Response to UNESCO ICT competency standards for teachers from Professor Niki Davis and her class of graduate students (international) studying educational technology/ICT:
We have been studying these three documents in our graduate course. Our first impression is that they are on the right track but there are still two gaps that we would like to comment on. (1) Improving communication of the importance of context and (2) working to improve communication of equality as well as equity.
(1) Improving communication of the importance of context
1. There is a gap in communication of the development of 21st century skills within the context of students learning in a classroom. Many of the expressions of 21st century skills are context dependent, so for example being a good “problem solver” depends to a large extent on the context of the problems that are to be solved. There is some doubt that this is such a thing as a ‘transferable’ skills or that such transfer needs to be assumed. The same reasoning applies to the other skills too. Educators have found that context helps pre-service teachers to not only understand technology skills but also their implantations within the classroom (Schmidt, Garrety & Gakhar, 2007).
The forward includes a list of the 21st century skills without explicitly identifying them as such and that would help, especially as the term is used later.
The set of documents are definitely valuable and the use of graphics helps the communication. For example on page 13 of the policy framework the web communicates the interaction of the elements well. A title for the figure and correction of the label pedagogy would be helpful.
(2) Working to improve communication of equality as well as equity.
We recognize models such as the "Welfare to Work Program" that have been used in other contexts are promoted here, but those have been challenged. Welfare to Work is a catchall for a collection of legislation reforms, programs and services that help people leave or avoid the welfare rolls and become self-sufficient, through childcare, job-training and employment assistance (). For example addressing poverty through “Welfare to work” has limited success because those who benefit from such an initiatives still have to compete with more wealthy competitors. Participants in welfare-to-work programs often come from backgrounds already beset with crises. Any further disruptions to their lives can cause them to quickly abandon plans for education and employment (Paganette & Kozell).
The Computer Technology for Independence (CTI) program in Newport, R.I., a "Welfare to Work" program, is an example of a public/private partnership that provides computer skills to welfare recipients and others as they look for employment. One of the unique aspects of this program is that students assemble their own computer as they begin the training session. It is the start of a longer journey perhaps. We think the same may be true for countries and regions who develop ICT in education; they may still be unable to compete effectively unless space is made for them in our competitive world. Providing ICT skills in not enough although it improve equality, more emphasis is required on empowering more people to join equitably.
Need for a holistic approach
“Most OECD countries face daunting challenges at the dawn of the new century to cultivate learning societies meeting the acute needs of disadvantaged populations” (Wilhelm, 2004, p. 83).
There is a need adopt a holistic approach bringing the stakeholders and partners together in order to provide equitable use of ICT in education especially for low achievers and disadvantaged students (Pont, 2004). The policies need to be reconsidered to support disadvantaged students both in school and in the community. “This involves curriculum development, teacher training and development, contributing to community development, out-of-school support, and parental support. It involves community-wide programmes that empower the students“ (Pont, 2004, p. 179).
Take an example, the difference in urban and rural areas has already been changed from cultural disparity into digital disparity in Taiwan. That means, the school districts of the countryside or the remote area, official teachers are unwilling to go and usually go with substitute teacher because the funds are limited, and community resources are insufficient in remote area schools. In contrast, in urban region schools, they have lots of financial resources, so the city uses information teaching. Students have the opportunity integrating technology equipment into their learning. This trend has caused new knowledge disparity in urban and rural areas in Taiwan. Because the people who don’t have the computer, they don’t understand how to use the computer to study and absorb the useful knowledge. Therefore, on the real or ideal world, the policy makers should strengthen the financial resources in the remote area and countryside first.
Challenges to implement the standards
While the documents are very helpful in helping developing countries to incorporate more technologies especially in the context of teaching and learning, there are some challenges that policymakers need to first address before being able to plan on implementing the suggested actions.
The first and second challenges refer to the "Syllabus for the Technology Literacy Approach" while the third and fourth challenges refer to the "Syllabus for the Knowledge Deepening Approach".
The challenges are:
1) Technological access
In developing countries, Malaysia as an example, issue of access to technology, specifically to computers connected to Internet, needs to be resolved first. To date, only some schools are equipped with computer laboratories while others do not, especially urban schools. For schools equipped with computer labs, there are issues regarding maximizing its use for teaching and learning purposes. Due to the expensive cost of the equipments and maintenance, there are schools that restricted access to these computer labs only for the purpose of teaching computer literacy skills which focuses more on "how-to-use-computers" instead of "how-to-integrate" them into teaching and learning. As a result, teachers do not have the opportunities to experiment using the computers and integrate it into instruction. Therefore, policymakers should first plan to equip all schools with technologies and encourage school administration to provide equal access to all teachers and students to use the computer labs in their schools.
After I read the example about Taiwan, I think that happen to all countries, even in the U.S. But we can not say it is a common situation, the most important thing is we have to know the situation and try to improve it.
We think giving equal technology access to every school is a crucial issue. Of course it’s very important not to give up any child, but with limited resource or money, it will be difficult for school to make difference. They definitely want to help every student, but without good technology tool or technological resources, even an enthusiastic and experienced teacher can’t deliver a good lesson. From the book Poverty and Schooling in the U.S. p. 67, we can see the situation in Arkansas, “Only one of four chalkboards is useable, The math teacher’s? computer lacks hard and software, it has no sound chip, and the printer does not work. Paper is in short supply and the duplicating machine, an addressograph, is generally overworked so that frequently documents, including examination, have to be written on the chalkboard. If students are in this kind of situation, can anyone expect them to develop their ability greatly? How can children in this kind of situation competed with students who have already experienced advanced technology or great resource? I think (Books, p.63) also support the idea of inequalities in school resources, “The most important question to ask is: Does child A, born into community A, have roughly the same opportunity for a quality education as child B, born into community B? For most industrialized countries, the answer is yes. For us, it’s an embarrassing no. (Fulton 2001, p.14)
2) Provide technical support for teachers
Motivated teachers especially those who are trained to integrate technologies into instruction often became frustrated with the lack of technical support available to them while using the technologies. Without this support, teachers are left alone to work on the technical problems that is beyond their knowledge and skills and often takes time to be resolved. Therefore, policymakers should consider providing technical support person available during school hours to help teachers with technical problems. In addition, consideration should be taken for having a technological expert or whom is known as "Media Specialist" in United States to assist teachers incorporate technological ideas into curriculum.
3) Context-based professional development program
In Malaysia, teachers' professional development program always being held outside of school context. The content of the program focuses more on mastery of skills using specific software and less on technology integration ideas within specific content knowledge. Consequently, teachers may have limited knowledge on how to transfer those skills learned in the workshops to their specific contexts. Therefore, there should be consideration of the quality of teachers' professional development program that is context-based and focuses more on technology integration in specific content knowledge.
4) Creating partnership opportunities between higher education and schools
For teachers to be able to "share resources to support their activities and their own professional development" (Implementation Guidelines, p.14), policymakers should encourage the creation of partnership opportunities between higher education and schools by first removing the bureaucratic processes and procedures for such partnership. This higher education and school partnership is very critical since higher education institutions have more technology and human resources capabilities to help teachers to build a successful technology community. An example of such partnership is through the implementation of Community-Service Learning (CSL) pedagogy where students and faculties in higher education institutions reach out to teachers and students in schools around their neighborhood sharing their knowledge, skills, ideas and resources. This way, teachers will feel connected to larger community and are able to find support they need to integrate technologies into curriculum.
In Ukraine teachers are enthusiastic about implementing technology as a learning tool and they are looking forward to collaborating with educatiors in Europe and the USA, they experience hard times to make connections with people who could design and develop courses online for them, because they don't have money to pay for their work. One of the teachers asked me about a free EFL course on line that her students could take, but I could not find people who could actually create an EFL course for Ukrainian students. They need help!
Kellen, A.. (1998). Welfare recipients train as computer programmers. Retrieved February 26, 2008, from http://www.cnn.com/TECH/science/9811/27/t_t/welfare.y2k/
Welfare recipients train as computer programmers
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