Teacher, ICT, and Insights
June 2008

Teacher, ICT, and Insights

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Rama Kondapalli

Deputy Adviser
National Assessment and Accreditation Council, India
ramakondapalli@hotmail.com

The revolution triggered by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in all walks of life, has also touched the education sector.

The Indian experience at serious adoption of the ICTs has been just a decade old, though attempts to integrate the use of computers for educational purposes on a large scale dates back to late eighties. The initial costs involved, lack of appropriate training and exposure to new technologies, attitude of the users and natural resistance to change or ‘accommodate’ the new technology has made the integration process slower than anticipated.

However of late, such a state of affairs are changing, giving place to an enh-anced awareness about the potential of ICT not only for effective and systemic functioning of the institution, but also for more meaningful adoption of it for teaching learning. Though the use of ICT encompasses almost all aspects of education, the use of ICT as a learning tool has been received most attention.

The recent National Curriculum Framework for school education emphasises on a paradigm shift in respect of the entire process of education, calls for a shift to learner centric ways and creation of citizens capable of reflective thinking and empowered participation in national development. For this it has late ample stress on integration of ICTs in the whole process.

At present, though there has been a significant expansion of use of computers and related technologies, much is yet to be achieved. Besides, use of computers for administration, educational institutions have incorporated the use of computers to a range of institutional activities and have found it helpful in enhancing efficiency. On the whole, at least three distinct uses of ICT are discernible in the field of education, namely:

  1. ICTs for Information Processing – Computers and related technology
  2. ICTs for Information Dissemination – Internet, Telecommunications, Mobile Phones,  Radio, etc.
  3. ICTs for Information Delivery – Multimedia, Internet, Television, Telecommunication, Radio and Computers

The past decade has thus seen efforts made by institutions at different levels. While many institutions successfully deployed computers and related technologies, quite a few of them were also successful in effective use of these for teaching learning. In this direction, the Government of India has initiated several programmes such as the Computer Assisted Learning and Teaching (CALT) in late 1980s. Under this programme, teacher educators were provided initial training in the use of computers. Other schemes include financial support to acquire hardware, setting up of computer labs and other resource supports.

The Intel Teach Programme has been one of the earliest corporate initiatives in technology orientation to school teachers and teacher educators. The Intel Education Initiative is a large-scale, sustained commitment to accelerate education improvement for the knowledge economy.

All these efforts also aided the Universities and institutions to provide curriculum modules that enable learners and  teachers to use ICTs to plan lessons, develop instructional material, develop multimedia presentations, represent numerical data graphically, create result sheets, technology-based students activities etc. However, the change in the teacher stance – emphasised by NCF, that either learner or learning can only be achieved over time and through a proactive use of technology by the teachers, necessitates the appraisal of the attempts made in the Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) and study the impact of technology integration.

Simultaneous and constant attempts are being made by various agencies, both Governmental and non-governmental, to find out the impact of the efforts made and appraise the actual impact of their inputs on the integration of ICT at the ground level. However most times the little data available on ICTs in education is unreliable and underpin policy.  Therefore it is required that the research on ICTs in education should not just be a  data and information collection  exercise for tabulating periodical statistical returns; but  that which will enable its use to manage the system better and help in making realistic policy decisions. The NAAC in collaboration with INTEL  has made an  attempt to probe into the ground realities and suggest efficacy measures for use of ICTs in education.

The NAAC in collaboration with INTEL  has made an  attempt to probe into the ground realities and suggest efficacy measures for use of ICTs in education

Appraisal of ICT integration in TEIs

The study focused on collecting and collating information from TEIs in 10 states for which. an e-survey was conducted . The data collected pertained to institutional contexts, Technology Deployment, ICT use and extent of its integration, strategies for sustainability, overall institutional impact and suggestions from the institutions for its effective integration and use. The questionnaire structured into four sections, both quantitative and qualitative data has been sought from more than 550 TEIs. While 80% of the institutions responded, only  275 of these provided complete and meaningful information with regard to all the four aspects stated above. The data have been analysed and major trends in technology integration discerned.

Besides the above, experiences of 20 select TEIs on ICT integration were studied in detail and recorded as Best Practices, which are being published  as part of this project study. These case studies are good examples of the different kinds of efforts made by the TEIs to deploy and integrate ICTs into their systems. Based on the attempts made by these institutions, and their major thrust areas in integrating ICTs, the institutions can be  grouped into  two  –  the  TEIs that have integrated ICTs within the domains of their curricular boundaries and the second are those  TEIs that have gone beyond the domains of the curriculum to innovatively integrate the ICTs to create path breaking practices.

It is significant that both the groups include various types of TEIs – including University Departments, IASEs, CTEs, Govt. Colleges, Govt. aided Colleges and Private Colleges, rural and urban colleges, Colleges delivering instruction in different languages/ mediums, Colleges that have ample funds to deploy ICTs and those that face severe resource crunch, Colleges that have set up and expanded their own labs and colleges that share their labs with other institutions. Most institutions tend to deploy ICTs within their curricular boundaries, and very few venture beyond the prescribed curricular limits; and they become role models for others to follow.

The study of “Best Practices”  helped throw light on the various ways and aspects of ICT integration and how in TEIs, with variations in geographic, institutional, resources as well as a positive attitude to ICTs, have helped them in successful integration of ICTs. These point to the needed emphasis in furthering technology utilisation in TEIs and the paradigm shift in the curriculum needed in teacher education. They also point to ways and means of partnerships and collaborations with Industry and corporate interventions to strengthen the systems and facilitate processes of ICT integration in education. As stated earlier, data was collected from across TEIs in ten states of India. On the basis of the e-Survey analysis, significant findings are presented.

Access to technology

Data reveal that most TEIs have computers and Internet access mostly as a part of the University curricular requirements.

  • The number of  computers available in the institute varies from 5 to 30. Most TEIs have an intake of 100 students and thus gain minimum access to computers. In several TEIs, more than three students work as a group on one computer, as the computer lab is made available only during the allocated hours/ class in the time-table.
  • Many of the institutions that are part of a larger network of institutions and under the administrative control of a trust or a society are seen to have better access to computer labs as they are permitted to use the labs situated in other departments or sister institutions that may be on the same campus or at a different location. Such sharing of facilities is quite common and has worked well. However, though the university departments and the single unit institutions have their own computer labs, the number of ports available seems inadequate.
  • The dial-up connection seems to prevail in most of the institutions while very few institutions that too mainly Urban institutions have broadband connection.

Overall there is a definite improvement in provision of computers on campuses. However, the institutions early to deploy the computers and other ICTs need to upgrade their machines / software for which they are facing the problem of funding. Though the recently established TEIs have made some provision for a separate computer lab with more number of machines and better access to computers; many of them have not taken care of providing budgets for
the maintenance and up-gradation of these labs.

The overall access of technology to teachers and students is inadequate in all TEIs as either they have limited hours of access in shared computer labs or their own labs, which normally have very few computers. As students barely get time with computers, due to the above stated limitations of infrastructure and time, teacher educators hardly have time to access them. While most institutions extensively use computers for office work, very few institutions have computerised their library activities. Thus on the whole, despite improvement in respect of technology provision, staff and students of the TEIs have inadequate access to technology.

Nature of use of technology

  • The use of technology is reported in two aspects of institutional functioning, viz., office
  • functioning including administrative communications and financial transactions; and curricular activities in the TEI including  the practice teaching sessions in the schools.
  • Within the institution, it is the administrative office which widely use computers for documentation, correspondence and other purposes.
  • Only a few libraries are computerised and except for some IASEs and University departments, there is no online access facility. The computerisation of book issue-return and other library administration is also extremely limited.
  • In the curricular area, in almost all TEIs, computer/ICTs is a part of the curriculum as it is mandatory as per the NCTE norms. However, in several universities, apart from the general computer literacy component of the curriculum, there is also an ‘optional’ course available. Only a few students opt for the optional study as either they are in advanced learning stage or do not have the prior required knowledge. The main reason for limiting this course to an optional course and only for a few students , may be due to inadequate numbers of computers in the institution.
  • In general, computers are used for activities like lesson planning (55%) and development of multimedia presentation (25%). Use of computers for curriculum design and development, CAL, teaching / learning, including practice teaching, material development by teacher educators, research and development is extremely limited. Very few institutions (about 18%) stated that they used it for online collaboration with other institutions and agencies.
  • Less than 10% of the institutions insisted on the use of computer based teaching learning during practice teaching. The number of lessons each student teacher has to prepare using technology of some kind varies from one to three lessons. The reason stated for this is the non-availability of computers in the schools and also limited expertise and technology access available at the TEIs.
  • It is pertinent to note that most TEIs do not insist on the use of any technology, even those that are not computer based, during teaching practice.
  • Teacher educators, barring a few exceptions, do not resort to computer based teaching except for the occasional use of power point presentation. Relatively progressive institutions with computer savvy teacher educators encourage students to adopt technology, but again only through verbal explication of its benefits.

This highlights the fact that there is a need to seriously think differently about the entire teacher education curriculum so that technology is seen as an active learning tool rather than a support to learning which is triggered otherwise. There is a need to wean away from the teacher centric pedagogic ways and explore appropriate newer learner centric modes which will be greatly made feasible by the integration of technology.

Challenges to technology integration

  • Inadequate availability of technology: A major difficulty faced is incurring the high initial investment in establishing a computer lab and in procuring adequate number of computers. It is said to be equally hard to regularly provide for maintenance and repairs especially if the institution is in rural areas. Internet connectivity in rural geographies is still very limited both in terms of bandwidth and accessibility  which makes its use limited in many institutions.
  • Lack of infrastructure support: Apart from suitable physical infrastructure , Irregular power supply, internet access, adequate computers, power backup, suitable configuration, suitable work place in the labs, etc. and the cost of software needed to support the various operational needs and access to information still are issues of concern and tumbling blocks in effective use of ICTs by the TEIs.
  • Lack of orientation of teacher educators about technology integration: Teacher educators have knowledge of the potential of ICT in education but most of them do not have sufficient hands-on experience and exposure to ICTs. Due to lack of accessibility, they rarely resort to using it; and many may not have a real perception of what it entails. Typically, training and orientation programs have a duration of 2 to 7 days, and lack follow up or retraining opportunities which has been negative factor.
  • Resistance to change: Adoption of technology requires not merely the competence to use it, but a different view of the entire process and its components: learning, learners, teacher themselves, pedagogic ramifications, assessment of learning, and the entire organisation. Though some of the Teacher educators, are willing to adopt technology, most of them exhibit  a natural reluctance to use it,  as they may have had no exposure and hands on  training in their initial training period and at subsequent teaching assignments.
  • Curricular revision in teacher education to situate technology integration more effectively has been an extremely slow and ad hoc  process. So far, teacher education has barely managed to accommodate a suitable course on computers in response to the requirements of the NCTE other than basic computer literacy component. Very few TEIs developed innovative practices in the use of ICTs beyond the computer literacy component.
  • There is hardly any liaison between the TEIs and schools, especially with relation to technology. Their curricula and pedagogies are very different from each other and do not align in any way.

While many TEIs have only partial access to the computers they share, there is a need for better coordination with the other departments and to streamline ways of providing more computer hours to students and teacher educators. Teacher educators need to be oriented to the appropriate use of computers. Many teachers use the downloaded material in place of self evolved lecture notes and presentations. To enhance meaningfulness of the process teachers should be given more training on evolving interactive content and preparing presentations for use in the classroom situations and share them across the community.

Perceived impact of ICT in TEIs

Trying to assess which ICTs and practices made a good impact on the quality of the educational provision and learning, it is observed that  the inter-relationships of factors such as selection and deployment of appropriate and updated technologies based on the need analysis and resource capacities is important and more so the leadership and decision making makes a real difference. The administrative dimension is a major factor accounting for differences in the level of ICT integration , use and deployment within and among institutions in different states and universities. It is significant to note that in general, ICT is perceived only as a support. There is thus an immediate need to focus efforts on the immense possibilities of learner centric learning situations through appropriate use of ICT; and to innovate and research on various teaching learning issues which would be a concrete step towards effective and meaningful technology integration.

Overview and future directions

The study reiterates the common observation that ICT and computers have come to stay in teacher education institutions. The concern is that technology has not yet become an integral part of their functioning. At best, they have supplemented the curriculum concerns of TE with an ‘as is’ stance. That is to say, the ‘conventional’ curricular framework with all its components is maintained with the addition of ICT component into it. Introducing a potent technology like ICT requires a serious re-look at the curriculum and points to a need to reformulate its aspects, which seems to be missing.

If we have to be successful in integration of ICTs in education :

  1. Support for rural educational institutions on issues of connectivity, maintenance , deployment and constant power supply should be ensured.
  2. Training and support to teachers on effective use of ICTs for Teaching-Learning need to be given.
  3. Need to contain the overcrowding of curriculum and advice institutions on the best ways to integrate ICTs within the core subjects more aggressively.
  4. Share resources to and of the community  specifically those provided by the corporate and various aid agencies.
  5. Identify activities which would considerably leverage ICTs to address significant educational issues but are manageable within the available resources.
  6. Identify ways and means to tackle the problems confronted in recruiting and retaining qualified and trained teachers.
  7. Identify, document and disseminate information on successes and failures in ICT use and integration in education to as many as possible.
  8. Develop a system of providing incentives to support genuine skills development , and innovations in use of ICTs .
  9. Provide additional resources rather than redirecting resources allocated for other items.

If we have to improve our educational processes and ensure excellence and achieve recognised and measurable learning outcomes we need to make a difference – a difference in relation to many issues where the teachers need to act and perform

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