blocks of different curricula and teaching practices. Here, each module is broken down into educational subobjectives to be met with specific technologies, such as video, animation, simulation, real-life exploration, etc. Not only can the modules be put together in different ways, the submodules can be reconfigured to form different versions suitable for different teaching styles and learning needs.

6.8 Piloting and Evaluation

The strong belief in the potential of technology, market push, and enthusiasm for introducing technology into schools creates the temptation to implement them immediately and full scale. Integrating technologies into education is a very sophisticated, multifaceted process, and, just like any other innovation, it should not be introduced without piloting its different components on a smaller scale. Even the technologies we are sure about need to be piloted in new contexts. No matter how well an ICT project is designed and planned for, many aspects need to be tested on a small scale first. Among these aspects are appropriate technologies, suitability of instructional materials, production process, classroom implementability, learning effectiveness, and cost-benefit ratio.

Depending on the results of the evaluation of a pilot scheme, modifications may need to be made to the elements of implementation or to the ICT-intervention policy itself. Then plans need to be drawn for scaling up the ICT intervention. At this stage, more care needs to be given to implementation planning because of the higher risks, larger scope, and more intricate application issues.

Monitoring and evaluation should not be limited to the pilot phase, but should continue during the large scale implementation for the following reasons:

  • The translation of abstract plans into concrete implementation will generate problems and surprises, such as inappropriate technologies, insufficient personnel commitment and engagement, inadequate infrastructure and hardware, unclear educational objectives, etc. With systematic monitoring, the nature and scope of implementation problems are detected in a timely manner, and remedial adjustments and redesigns can follow.
  • ICT interventions are not an end in themselves. They are made for educational purposes based on estimated potential and effectiveness. Only through a systematic summative and formative evaluation will the degree of fulfillment of the potential of an ICT intervention be evidenced and its educational effectiveness proven.

Tool 6.1 assists planners in the design of monitoring and evaluation schemes for the different phases of introducing ICT policy interventions.


17 This section draws on: W. Haddad & A. Draxler. 2002. "The Dynamics of Technologies for Education." In Wadi D. Haddad and Alexandra Draxler (Eds.) Technologies for Education: Potential, Parameters, and Prospects. Paris: UNESCO, and Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development.
18 OECD. October 2000. Learning to Change: ICT in Schools. Paris: OECD.
19 Quoted in: T. Glenman & A. Melmed, 1966. Fostering the Use of Educational Technology: Elements of a National Strategy. Santa Monica, California, USA: Rand.
20 L. Cuban. 1986. Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press. Quoted in: http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR682/ed_ch2.html#fn30
21 K. Moses. January 2002. "Educational System Computer Maintenance and Support: They Cost More Than You Think!" TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechKnowLogia.org

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