UNESCO SchoolNet-Learning network | digitalLEARNING Magazine
May 2006

UNESCO SchoolNet-Learning network

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Barriers to e-learning in Asia Pacific
“The term e-learning is most
frequently used to refer to  computerbased training which incorporates technologies that support interactivity beyond that which would be provided by a single computer. Elearning,
therefore, is an approach to
facilitate and enhance  learning through, and based on, both computer and communications technology. Such devices can include personal computers, CD-ROMs, digital television, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones. Communications technology enables  the use of the Internet, email,
discussion forums, collaborative software, classroom management  software and team learning systems.” UNESCO research (http://  www.unescobkk.org/
index.php?id=1807) has indicated  that many countries in the Asia- Pacific region do not use ICT and e-learning to their full potential in  enhancing the quality of teaching and  learning. There are many barriers to be overcome, which can broadly be classified into three main categories:  • Technical – lack of infrastructure,  equipment and connectivity;  • Pedagogical – lack of teacher
training in ICT integration into  pedagogical practice;   Institutional – lack of
requirements or recognition for  use of ICT in the curriculum and low/no support from management  and ministries. Thus, to fulfill the potential of ICT as
a tool for enhancing teaching and  learning, ICT must be fully integrated into both pedagogy and school  administration, which requires a cognitive shift on the part of teachers,  educators, curriculum developers, administrators and policy-makers. In  many cases for this process to be  enabled, the private sector must be  engaged to reduce the cost of infrastructure and connectivity for educational institutions.

SchoolNet project:
a backdrop Taking into consideration the above barriers, the UNESCO  SchoolNet project, subtitled “Strengthening ICT  in Schools and SchoolNet Project in ASEAN Setting”, was initiated in  recognition of the need to assist
teachers in integrating ICT into teaching, and facilitate participation  of teachers and students in the Asia- Pacific region in SchoolNet  telecollaboration activities. The  SchoolNet project engages target audiences at all levels of the school  system in order to bring about change in the use of ICT: officials in
Ministries of Education; SchoolNet  managers; technical staff; teacher trainers and teachers themselves.  SchoolNet promotes effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in  learning through supporting connection
of schools to the Internet and by  creating a network of schools. This network is envisaged as a means to  build connections among students, teachers and schools; share  information and resources; and prepare learners for  nowledge-based  societies. SchoolNet also encourages the creation of locally-relevant and high-quality educational resources

The UNESCO SchoolNet project aims to:
• Explore and demonstrate how ICT can be used in schools to improve the quality of education and better prepare youth for the demands of knowledge societies; · Test innovative models of ICT  use and of ICT-based teacher education;  • Encourage use of ICT in teaching-learning and materials
development in schools and  other educational contexts; • Improve connectivity and expand  access to the wealth of educational resources
available via the Internet;  • Establish and promote SchoolNet in the Asia-Pacific region. The project was launched in July 2003  and focuses on three subject areas, which are common to all schools in  the region: languages, mathematics and science. Curriculum topics were  mapped, and where overlap was  identified, activities were designed and launched for schools to explore
together via online learning circles  (Learning Circles: Virtual Communities for Elementary and Secondary Schools http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/  Guidelines/Riel-93.html) in the Bridges to Learning initiative(Bridges  to Learning http://www.unescobkk

Exploring the use of ICT
Early stages of the project involved researching and documenting eight components of ICT integration in  ducation in a case study of several Asia-Pacific countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philipppines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand). The components werebroader environmental context;
policy and regulatory environment; management and financing; ICT in schools – policy, vision and strategy; technology infrastructure and connectivity; curriculum, pedagogy and content development; professional  development; monitoring and evaluation.  These components provided the key foundation and framework in setting up ICT for education projects,  and gave insight and expertise for the further development of the SchoolNet  project. A synthesis of lessons learned (Integrating ICTs into Education: Lessons Learned Vol. 1 http://www.unescobkk.org/ fileadmin/user_upload/ict/e-books/  ICTLessonsLearned/ICT_  integrating_education.pdf) was published, which supports the development of tools and  blueprints to guide policy formulation and programme improvements.

Encouraging use of ICT in teaching-learning and materials development in schools
To enable teachers to develop and use ICT materials for teaching and learning, the SchoolNet project  developed a framework for training  teachers, and then implemented the framework with teachers from the  SchoolNet pilot schools. Before working directly with teachers,  a number of academics, consultants
and other pedagogical experts came together in a workshop (ICT-based Lesson- and Material-Development Workshop http://www.unescobkk.  org/index.php?id=1412) to develop he detailed framework for  systematically integrating ICT into  cience, mathematics and language teaching. This workshop also defined strategies and techniques for training  teachers in the creation of ICT-based lessons and materials. It became clear in the project definition phase that teachers in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet  Nam required basic skills in ICT before moving on to more advanced  and innovative approaches. A 10-day sub-regional training course was  therefore organised for teachers from
pilot schools in these countries. Two training workshops for teachers  on using ICT for teaching science, maths and languages were then subsequently  organised on the basis  of the strategies developed, in Hanoi (Training on the Use of ICT in Teaching Mathematics, Science, and  Languages for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam http://www.unescobkk.org/  index.php?id=3306) and Penang
(Training on the Use of ICT in Teaching Mathematics, Science, and  Languages for Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand  http://www.unescobkk.org/
index.php?id=3305). The Hanoi workshop targeted Cambodia, Laos,  Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV), while the Penang workshop focused on  Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines (IMTP); separate  workshops were organised to enable focused training appropriate to the  specific needs of teachers from the different subregions. For instance,  many teachers in the CMLV countries had required additional basic ICT  skills training, while the IMTP teachers required more training in ICT integration into pedagogy. Common  more advanced training was given later regarding web content (see the  section below ‘Improve connectivity and expand access to the Internet’).  As a result of the training, the teachers at the pilot schools were able  to develop their own ICT-based materials, which were used within  their own classrooms and also shared on a national level. 12 teachers from  the pilot schools in Thailand, Viet
Nam, Malaysia and Myanmar were rewarded for the ICT materials  development by being invited to the  nnovative Teachers Conference2  where they displayed lesson plans and associated materials that they had  created. More than ICT-based 40 lesson plans are produced in each pilot country. The National coordinators of SchoolNet are currently collecting and sharing lesson plans developed in schools across the pilot group; it is hoped these lesson plans and resources can be re-used by other  teachers, and will inspire them to also
create their own.

The project was launched in July 2003 and focuses on three subject areas, which are common to all schools in the region: languages, mathematics and science. SchoolNet activities were piloted in 24
schools in the eight participating countries Expanding access to the Internet In the SchoolNet project, the eight countries involved were classified into two groups:
• Countries which already had established national SchoolNets and equipped some schools with computer labs and Internet connectivity – IMTP; • Countries, which lacked national SchoolNets and had low levels of equipment in schools, and no connectivity – CLMV.  The SchoolNet project’s infrastructure
work thus focused on the second group of countries, CLMV, in order to  enable them to collaborate with other schools in the project located in the  IMTP countries. This was achieved through the following actions:  • Funding for national SchoolNets in CMLV – SchoolNet  coordinators received budget to  purchase a good quality web server to host SchoolNet services and fund staff (SchoolNet managers) to oversee the  SchoolNet activities; • Distribution of donated computers in CMLV – a South  Korean organisation donated many second hand computers, which were offered to CMLV  schools; • Funding for schools in CMLV – each pilot school received a grant  to purchase 4-5 computers and cover the costs of Internet  connectivity. In addition, a regional training course (Regional Training course of Website  Managers, teachers and  SchoolNet technical Personnel on the  Development and maintenance of SchoolNet http://www.unescobkk.  org/index.php?id=2272) was held for teachers, SchoolNet managers and  technical personnel. This course enabled them to develop web content for school websites, administrate the  UNESCO SchoolNet and gain  knowledge of maintenance and troubleshooting of the national SchoolNet systems.  NECTEC is currently arranging follow up visits to the pilot schools, to ensure they have the equipment  configured to their satisfaction, and will offer further training and technical  support where necessary.

Promoting SchoolNet in the Asia-Pacific region
To ensure the establishment of national SchoolNets website and services and to begin the development of the regional  SchoolNet website and services, a regional workshop (Report on SchoolNet Regional Workshop on the  Creation of the national and regional SchoolNet  http://www.unescobkk.org/fileadmin/ user_upload/ict/schoolnet/  documents/SchoolNet_-_Report _Regional_Planning_Workshop_4-  6_Apr05.pdf) was held on the theme  ‘Creation of National and Regional  SchoolNet’. SchoolNet national coordinators and SchoolNet managers  all participated in the workshop to develop a master plan for the creation of the regional SchoolNet website;  identify roles and responsibilities of  regional and national SchoolNets; develop policies, rules and guidelines  for participation; and to gain knowledge about telecollaboration and activity monitoring. In this area, the SchoolNet project is  still in progress, and aims to  demonstrate a prototype version of the regional SchoolNet website at the  final workshop planned for June 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. The goal of the
regional website is to demonstrate the  activities and strength of the SchoolNet project, but also to put in  place a sustainable platform for teachers to use for telecollaboration.  The SchoolNet project is an ambitious and visionary project to tackle in the  Asia Pacific region, bearing in mind the many obstacles in all domains. At  many times, progress was difficult, and extensive work and training was needed to achieve the objectives of  the project. However, so far, the  results seem positive, and the success of the second round of the Learning
Circles is particularly encouraging. A  formal evaluation procedure has been designed and will shortly be   implemented to understand the full impact of the project; the regional SchoolNet site will soon be launched  and a final workshop for SchoolNet participants for sharing lessons  learned will be held in June 2006

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