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Technological tools in teaching

Various technologies that need to be integrated into the teaching environment are listed here.

Choosing the right technological tools for your school is a vital step in ensuring the effective use of ICT in Education. This section gives information about technologies that can be used in education and about challenges in using ICT in Education.

What is ICT?

The term, information and communication technologies (ICT), refers to forms of technology that are used to transmit, store, create, display, share or exchange information by electronic means. This broad definition of ICT includes such technologies as radio, television, video, DVD, telephone (both fixed line and mobile phones), satellite systems, computer and network hardware and software; as well as the equipment and services associated with these technologies, such as video conferencing, e-mail and blogs.

Realising educational objectives of the ‘information age’ require integrating modern forms of information and communication technologies (ICT) into education. To do this effectively, education planners, principals, teachers, and technology specialists must make many decisions in the areas of—technical, training, financial, pedagogical and infrastructure requirements. For many, this is a complex task similar to not just learning a new language, but learning how to teach in a new language.

This section looks at the tools themselves, from the satellites that link nations, to the machines that students work on in the classroom. It is intended to help educators; policy makers, planners, curriculum developers and others find their way through the often confusing maze of ICT tools, terms and systems.

Role of ICT in Education

Broadly speaking, educators, policy makers and researchers all seem to agree on the potential of ICT to have a significant and positive impact on education. What is still being debated, however, is the precise role ICT should play in education reform and how best to ensure that potential is fulfilled.

This section contains articles, reports and links to online journals and websites which explore the ways ICT has impacted on education, and in what direction technology in schools should be heading.

(This section also provides articles describing the benefits that can be derived from the use of ICT in education. In addition, articles and case studies are provided which offer guidelines for integrating ICT into educational programmes, including issues to be considered, lessons learned and common mistakes to be avoided).

Technologies at Work

Stories of exploration, success and failure are drawn from all over the world—to demonstrate policies, strategies and practical measures in the use of technologies. Topics will include, individually or combined on the following:

  • Multi-channel learning
  • Educational television
  • Educational radio
  • Web-based instruction
  • Libraries for exploration
  • Practical activities in science and technology
  • Use of the media
  • Targeted use of technologies in areas such as: early childhood development, low density populations, adult literacy, women’s education and workforce upgrading
  • Technologies for teacher preparation and career-long training
  • Technologies for policy planning, design and data management
  • Technologies for school management

Technologies Today

Review of what is available in the different areas of technology for learning:

  • Instructional materials
  • Audio, visual and digital products
  • Software and content-ware
  • Modes of connectivity
  • Media
  • Educational websites

Technologies Tomorrow

A glimpse into the future of technologies to excite the imagination of practitioners and decision makers and assist them in planning for the future, not only on the basis of what is available but also what is coming.

Radio and television

Radio and television have been used in education since the early 20th century. These forms of ICT have been used in three main ways:

1. Direct class teaching, including interactive radio instruction (IRI) and televised lessons.
2. School broadcasting, where broadcast programming provides complementary teaching and   learning resources not otherwise available.
3. General educational programming which provide general and informal educational opportunities.

IRI consists of broadcasting lessons to classrooms on a daily basis. The radio lessons, on particular topics and aimed at specific levels, at particular levels, provide regular, structured assistance to teachers and serve to improve the quality of teaching and enhance learning. IRI also serves to expand access to education, by bringing ready-made lessons to remote schools and learning centres which have few resources and teachers. Studies suggest that IRI projects have had a positive impact on both access to and quality of formal and non-formal education. It is also a cost-effective means of delivering educational content to a large number of people.

Televised lessons can be used to supplement other course material or can be stand-alone lessons. Such lessons have progressed over the years from simply being television programmes showing teachers talking, to being more engaging, interactive programmes which incorporate issues relevant to the learners. Educational television programmes are often accompanied by printed materials and other resources to enhance learning and interaction.

Educational broadcasting is widespread in the Asia-Pacific region. In India, for example, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) broadcasts television and video-conferences courses.

Aside from being used for broadcasting specific lessons, radio and television can also be used to broadcast general educational programmes. Basically, any radio or television programme with educational value can be considered a ‘general educational programme.’ One example is ‘Sesame Street’ an educational television programme for children from the United States. Another example is the ‘Farm Radio Forum’, a Canadian educational radio discussion forum.

Using Radio and TV broadcasting for Education

Radio and television have been used widely as educational tools since the 1920s and the 1950s, respectively. There are three general approaches to the use of radio and TV broadcasting in education:

  1. Direct class teaching, where broadcast programming substitutes for teachers on a temporary basis.
  2. School broadcasting, where broadcast programming provides complementary teaching and learning resources not otherwise available.
  3. General educational programming over community, national and international stations which provide general and informal educational opportunities.

The most notable and best documented example of the direct class teaching approach is IRI. This consists of ‘ready-made 20–30 minute direct teaching and learning exercises to the classroom on a daily basis. The radio lessons, developed around specific learning objectives at particular levels of mathematics, science, health and languages in national and state curricula are intended to improve the quality of classroom teaching and to act as a regular, structured aid to poorly trained classroom teachers in under-resourced schools.’ IRI projects have been implemented in India and other South Asian countries. In Asia, IRI was first implemented in Thailand in 1980; Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal rolled out their own IRI projects in the 1990s. What differentiates IRI from most other distance education programs is that its primary objective is to raise the quality of learning—and not merely to expand educational access—and it has had much success in both formal and non-formal settings. Extensive research around the world has shown that many IRI projects have had a positive impact on learning outcomes and on educational equity. And with its economies of scale, it has proven to be a cost-effective strategy relative to other interventions.

Centrally produced television programmes are beamed via satellite throughout the country on a scheduled time to schools, covering the same secondary curriculum as that offered in ordinary schools. Each hour focuses on a different subject and teacher-led activities. Students are exposed to a variety of teachers on television but have one home teacher at the school for all disciplines in each grade.

The design of the programme has undergone many changes through the years, shifting from a ‘talking heads’ approach to more interactive and dynamic programming that ‘link[s] the community to the programme around the teaching method. The strategy meant combining community issues into the programmes, offering children an integrated education, involving the community at large in the organisation and management of the school and stimulating students to carry out community activities.’ Assessments of television programmes have been encouraging: drop out rates are slightly better than those of general secondary schools and significantly better than in technical schools. In Asia, the 44 radio and TV universities in China (including the China Central Radio and Television University), Universitas Terbuka in Indonesia, and IGNOU have made extensive use of radio and television, both for direct class teaching and for school broadcasting, to reach more of their respective large populations. For these institutions, broadcasts are often accompanied by printed materials and audio cassettes.

Japan’s University of the Air was broadcasting 160 television and 160 radio courses in 2000. Each course consists of 15–45-minute lectures broadcast nationwide once a week for 15 weeks. Courses are aired over University-owned stations from 6 am. to 12 noon. Students are also given supplemental print materials, face-to-face instruction, and online tutorials.

Often deployed with print materials, cassettes and CD-ROMs, school broadcasting, like direct class teaching, is geared to national curricula and developed for a range of subject areas. But unlike direct class instruction, school broadcasting is not intended to substitute for the teacher but merely as an enrichment of traditional classroom instruction. School broadcasting is more flexible than IRI since teachers decide how they will integrate the broadcast materials into their classes. Large broadcasting corporations that provide school broadcasts include the British Broadcasting Corporation Education Radio TV in the United Kingdom and the NHK Japanese Broadcasting Station. In developing countries, school broadcasts are often a result of a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Information.

General educational programming consists of a broad range of programme types—news programmes, documentary programmes, quiz shows, educational cartoons, etc.—that afford non-formal educational opportunities for all types of learners. In a sense, any radio or TV programming with informational and educational value can be considered under this type. Some notable examples that have a global reach are the United States-based television show Sesame Street, the all-information television channels National Geographic and Discovery, and the radio programme Voice of America. The Farm Radio Forum, which began in Canada in the 1940s and which has since served as a model for radio discussion programmes worldwide, is another example of non-formal educational programming.

ICT's role in transforming learner environment

Research has shown that the appropriate use of ICTs can catalyse the paradigmatic shift in both content and pedagogy that is at the heart of education reform in the 21st century. If designed and implemented properly, ICT-supported education can promote the acquisition of the knowledge and skills that will empower students for lifelong learning.

When used appropriately, ICTs—especially computers and Internet technologies—enable new ways of teaching and learning rather than simply allow teachers and students to do what they have done before in a better way. These new ways of teaching and learning are underpinned by constructivist theories of learning and constitute a shift from a teacher-centred pedagogy—in its worst form characterised by memorisation and rote learning—to one that is learner-centred.

Active learning. ICT-enhanced learning mobilises tools for examination, calculation and analysis of information, thus providing a platform for student inquiry, analysis and construction of new information. Learners therefore learn as they do and, whenever appropriate, work on real-life problems in-depth, making learning less abstract and more relevant to the learner’s life situation. In this way, and in contrast to memorisation-based or rote learning, ICT-enhanced learning promotes increased learner engagement. ICT-enhanced learning is also ‘just-in-time’ learning in which learners can choose what to learn when they need to learn it. 

Collaborative learning. ICT-supported learning encourages interaction and cooperation among students, teachers, and experts regardless of where they are. Apart from modelling real-world interactions, ICT-supported learning provides learners the opportunity to work with people from different cultures, thereby helping to enhance learners’ teaming and communicative skills as well as their global awareness. It models learning done throughout the learner’s lifetime by expanding the learning space to include not just peers but also mentors and experts from different fields.

Does ICT-enhanced learning really work?

The educational effectiveness of ICTs depends on how they are used and for what purpose. And like any other educational tool or mode of educational delivery, ICTs do not work for everyone, everywhere in the same way.

Enhancing access

It is difficult to quantify the degree to which ICTs have helped expand access to basic education since most of the interventions for this purpose have been small-scale and under-reported., while at the primary level there is little evidence that ICT-based models have thrived. In higher education and adult training, there is some evidence that educational opportunities are being opened to individuals and groups who are constrained from attending traditional universities. Each of the 11 so-called mega-universities, the biggest and most well-established open and distance institutions in the world (which include the Open University of the United Kingdom, the IGNOU of India, the China TV University System, the Universitas Terbuka of Indonesia, and the University of South Africa, among others) has an annual enrollment of more than 100,000, and together they serve approximately 2.8 million. Compare that with the 14 million combined enrollment of the 3,500 colleges and universities in the United States.

Raising quality

The impact of educational radio and television broadcasts on the quality of basic education remains an under-researched area, but what little research there is suggests that these interventions are as effective as traditional classroom instruction. Of the many educational broadcast projects, the IRI project has been the most comprehensively analysed. Findings provide strong evidence of the project’s effectiveness in raising the quality of education as demonstrated by increased scores on standardised tests as well as improved attendance.

In contrast, assessments of the use of computers, the Internet and related technologies for distance learning have been equivocal. Russell, in his comprehensive review of research, claims that there is ‘no significant difference’ between the test scores of learners taking ICT-based distance learning courses and those receiving face-to-face instruction. However, others claim that such generalisations are in conclusive; pointing out that the large number of articles on ICT-based distance learning does not include original experimental research or case studies. Other critics argue that drop out rates are much higher when instruction is delivered at a distance via ICTs. 

There have also been many studies that seem to support the claim that the use of computers enhances and amplifies existing curricula, as measured through standardised testing. Specifically, research shows that the use of computers as tutors, for drill and practice, and for instructional delivery, combined with traditional instruction, results in increases in learning in the traditional curriculum and basic skills areas, as well as higher test scores in some subjects compared to traditional instruction alone. Students also learn more quickly, demonstrate greater retention, and are better motivated to learn when they work with computers. But there are those who claim that these represent modest gains and, in any case, many of the researches on which these claims are based are methodologically flawed.

Research likewise suggests that the use of computers, the Internet, and related technologies, given adequate teacher training and support, can indeed facilitate the transformation of the learning environment into a learner-centered one. But these studies are criticised for being mostly exploratory and descriptive in nature and lacking in empirical rigour. There is as yet no strong evidence that this new learning environment fosters improved learning outcomes. What does exist are qualitative data based on observations and analysis of student and teacher perceptions that suggest a positive impact on learning.

One of the most critical problems in trying to assess the effectiveness of computers and the Internet as transformational tools is that standardised tests cannot capture the kinds of benefits that are expected to be gained in a learner-centered environment. Moreover, since technology use is fully integrated into the larger learning system, it is very difficult to isolate the technology variable and determine whether any observed gains are due to technology use or to some other factor or combination of factors.

Source: Portal Content team

Related Resources

  1. 1.  Teaching and Learning
  1. 2.  Teachers, Teaching and ICTs
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