Teachers are no Longer Gurus but Knowledge Facilitators

Advent of ICT has altered the role of teachers. Teachers should not just be trained on how to use the ICT tools, but most important is the technological, pedagogical content knowledge. Dr Termit Kaur Ranjit Singh, Senior Lecturer and Lead Trainer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, shares her experience and views with Shahid Akhter, ENN

There are various challenges faced by teachers for successful functioning of ICT in the educational scenario. What are the concerns and what should teachers do to overcome these challenges for successful ICT integration in education?
A major concern would be the mindset of teachers who fear that ICT implementation may eliminate the role of teachers in the classrooms, thus creating a resistance to the digital revolution in educational technology.
Teachers need to accept the major challenge of re-thinking and re-framing their roles and competencies from that of knowledge-generators to knowledgefacilitators. This is a huge step away from the traditional role of teachers especially in India, where teachers are gurus, and are beyond questioning. Given the type of learners we have today, teachers should also be competent enough to employ particular applications and be proficient with technology. They have to be confident to integrate ICT into existing curricula and understand all about technology with pedagogy integration. Teacher anxiety over being replaced by technology or losing their authority in the classroom as the learning process becomes more learner-centered can be lessened only if teachers have a deep understanding of their changing role.
There are various efforts made by UNESCO Bangkok in addressing the urgent need to educate teachers on their changing role from guru to facilitator. One of the many efforts in integrating ICT in teaching and learning, UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education Center, has created various ICT in Education Resource Distribution Centers (RDCs) in the region. One of the main tasks of these RDCs, is to get teachers to understand the new role as a facilitator. Lead Trainers for these RDCs run workshops with teachers on ICT integration and use of appropriate pedagogies as part of professional development for teachers. These workshops have proven effective in eliminating the fear that teachers have in losing their jobs! UniversitiSains Malaysia, being the top research University in Malaysia was the first in the region to be UNESCO Bangkok’s RDC. To date, we have carried out professional development not only in Malaysia but also in other countries such as The Republic of Maldives. Using Peer Coaching, a huge number of teachers have benefitted from these workshops. Sharing of practices on education ommunity networks can also contribute towards eliminating that fear of using ICT for teaching and learning.

Various competencies must be developed throughout the educational system for ICT integration to be successful. What capacity building should be focused on?
Capacity Building of Educators should focus on the teachers, the training and the type of technology needed for the teaching and learning process. Capacity building should be about pedagogical strategies utilising ICTs for teaching and learning instead of how to use the ICT tools. Often, many schools tend to focus on the tools. Teachers should be trained on not just how to use the ICT tools, but most important is the technological pedagogical content knowledge.
The need of the hour is to integrate training for ICT use into pedagogical training, and not simply training them to use ICT tools. Teacher training and continued on-going relevant professional development is essential if benefits from investments in ICTs are to be maximised .
Fostering an environment that is supportive of learning how to teach effectively with technology is important. In your opinion, what are the incentive systems and motivational strategies that could be of support to teachers.
Teachers generally are reluctant to change their teaching styles and habits. They are cautious of time-consuming activities. Providing teachers with access to technology resources within the school post training and having them to work with colleagues in technology-supported instructional design projects are important motivational strategies.
Teachers need to be given time to participate in training activities and they need to be given time to try out what they have learned in the classroom. This means that teachers should not be overloaded particularly with extra-curricular assignments — although perhaps this is easier said than done in the majority of public schools in developing countries where there is a shortage of teachers. Teachers who successfully complete professional development programmes should be given public recognition to give them a sense of achievement and encourage them to continue.

What are the challenges that need to be addressed in the areas of language and content development in ICT Integration in education efforts?
Though the telecom-revolution in the form of mobile technology has successfully pioneered SMS-communication, this has only faintly increased the multi-cultural Indian citizens inclination for English usage. The average Indian student is the one who receives training in educational institutions in his or her native language from teachers who are also more comfortable in knowledge-dissemination in the vernacular medium. English language proficiency is not high, especially outside urban areas and this represents a serious barrier to maximising the educational benefits of the teaching materials produced. In this regard, it is very important to focus on the need for content-development in regional languages, as well as in English. The availability of e-content development in the various languages will motivate the teachers to use it.

Given the large population in India, educational inequity has been a problem. What and how should this be addressed?
To address the issue of inequity in India, all aspects of the educational system will have to be considered; the curriculum development, technology, school infrastructure and teacher training. Having put any one aspect in isolation will certainly not help in solving the problem. In my opinion, many attempts have been made to solve the problems on affordable schooling and textbooks, by providing low-cost textbooks and low-cost tablets such as the Akaash tablets. While all these efforts are all highly commendable, but the issue of teacher training has to be addressed.
In my opinion, a fundamental problem that India is facing is the need of more trained teachers. Until there are teachers who effectively impart knowledge to students in their classrooms, the mission of improving education inequity in India will not be fully achieved.
Continuous support for teachers as they undertake their day-to-day work. This Teacher Professional Development continuum requires that there be closer coordination between those involved in pre-service and in-service teacher education. It also implies the need for capacity-building in ICT integration for teacher educators in pre-service teacher education institutions.
A model that integrates the various dimensions of building the capacity of teachers to teach effectively with technology is UNESCO’s ICT Competency Standards for Teachers (ICTCST). These new guidelines are intended for teachers and Teacher Professional Development providers, including Ministries of Education, as a planning tool that can then be used to assess levels of attainment during Teacher Professional Development programme implementation.

Advent of ICT has altered the role of teachers. Teachers should not just be trained on how to use the ICT tools, but most important is the technological, pedagogical content knowledge. Dr Termit Kaur Ranjit Singh, Senior Lecturer and Lead Trainer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, shares her experience and views with Shahid Akhter, ENN