Category Archives: ICTs and Formal Education

Singapore: Integrating ICT Use in the Curriculum

By Maria Aguirre

This week’s topic was about the use of ICTs in formal education. In addressing this, I will discuss the current Masterplan developed in Singapore which seeks to include ICTs into curriculum, pedagogy and assessment so the students develop competencies for the 21st century. This is a great example of how a country can include -ICTs- in their education system successfully.

As described at the Ministry of Education website, the history of Masterplans that promote the use of ICT in education in Singapore started with the first Masterplan (1997-2002) which aimed to provide the basic ICT infrastructure and to equip teachers with the basic levels of ICT competency. The second Masterplan (2003-2008) was to create an effective and pervasive use of ICT in education. And lastly, the third Masterplan (2009-2014) was aimed to continue the previous plans’ philosophy, that education should continually anticipate the needs of the future and prepare pupils to meet those needs. Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) launched in 2009 the third Masterplan for ICTs in education. This Masterplan seeks to enrich and transform the learning environments of the students and to “equip them” with the critical competencies to succeed in a knowledge economy. This statement that goes along with the functionalist perspective is looking to strengthen integration of ICT into curriculum and pedagogy. Basically, the MOE is interested in helping to create a differentiated professional development that is more practice-based, where ICT help students learn better, and schools support the provisions of ICT. In order to include ICTs to the curriculum, this Masterplan is creating a greater alignment of students’ learning outcomes in the syllabi, national examinations and classroom experience. It will promote the use of ICT to look for information, synthesize reports, and collaborate with peers. Moreover, this plan aims to train several ICT specialist teachers who will be experts on how to effectively use ICT in their classes; it will also improve the sharing of best practices through a network of educational labs. In these labs, innovations could be prototyped and tested; in the same time it will provide the latest technologies to promote exploration of learning possibilities. Lastly, accessibility of ICT to students will be increased through more flexible and mobile infrastructure provisions (e.g., wireless internet access, piloting 1-notebook-to-1-pupil ratio in more schools, and higher data bandwidth to the Internet).

Another article, described how -according to the MOE- the digital divide due to problems in technology access is fading in Singapore. They consider that the nation is facing a digital divide between students ICT-literate and students without such skills. In order to diminish this new divide, the government planned the third Masterplan. As in many other entries in our blog, this article indicates that technology in itself cannot transform learning. Yet, the vision of this Masterplan is quite accurate while it assures a vision of “harnessing technology to transform learners”. Other pertinent solution, I think, is to use social media to enable participation, dialogue and co-construction of knowledge.

In this same sense, another article introduces one of the latest applications of this Masterplan launched in a primary school in Sengkang, Singapore. In collaboration with Qualcomme and Microsoft teachers and students will have access to educational resources through smartphones. With the support of the national Institute of Education of Singapore, there is a joint work to develop customized curriculum in English, Science and Chinese, and co-design technology to enable teachers to enact lessons using smartphones. About 350 third-graders will experience the latest wireless technology easing student-centric model of learning where educational materials (e.g., web-based resources and collaborative learning tools) can be accessed anytime and anywhere via smartphones. This school will be a model for primary schools throughout Singapore and Asia. This project is using a mobile learning platform (MyDesk) and education applications developed by the University of Michigan, using Nokia 3G smartphones. The Masterplan expects that this project will “give students the means to take responsibility for their own learning and enable teachers to provide individualized mentoring”. It is also thought that students will use relevant websites that contain podcasts, video clips, and educational applications like mapping, drawing and animating to practice both self-directed and collaborative learning. The files created by students using the smartphones are backed-up and synchronized to a management system which can be later assessed by teachers for grading and feedback purposes.

References:

Developing a national educational technology policy; EduTech Blog from the World Bank on March 2012. http://goo.gl/gzWy8

MOE Launches Third Masterplan for ICT in Education; Ministry of Education in Singapore, on August 2008. http://goo.gl/4QrlP

ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch — and Learn From; EduTech Blog from the World Bank on January 2011. http://goo.gl/Ls5ru

Singapore to stress on technology in new education masterplan, futuregov Asia Pacific on April 2011. http://goo.gl/RJ5Xh

Singapore school introduces mobile learning experience, futuregov Asia Pacific on April 2012. http://goo.gl/obgpy

ICTs in US Schools: Stratified Access and Polarized Discourse

ICTs in US Schools: Stratified Access and Polarized Discourse

By: Anna Greenstone

In a blog about ICTs in low-income countries, you wouldn’t expect an entry focused on the US.  But in the field of education, many of us recognize that the growing gap between the rich and poor correlates with a gap in quality of schooling.   As ICTs are being incorporated into school programs, the capacities for different districts to
access, purchase and maintain technological resources varies greatly. And often, in under-resourced schools where new technology is scarce, students may also lack access to internet and educational technology in their homes.

A recent piece in the Huffington Post highlights this inequality, featuring an under-resourced school on Chicago’s SouthSide.  Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, is one of three schools housed within DuSable High school, where more than 1000 students share only 24 computers.   As the article further clarifies- the ratio of computer to students is not only horrendous, but insufficient funding for technology creates a digital divide beyond hardware.  “Now, the bar has been raised, as newer software programs require high-speed connections and as WiFi-dependent devices such as iPads make their way into classrooms” .

In the analysis that follows I would like you to keep the digital divide in mind, while I consider another issue.    For those kids who have access to internet and ICTs at home and school, many still face the stigma of being called lazy, or unable to maintain concentration because of incessant technology use.  Because ICTs come in so many different forms, from phones to tablets, to videos and media, kids are often using multiple sources at once.  They are perceived as lacking focus or grounding.  People who jump to these conclusions don’t always consider that skills like multi-tasking, decision-making, and coordination are being developed. This commonly held negative perception is another barrier to the expansion of ICT use in schools, and to re-thinking what we consider as valuable learning.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t! 

While it is clear that youth who don’t have access to ICTs are at a disadvantage to compete with 21st century skills, many parents, schools and policy makers stifle the potential for kids who could have access to be creative and innovative with digital and media technologies (Stevens 2006).  They still believe that too much technology will make their kids dumber, particularily online games and social media that is thought to erode social skills and intellectual growth.  The Notebook, an online publication that acts as a watchdog for the Philadelphia Public Schools, answered these naysayers with an interesting piece in 2011that highlights some of the skills that are developed through digital technologies.   There are also several projects that promote educational digital and media technology, including Digital Is, an initiative of the National Writing Project.

These mediums can be harnessed in classrooms, so that kids can create and program websites or blogs, learning through music and video in addition to traditional text.  Using digital media in student work can be done in small groups, incorporating project based learning models and building collaborative skills among learners.   Even the widely demonized video game, has been shown to improve hand-eye coordination, planning and problem solving skills.  Several open source websites like Gamestar, allow a place where youth don’t only play online games, but create them and share the products with each other.   This work involves logic, design, coding, and strategy.  The open-source nature of the website also nurtures a value for collective success and work—a skill becoming more and more popular in the working styles of leading companies like IBM and Google.

With all these awesome educational digital media initiatives you would think that everyone would get on board.  But I will reiterate that opinions on  the effects of technology on kids remain polarized, and many teachers and student do not support increased usage.  I will leave you with the words of a middle school student “Get Moving; Don’t Get Lazy on Technology”  This critique, oddly enough comes to us from a student journalism project called The Living Textbook, out of Unis Middle School in Michigan.  While the author warns against youth using technology and getting lazy, he has collaborated with his classmates to create an interactive blog, his writing has a global reach through the internet and he is participating in new digital literacy practices.  His opinion of course is his own, and is valid, but it may also be a reflection of the negative discourse that still surrounds kids using technology.  In Naoko’s post, she writes about British school children, tired of traditional computing education.  With all the potential for enjoyable learning through educational digital technologies, I would grow tired typing practice or learning how to print and save documents too!

What about the divide?

How does this relate to the digital divide?  You might be asking “Anna, why did you lead us on this random tangent, just to show us a series of cool educational websites?”  I see these realities as inter-related, and unfortunately, see  eduring skepticism about educational technologies to be yet another hindrance for poor kids in under-resourced schools to gain access.  School boards with stretched budgets might never choose to purchase new hardware, or expand broadband width, if they have more pressing needs and don’t perceive these tools as central to learning.  Our recognition of the myriad ways in which technology can enhance learning for youth lags behind the rapid technological advancements, themselves.  And even less promising, is our ability to tackle inequity in our schools.  As the discourse begins to change and technology enters more and more schools, can we also demand an end to the digital divide?

Sources:

http://goo.gl/leMzi   “Get Moving, Don’t Get Lazy on Technology” The Living Textbook, student Blog  2/07/2012

http://goo.gl/AZszo  “Education Technology: As Some Schools Plunge In Poor Schools Are Left Behind. ”  Huffington Post   1/25/2012

http://goo.gl/tli7t  Gamestar—Open Source gaming website

http://goo.gl/4FYOw  “Are Kids Really Getting Stupid? A plan of action”                   The Notebook  1/4/2011

http://goo.gl/yaicG  The Living Textbook.  Student Online Journalism project, Unis Middle School.

http://goo.gl/CVun1  Digital Is – A project of the National Writing Project

http://goo.gl/MORrU  National Writing Project

Stevens, L. P. (2006). Reconceptualizing adolescent literacy policy’s role: Productive ambiguity. In D. Alverman et al. Reconceptualizing the literacies in adolescent’s lives, (pp.297-309). NJ: Erlbaum.

Computing education: we already know about it!

By Naoko Asano Enomoto

Computing Education today: Is it boring? Why?

Have you experienced computing lessons during your school days? Did you like those lessons? British kids these days “No” to their computing lessons in schools–Although British school takes pride in having more computers per students among the European countries, their computing lessons have been viewed as “highly unsatisfactory”.  In fact, a post from the Guardian on Jan.13, 2012 began with voices of children:

We are taught how to save documents and search for simple information, but we are on the Internet at home and do most of our homework on the computer so we know how to do that. So IT lessons are kind of boring and we all really want to say to the teachers that we already know what we’re being taught. I wish we could learn how to do graphics, how to make a game or how to use Facebook safely – then we’d feel like we were actually learning something useful. I want to be a dancer or an actress when I’m older, so I’d like to learn how to look up videos to help me with my acting. (Comment by Ellie Magee, 12, Rivington and Blackrod high school, Bolton, Lancashire)

The gap between the existing computing curriculum and what children already known about ICTs raises very important issue for ICTs in education: how to upgrade lessons in tandem with rapid technological improvements and unprecedented usage in homes as well as schools and offices. In thinking about the wide spread use of ICTs in developing countries, this is not the topic limited to classrooms in “developed countries”.

Two positions for ICT curriculum reform: how to invent vs. how to use it

Along with the issue of reforming computing lessons in British school, there is an interesting debate. I will introduce each position comparing the article from The Guardian and The Forbes.

One position is coming from Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google Inc. According to the Guardian’s article, he believes that computing lessons should teach children how to code rather than how to use computers. He says, “Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made. That is just throwing away your great computer heritage.” Great computer heritage here refers to  his perception that the UK is home to many media-related inventions, such as photography, TV and computers [1].

Contrary, Tim Worstall of the Forbes found that Schmidt’s view of computing lessons “entirely misses the point about computing education.” He insists that while Schmidt claims the basics of coding should lead to economic growth of British economy, it is not coming from “invention of new things”.  Rather,  “the use of those inventions to either do old things more efficiently or to do entirely new things”.  In addition, he thinks not everyone is interested in inventing new things.

How to respond the voices of children: “boring”

© Studiopaula | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Studiopaula | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Although two positions differ in how they see the contents of computing education, both of them pay attention to the positive impact that computing education could make on the British economy. Also, both of them strive to address the most effective way to increase human capital, trusting a causal relationship between education and economic growth unconditionally. In both positions, the goal of education is viewed as producing economic benefits.

Of course, economic impact can be a part of the natural consequences of education. However, as we know, this does not necessarily mean that economic effects area the only consequence of education. As Bartlett (2008) illustrated through her ethnographic research at Freireian schools, the ways education can contribute or shape society should be understood with greater flexibility. In this regard, the two arguments may understate voices of children who claim the class is, “boring”, like Ellie Magee I cited above. As Worstal of the Forbes states, not everyone is interested in how to code.  However it is also true that not everyone sees the economic benefits of computing education based on software. Therefore, the new ICTs curriculum should enable children to choose among various options. These could include innovative projects that lead to inventing new things, or exploring how to utilize cloud computing. It may be purely enjoying new educational experiences through online education opportunities (please refer my previous post!). In advocating for the enhancement of children’s choices, one solution may be to provide them computer basics, as Schmit says, that can serve as an appropriate foundation for children to explore choices on their own, keeping up with rapid progress of new technologies at their own pace.

We should not forget that whether we think basic computing or coding is the way to increase human capital or employability, the aim to increase one’s capabilities should be at the core of computer education.   In this regard, we should pay attention to the various new efforts from grass roots initiatives. For example, Manchester Girl Geeks, which teach children especially girls the joy of various elements of computing and tell them computing is related to their day-to-day life and not “boring”.

Sources and Footnotes

Bartlett, L. (2008). Literacy’s verb: Exploring what literacy is and what literacy does. International Journal of Educational Development, 28(6), 737-753. doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2007.09.002

Computer lessons are out of date, admits government, in the guardian on Nov.28, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/28/computer-lessons-out-of-date

Daily Report: Online Learning, Through the Khan Academy, on Dec.5, 2011, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/daily-report-online-learning-through-the-khan-academy/?scp=3&sq=Khan%20Academy&st=cse

Google’s Eric Schmidt: Entirely Missing the Point on Computer Education in the Forbes on April.8, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/04/08/googles-eric-schmidt/

ICT lessons in schools are ‘highly unsatisfactory’, says Royal Society in The Guardian on  Jan.13, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/13/ict-lessons-uk-schools-unsatisfactory?newsfeed=true

ICT at school is boring, children say in the guardian on Jan.13, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/09/children-computer-lessons

Why we need to bring creativity and technology back together across the curriculum in the guardian on Mar.21, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/mar/21/creativity-technology-classroom-teaching

[1] Google’s Eric Schmidt criticises education in the UK in BBC on Aug.26, 2011 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14683133

Intel Teach and South-east Asia

by Fatima Tuz Zahra

From left to right: Intel’s teacher training, classroom PC and learning series tablet. Source: http://goo.gl/Xkok9

Whatever the criticisms of corporate-social responsibilities (CSR) activities may be –such as accusations that the parent company announces projects only for tax benefits or good publicity – a handful of CSR projects have had long-term positive impacts. The Intel Teach Program is one of these real successes. As this report in Reuters news agency says: “Intel Teach has enabled 10 million teachers” and “reached more than 300 million students”.  Recent announcements of similar projects being initiated in South-east Asia evidence that Intel Teach must be understood as having an undeniable impact in formal education worldwide, and what future CSR projects can model themselves on.

10 million teachers; 300 million students

“Intel Celebrates 10 Million Teachers Trained”, a press release carried by Reuters News Agency on Sep 7, 2011, reports that the program had reached 10 million teachers trained in more than 70 countries, and by Intel’s estimates, reached 300 million students. The Intel Teach program is in its second decade of operations and aims is to train teachers to “effectively integrate technology into their lessons to promote problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills” in students, “areas called 21st century skills by educators”.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini says about the program: “We invest in teachers to that they inspire our students to be innovative, creative, and prepared with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are imperative to our future.” The focus on using technology in the classroom to facilitate critical thinking and problem-solving skills have struck a rich vein as program reports show that students were more motivated and showed more in-depth understanding.

The program’s close collaborations with national, regional, and local education institutions and governments have been one of its mains strengths. In some places, this collaboration has made it the primary ICT training program in a country.  As an example the article cites the case of Jordan, where teachers must complete the program to be “eligible for promotion and a 15 percent pay increase”.

Intel, ICT education, and South-east Asia

South-east Asia provides a great example of the current focus on connecting ICT concerns and tools with education programs like Intel Teach. As the article “A “smarter” through ICT” from 2009 reports, the National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), a private sector actor, has drafted a four year plan to make the country’s people and government smarter by increasing access and utilizations of ICT.

Similarly Metfone, a major private cell phone provider in the region, has signed MoUs committing to providing 2000 free internet connections to education institutions under the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. In Vietnam the Ministry of Education and Training has announced an e-learning initiative to “modernize Vietnam’s education system by 2011 and to provide opportunities for the country’s teachers and students.” And in the Philippines the Department of Education Internet Connectivity Program (DICP) has been running for several years and have utilized public sector and private sector actors to connect 4,497 public schools with central mandate that they “properly implement their computer class program as part of the curriculum.

Digital literacy and sustainability

ICT interventions in education across South-east Asian region are not simply limited to providing Internet connectivity and curriculum changes.  There is also attention to providing hardware, and funding for scholarships.  Intel has promised to facilitate Vietnam’s e-learning initiatives by providing “one million affordable PCs” (the program is called Education PC and will focus on providing sturdy tablets rather than computers) and training to teachers.

Metfone has also pledged two- year educational scholarships to Cambodian students to help them in their ICT education. Within this context, the Intel Teach program, which led the way towards a focus on digital literacies has had real impact. As Dr. Ermetes F. Adolfo, Jr., a member of the Philippines Department of education, says: “[Such programs] enable teachers to introduce, expand and support 21st century learning, including research and testimonials illustrating Intel Education’s commitment to high quality 21st century education for all.”

The face of literacy is taking new forms everyday with children and adults needing to use various media for performing different tasks. The new literacy practices only prove that literacy is fluid as it can be practiced across different media. Intel is a key player in helping to disseminate digital literacy in developing regions by training teachers in the modern forms of literacy. Their work in Vietnam and Cambodia will enable many children to learn digital literacy who may not be able to afford the education without the partnerships between their respective governments and Intel.

While the Intel educational projects seem perfect at the moment, questions can be asked about the sustainability of such programs. Little or no discussion took place on how to make these ICT literacy drives endure, if/when Intel stops funding them. Perhaps the governments will be responsible for carrying on with these programs, perhaps they will not. I hope the respective governments and beneficiaries of the Intel Teach program start planning for the future sustainability of such positive endeavors now.

P.S: Dear readers, although helping teachers and students in developing countries with computer literacy and training may be well accepted, educators and children from developed countries feel differently about ICTs in formal education. As they are already familiar with computers they sometimes feel that ICTs curricula are not teaching higher-level ICTs skills or making children lazy and dependent on ICTs. Naoko and Anna, two of our ICT4BOP bloggers will discuss these different perspectives on ICTs in formal education from the developed world this week.

Sources:

Intel Celebrates 10 Million Teachers Trained in Reuters on Sept. 7, 2011: http://goo.gl/8iAO2

Intel Teach Program homepage: http://goo.gl/Xqluw

ICTs to revolutionize education system in Vietnam in ICTs, Education and Entrepreneurship on February 4, 2010: http://goo.gl/FvVNR

Intel provides PCs on Intel Teach Program World wide: http://goo.gl/raKXG

DICP: Project to connect all schools in Philippines in League of Corporate Foundations: http://goo.gl/hP3AW

Public schools urged to implement computer class program in Philippine Information Agency on January 19, 2012: http://goo.gl/ZXDht

Cambodia schools connected Metfone and Viettel in Viettel Group on May 8, 2011: http://goo.gl/NIA8W

“A smarter Thailand through ICT” on in ICT in Education of UNESCO Bangkok on May 8, 2009: http://goo.gl/fTkTz

“Intel-teach Program Saves the Illiterates Not Only in the Philippines but Also in Other Asian Countries” in Yahoo! Voices on August 14, 2011: http://goo.gl/7Ij0c

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