Technology education in Asia Keeping a Multiple Approach to an Integrative Framework, | digitalLEARNING Magazine
August 2006

Technology education in Asia Keeping a Multiple Approach to an Integrative Framework,

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Whilst East Asia is close to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of Education for All, in 2004 South Asia still had only 80% of students accessing primary education. But what about the quality of that  education? The UNESCO (2005) report of the sixth meeting of the  working group on Education for All states that 60% of children passing through primary school are still failing  to acquire basic literacy skills. Nelson Mandela is one of the many who has  described education as “the most powerful weapon observed which you can use to change the world” so improving the quality of education is  vital. Does ICT hold the key? What are countries in Asia learning from  each other and the rest of the world?

There is little evidence that  developing countries are making use of the growing body of research and evidence from countries that  have spent many years searching for and trialling successful methods of  implementing technology in education  to improve learning. The rationale for the use of ICT in educational development is also  fuelled by the rhetoric that almost every government around the world believes technology and education  are the keys to competitive advantage. Many countries within  Asia are racing to be at the advent of the technology transformation in their  area, and groups of countries within a    region are working together to  become the global leaders. It is therefore widely accepted that echnology has a real and relevant place in the classroom not just to equip students with the digital

Technology has a real and  relevant place in the classroom not just to equip students with the digital literacy skills needed for the Information age, but also to improve access to understanding through te use of multi-modal representations of difficult-to-grasp concepts. It is important to understand what level and what type of access to Information and  Communication Technology is necessary to raise achievement to justify the expenditure on wiring up schools, connecting them to the Internet and providing the necessary student-PC ratio. This again needs to be coupled with education transformation  process which seeks to align urriculum, assessment and learning opportunities to the needs of the world in which students will live,  work and play

literacy skills needed for theInformation Age, but also to improve  access to understanding through the use of multi-modal representations of difficult-to-grasp concepts. It is also important to understand what level  and what type of access to ICT is necessary to raise achievement to  justify the expenditure on wiring up schools, connecting them to the  Internet and providing the necessary student-PC ratio. However the introduction of ICT is  not enough. ICT needs to be coupled with education transformation which  seeks to align curriculum, assessment and learning opportunities to the  needs of the world in which students will live, work and play and which will  prepare the learners  ccordingly. Harvey and Knight (Transforming  Higher Education, 1996, Buckingham, Open University Press and Society for  Research into Higher Education) provide an excellent description of  education transformation, which includes:  • shifting from teaching to learning  • developing explicit skills, attitudes and abilities as well as knowledge   • developing appropriate assessment procedures  • rewarding transformative teaching • encouraging discussion of pedagogy   • providing transformative learning for teachers • auditing improvement ICT can be a catalyst to support and  accelerate this  transformation and can  educe costs, but not until we change how we make  ffective and efficient  use of this limited resource. Currently  ICT is being used to teach what we already teach and have taught for  decades instead of considering where teachers can specifically make use of  the interactivity and multimedia
capability to help make learning easier and more accessible. The tasks given  to students and the assessment strategies employed still focus on the “what”   ather than on the “how” and the “why”, which does not  necessarily prepare students for the needs of the modern workplace.  The argument is no longer about teachers being the transmitters of  knowledge, and teachers are now positioned within a constructivist notion of “teacher as facilitator”. As  our understanding of cognition and metacognition grows this view of  teaching has taken hold almost globally, yet the rhetoric is far from  reality. In both the developed and the  developing world many commentators perceive technology as the catalyst  that will change pedagogy. However for technology to have that impact,  the educational model that supports a constructivist view of pedagogy must  be viewed as central to the process, which is then supported rather than dictated to by the technology. The  educational model takes a central role and connectivity, technology, content and teacher training are then focused  and aligned to support this model. This idea seems obvious yet it does  not appear to be central to decision making in many countries about  electronic content development and  deployment, or implementation of technology into schools or teacher  training. In the model there are two factors that we rarely take into
consideration in a developed modern society – these are the socio-economic  framework and “basic enablers”. In many countries in Asia the importance of “basic enablers” such as shelter, safety, clean water, sanitation and  adequate food supplies to ensure any modicum of educational success  cannot be underestimated since it is hard to teach students from any  society if they are suffering from deprivation of any of their basic  needs. The socio-economic framework of a society will also dictate whether modification to the  educational paradigm is possible.   here are also socio-cultural factors that affect ICT access and use which include geography  (rural, urban), age, gender and economic status.

It is necessary to explore ways to ensure that the recipient country finds an acceptable solution to adapting the resources sufficiently so students can  gain additional benefits from learning. The same mistakes are being repeated  time and again. I constantly come across country policies for ICT  integration in schools, which are  reminiscent of the efforts of the western world in the 1980s. The wheel  is constantly being reinvented, as if the world is in a time warp. The education ministry works closely with both the ministries of telecom and  ICT, yet the former rarely takes the lead in decision making. There is little  thinking about to how this digital  literacy will be used and how curriculum subjects can also be taught in  this time, although the decision makers anticipated that this will  happen by some means as all teachers are to be trained in the use of ICT.

There appears to be little or no  consultation with other governments and little cognisance taken of international research into the  effectiveness of different models of technology deployment in schools. In  situations like the one above the  government’s budget may be limited, as is so often the case across Asia, and the education ministry wants to achieve equity by making sure the computer-student ratio is the same  across every school in the country. The computer lab may seem the most effective and equitable solution. For  the Ministry of ICT who may well be leading the initiative, this is the  easiest solution technically, so the technology case will overrule any  educational rationale. What may not be considered in initial deliberations  with the Ministry of Education is to replace the idea of labs with  “computers on wheels” (COWs) –wireless carts containing around 15-20 laptop computers. The versatility of such solutions coupled with a limited  umber of data projectors means that  not all computers are in one location with classes allowed in one at a time.  Teachers are able to use a laptop for  esson preparation and personal  productivity and to enhance whole  lass teaching when connected to a   data  projector, or the laptops can be  distributed over a number of classes for use by selected groups of students during the school day.  This debate as to whether labs or laptops are the best solution for  education may soon be obsolete as the computer lab is being overtaken  by the flexibility and falling prices of laptops, while mobile technology is  oving even faster. With the advent  of the  MIT US$100 laptop and other  solutions and increasingly sophisticated internet-enabled PDAs, both developed and developing  countries may start to rethink the best technology solutions and products  for their schools. However if this is to happen in a productive and effective  way that enables education transformation, countries need to have access to the latest information  about what is possible and how it can have a positive impact on learning.

This will enable them to undertake a comparative evaluation of the merits  of each solution, given each country’s existing technology infrastructure  base. One way this can be achieved is through an increase in information  and experience sharing between governments.  At the other end of the scale from basic education is the need to provide students with the relevant vocational  skills needed for an increasingly technological society. In this context  multinational corporations have begun to play a significant role in  educational development. For example, companies such as Cisco  and Microsoft are now offering IT curricula to schools and colleges that  offer opportunities for vendor qualifications and immediate job opportunities in the Knowledge Society. For some this may look like the commodification and takeover of  education by global corporations, whereas others see this as an  opportunity to put relevant curricula into schools that provide students  with some of the 21st century skills not currently being provided by the  formal education system. Additionally, by industry providing the resources  for vocational development,
governments can focus their limited resources on improving the quality of  and access to education and so achieving Education for All.  Overall it seems that there is an  urgent need for greater dialogue to discuss the evidence of the successes and failures of those developed  countries that have found effective ways to really improve the quality of both teaching and learning through  effective use of ICT, whilst ensuring  hat advice can be adapted in ways  that avoid both cultural and technological dissonance.

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