INTEGRATING ICT IN THE TEACHING AND LEARNING PROCESS

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Information and Communications Technology commonly termed as ICT comes from the acronym IT and CT and refers to methods of storing, manipulating and communicating information.          

Information Technology (IT), as defined by the Smart Computing Dictionary, is

"A general term used to describe any technology that helps to produce, manipulate, store, communicate, or disseminate information. IT refers to the most expensive, complex computers, with devices usually dealing with electronic data in binary format. However, these IT machines are not able to communicate with one another."

And, Communication Technology (CT) is "the term used to describe telecommunications equipment through which information can be sought and accessed". (New Zealand MOE, 1998). Examples include: video conferencing, teleconference phones, and modems.

Globally, educational systems are adopting new technologies to integrate ICT in the teaching and learning process, to prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need in their subject matter. In this way the teaching profession is evolving from teacher-centered to student-centered learning environments. "ICT integration is understood as the usage of technology seamlessly for educational processes like transacting curricular content and students working on technology to do authentic tasks" (Kainth and Kaur). Nowadays ICT facilitate not only the delivery of lessons but also the learning process itself. This includes computer based technologies, digital imaging, the internet, file servers, data storage devices, network infrastructure, desktops, laptops and broadcasting technologies namely radio and television, and telephone which are used as instructional tools at schools.

INTEGRATING ICT IN THE TEACHING AND LEARNING PROCESS

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In Mauritius government has spent tremendously to promote ICT integration in teaching and learning. Is it worth investing so much money? What advantages do ICT have in education? Many researchers have given their view points about the advantages and how ICT can be integrated in curriculum.

Allen (1997) believed that the basic skills of the future are the use of powerful technologies. The traditional textbook can no longer fulfill the need in the rapid changing and the information-explosion world. He asserted that the traditional teacher-centered approach makes classroom no longer an effective system to prepare students for the realities which they face in the near future.

Parmley et al. (1997) stated that technology works best as a supporting tool-making complex processes or creative experience either possible or easier to accomplish. He thought that technology can offer new ways to provide meaningful, real-life context for learning, it also allow students to collaborate with peers and experts across the country and around the World.

Rosener (1997) described IT as good as, or even better than, traditional method of teaching and learning as it being limitless of time and space. Poole (1998) pointed out that suitably integrated computer use can contribute to successful results in the classroom as to: support teaching and learning, support children's socialisation, enable children with disabilities to integrate and enables a teacher to duplicate excellence.

According to Kennewell et al. (2000), integration of ICT in teaching requires understanding at a deeper level to facilitate the development of strategies and process to identify opportunities, solve problems and evaluate solution. They believe that these higher-level objectives require not only technical knowledge and skills, but the ability to choose an effective strategy for a problem. Poole (1998) shared his view that the technology is only a tool to both teacher and student. The effectiveness of the tool depends entirely on the skills they bring to the learning process. He believed that the teachers' task is thus to nurture the students willingness to learn.

Gregoire et al (1996) provided the following important points in respecting student learning in analysing that the contribution new technologies can make to teaching and learning:

New technologies stimulate the development of intellectual skills

New technologies contribute to the ways of learning knowledge, skills and attitudes, but still dependent on pre-requisite knowledge and type of learning activity.

New technologies spur spontaneous interest more than traditional approaches of learning.

Students using new technologies concentrate more than those in traditional settings

Moreover the above outlined points are balanced by further genuine observations:

Benefits of ICT for students are greatly dependent on the technological skills of the teachers and their attitudes towards technology.

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Skill and attitude in turn are largely dependent on the staff training in this area. (UNESCO Paris, 2002).

2.2.1 Impact of ICT on education

In educational context, ICT has the potential to increase access to education and improve its relevance and quality. Tinio (2002) asserted that ICT has a tremendous impact on education in terms of acquisition and absorption of knowledge to both teachers and students through the promotion of:

• Active learning: ICT tools help for the calculation and analysis of information obtained for examination and also students' performance report are all being computerised and made easily available for inquiry. In contrast to memorisation-based or rote learning, ICT promotes learner engagement as learners choose what to learn at their own pace and work on real life situations' problems.

• Collaborative and Cooperative learning: ICT encourages interaction and cooperation among students, teachers regardless of distance which is between them. It also provides students the chance to work with people from different cultures and working together in groups, hence help students to enhance their communicative skills as well as their global awareness. Researchers have found that typically the use of ICT leads to more cooperation among learners within and beyond school and there exists a more interactive relationship between students and teachers (Grégoire et al., 1996). "Collaboration is a philosophy of interaction and personal lifestyle where individuals are responsible for their actions, including learning and respect the abilities and contributions of their peers." (Panitz, 1996).

• Creative Learning: ICT promotes the manipulation of existing information and to create one's own knowledge to produce a tangible product or a given instructional purpose.

• Integrative learning: ICT promotes an integrative approach to teaching and learning, by eliminating the synthetic separation between theory and practice unlike in the traditional classroom where emphasis encloses just a particular aspect.

• Evaluative learning: Use of ICT for learning is student-centered and provides useful feedback through various interactive features. ICT allow students to discover and learn through new ways of teaching and learning which are sustained by constructivist theories of learning rather than students do memorisation and rote learning.

And a mentioned in "Teaching of ICT" by MIE/IGNOU (2005), improvements in telecommunication technologies can lead education to provide more independence to teachers and students by:

Better use of learning resources- a presentation once made through use of technologies can be showed to students over and over again.

Motivating to learn-ICTs combine text, sound, and colourful, moving images that increase learners' motivation and their interest to learn.

Facilitating the acquisition of basic concepts that are the foundation for higher order concepts and creativity can be facilitated through drill and practice as repetition and reinforcement of content and skills are being focused.

Aspect

Less

'traditional pedagogy'

More

'emerging pedagogy' for the information society

Active

• Activities prescribed by

teacher

• Whole class instruction

• Little variation in activities

• Pace determined by the

programme

• Small groups

• Activities determined by

learners

• Many different activities

• Pace determined by learners

Collaborative

• Individual

• Homogenous groups

• Everyone for him/herself

• Working in teams

• Heterogeneous groups

• Supporting each other

Creative

• Reproductive learning

• Apply known solutions to

problems

• Productive learning

• Find new solutions to

problems

Integrative

• No link between theory and

practice

• Separate subjects

• Discipline-based

• Individual teachers

• Integrating theory and

practice

• Relations between subjects

• Teams of teachers

• Thematic

Evaluative

• Teacher-directed

• Summative

•Student-directed

• DiagnosticTable 2.2.1 Overview of Pedagogy in the Industrial versus the Information Society

While theoretical arguments can be put forward to provide a strong rationale for the use of ICT in enhancing the teaching and learning process, the only real rationale is based on whether, in practice, it has a positive impact on learning, the learners, and teachers (Newhouse, 2002).

Figure 2.2.2 depicts a plausible impact of ICT on learning, students, the curriculum, teachers, schools, and school systems, and at the same time, showing the relevant connections between these entities.

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Figure 2.2.2: Concept map indicating relationships between

learning environment entities and external entities.

IMPACT OF ICT ON LEARNERS

ICT has very strong effect in education and it provides enormous tools for enhancing teaching and learning. There have been many studies that have highlighted the various ways that ICT may support teaching and learning processes in a range of disciplinary fields such as the construction of new opportunities for interaction between students and knowledge and accessing information. ICT enable new ways teaching and learning when used appropriately under right conditions such as suitable resources, training and support. ICT also offers the potential to meet the learning needs of individual students, to promote equal opportunity, to offer learning material, and also promote interdependence of learning among learners (Leach, Ahmed, Makalima & Power, 2005).

The five ways to establish and sustain effective learning environments through ICT suggested by the Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning (2000) are:

1. Real world problems

2. Scaffolding

3. Feedback, reflection and guidance

4. Local and global communities

5. Extending teacher learning. (Newhouse, 2002)

IMPACT OF ICT ON TEACHERS

Roblyer and Edwards (2000) suggested that there are five important reasons for teachers to use technology in education:

(1) Motivation;

(2) Distinctive instructional abilities;

(3) Higher productivity of teachers;

(4) Essential skills for the Information Age and

(5) Support for new teaching techniques (Samak, 2006).

In order to make use of technology in the classroom effectively, educators should have a positive attitude toward technology and they should be trained in using the modern technologies in their respective field of education. Chin and Hortin (1994) stated that teachers must act as the "change agent" in the relationship between technology and the students as teachers are more likely to implement the recommended and proposed changes concerning ICT in education.

But at the same time there are many challenges faced by educators as they consider how best to best incorporate ICT tools into their teaching. This is being discussed in the following article.

2.4.1 Factors affecting technology integration in Teaching and Learning

I. Jung talks about the enormous challenge teachers are facing in our society due to the rapid expansion of knowledge. The modern technologies are demanding that teachers learn how to use these technologies in their teaching. Hence these new technologies increase the teachers' training needs. Gressard and Loyd (1985) asserted that teacher's attitudes toward computers are a key factor in the successful implementation of ICT in education. They pointed out that teachers do not always have positive attitudes towards computers and their poor attitudes may lead to a failure of the computer- based projects.

Also the most commonly cited barriers are:

lack of time;

lack of access;

lack of resources;

lack of expertise and

lack of support (Butler and Sellbom, 2002, Leggettt & Persichitte, 1998).

Another barrier given by Butler and Sellbom (2002) and Chizmar & Williams (2001) is reliability. Reliability included hardware failures, incompatible software between home and school, poor or slow internet connectivity and out of date software which are available mostly at school while the students/educators are having more up-to-date software at home.

SUBJECT DIFFERENCE IN ICT INTEGRATION

Subject being taught is also a factor influencing the integration of ICT in the teaching and learning process. In general, science teachers have more positive attitudes towards ICT and possess a higher level of computer literacy knowledge than other teachers such as Arts, Humanities and Commerce.

Law et al (2000) believe that they used ICT in their teaching more frequently. Rosener (1997) sated that the use of IT should be used when they provide more opportunities for students to visualise and understand study materials. In areas where the subject matter focuses more on value, meaning and philosophical ideas, IT will only partially be able to substitute for human interaction. However, in areas which have a high volume of students studying the subject like the sciences which constitute of a standardised curriculum and factual content, it will more likely be able to supplement the content and teaching methods with use of ICT.

ICT AND MATHEMATICS

There are many potential uses for computers in the teaching and learning process of mathematics. According to Oldknow and Taylor (2000), the role of ICT in the teaching and learning process of mathematics are as follows:

In terms of teachers, the use of ICT:-

Improves their efficiency

Reduces their administrative burden since less paperwork

Releases more time to address students individually

Provides better records of students' progress

Acts as a stimulus to rethinking their approach to their mathematics teaching

Acts as a stimulus to rethinking their understanding of mathematics

Acts as a means to communicate with other teachers sharing the common problems.

The use of ICT makes students:-

Engage their attention and motivate them

Stimulate their curiosity

Encourage them to develop their problem-solving strategies

Provide models and images which aid them in concept formation

Improve their test and examination results since they learn by own pace and learn through feedback provided to them.

Mathematics lessons are associated with real life situations and increases the relevancy of the lessons to the real world. The curriculum needs to be updated continually to take account of the technology prevalent in society. Mathematics has tended to be very abstract while most students tend to operate on a concrete level. The use of concrete materials in some lessons is useful but often not convenient. The computer can provide experiences with virtual concrete materials. In approaching problems associated with remedial and extension students' computer use can provide appropriate material and overcome classroom management problems.

In 1995 the National Council for Educational Technology published a leaflet in which are included the six opportunities students can enhance their mathematics learning through the use of ICT:

Learning from feedback: Fast and reliable feedback is provided which encourages students to make their own judgements and to test out and work over their ideas.

Observing patterns: The use of computers and electronic calculators enables students to practice as many examples as possible when working out mathematical problems. This chains their study of patterns.

Seeing connections: With use of ICT graphs and related formulae and tables of numbers are readily linked. Changing one value probes them to see the immediate effects in the other variables thus helps students to understand the connections between them.

Working with dynamic images: Students can make use of IT to manipulate diagrams. This encourages them to visualise the change of geometry when using the required software and this develops their reasoning skills.

Exploring data: With the use of IT students get the opportunity to work with real data which can be represented in a variety of ways, which supports explanation and analysis.

Teaching the computer: When students design algorithm to achieve a particular result, they are required to express their commands clearly and in the correct order thus developing their thinking skills.

These listed opportunities are applicable with the existence of ICT tools that can help students in their mathematics learning and teachers can map those mentioned opportunities with the various types of ICT tools (including both software and hardware), from the guide "ICT and Mathematics", for instance

Hand-held technology - use numerical and graphing features of graphical calculators

with data-loggers

Programming languages - use Logo

Small software - in the form of games and simulations.

Spreadsheets - set up a basic spreadsheet to enter data and replicate formulae

- use of advance facilities of like statistical graphing

Web-sites - explore web-based resources related to mathematics teaching.

Whiteboards - use of electronic whiteboards for whole-class teaching, using OHPs.

General purpose software - Microsoft Office package such as Excel, Word,

Explorer and PowerPoint.

Mathematics teaching software - dynamic geometry software(for constructions and

transformations e.g. for coordinates, measures) and

interactive package including graph-plotting using

Graph-plotters, data-handling (database or statistical

software), symbolic algebra.

E-learning- For e.g.Xerte (open source e-learning) is an interactive program and a fully-

featured e-learning development for creating rich interactive environment.

An example is taken from the guide "ICT and Mathematics" on the dynamic geometry software. This can help students arrive at a convincing proof.

Figure 2.6: Geometry Software

The software is used to see the sights of the relationship between the areas of quadrilaterals and the areas of the figures formed by joining their midpoints. The two areas appear to be equal, but clearer seen by dragging

A,B,C or D about through the software. So formulating a speculation that the area of EFGH is always half that of ABCD EFGH always appears to be a parallelogram or by adding

a diagonal BD, might suggest geometric relationships from which students can arrive at a convincing proof.

As mentioned in the leaflet from "Mathematics and IT - a pupil's entitlement" in the guide "ICT and Mathematics":

"As the technology progresses and becomes more prevalent, teachers will also need to be continually reconsidering the mathematical content of their teaching. Having software which can, for example, solve systems of equations at the touch of a button has strong implications for the way particular topics are approached."

One vital aspect of the widespread availability of ICT tools and easy access to resources of mathematical information through the Internet is that they can enable us to keep in touch with developments prevailing around the world for Mathematics.

The four key concepts, highlighted in the ICT in mathematics (DfES, 2004), that are noteworthy for mathematics are:

using data and information sources;

organising and investigating;

analysing and automating processes;

models and modelling.

How can the use of ICT raise standards in mathematics? (DfES, 2004)

ICT can be used as a tool:

to support teachers in teaching an objective more effectively, in improving lesson design and improving teaching and learning;

to enable pupils to engage with learning and to be motivated to improve their learning;

to enable pupils to access geometrical, graphical and statistical ideas dynamically and so to make connections in their learning;

to build pupils' confidence in their mathematical abilities by testing their conjectures, learning from feedback and using reasoning to modify their solutions.

Students learning mathematics most benefit from the use of ICT in areas such as:

the teacher using an interactive or electronic whiteboard for starters and plenaries;

the teacher using an electronic whiteboard for interactive teaching in the main part of the lesson;

using generic software such as databases or spreadsheets as a means of making sense of data;

using content-free, mathematics-specific software on computers or graphical calculators to aid visualisation and help make connections in algebra and geometry;

using simple programming languages, such as LOGO, to build increasingly complex mathematical models and relationships in shape and space, number and algebra;

using content-specific software, usually targeting specific mathematical skills;

processing and interpreting experimental information from data-loggers;

using information resources such as the Internet, CD-ROMs or data files.

E-Learning

E-Learning "comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching." (Wikipedia). It can use an information network or even no network necessary for the lessons delivery and interaction. It can also be termed as term online learning. Tinio mentioned that Web-based learning is a subset of e-learning and refers to learning using an Internet browser (such as Netscape or Internet Explorer).

Figure 2.6.2: E-Learning

2.6.3 Blended Learning

Another learning model which is evolving in our educational system is blended learning. This refers to combining traditional classroom methods with e-learning solutions. For example, students in a traditional class can be assigned with printed copies and also online materials through an educational program and even have online monitoring sessions with their teachers through the chat. Blended learning is a supplement to traditional delivery methods in class to support face-to-face lessons. (Tinio). Blending learning can be an online or offline process.

2.6.4 Open Source E Learning

Like any teaching styles, e-learning requires a variety of resources to be run effectively. (Tinio).So there are many interactive packages which can be of great use and they are free software packages and of good use to educators since they help to add plain text, images, videos, drawings and other interactivities to their teaching and also various types of questions are included like:

true/false

multiple choice

matching

fill in the blank

calculations

When the student clicks on the submit button, they get their feedback directly and can have repetition of the work if need is.

Thus e-learning can be beneficial to educators in the following ways as described by the University of Nottingham:

E-learning is delivered through blended learning to supplement traditional learning methods.

E-learning can cover a large or small part of a lesson, having already the necessary materials that can be converted into e-learning.

Any use of technology to support the teaching and learning process can be described as e-learning.

Help to manage and organise lessons materials in a more effective and efficient way

Reduction of administrative tasks, for example printed materials and marking tests

Enable educators to monitor student involvement and progress and offer support and advice promptly and make effective use of teacher-student contact time

Widen communication opportunities with students

Help the change in educators' role from knowledge provider to learning facilitator

Encourage the development of flexible learning materials.

The University of Nottingham stated that in terms of students, e-learning:

Encourage flexibility of access to lesson materials- anytime, anywhere

Provide self-responsibility for learning and allow students to learn at their own pace and to keep track of their progress

Enhance student participation while encouraging less confident students to take part

Encourage student engagement when using interactive learning materials and improve students' motivation and satisfaction and facilitate understanding of the subject matter

Promote communication with educators

Promote peer support as there is more interaction between the students

Help in the preparation of upcoming topics and revision of preceding lessons

Increase the accessibility of information and lesson materials to students with low abilities in the subject matter.