The Importance Of It In Schools Education Essay

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According to Pelgrum and Law (2003) in the early 1980s, the term 'computer' was replaced by 'IT' (Information Technology) which means a shift from computing technology to the capacity to store and retrieve information. Hence, the term 'ICT' (Information and Communication Technology) was brought forward around 1992 (Pelgrum, W.J., Law, N., 2003).

Another definition says that ICT includes the networks and services which affect the local and global accumulation and flows of public and private knowledge (Adeya, N.C., 2002). In addition, Adeya (2002) came forward with a simplified definition describing ICT as an 'electronic mean of capturing, processing, storing and disseminating information'.

The term ICT involves multimedia, the Internet or the Web, as a medium to enhance instruction or as a replacement for other media (Pelgrum, W.J. Law, N., 2003). ICT are both pervasive symbols of modern society and essential business tools. Household have embraced them too for a variety of uses, from entertainment and shopping to paying bills and searching for information.

2.2 ICT in Education

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With the wide use of computers, equipping students with computer skills has become an important goal of school systems in developed countries as well as in many developing countries. Many of these countries see ICT as a potential tool for change and innovation in the education field (Erdogan, 2009, adapted from Eurydice, 2001; Papanastasiou & Angeli, 2008) and thus, they make large investments in the integration of ICT in schools. For example, Europe and Central Asia allocate 22% of their budget to ICT (Erdogan, 2009, adapted from World Bank, 2007).

According to Pelgrum and Law (2003) ICT in education became popular in educational policy-making in the early 1980s, when consumer market began the sale of cheap microcomputers. These intellectuals also noted that by the early introduction of microcomputers in education in 1980s, education was expected to be more effective and motivating. However, Hepp, Hinostroza, Laval and Rehbein (2004) advocated in their paper "Technology in Schools: Education, ICT and the Knowledge Society" that ever since the inception of ICT in education, they have been used but not to its maximum. Nevertheless, although in the early 1980s computers were not been fully integrated in the learning of traditional subjects, the commonly accepted perception that the system of education would have to prepare the students for a knowledgeable society increased the interest in ICT (Pelgrum, W.J., Law, N., 2003).

Moreover, Kozma and Anderson (2002) write in their paper "ICT and Educational Reform in Developed and Developing Countries" that for an economy to be knowledgeable, education should be its primary necessity. Simultaneously, the teaching strategies in schools are bending towards ICT. This change towards ICT has been very dramatic. Similarly, Kozma and Wagner (2003) agreed on the idea that ICT will enhance the basic education and is a very challenging field of development work nowadays, in both poor and wealthy nations (Wagner, D., Kozma, R., 2003).

Indeed, computers have become an essential component of the 21st century in the educational sector. Computer in the teaching and learning process has the potential to motivate and stimulate students, develop critical thinking and offer educators with further opportunities in the case of variation, differentiation and remedial approaches. The emergence of the new global economy is empowered by the ever-changing technology and is fuelled by information driven by knowledge, as underlined by futurist Alvin Toffler, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn" (Thornburg, 2000). Keeping pace with technological development and the changing competencies required of both students and educators the right attitudes.

2.3 Importance of ICT in Schools

ICT can be used in three ways at schools: for educators to present, assess and monitor knowledge; to enhance administrative work; as "learning content in relationship to students' information literacy" (Myungnghee Kang et al., 2011).

2.3.1 ICT and Students

Over the past few years, several large-scale international studies have documented the successful integration of ICT in schools (Lim & Hang, 2003, adapted from Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker & Kottkamp, 1999; Sivin-Kachala, 1998; Wenglinsky, 1998). These research studies have shown that ICT facilitates the acquisition of higher order thinking skills by providing cognitive scaffoldings for students as they make sense of the information gathered; allowing experts, educators and students to communicate their thoughts and interests in subject matters and simulating real-life situations and problems for students as they explore the connections between concepts and ideas.

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21st century children choose to look for answers to their questions on the internet (Myungnghee Kang et al., 2011). Also, students who had followed ICT courses had more possibilities of being employed as most of the jobs nowadays require a good knowledge of ICT.

Research studies have brought forward the fact that the use of ICT as well as other teaching strategies have enabled students to move to higher-order thinking (Jonassen & Carr, 2000; Kearney & Treagust, 2001; Oliver & Hannafin, 2000). Thus, students develop constructive thinking skills. As a result the students are learning in order to prepare themselves for the future information age (Salomon, 1993). According to Kozma (2005) ICT can be used to enhance student understanding, thus increasing the quality of education.

In addition, Papert (1997) noted the advantages of ICT for students and they may be as such: the students are more motivated and as such they become more creative when they are faced with new learning environments. Also, they are prone to assimilate in a disciplined way working collaboratively with their peers. As a result, they are able to generate knowledge. They will have the capacity to handle rapid change in any type of environment.

Some theorists acknowledge that ICT can help students to become knowledgeable, reduce the extent to which direct instructions are given to them and give educators a chance to help those students with special educational needs (Iding, Crosby, & Speitel, 2002; Shamatha, Peressini, & Meymaris 2004; Romeo, 2006).

2.3.2 ICT and Educators

The integration of technology in schools has brought about changes to educators' roles in the classroom. The classrooms where technology is being used have their educators often compared to that of a facilitator or coach rather than a lecturer (Gahala, 2001, adapted from Henriquez & Riconscente, 1998).

As educators use ICT in classroom, their teachings are proved to be very fruitful. Hence, in order to be at such level, training is a must for all educators so that they acquire sufficient expertise for effective teaching. As a pedagogical tool, ICT can provide a new framework so as to improve teaching. Hence, learning will be done in a collaborative, project-based as well as self-paced way.

As students become more independent, educators who are not familiar to act as facilitators or coaches may not understand how technology can be used as part of activities that are not teacher-directed. This is a situation where the teacher gets an excellent opportunity to learn from the students as well as to model being an information seeker, lifelong learner and risk taker.

As part of their job requirements, educators are expected to use technology tools in many cases. As technology continue to impact on teaching and learning, expectations on educators to exploit technological advantages will rise, leading educators to experience the pressures of having to toggle between pedagogy and technology in a seamless way (Teo, 2011, adapted from Pelgrum, 2001). The extent to which this is well-executed depends on educators' willingness to employ technology in teaching and learning. When educators do not use technology the way it was designed to serve, the affordances of technology cannot be maximised for effective teaching and learning to take place. For this reason, many studies on technology acceptance have been conducted over the years and it appeared that these studies had focused on the identification of factors that influenced technology acceptance among educators and students. These included personal factors such as attitudes towards computers (Teo 2011, adapted from Teo, 2008; Teo & Noyes, 2011), computer self-efficacy (Teo 2011, adapted from Tsai, Tsai & Hwang, 2010), technical factors such as technological complexity (Teo, 2011, adapted from Thong, Hong & Tam, 2002) and environmental factors such as facilitating conditions (Teo, 2011, adapted from Ngai, Poon & Chan, 2007).

2.3.3 ICT and Administrators

In fact, academic institutions typically lag businesses by roughly a decade in the adoption of new technologies (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995, adapted from U.S. Congress, 1988). This is certainly true in terms of the application of ICT into the learning process: the blackboard and chalk remain the primary teaching technologies in many schools even while the merits of ICT to improve communication, efficiency and decision making in organizations are recognized and inculcated by researchers.

ICT is important because of the expansive use of automated systems in all activities. ICT has become important in research, library, documentation, etc. Technologies have opened a new door for human activities.

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According to Hepp, Hinostroza, Laval and Rehbein (2004) in view of increasing productivity, ICT should be seen as a very important tool in education from classroom to the top management team. ICT play the role of diminishing the burden of the administration of the school, hence there will be the prevalence of a more effective as well as integrated flow of information among educators, students and non-teaching staff.

2.4 Policies in Integrating icT in Schools

Hepp, Hinostroza, Laval and Rehbein (2004) pointed out that for an ICT policy to be effective, it should not be brought forward alone but rather, there ought to be a comprehensive effort so as to improve the equity and quality of the structure of education. In the same wave of thinking, Levine (1998) put emphasis on the importance of bringing forward a plan which is based on real school needs. Thus, it would be more realistic, achievable and effective. The plan should be implemented just for the sake of bringing technology in the classroom (Levine, J., 1998). Added to that, Hepp, Hinostroza, Laval and Rehbein (2004) have been very explicitly explained that there is no universal truth for applying ICT in education. It all depends on each country's reality, priorities and long-term budgetary prospects and commitment.

In Mauritius, The Master Plan on education was prepared in 1991 and identified ICT education as an important pre-requisite for the economic development of the country. According to the Master Plan (1991, pp. 75) "IT will play an increasingly important role in creating the efficient, effective and modern information services which will constitute the back-bone of a modern industrial economy. The future economic sectors in Mauritius will demand a highly skilled labour force that understand the strategic importance of information and will be able to exploit the benefits of technology to improve the competitive edge of Mauritius enterprise…The education system of Mauritius needs to take cognizance of these issues".

Also, it was decided to use three long-term strategies, that of extending Computer Literary to Form I and Form II students as well, integrating ICT across the curriculum and offering Computer Studies or Information Technology as a specialist subject to those who wished to develop broader technology capability. However, only the first strategy has been implemented successfully to date whereas ICT has not yet been fully integrated in the teaching and learning process and Computer Studies remains a subject designed, monitored and assessed by University of Cambridge International Examinations and as such Computer Studies as a subject still attracts lesser candidates than many other subjects in the secondary school curriculum, around 26% at School Certificate level and 10% at Higher School Certificate level (Digest of Educational Statistics, 2006, 2008).

Furthermore, the Education and Human Resources Plan 2008-2020 (2009) had different goals set for the pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in Mauritius which were as follows:

Strategic

Goals

Strategic Objectives

2008-2020 Target/Indicators

Activities

Pre-primary

Embed technology in the system

To expose young learners to modern technology for familiarization purposes

Schools equipped with IT facilities by end 2010

Train educators in ICT

Encourage pre-schools to use ICT as a tool in the teaching/learning process

Primary

Provision of quality

education to all

Embed support

technologies in the

system

All schools technologically

equipped by 2015

Use ICT as a tool for teaching/learning in the classroom

Review and develop instructional

materials that are responsive to

changing technological needs

Secondary

Introduce support technology

in the system

ICT introduced in all

schools for use by all

Educators

ICT Plan developed for secondary schools by 2010

ICT used across the system by 2015

To provide ICT facilities to ensure that all educators use ICT facilities on a regular basis for teaching and learning

Make provision for wider use of online materials and Knowledge Channel

All students leaving secondary are equipped with ICT skills to adapt to the requirements of future needs of independent learning.

2.4.1 Stages for ICT Integration in Education

However, even with a coherent and detailed policy and careful planning, ICT integration in education is a complex process. Various studies pointed out four main stages of ICT adoption and their use in education.

(Source: UNESCO Bangkok 2005)

 At the first stage which is the emerging stage in ICT development, the educators and learners are discovering ICT tools and their general functions and uses and the emphasis is usually on ICT literacy and basic skills.

 The second stage involves learning how to use ICT tools and beginning to make use of them in different disciplines. This involves the use of general as well as particular applications of ICT and it is linked with the applying stage in the ICT development model.

 At the third stage, there is understanding of how and when to use ICT tools to achieve a particular purpose such as in completing a given project. This stage implies the ability to recognize situations where ICT will be helpful, choosing the most appropriate tools for a particular task and using these tools in combination to solve real problems. This is linked with the infusing stage in the ICT development model.

 The fourth stage is when the learning situation is transformed through the use of ICT. This is a new way of approaching teaching and learning situations with specialized ICT tools and it is linked with the transforming stage in the ICT development model.

Progression through the stages takes time and the transformation of pedagogical practice requires more ICT skills training for educators. Too often the approach taken to teacher training in ICT integration is the one-off crash course on computer literacy. This approach does not enable educators to integrate ICT in their day-to-day activities and master the use of ICT as an effective tool for teaching and learning.

2.5 ICT and Pedagogy

2.5.1 The Changing Nature of Pedagogy

Researchers' and academics' conceptualization of pedagogy has changed in tandem with recent developments in our understanding of cognition and meta-cognition (Watkins and Mortimore, 1997). Many writers have also suggested that developments in ICT provide very different learning opportunities and a need to design a new 'integrated pedagogy' has been identified (Cornu, 1995). For example, McLoughlin and Oliver (1999) define pedagogical roles for educators in a technology-supported classroom as including setting joint tasks, rotating roles, promoting student self-management, supporting mega-cognition, fostering multiple perspectives and scaffolding learning. An assumption here is that the use of ICT is changing pedagogical roles of educators and a compelling rationale for using ICT in schools is its potential to act as a catalyst in transforming the teaching and learning process (Hawkridge, 1990).

2.5.2 Educators' Subject Knowledge

The way ICT is used in lessons is influenced by the educators' knowledge about their subject and how ICT is related to it. Some educators choose ICT resources that relate to a particular topic, while others use ICT to present the pupils' work in an innovative way, without any direct application to the topic. The evidence shows that when educators use their knowledge of both the subject and the way pupils understood the subject, their use of ICT has a more direct effect on pupils' attainment. The effect on attainment is greatest when pupils are challenged to think and to question their own understanding, either through pupils using topic-focused software on their own or in pairs or through a whole-class presentation. However, the effects of using ICT to present and discuss pupils' work are less well researched and therefore, the effects on pupils' attainment are not so clear.

2.5.3 Educators' Pedagogical Knowledge

The teacher's own pedagogical beliefs and values play an important part in shaping technology-mediated learning opportunities. It is not yet clear from the research literature whether this results in technology being used as a 'servant' to reinforce existing teaching approaches or as a 'partner' to change the way educators and pupils interact with each other and with the tasks.

2.5.4 Pedagogical Practices of the Teacher using ICT

The pedagogical practices of educators using ICT can range from only small enhancements of practices using what are essentially traditional methods, to more fundamental changes in their approach to teaching. Studies show that the most effective uses of ICT are those in which the teacher and the software can challenge pupils' understanding and thinking. If the teacher has the skills to organize and stimulate the ICT-based activity, then both whole-class and individual work can be equally effective.

2.5.5 Educators' Knowledge of the Potential of ICT in Education

In spite of educators often being limited by the ICT resources available to them, there are many examples in the literature of educators having a good understanding of a particular resource. However, very few educators have a comprehensive knowledge of the wide range of ICT resources now available in education. This means that their pupils are not given all the learning opportunities which ICT could provide. Educators need extensive knowledge of ICT to be able to select the most appropriate resources. They also need to understand how to incorporate the use of ICT into their lessons; they may need to develop new pedagogies to achieve this.

2.5.6 Educators' Confidence in using ICT

Educators are confident in their chosen uses of ICT. Few educators are confident in using a wide range of ICT resources and limited confidence affects the way the lesson is conducted. Many educators still fear some forms of technology, which prevents them making much use of them in their teaching.

2.5.7 Organisation - The School

The use of ICT has a limited impact on teaching and learning where educators fail to appreciate that interactivity requires a new approach to pedagogy, lesson planning and the curriculum. Some educators reorganize the delivery of the curriculum but the majority use of ICT to add to or enhance their existing practices. Educators need to employ proactive and responsive strategies in order to guide, facilitate and support appropriate learning activities.

2.5.8 Effects of Pedagogical Practices on Pupils' Attainment

There is extensive evidence of ICT contributing to pupils' attainment, However, the evidence shows that these benefits depend on the way in which the educators select and organize ICT resources and how this use in integrated into other activities in the classroom and beyond. At present, the types of ICT resources available mean that ICT use is nearly always focused on specific aspects of the curriculum. There are two clear areas where educators have been shown to embed ICT in their teaching and where this has enhanced learning; these are in:

English and Literacy, through the use of word processing, presentation software and interactive video

Mathematics and Science, through the use of simulations, modelling and other specific ICT resources.

2.6 ICT in Teaching and Learning

There is a consensus about what constitutes technology in teaching and learning; however, the common link tends to be some use of the personal computer to aid teaching and learning in some form or fashion. These technologies run the continuum of integration in education from entire courses put on the Web to technology integrated into a specific lesson. Though most research studies focus on computer-based technology, there are other teaching and learning technologies that are not computer-based. These can include overhead projectors, document cameras, laser pointers, robotics, television, VCR, DVD, demonstration equipment, sound systems, CDs, tape recordings, simulation machines and models. Some researchers even consider the traditional piece of chalk and talk a type of technology.

2.6.1 ICT in Teaching Mathematics

The use of ICT has a long history in Mathematics education. Many societies, for example, introduce Arithmetic with an Abacus, for two reasons. First, the Abacus supports computation. Second, the Abacus presents a tangible image of Mathematics, which helps students understand difficult concepts. Computation and representation go hand-in-hand, both historically and in the present. For example, in primary school classrooms, many educators use concrete manipulative, such as Geoboards (allowing children to make geometric figures by stretching rubber bands over a grid of nails) or Dienes Blocks (providing children with a physical model of the place-value system in which "473" means four hundreds, seven tens and 3 ones). In secondary school, researchers have found that more advanced tools are necessary. These advanced tools help students learn by supporting computation and by giving abstract ideas a more tangible form.

Researchers have found that whereas physical manipulative are the right tangible form for elementary school, ICT-based tools are the right tangible form for secondary school (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Kaput, 1992; Kaput 2007). Researchers have found that ICT can support learning when appropriately integrated with teaching techniques, curriculum and assessments (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Means & Haertel, 2004). Thus for more specific guidance, educators should look for research on integrated use of ICT in Mathematics teaching.

All people face limits in the number of levels or details they can keep track of during problem solving. In addition to the unavoidable difficulty of a particular Mathematics problem, learners may experience additional cognitive load (i.e. thinking difficulties) in the materials and tools they use. Educators should minimize load that is unimportant to the current learning goal and direct student activity to thinking that is germane to what they should be learning (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Sweller, 1988). Technology can be useful to the extent it focuses student thinking in ways that are germane, not extraneous.

What is important or germane depends on the Mathematics topic and age of the student. In primary school, it is important to learn to do Arithmetic fluently. Using technology to do this thinking for the student would be inappropriate. In secondary school, however, students have mastered Arithmetic and should be focused on more advanced skills and concepts. Computational support for lower-order details can then be very important. For example, researchers have found that when calculators are available to offload details computations, educators can better focus on (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Burrill et al., 2002; Ellington, 2003):

More realistic or important problems.

Exploration and sense-making with multiple representations.

Development of flexible strategies.

Mathematics meaning and concepts.

Modern ICT not only handle Arithmetic detail; they can also handle the detail of graphing, transforming algebraic expressions, computing geometric properties and more.

Piaget discovered that children first develop ideas concretely and later progress to abstractions (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Piaget, 1970). In designing learning environments, it is often helpful to apply this principle in reverse: to help students learn an abstract idea, provide them with more tangible visualizations. For example, it is easier to see how the variable m in f(x) = mx + c represents a rate of change when the function is graphed and students can explore the connection between m and the gradient (slope) of the line (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Roschelle et al., 2007).

Although drawings on paper or on the teacher's board can make ideas tangible, static drawings often fail to convey Mathematics principles. For example, many students think a triangle is an isosceles triangle if it looks like one and do not understand how to establish the property formally. With an ICT-based geometry tool, students can grab and drag a corner of a geometric construction of a triangle and see how it behaves under transformations. Playing with this tangible image can prepare students to understand the formal proof, which is much more abstract. Researchers have found that when technology makes abstract ideas tangible, educators can more easily (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; Roschelle et al., 2001; diSessa, 2001):

Build upon students' prior knowledge and skills.

Emphasize the connections among Mathematics concepts.

Connect abstractions to real-world settings.

Address common misunderstandings.

Introduce more advanced ideas.

Integrating technology into the classroom can improve Mathematics teaching. In addition, educators can use technology to introduce better Mathematics (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Roschelle et al., 2000). For example, educators can focus less on memorizing facts and performing routine calculations and more on developing ideas, exploring consequences, justifying solutions and understanding connections - the real heart of Mathematics (Center for Technology in Learning, 2007, adapted from Heid, 1988). In addition, educators can introduce more advanced Mathematics topics earlier. Both the opportunity to teach Mathematics better and to teach better Mathematics should be considered in school technology plans and teacher professional development.

2.7 Conclusion

The literature presented was aimed at connecting research findings and theory about the use and acceptance of ICT with the investigation carried out in the present study. Analysis of the research findings and literature indicated that most of the relevant researches about the use and acceptance ICT by educators in teaching Mathematics focused on subject computer anxiety. Successful computer integration depends mainly on teacher openness to change and the extent to which educators experience and practice with technology. Some studies pertained to the importance of training, facilities, school climate in shaping educators attitudes to the use of ICT in their classroom.

In spite of the amount and the sophistication of technology resources, educators will not be willing to use them apart from the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to integrate these resources into their pedagogical practices are provided. Besides, there is an explosion of research on educators' demographic features such as gender, age, learning experience that affected their use and acceptance of ICT in their classroom. Hence, this research is being carried out to find out whether this is the same case for Mauritian secondary educators, specially focusing on Mathematics educators and whether these educators will accept and increase the use of ICT in their classroom so as to meet the objective set by the Ministry of Education, that is, to make the heavy use of ICT in the teaching and learning of a subject.