Oped

ICT in education

  • If teachers can use social media sites, they can use educational web applications too
- SAGUN SHRESTHA
ICT in education should not always be a big buzz word in academia; it should be our practice which needs some substantial research to see where exactly we stand

Nov 7, 2018-

Implementing information and communications technology (ICT) in education in Nepal is a very hot topic of discourse these days. The ICT Masterplan (2013-17) considers use of ICT in education as one of the strategies to achieve the broader goals of education. The recent School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) 2016-23 aims to use ICT as a significant tool to improve classroom delivery, maximise access to teaching learning materials and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of educational governance and management. But the question is how far we are implementing ICT for teaching and learning, and how much support we have received to implement ICT in education.

Whenever there is a discourse on the use of ICT in education, a very firm image of barriers gets erected in our minds. A teacher or any learner immediately begins to talk about lack of ICT-related physical infrastructure. But again, the question is this: Are we using ICT in teaching and learning the way we are expected to use it owing to lack of infrastructure? From my observation of ICT use in Nepal and the developed countries, and my study of some literature, this question calls for a critical assessment. 

 

Web applications

If university professors and senior and junior school teachers can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others pretty much effectively to meet their purposes, can’t they use web applications created for educational purposes for teaching and learning? Can’t they use free web applications such as Edmodo (learning management tool), Kahoot and Socrative (quiz tools) and so on in their own classrooms? Will there be still some barriers, for instance, internet connectivity and lack of other ICT devices? Can they use these applications reasonably with the available resources in their setting? To me, these questions directly question the existing ICT policy and use of ICT in education, and demand further research. Therefore, they cannot be answered immediately here. 

Nevertheless, through my own practice, observation and study, I can state that we might cite lack of ICT infrastructure as an excuse for not using ICT in education, which US professor Peggy A Ertmer calls a first-order barrier. The major barrier can be the users’ lack of confidence and knowledge about using it, which she calls a second-order barrier. In Nepal, the second-order barrier may be playing a more crucial role than the first-order barrier. It is not that our teachers aren’t using technology in their classrooms because there is no ICT infrastructure. It could be that they need some ‘how tos’ to use the web applications and resources in the current pedagogical setting. Here’s a very basic example: If a teacher is connected to a cellular network which he uses frequently to check status posts on Facebook, he also can use it to check his  Edmodo, a learning management tool. 

Teachers can provide notes and assignments through this platform. They will enjoy exploring in the course of teaching and learning, and make learners explore further. And as regards learners, they can check the notes and assignments at home through the resources available in their own places. In some contexts where ICT infrastructure is almost non-existent, the above example can be an ideal thought. Nevertheless, in a majority of teaching-learning contexts, it seems pragmatic and therefore, applicable due to wide coverage of cellular networks and easy availability of smart phones and their high use. 

For this to happen, we need to be in a position to raise awareness among our teachers about how the available ICT resources can be used in the present setting. Then our teachers will not be able to give the excuse of lack of infrastructure for not using the technology. They will also be able to instruct the learners as per their interest. Learners of this age group become motivated when they find a learning ambience where ICT is integrated.

This definitely does not mean that we should always compromise on resources, and that we should not build ICT infrastructure. We have to enhance them, and in the meantime, keep working with the available resources so that our entire education system is not left behind compared to the global modern education system. Now the question is who will raise awareness among the teachers on the use of the available ICT resources for teaching and learning. 

For the answer, we need to run regular robust practice-oriented and academic discourses, and identify the experts among us who can shoulder the responsibility of being in a big community of practitioners and sharing their insights with colleagues. Merely waiting for advanced technological support and infrastructure is not the solution. Actually, it can be a big excuse which eventually turns into a barrier. We need to act from the place where we are now.

 

Teach the teachers

No doubt, there are some privately-run organisations which are developing contextual digital teaching learning materials. But again, the matter is how far we are using them and other freely available resources. Probably not to the extent expected by our policies. Therefore, it’s high time we instilled confidence in our teachers to use technology effectively. 

They might need some very basic training, and the pedagogical benefits of the potential web applications need to be clearly explained to them so that they can comprehend the purpose of their use. We have numerous challenges, no doubt, and the roads ahead are uneven; but at the same time, we have opportunities to try them in a different way that suits our local context by acknowledging our contextual limitations. ICT in education should not always be a big buzz word in academia; it should be our practice which needs some substantial research to see where exactly we stand.  

 

Shrestha is a PhD student at Dublin City University, Ireland.

Published: 07-11-2018 07:59

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