5.4.1 The Objective
Teaching is one of the most challenging and crucial professions in the world. Teachers are critical in facilitating learning and in making it more efficient and effective; they hold the key to the success of any educational reform; and they are accountable for successful human development of the nation and for preparing the foundation for social and economic development. Yet, they are usually ill-prepared and left on their own to understand and address the needs of students, parents, administrators, society, the economy, and the past, present, and future.
Modern developments may have eased some teaching burdens, but they certainly have not made life easier for teachers:
- The objectives of education have become more complicated. It is no longer sufficient to teach a certain body of knowledge and skills. Teachers are expected to help students to acquire higher levels of cognitive skills—problem solving, creativity, collaborative learning, synthesis, and, above all, the skill to learn new knowledge and apply that knowledge to new situations.
- Our understanding of the nature of learning has evolved. For learning to take place, learners have to be active, learning has to be meaningful and authentic, and the learning environment should be challenging but not stressful—all easier said than done!
- Knowledge is expanding rapidly, and much of it is available to teachers and students at the same time. This puts an unavoidable burden on teachers to continue updating their knowledge and exposing themselves to modern channels of information.
- The social environment in many countries is making it more difficult for teachers to manage classrooms and learning processes. Teachers' authority is challenged and their knowledge questioned continually. Students, in many instances, are becoming less respectful and more belligerent, and in some extreme cases, teachers must function in the face of physical threats and psychological duress.
- Information and communication technologies have brought new possibilities to the education sector, but, at the same time, they have placed more demands on teachers. They now have to learn how to cope with computers in their classrooms, how to compete with students in accessing the enormous body of information—particularly via the Internet, and how to use the hardware and software to enhance the teaching/learning process.
Obviously, teachers cannot be prepared for these unfolding challenges once and for all. One-shot training, no matter how effective and successful, will not suffice. A new paradigm must emerge that replaces training with lifelong professional preparedness and development of teachers, along the following continuum:
- Initial preparation/training that provides teachers with a solid foundation of knowledge; proficiency in pedagogical, social, and organization skills; deep understanding of the teaching/learning policies and materials they will deal with; and broad familiarity with sources of educational materials and support. It is equally crucial that candidates have a sophisticated grasp of continuous exploration, assessment, and acquisition of new knowledge and competencies, according to future demands.
- Structured opportunities for retraining, upgrading, and acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Many professions require practitioners to renew certification for practice. It is only logical for the critical profession of teaching to demand recertification every two or three years based on evidence of professional upgrading, and it is equally imperative for education authorities to ensure that opportunities and facilities for such upgrading are available.
- Continuous support for teachers as they tackle their day-to-day responsibilities.
5.4.2 The Potential
Implementing the emerging paradigm with conventional measures and techniques faces, in most countries, insurmountable financial, organizational, and institutional obstacles. ICTs may make the difference and can contribute significantly to all three components of the continuum:
- First, ICTs and properly developed multimedia materials can enhance teachers' initial preparation by providing good training materials, facilitating simulations, capturing and analyzing practice teaching, bringing into the training institution world experience, familiarizing trainees with sources of materials and support, and training potential teachers in the use of technologies for teaching/learning.
- Second, ICTs open a whole world of lifelong upgrading and professional development for teachers by providing courses at a distance, asynchronous learning, and training on demand. ICTs' advantages include ease of revision and introduction of new courses in response to emerging demands.
- Finally, ICTs break the professional isolation from which many teachers suffer. With ICTs, they can connect easily with headquarters, with colleagues and mentors, with universities and centers of expertise, and with sources of teaching materials.
5.4.3 Specific Solutions
The above potential can be translated into a variety of ICT-enhanced interventions. Among them are: 5.4.3 Specific Solutions
126.96.36.199 Multimedia Training and Support
See the cases of South Africa and Aula Mentor, Spain, in Resource 2.3.1.
188.8.131.52 Videos for Training
Videos can serve an important role in microteaching, demonstration of special instructional techniques, on-demand training and uncorrupted expert instruction - in contrast with the cascade model (whereby, training flows down through levels of less experienced trainers until it reaches the target group; in the process, complex information tends to be lost). See Resource 2.3.2.
184.108.40.206 Teacher Development Portal
Teacher development portals provide an integrated teacher development program using the potential of ICTs. The portal can provide the resources, tools, and platform for all three phases of the teacher development continuum: initial training at teacher training colleges, in-service training opportunities, and continuous teacher support.
More specifically, a portal provides the following resources, tools, and collaborative channels:
- Simulation and good practice. New technologies, both computer- and Web-based, allow for simulation of specific skills through mini- and micro-lessons that can be watched, manipulated, and tested. Also, demonstrations of real teachers in real classroom settings, representing different subjects, approaches, and methodologies, may be brought into the teacher education center without having to travel to schools. More important, these good practices can be dissected, analyzed, watched again, and assessed over time without disrupting an actual class.
- Multimedia modules. These are teaching/learning activities related to specific pedagogical skills.
- Resource materials, including solutions to common teaching problems, innovations in teaching specific concepts, lesson plans, and links to other portals developed by centers of excellence and professional organizations. The portal site not only finds and links to these other sites, it also provides a special directory or search engine to help users find what they want and avoid the rest.
- Moderated and unmoderated chat room, bulletin boards, discussion forums, and virtual conferences.
- Synchronous and asynchronous online seminars on specific topics, using Webcasting and audio technology.
- Free e-mail and personalized Web space.
- Free educational software for downloading.
- Policies and procedures can be posted on the portal for easy access by teachers and administrators. This also allows revisions to be made inexpensively and distributed immediately to all schools with Internet access. Furthermore, through the e-mail link, teachers and administrators can provide feedback on the postings to policy makers.
- Resource teachers, assigned full-time or part-time, provide, through the portal, advice to classroom teachers about problems and best practices. They can also prepare and provide supplemental lesson plans to capitalize on learning opportunities created by new developments. Furthermore, resource teachers can help design lesson plans and curriculum when textbooks and other traditional sources are unavailable. The resource teacher can be available by e-mail, portal chat rooms, and bulletin boards. Chat rooms and bulletin boards allow easy archiving and retrieval of earlier queries and answers, which can substantially reduce the number of times the resource teachers have to respond to similar inquiries.
220.127.116.11 Internet Resources for Teachers 
There are thousands of Websites for educators which provide assistance to teachers in a wide range of needs, including lesson plans, instructional tools, student activities, and professional development opportunities. Resource 2.3.3 contains a selective list of Websites that are intended to provide assistance to a wide range of teachers in their day-to-day classroom work. The sites have been selected to illustrate the variety of supports that can be provided to teachers through the Web. Although most of the sites are in English, they serve as models of the types of resources that can be prepared to serve other language groups.
| Gregg Jackson & Nina de las Alas. November/December 2000. "WorthWhileWebs." TechKnowLogia. Available at www.TechknowLogia.org|