ICT tools and its application in mauritius in teaching

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At the outset of the 21st century, it is undeniable that technology has become a dominant force of our life. In Mauritius, the government has the vision of making our country a "Cyber Island", whereby Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would be the 5th pillar of our economy. (Pg 5)In this connection, Government has come up with various projects in the education sector so that teachers can make use of ICT as a pedagogical tool. According to the Education & Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020 (Pg 81), introducing technology as a support in education system will be to ensure that all teachers use ICT facilities on a regular basis for teaching and learning. 'ICT in classrooms' has already been included as a module in teachers' training course. Teachers cannot lag behind since they need to adapt themselves to these innovations and integrate them in their teaching. Our youngsters, being from this technological era, are no longer interested in the traditional talk and chalk method. This explains the growing need to shift from traditional teaching to teaching with technology. Today, we talk so much of E-commerce, E- business, E-economy and thus E-learning but are our schools "E- ready"? Indeed, we cannot help asking ourselves whether our secondary schools are ready to use ICT as an integral part of our teaching and learning process.

Introduction:

Inventions have been driven by societal needs and slowly embedded in our culture. Technology, the facilitator of inventions, has worked its way in our life today. Technology can be defined as human innovation in action that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities. Technology has been evolving with us since the beginning of the Prehistoric age, from the simplest of tools of the cave men to the now present future. Just imagine if the cave men didn't discover fire? This makes us realize the importance of technology in our ever changing society.

Technology is sprouting at an astonishing rate. Almost every aspect of human life is invaded by rapid technological innovations. Not only has it dramatically changed the ways we work, learn, interact and spend our leisure time but it has revolutionised nearly every aspect of our daily life. From agricultural societies, there has been a shift to this technological era after having gone through the industrial age. Today technology plays a vital role in society. It increases efficiency and productivity of how we do and manage things. It also gives (offers) us larger possibilities by giving us ideas that we haven't thought about in the past.

With globalization, which is in short, interdependence within the economic, political and social units in the world, there exists no barriers. This concept of global village brings all countries to participate in the global competition. For developing countries, the ICT sector represents a means of progress to meet the standard (be more competitive).  This explains therefore, the wish and urgency to "e-power" their people. Following the same trend, Mauritius has the vision of converting itself into a "cyber island" and "a regional ICT hub".  Alongside with sugar, textile, tourism and financial services, ICT has become a determining part of the Mauritian economy.  In fact, ICT is going to be considered as the fifth pillar. Additionally, the Mauritian Government is putting a lot of stress on the need to empower its citizens, irrespective of age groups.

Introduction of ICT at primary level has been the stepping stone for the Ministry of Education towards making Mauritius a cyber island and the future ICT leader in the region. For a sustainable socio-economic development of our country the right environment needs to be created to harness Information and Communication Technologies. Hence the Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources must work in line with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to instill a "technology temper" in our new generation.

Worldwide much emphasis is being laid on the use of ICT as a teaching tool in the educational sector. Technology has been moreover seen as a major facilitator in the educational system. It offers new ways of teaching and learning, and provides new ways for all involved in education. The development of high-technology learning tools holds promise for ensuring equity in educational opportunity for all students in all schools. Not only has technology become an essential tool for teachers as well as educators in their mission and vision but it has become an appropriate vehicle for promoting meaningful and engaged learning for students.

Since Mauritius does not possess many natural resources, we thus depend a lot on our manpower. Therefore, much stress is being laid on education. The vision of the present Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr the Honourable R.Jeetah is to make Mauritius the intelligent island of the region and a Centre of Excellence in the global village. His objective is to achieve the development of a skilled, versatile and competent workforce and in doing so, he strives to reach an objective of "one graduate per family". To target this aim, ICT will become a fundamental tool in education.

Educational reform has played a crucial role in the initiation of students into the world of ICT at a younger age. It started in late 1990's with the School IT Project. In 2003, a number of primary teachers completed their training at the Mauritius Institute of Education in ICT and taught ICT as a subject at primary level. Teachers of other subjects have also been encouraged to integrate ICT in their teaching.

At secondary level, ICT is already taught as a compulsory subject in lower classes from Form I to Form III. The syllabus covers the basics of hardware and software with emphasis on practical assignments and projects. At Form IV and higher levels, ICT is offered as an option to students and the syllabus is more extensive. Due to increasing workforce demand in the ICT sector, more and more students have opted for this subject at school.

The number of students sitting for ICT at School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination has increased over the years as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Students examined in ICT at School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC).

Source: Central Statistics Office, Government of Mauritius.

As part of Government's broader strategy to make Mauritius a Cyber Island, schools are being encouraged to introduce and adopt ICT as a pedagogical tool across the curriculum. In line with this vision, the Government has implemented various projects such as

Hence, in line with the government's policy to introduce ICT into the curriculum at all levels of the education system in Mauritius, an interactive multimedia pedagogical support CD -ROM for the standard 4 & 5 primary students was introduced by The VCILT (Virtual Centre for Innovative Learning Technologies)"; Microsoft Partnership's interactive whiteboard and various workshops have been launched by the Ministry of Education for teacher training has launched various workshops for teacher training. The NEPAD1 e-schools initiative, a regional programme encompassing 16 country participants already provides ICT equipment to students, teachers and administrators for the acquisition of ICT skills, using ICT across the curriculum and for school administration. Another innovation is the affiliation of schools to INet2 which enables schools to network through technology and share international best practices.

The Partners in Learning (PIL) is another project which promote towards innovative teaching strategies using IT and the use of search engines as a pedagogical tool.

1 - http://www.uiowa.edu/ifdebook/faq/NEPAD.shtml

2 - http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/inet/99/proceedings/inet.htm

Recently webcasting has been introduced for educational interactions between the different stakeholders namely Rectors, teachers and students.

For students taking mathematics at advanced level, an interactive multimedia CD-ROM has been launched by the MCA to help them master five important chapters namely complex numbers, differential equations, permutations and combinations, probability and vectors. Also, the "Physics ICT Data Logging Project", an innovative project for the use of ICT in the teaching of science, has already been launched on a pilot basis in 12 secondary schools.

Following the various reforms being out in the educational field and responding to our students' needs, we need to bring forward technology - enriched learning activities to close the gap between technology and education. This is henceforth the challenge for us educators as well as our secondary schools.

Educators will need to build on their professional and educational expertise. ICT can no longer be restricted as a subject but needs to come forward as a support to the curriculum.

Problem Statement:

We are living in an era of technology, consequently students are more and more disinterested in the routine teaching method whereby the teacher is the sole dispenser of knowledge.

Constructivism

Youngsters, nowadays live in a totally different world where they are more focused on anything linked to technology such as mobile phones, IPod3, laptops and various other gadgets. Students are living in a global, knowledge - based age. Retaining their attention has become a major challenge for teachers today. Hence the growing need for teachers "to speak their language"; therefore bring technology to teaching.

An educator needs to create interest in his class by being dynamic, innovative and challenging. Being aware of the societal demands, he is called upon to modify, change, adapt and keep abreast of the needs of the society.

Much is expected from our educators to contribute towards the visionary mission of the government. Various policies in education are meant to provide pupils with access to IT in all learning areas. The role of educators will not be only of providers of information but must change to that of facilitators, mediators and guides in bringing meaningful learning. Educators are the key agents of the reforms to be brought in the educational system.

3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod

However, taking into account the present situation, the vision of using ICT as a teaching tool is far from being achieved.

Aims and Objectives of the Research Project:

delineate the claimed benefits and issues irising from the use of technology enhanced support in the school curriculum

Investigate whether teachers are aware of how to use and integrate ICT in their teaching;

Are teachers ready to shift from traditional teaching method to teaching with technology;

Look up whether teachers have adequate facilities and infrastructure to integrate technological tools in their classroom;

Suggest use of technology in the teaching process in various subjects to foster learning and improve performance by learners;

Promote active teaching and learning in classrooms.

Outline our observations and reflections following surveys with educators.

Proposed Research Questions:

What is the attitude of educators towards the implementation of ICT as a tool in their teaching?

Do educators have the sufficient expertise to integrate ICT in their teaching?

What are the appropriate training and workshops that educators need?

Are our secondary schools equipped with the necessary facilities to support this ambitious project?

To what extent can ICT tools be useful and effective as a tool to stimulate interest of learners?

To what extent can ICT tools create a difference for educators and students in learning?

Are educators aware of new technologies that can support the learning and teaching process?

Rationale behind the project:

Today, the world is moving rapidly towards globalization, fierce competition and technology. Our present school curriculum requires enquiry, interpretation, logical thought from our students. They need to be prepared for critical and creative thinking skills. This has called upon educators to review their conventional teaching methodology. They will have to foster their students' innate sense of wonder and curiosity, encourage creativity, imagination and critical thinking skills. We need to bring about a major shift in the mindset of our educators as well.

To be able to bring about these changes, we need to identify the weaknesses of our current education system. Various factors have to be considered while planning to integrate technology in our classrooms such as the classrooms set up in our schools, teaching methods, ability to work with technological tools and the required IT expertise. It is only after highlighting the barriers and obstacles for integrating ICT as a teaching tool in our schools that we can look for appropriate solutions.

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