It is essential to distinguish between potential and effectiveness. No ICT potential is realized automatically. Placing a radio and a 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, so constraints must be alleviated and conditions met. Experience points to seven parameters necessary for the potential of ICTs to be realized in knowledge dissemination, effective learning and training, and efficient education services.
5.1 Educational Policy
Technology is only a tool: no technology can fix a bad educational philosophy or compensate for bad practice. Therefore, educational choices have to be made first in terms of objectives, methodologies, and roles of teachers and students before decisions can be made about the appropriate ICT interventions. (See section 2.2 above.) 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 purposes behind using ICTs for student learning and for teaching.
5.2 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.
It is important to identify the most appropriate, cost-effective, and sustainable technology and level of application for the different educational objectives. Then, the whole prerequisite hardware infrastructure needs to be in place with the supporting elements, such as electricity, maintenance, and technical services. It is not realistic to expect teachers, who will be struggling with a new role and pedagogy, to assume technical responsibility for the hardware.
5.4 ICT-Enhanced Content
ICT-enhanced instructional content is one of the most forgotten 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 without making cars available. Acquisition and development of content software that is integral to the teaching/learning process is a must.
5.5 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.
5.6 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 it 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 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, the elements of implementation or the ICT-intervention policy itself may need modifications. 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.
5.7 Financial Resources
Acquiring ICTs, no matter how hard and expensive, may be the easiest and cheapest element in a series of elements that ultimately could make these technologies sustainable or beneficial. Educational authorities need to budget sufficiently for all of the parameters outlined earlier, including maintenance.