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Over a decade ago, before ICTS was implemented, education system was rigid. The knowledge that was passed on was based on the information that existed in the text books. The dependency was also on the limited skill set of the teacher. So the effect was a vast difference in the quality of education provided by various institutions. Due to financial constraints not all teachers could travel to different places to impart education. The typical classroom setup where the teacher wrote on the blackboard and the students copied the data was marks oriented. The system was boring and monotonous. It also resulted in a haphazard evaluation because of lack of identical standards for assessment. The assessment was always based on the current performance and there was no comparison with the previous results. And the actual improvement can be achieved by evaluating the mistakes in the previous assessment and suggesting ways to correct them.
But thereÂ was no database maintained to ensure that the evaluation of the pupil is preserved. Only a basic report was given out that could map the marks procured to his performance and there was no development after that. Simple charts and comparison of the performances of the pupils with the previous performances canÂ helpÂ avoidÂ common errors and mistakes.Â
Now with e-learning in place the skill set of a teacher is no more a hindrance as all students have access to top class education. School broadcasting, webcasting of important lectures and direct class teaching can help the students in a big way.
In the recent years, there been an upsurge of interest in how computers and internet could best be bound to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of education. ICTs also include legacy technologies namely telephone, radio and television which are now not given much importance but have a long and rich history. For example television and radio have been used as medium for open and distance learning. But the use of computers and the internet is in its early stages in developing countries, if they are used, due to higher costs of access and limited resources and infrastructure.
Often combinations of technologies are used instead of a single delivery mechanism. For example: Indira Gandhi National Open University in India amalgamates the use of print, priory recorded audio and video with radio and television or other audio conferencing devices.
Types of ICTs which are commonly used in education:
1) - E-learning: E-learning is basically linked with higher/corporate level training, which involves harming at both, official and casual level, which makes use of internet, LAN, WAN, partially or completely, for proper communication or interaction.
2) - Blended Learning- this type of learning combines traditional method of teaching with e-learning methods. For example in our University of Manchester teachers give print-based (handouts) referring to a particular lecture along with which the slides are also uploaded and updated on the university blackboard. We could also communicate with the professor through marks or blackboard.
3) Open and distance learning-The Commonwealth of Learning defines this kind of learning as "a way of providing learning opportunities that is characterised by the separation of teacher and learner in time or place, or both time and place"
Role of ICTs in Education: In developing nations, ICTs have the capacity to increase access to and improve quality of education. It therefore represents an equalising strategy for developing nation. ICTs greatly improve the way knowledge could be acquired and absorbed. It also offers developing nations immense opportunities to improve their educational systems, and widen the range of opportunities for the poor.
ICTs role in expanding access to education: ICTs are extremely powerful tool for providing farfetched educational opportunities to girls or women who were previously deprived of education due to cultural ethics, or to persons with some kind of disabilities and to poor who could not afford enrolling themselves on campus or elderly who could not attend institutions which were quite far or due to health reasons.
Anytime, Anywhere: ICTs have the ability to surmount time and space. ICTs relinquish the need for all teachers and learners to be in the same physical location. ICTs enable both synchronous (no time gap between the delivery of lecture by the teacher and reception/understanding of lecture by the learner. For example: teaching through teleconference to students from geographically dispersed location) and asynchronous teaching in which there is a time lag between delivery of lecture and reception which could include online course materials which could be assessed 24*7.
Remote access to learning resources: Students and teachers no longer have to depend on limited set of printed books from a library. With ICT, they have access to a large number of e-books, e-journal, articles or research done by scholars. These materials would be available on the Web anytime and can be accessed from anywhere. ICTs also facilitate access to research done by organizations like IEEE and other researchers and their publications.
Use of ICTs to prepare individuals for their future: ICTs are implemented in school so that students get accustomed to computer, its usage, its application etc. Technological literacy or the ability of a person to use computers efficiently in seen to have an edge over the others while choosing a person for an IT related job.
Improve quality of education using ICT: ICTs can enhance quality of education by several ways namely by increasing motivation of learner, by facilitating the procurement of necessary basic skills and by improving training for teachers.
Motivation to learn: ICTs such as videos, television and other computer software that brings together text, sound and other colourful animated images could be used to provide challenging and legitimate content that would increase the student's interest towards the learning process. ICTs also help in networking and allows interactivity with real world.
Facilitating the procurement of basic skills: ICTs improve understanding of basic skills and concepts which form an infrastructure for higher order thinking ability and creativity. The early usage of computers was for computer assisted information.
Enhancement of teacher training: ICTs have also enhanced the quality of teacher training. For instance institutions like Cyber Teacher Training centre in South Korea use internet to provide professional development chances to teachers who are currently in service. In India, in the state of Karnataka, Indira Gandhi National Open University made use of one-way video and two-way audio conferencing along with print materials and recorded video to train as many as 910 primary school teachers. ICTs like computer and internet technologies provide new techniques of teaching and learning rather than simply allowing the teachers to enhance the previously existing methods.
USE OF ICT IN EDUCATION:
Haddad and Draxler identify 5 levels of technology used in education: presentation, demonstration, drill and practice, interaction and collaboration. Print, audio/video cassettes, radio and TV broadcasts, computers or the internet could be used for demonstration and presentation. But for videos, drill and practice may be performed using all other technologies. Networked computers and the internet are the ICTs that enable interactive and collaborative learning.
Use of radio and TV broadcasting in education:
In direct class teaching the broadcast programme takes lessons instead of teachers on temporary basis.
In school broadcasting, the broadcast programming makes available the otherwise unavailable learning resources and also provides complementary teaching.
General educational programming provides general and informal educational chances over community, national and international station.
Teleconferencing and its educational uses:
Teleconferencing means communication between people who are geographically separated from each other. It involves audio-conferencing, audio-graphic conferencing, video-conferencing, web-based conferencing. It involves both formal and informal discussion i.e. between teacher-learner or learner-learner and also for access to experts and other resource persons. Teleconferencing proves a very useful tool for providing direct instruction and learner support and to minimise the problem of isolation.
CASE STUDY-WEST BENGAL
This case study depicts how improvements occurred in the field of education after ICTs were implemented in the state of West Bengal. The Ministry of Education had worked out a number of plans to meet certain objectives. The Department of Education had been working hard on ensuring universal access to education at primary, elementary and secondary level. It also worked on unobstructed enrolment at higher secondary level for all students passing out of secondary school. Eliminating the problem of gender differences in the field of education was an important objective. For this, the government encourages enrolment of girls to schools at any level, also giving higher priority for girls coming from backward classes. The dropout rates of students were as high as 75% which was another major concern for the government. Other objectives included improving teacher student ratio, implement computer literacy, recruiting trained teachers, helping them with proper infrastructure and facilities and upgraded learning material.
West Bengal also foresees making use of EDUSAT to facilitate distance education to supplement education in schools. It also wants to bridge the gap of digital divide. The education department of West Bengal envisages the development in education through the use of ICT by setting up a state wide backbone of delivery for distance education by using IT in education to produce IT professional, increase the use of IT in lower levels and also by promoting educational institutions specialized in some areas. Some of the initiatives taken up by the government are voiceover recording.
SCERT: It is a department which develops textbooks in West Bengal as per the prescribed national curriculum. It also works on improving multimedia content in the textbooks to make subjects interesting. A number of workshops are conducted at the DIET levels in order to show the way of writing scripts and voiceover recording. Every DIET is equipped with at least one computer for performing various activities like improving digital content etc. There are around 3,00,000 teachers in West Bengal and SCERT trains maximum teachers to create digital content. SCERT developed strategies wherein radios were the mode of communication in order to impart education. Around 21 scripts were prepared to help students to learn English. In the year 2005-2006, SSA sponsored a timeslot wherein the above mentioned lessons were broadcasted.
IL and FS Education and Technology Services Limited:
IETS works in collaboration with the government of West Bengal to promote benefits and use of ICT in the field of education. KYAN, an innovative project designed by IETS in collaboration with IIT Mumbai, is a community computer. It is a device that contains a computer having a projector, speakers, a wireless mouse and speakers also. It amalgamates the amazing computing power of a computer with appropriate high resolution and a large screen projector system.
KYAN is being introduced in schools to benefit children from disadvantaged communities. A small project was undertaken in 65 government schools across a few districts in 2007-2008. This initiative was an effort to make use of ICT tools like digital content, alternative power supply solutions and building programs to reduce the problem of Digital Divide and to ensure sustainability; it was a success. KYAN has definitely increased attendance of students in classrooms as it makes lessons more interesting. DOUBLE CLICK was another initiative of UNICEF started in collaboration with IETS Kolkata to develop and run a capacity building initiative in computer literacy for tribal children especially girls from backward class. The students were introduced to some basic computer skills and MS paint applications. KYAN is extremely popular among students as find KYAN lessons far more interesting as compared to lecture-based class. This holds true not for the toppers but also for academically weaker section of the class. KYAN has improved student participation and class attendance.
INTEL EDUCATION INITIATIVE:
Intel in collaboration with the government of West Bengal started a programme to vastly provide computer literacy in certain schools, by equipping them with standard Intel based processor PC and having run on Linux Operating System. This initiative was deployed in 500 schools and it was a success as evaluators found not only an improvement in academic skills but also in concentration.
NIIT@schools is a program that encourages education in computer to schools. This initiative implements computer Literacy Training Programme to higher secondary schools in West Bengal. Schools participating in this initiative showed a remarkable improvement in their results as well as their computer skills.
IBM: IBM worked in collaboration with the DIT in West Bengal to remove the problems caused by digital divide. This program also empowered every student to use computers in their business and respective fields. Students who were focussed towards a career in IT had technical lessons incorporated in their lessons also. The learning content was made available in all local languages as well. IBM conducted annual exam to assess the students and then provide them with appropriate certification on completion.
SAMVIDHA: Low cost Internet access and content personalization for rural schools.
This project was initiated by IIT Kharagpur with the objective of finding innovative methods of providing low cost, offline and low bandwidth Internet access. It also provides store and forward mechanisms for searches which are asynchronous.
InTuition(Techno Teaching Info Solution Pvt. Ltd): It provides multimedia lessons in subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology for class 9-12. The multimedia content is designed by experts from schools and colleges. The unique feature of InTuition is teachers are available all day long from 6am to 10 pm to solve queries raised by student while reading through the content students can also live video chat with them and solve their doubts.
This also has an assessment program in which students can take online tests regularly which helps them track their progress periodically. It also develops contents to support students facing competitive entrance exams.
West Bengal is one of the IT hubs in the country with huge potential for using ICTs in education. It has an added advantage because it is one of the few states in India which experienced successful PC penetration at village level.
Challenges in integrating ICT in Education:
EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND PLANNING:
- For integrating ICTs in education requires rigorous planning. A critical analysis has to be performed on the present educational system taking into account the current practices and arrangement. The barriers that could arise when ICT is integrated with education should be identified like cost, language, content etc.
- ICT based model which is to be integrated has to be tested and proven on a small scale. These tests are used to identify and correct some shortcomings in instructional design , its implementation and its effects.
An institution should have the basic infrastructure for integrating ICT in education. This would include electric wiring, proper spacious rooms with good arrangements for ventilation, safety and security.
Another basic part of infrastructure required would be electricity and telephony.
In developing countries like INDIA, there are remote areas where electricity and telephone are still a problem.
Another problem could be maintenance support where in an institution would have to spend a lot on maintaining computers periodically by an expert to avoid breakdown or loss of data.
Teachers profession al development focuses on skills related to that particular field and application. Integration with the curriculum, changes in the teacher's role and supporting of educational theory. Teacher's themselves should undergo pre-service teacher training. ICT is a rapidly evolving technology, so every ICT based teacher must upgrade his/her skills everyday to keep up to date with the latest developments.
LANGUAGE AND CONTENT:
-English is the most dominant language on the Internet. 80% of the online papers, contents are addressed in English. But there are countries where, English is their second language. It is necessary for such countries to have teaching and learning materials in their local language . So the Web should be multi-cultural space where people with different languages and culture should have an equal stake in the world wide communities of learning and practice.
5) COST: One of the major challenges while integrating ICT in education could be balancing educational objectives with financial realities. ICTs in education systems require large capital investments and their maintenance is also quite expensive. So developing nation should be very careful while choosing an ICT model for implementation in their country. The sources of money and resources could be some kind of grants,private donation, in-kind support, community support.
My own schooling could be a classical example: A gradual growth from nursery to primary to secondary education. Computers were very much in vogue in my home country during my primary school days, but restricted to commercial usage - not school level teaching. The price-tag was high; affordability low. School curriculum included "Computers" as a subject, but offered very basic bookish information.
The teachers were not trained enough to teach anything beyond the text book. Internet, browsing, e-mail were not heard of. Our school "projects" included fancy pictures of computers & components, purchased from stationery shop and pasted on cardboard sheets.
Contrast those days with the present school education, and it is a veritable metamorphosis. Right from the primary school, the children browse the internet, source the required information from the net, and prepare their own projects at the "terminal". Each pupil has an exclusive computer terminal for his/her use. Math to Music, all the subjects are taught using the computer and projector. The present generation of students is taught not only knowledge of computers, but also about sourcing from the worldwide web and processing information required for various projects.
Present and future generations of children are in far better position to assimilate information - as their systems are better. They learn from teachers who are better trained and well informed; they learn using web resources, multimedia, graphics which are capable of presenting better perspective and generating interest in learning new. An art, Science or Technology - the key to enhance creativity is the computer.