Pedagogy Changes for ICT Enabled Primary Education in Sri Lanka
December 2009

Pedagogy Changes for ICT Enabled Primary Education in Sri Lanka

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M. A. Kaleelur Rahuman and Gihan Wikramanayake


 

Ministry of Education has introduced One Laptop per Child (OLPC) in selected primary schools around Sri Lanka. School teachers who are going to cater the teaching learning activities has to adapt to technological changes and use appropriate pedagogy to guide the children. Content developers who are also trained teachers have developed localized interactive learning material based on the curriculum for primary level formal education. The implementation of the OLPC pilot project conceptualizes the change in needs, building a new learning environment. The changes focus on the pedagogy in childhood education related to ICT enabled teaching learning environment. The aim of this initial research is to explore the technology involvement in formal curriculum and the possibilities of future informal learning comprising childhood creativity and innovation in primary education.

Arrival and the use of Information and Communication Technology have been re-engineering almost all the fields of human life from basic needs like contacting a friend living abroad to fundamental needs like education, health and governance. It is not only a technological evolution but also a social revolution that forces the different age group of human, to discover new habits, new morals and formulate new life systems, so that to adapt with global change in human culture and life style. Our education system also has to be geared to meet this concept and has to be aligned with this new technology. Hence, the innovative utilization of ICT for education is becoming most indispensable need since the knowledge is the backbone that is changing the culture and the whole civilization time to time towards better quality of life of the people.

OLPC

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) (http://laptop.org/en/), an amazing especially designed educational tool for childhood learning. The introduction and implementation of this tool is expected to revolutionize the childhood education in the country and will introduce change to the pedagogical approach in primary education systems (Alexander, 2001). This will further impact on the teaching and learning methodologies. Figure 1 shows a picture of an OLPC, taken from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OLPC_XO-1

OLPC helps the children to learn by exploring, creating and sharing knowledge and skills.

OLPC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child) is introduced exclusively to create educational opportunities for remote rural children who are struggling with the access to skilled teachers, proper guidance for learning, ICT awareness, electricity and Internet infrastructure and who are unable to afford new updated education system. OLPC was originated from MIT media labs by Prof. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of the OLPC non-profit association
(http://laptop.org/en/utility/people/nicholas-negroponte.html).

Stakeholders

Primary stakeholders in the pilot project are Ministry of Education as the owner, OLPC Lanka Foundation as the OLPC providers, University of Colombo School of Computing for knowledge partner (including server/ operating system installations, localization and training) and the Open Source Community for content development. This project is funded by the World Bank. Teachers who were trained on teaching learning activities and to handle the OLPC and the set of teachers who developed the contents for OLPC based on formal curriculum are also important stakeholders.

OLPC around the world

According to the OLPC principals, the learning tool projects have been implemented in several developing countries like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, India and Uruguay. Each project has a different specialty as detailed below.

1350 OLPC units in Sri Lanka

OLPC Lanka Foundation is currently working with the Ministry of Education and the World Bank in deploying 1000 OLPC and private sector funding to import another 350 units that additionally. Schools in the whole nine provinces of Sri Lanka is considered for piloting in primary pilots which t is closely monitored by both MoE and World Bank officials
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Sri_Lanka).

olpc outside sri lanka

In Afghanistan
OLPC is powered with “pedal power generator” in Afghanistan, the PAIWASTOON team that perform the technical implementation designed a new pedal powered machine that can power the XO as you pedal and use it at the same time. Even small kids (3rd/4th grade) can power it. As the laptop charges as you use it no additional battery is needed
(http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/afghanistan/updates_
from_olpc_afghanistan_1.html
).

In India

India is a very large multicultural country with many interest groups with various culture and language. OLPC project in India not only revolutionize the way they teach children but also scale up the whole system of sharing between the diverse set of communities. The pilot project deployment in a rural village at Khairat where OLPCs have been deployed and every child carries one home. The project has expanded to several other parts of the country have shown very promising results
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_India).

Readiness, adaption and application of OLPC in Sri Lanka 

The Ministry of Education together with its major stakeholders implements the OLPC pilot project in selected schools in Sri Lanka. Readiness and adaption among stakeholders in the implementation process is concerned with three major pedagogical elements such as teacher training, content development and localization. Trained teachers are directly involved in assisting students is to create an environment to adapt to the technology and understand the theory behind. Content development is enabling a new environment to learn the subjects and do learning activities using the tool and the localization facilitate the students and teachers to fulfill their teaching learning activities on their own language.

Content Development – A Leapfrog Innovation

Developing contents for primary school children based on formal education curriculum is leapfrog and an innovating idea of the country while the whole world is using OLPC – for informal learning concept. Committed teachers are selected and trained by subject matter experts to develop contents adapting to limitations and features of the OLPC. This was time consumed commitment that resulted in an excellent output – the contents for all grade one to five curriculum.

Teacher Training  

The selected teachers who are currently involving with the students are trained to adapt with sophisticated features of the tool that facilitate for informal leaning (Livingstone, 2001) like collaborative learning, peer learning coincide with “learn while play” concepts.  Through fulltime training workshops teachers were given a considerable amount of knowledge on the concept and hands on skills of using OLPC.

Localisation

The operating system interfaces, in-built activities and content were originally bundled with the machine in English language. Localization process localized the operating environment and all the contents into the two official languages Sinhala and Tamil, so that the students and teachers fulfill their teaching learning activities in their own language and utilize the tool effectively. It overcomes the language barrier in education and support to master the soft skills and knowledge in the mother language of the user.

Changes in Pedagogy

This is a new and challenging experience for the educational promoters and stakeholders in primary education system in Sri Lanka. Changing existing pedagogy or planting new pedagogy among existing teachers with traditional mind set, is not an easy task. Clear and appropriate strategies and pedagogies have to be drawn including the broad ideas and suggestions of the teachers population is a must for successful pedagogy changes.

Pedagogy Changes

The OLPC usage in education will definitely increase the literacy rate among school children. It will add some values for their culture and morality such as sharing resources and shared learning. It will increase the friendship and further understanding between students, while it will slightly reduce the hobbies and physical activities (games) since the tool consume considerable time. It will enhance the informal learning by increased collaboration and communication via the tool during school hours and thereafter. It will raise the habit of self learning or learner centric learning by the use of Internet and searching and by the attraction to the tool.

New awareness and knowledge would be created so that to accept and adapt to this tool in school education. From parents, principals to educational departments and policy makers should be made aware and to be taught overall concept and benefit of the tool. The tool has to be used correctly and carefully and have to be handed over to the other learner in a good working condition. While the learner using the tool at home there should be an ethic to be followed so that the tool will not be used for private purpose and others such as family members.

New Environments

As in the case of a typical computer lab, there is no need for dedicated buildings and use of electricity. These OLPCs forms a portable virtual environment that could be set up in the classroom. Machine to machine or machine to server communication can take place in a wireless environment. However there is a need to charge the individual OLPCs and to host the server as well as to manage and maintain them.

Childhood Innovation & Creativity
Even though the literacy rate seems to be high, the higher values of childhood creativity and innovative thinking of kids is lacking in developing countries like Sri Lanka. Creativity and innovation is an extreme need for an education system of this era. This educational tool, once the project is implemented well, will help not only the students, but also the involved teachers to compete with the people who are in the forward line in the innovation and creativity in primary education.

Possibilities of Informal Learning

Even though Informal learning is considered as learner centric adult learning, the habit of learning things informally using the features of the tool will create new informal learning environments.

Effect on Economic & Social Values

Usage of this new tool will create the avenue for accessing world class learning resources and as a result of this will make the students to compete with global parallel learners in similar learning domains.

Rapid advances in technology were observed by some teachers as negative aspects. It gives easy access to western ideas and can have a negative impact on local cultures. Some teachers find it hard to adjust to the technological changes and continuously enhance their knowledge. They see these developments take most of their free time. Some children get addicted to tools and could give less importance for their formal learning activities.

Conclusion

This paper emphasized the readiness and adaption of the stakeholders on the implementation of the educational tool, conceptualizes the change in needs, building a new environment, redesigning the pedagogy in childhood education in ICT enabled teaching learning environment in Sri Lanka.

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