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This research seeks to assess the role Information and Communications Technology has played in the secondary schools of Bwaila cluster of Lilongwe, Malawi. In doing this, the researcher will initially identify a sample for the research in form of secondary schools to be involved. A total number of six secondary schools will serve as a sample for this research. Then the study shall be conducted on the chosen sample. The research will investigate the availability of ICT facilities in the chosen secondary schools, the capacity for and extent of using ICT facilities for teaching learning by both students and teachers, the role ICT plays in the secondary schools, the benefits of using ICT and the problems facing the use of ICT in secondary schools by both students and teachers.
In order to collect data necessary for this study, the researcher will use a self-designed questionnaire. The questionnaire will be given to the students and teachers in the chosen sample secondary schools to fill and complete. Data collected for the study will be analyzed using frequency counts and percentage scores in Microsoft Excel. In so doing, independent and dependent variables will be known.
The area under study has a number of secondary schools which use ICT as well as some which do not. A research will be conducted on both of these secondary schools with an aim of perceiving the position of ICT in this area. It is being expected of this research to find out both the positive and negative effects the use ICT has brought equally to the teacher and learners. The researcher will use the word 'school' for secondary schools, 'student(s)' for secondary school student(s), ICT 'school(s)' for schools which use ICT, 'Non ICT schools' for schools which do not use ICT.
As the world is still advancing in technology with an aim of finding new and better ways of living, as well as doing things, the field of Information and communication technology (ICT) has not been left out. Information and communication technology is defined as "a diverse set of technological tools and resources used to communicate, and to create, disseminate, store and manage information. These technologies include computers, the internet, broadcasting technologies (radio and television) and telephony" (Tinio, 2010, p. 4). Information and communication technology specialists across the globe are busy trying to find new areas in which this domain can be applied as well as improving the already existing ones. Among many others, ICT has been applied in medical services, banking, tourism, engineering, agriculture as well as in education. In all these applications, ICT has helped in developing and increase efficiency and production.
Information and Communications technology became to be used extensively since 1980'. This was as a result of new technological advancements. Just like in many other disciplines, currently ICT is being used in education across the world. "Integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education has been one of the leading aspects in educational development in Europe and other developed countries over the past two decades" (Oulu University Library, 2011, p. 14). In the USA, Ornstein (2003) wrote that a number of states in America are now requiring proficiency in using technology in order to be certified to teach, and several school districts are offering on-line courses for middle school and high school students. (Ornstein, 2003, p. 365)
Malawi is one of the sub-Saharan countries of Africa which use ICT in education. Although not at a very high technological level, some secondary schools across the country make use of the technology to enhance students' studies. The Ministry of Education and other stakeholders are responsible for providing ICT equipment and other related services to Malawian secondary schools. The government is committed to transform the Malawi educational systems using ICT's by facilitating the development of the education sector by introducing ICTs to all levels of education system (Macra, 2003). In education, both teachers and learners make use of ICT in various ways. If properly used, ICT can help in improving the education sector. However, negative effects can also rise in the sector if not appropriately used. Ornstein (2003) argued that "a computer can make it easier for students to retrieve information, process words for a report, and communicate with people around the world, but it doesn't motivate them to learn or improve their learning. Increased time on the computer often means spending time e-mailing, chatting, or browsing at the expense of school work and reading books" (Ornstein A. C., 2003, p. 366). Hence, the utilization of ICT in education has both positive as well negative impacts.
The Malawi Secondary is school system is divided into sections referred to as districts. Lilongwe urban is one of the districts in Lilongwe city. The districts are further divided into clusters. Bwaila Cluster is one of the clusters of Lilongwe Urban District. Bwaila cluster consists of schools 17 Secondary Schools. Nine of them are run by the government and these are: Bwaila Secondary School, New State House C.D.S.S., Chigoneka C.D.S.S, Mkwichi Secondary, Chimutu C.D.S.S., Chilambula C.D.S.S., Tsokankanansi C.D.S.S., C.D.S.S., and Magwero C.D.S.S. Eight schools in this cluster are privately owned and this consists of: St Thomas Anglican, Chejika, Lilongwe Accademy, Cherub, Mai Aisha, Padre Pio, Nazarene and Peaceful Private Secondary Schools.
Almost close to three decades since ICT took its course globally (Dahmani, 2008, p. 64) and despite the adoption of the ICT policy by the government of Malawi (Macra, 2003, p. 12), Bwaila cluster of the Lilongwe urban district is still lagging behind in experiencing the role of ICT. Hence this problem prompted the researcher to carry out this research. In this paper, the researcher will be looking at the role ICT plays in education, especially in the secondary schools of this area.
Purpose to the study
The purpose of this study, then, is to assess the role ICT has played in the schools by examining the application and utilization by teachers and students. Specifically, the study will focus on four primary objectives:
To determine the capacity in terms of the quality and quantity of ICT equipment available in secondary schools.
To determine the extent of ICT use in secondary schools.
To find out the challenges being faced by ICT use in secondary schools.
To find out the positive and negative effects of ICT use in schools.
Significance of the study
The study being proposed is expected to produce information as its output. This information will be in form of the findings from this research. The output information will fill the information gap concerning the role of ICT in the sample area. Interested entities shall then be able to have this information. The output information shall also be available and very useful to the Ministry of Education and help in the improvement of the education sector especially in the field of ICT for teaching and learning. Some educators and other education related decision makers as well as stakeholders in the sector can also benefit from the findings of this study by knowing the current status of ICT in schools in the proposed area. Thus, the education sector, upon utilizing this findings from this study, can be helped a step further in improving teaching and learning, thereby contributing to national development at large.
Based on the intelligent guess of the researcher regarding the problem presented earlier in this proposal, one major hypothesis will guide the analysis of data. It has been hypothesized that the role of ICT is affected by availability of ICT equipment, competency of ICT teachers and willingness of both teachers and learners. Schools with a greater ICT capacity will tend to be evidenced by much roles of ICT.
Since ICT came into existence, there has been many studies of different nature surfacing on the globe as a means of assessing its impact. Some of the research conducted in this field was aimed at perceiving the benefits of the use of ICT. Others focused on the negative side of this domain. Still more, a bulk of research took other directions in this field, as it has a vast coverage. Another interesting and worth a closer look at, is the application of ICT in education. "The integration of ICT in education has played a major role across the globe. Radio and television have been used widely as educational tools since the 1920s and the 1950s, respectively" (Tinio, 2010, p. 11). ICT integration in education cannot be complete if computers are not mentioned. It is quite evident that computers have played a major role in ICT in the area of teaching and learning. Roe et. al (2004) on commenting about the usefulness of computers now and in the age to come, argued that computers are strategic to the future of the world in each and every nation. Their role is very important. (p. 32). This was supported by Smith (1986) in writing that computers can be found in very fruitful and creative use, facilitating present aims and not only that but also taking part in the future by expanding upcoming possibilities (p. 204). Application of Information & Communications Technology fits comfortably with the teachers' instructional plans and philosophies (Grabe, 2004, p. 9). That can be why it has been used extensively and continues to be applied in many areas of education.
ICT changing the cultural context of education.
In the academic circles, it has been noted that ICT integration may help to make education more accessible and affordable, but at the same time it may change the cultural context of education as well as the language of learning (Oulu University Library, 2011, p. 13). This is evident in the total new environment which ICT usage can bring in class. Several things in form of routines and procedures are likely to change due to ICT usage in class. With ICT also comes along its terminology, thereby making the language of learning to change as well. Muth & Alvermann (1992) quoted Leu (1997) arguing that further than the way traditional reading and writing skills used to be, learners are shifting to gaining and getting used to stylish directional strategies on the web. It is no longer doubtful that the internet is going to change the way teaching is done (p. 202).
"As Internet-based courses continues to come on-line for students, what it means to be a teacher and to have a class will dramatically shift. The very concept of the schoolhouse will increasingly be seen as historical artifact rather than current reality" (Garmston, 1999, p. 6). In other words, this simply predict an age whereby people will be more interested in taking courses online that to be physically present in a classroom. It can be noted that the traditional classroom will lose its popularity. Hence the changing the school learning culture. "Computers can dissolve the classroom walls" (Smith, 1986, p. 230). Smith, in the sentence above simply meant that computer will make no use of the classroom blocks. It can be seen that the writer was referring to the fact some people prefers taking on-line classes than attending to traditional ones. As such, it is likely that the traditional classes will lose popularity to on-line ones some time in future. The teaching profession is also probably going to be affected by application of ICT. Gangel (1988) wrote about Christopher Evans' prediction that computers will lead to the decline of professions such as in medicine and education, however, he believes that computers greatest contribution to education is not to replace the teacher but to enhance his work (p. 182).
ICT playing the role of a tutor
In education, computers serve in two fold, as a tool and as a tutor (Gangel, 1988, p. 190). "Computes are the ideal devices for programmatic instruction. They are more attractive to learners, more effective drillmasters than teachers, and more easily controllable by administrators" (Smith, 1986). "As a tutor, the computer is directly responsible for instruction. As a tool, the computer makes academic tasks such as writing and calculating easier (Grabe, 2004, p. 131)". To support the point that computer are capable in taking on the role of a tutor, Clark (1991) in the book Christian Education: Foundations for the Future argued that in the Christian circles, educators have been waiting way too long for a breakthrough in the use of computers as instructional aids (p. 526). "The ease with which a PC can store and utilize instructions prepared ahead of time by a programmer makes it capable of delivering instructions to students" (Gangel, 1988, p. 185). In this way, computer are capable of tutoring and have been used to teach learners in selected disciplines in the education sector. Sometimes, teachers create computer programs which assists them in teaching if they have knowledge in basic programming language. "In recent years the number of displays of computer-based instructional programs and materials at educational conferences has grown almost to equal that of old-fashioned "printware"" (Smith, 1986, p. 1).
ICT providing access to large volumes of information
Many more information can be accessed using ICT and at a considerably cheaper rate compared to other means of access of the same information. In addition, computer usage has not been left out but utilized and valued to a certain extent. Their usage provide advantages in all aspects of academic work that most users are aware of (Passe, 1999, p. 178)."One can find each and every information of one's choice about any particular topic studied in school. This can be done on the internet where all such information is found (Roe, Stoodt-Hill, & C, 2004, p. 35). Computers, which are ICT devices help a lot in searching for data on the internet as well as databases. "Endlessly patient computers conduct their random searches so fast, and usually so successfully, that they get credit for more sense than they have" (Smith, 1986, p. 213).
In case of education and some other academic purposes "Many commercial databases are available for students to use in their research, and students can form their own databases of information they collect during their own research" (Roe, Stoodt-Hill, & C, 2004, p. 35). Some of these databases and libraries can be accessed on-line, any time and from anywhere in the world. "With remote access technology such as the Internet, the user does not even have to be in the library to view certain materials! Researchers have immediate access to photographs, computer graphics, television videos, sound recordings, and reams of statistics that are housed in government offices" (Passe, 1999, p. 130). "The computer vaults information access to the top" (Postman, 1995, p. 42). As it has been seen from the above information, provides access to large volumes of information. This is then useful for academic purposes, thereby furthering education.
ICT providing educational communication
"Much technology deals with the communication of information. . ." (Passe, 1999, p. 129). Email, chat rooms, and personal web pages serve as important means of communication. (Anthony, 2001, p. 243). These then are used by teachers and students for educational purposes. One major advancement in technology which is useful in academic circles is face to face videoconferencing. "Videoconferencing allows students to interview authors, scientists, historians, mathematicians, business people, and others who can shed light on a current area of study" (Roe, Stoodt-Hill, & C, 2004, p. 39). Therefore, with information, it is evident that ICT is providing the educational sector with modes of communication. Most of them are also fast and cheaper compared to traditional means.
ICT Aiding people with disabilities
The application of ICT in education has not left out the people who have disabilities. More programs and devices have been develop for their cause so as to ease learning. This has also helped many other learners to study well in their education. "Students who have not learned to type or who have disabilities that severely limit their fine motor coordination are able to respond to computer instructions through the use of special communication boards, light pens, and other devices that are sensitive to a blink of the eye or a head movement of any kind" (Muth, 1992, p. 203). In addition, Smith (1986) wrote about Richard Wanderman who was labelled as "learning disability" but discovered that he was not like that at all when he began reading and writing as well as passing examinations in class. Wanderman credits the computer with making it easy for him to read and write fluently and extended his thinking about thinking and learning in general (p. 52). Hence, Information and communications technology has aided some people to be able to become educated. Without which, these people would have been uneducated and therefore contributing nothing or less to the development of their countries.
ICT Improving teaching and learning
The usage of ICT in education has come with several benefits as well. As already mentioned before, some previous studies focused on the perceived benefits of the use of ICT in teaching and learning. In doing so, such studies unearthed the role ICT has played in education. The role of ICT in education varies within applications and the capacity of ICT in a given area. "Teachers use the Internet to exchange ideas and experiences and to acquire additional expertise in teaching or to share their expertise with others" (Parkay, 1998, p. 56). On the importance and positive role of ICT in education Dahmani (2008) quoted Kulik's(1994) meta-analysis study which revealed that "on average, students who used ICT-based instruction scored higher than students without computers. The students also learned more in less time and liked their classes more when ICT-based instruction was included" (Dahmani, 2008, pp. 47-48). However, it is known about the research question or problem which Kulik used for his meta-analysis study. There might also be other dependent variables which made such results to be produced from Kulik's study. This article also does not describe how data was collected as well as the sample which was used. Surely some other factors are likely to be influencers of this research's findings. However, all in all, "Computers enhance creativity. . . students who use computers for writing in school, even the very youngest ones, write more and write better" (Smith, 1986, p. 220). This can be as a result of some features that are found in computer designs. Some of these features are spelling and grammar checks, auto-correction of words and phrases, and available templates for creation a variety of documents for different purposes. "Students who have regular access to computers for word processing are more willing to write, write more, revise more, and feel more confident in their writing" (Cunningham, 1999, p. 117).
Information and communications technology helps students in different areas of their studies even at an advance stage. "Computers can help students apprentice themselves to more experienced writers, artists, engineers, explorers, and scientists" (Smith, 1986, p. 230). Many more areas of learning are opened due to the usage and application of ICT in education. "Computers can extend opportunities for learners to share in the creative act of the expert in many ways. Students in engineering can observe the calculation and structures of a bridge as intimately as medical students can observe an operation. Music students can eavesdrop on a composer at work in the way they have so far only been able to hear and instrumentalist at rehearsal" (Smith, 1986, p. 233). "Databases and on-line experts in many fields also change the way students conduct research, as more computerized reference works - such as directories, dictionaries, and encyclopedias - become available" (Parkay, 1998, p. 403)."The teacher can also download files to be used for class" (Roe, Stoodt-Hill, & C, 2004, p. 36). In so doing, such a teacher cannot lack teaching information or notes in form of details to provide the learners with. Hence, it is clearly seen that education improves and has improved because of application of ICT. Learners are able to get the necessary information they need for their academics.
ICT providing unlimited access to information
Information and communications technology provides limitless access to information. This information then bridges the knowledge gap in education. "With the internet and the World Wide Web, a wealth of learning materials in almost every subject and in a variety of media can now be accessed from anywhere at any time of the day and by unlimited number of people. This is particularly significant for many schools in developing countries, and even some in developed countries, that have limited and outdated library resources" (Tinio, 2010, p. 6). One can access information on the internet as long as such a one wants.
The Negatives of ICT in Education
Despite ICT playing a useful role in education, there are also negative sides of it. "If computer are employed in the classroom to make it fun for learners to engage in an otherwise pointless activity, it will be at the expense of meaningful learning that could otherwise be accomplished" (Smith, 1986, p. 207). Adding to teaching in the right direction, Wiggins & McTighee (2005) wrote in the book Understanding by Design that "The right moves in teaching are made in light of what learning requires" (p. 45). All teaching is obtained from a certain goal, as such, it needs to be in line with that already stated goal (Eliot, 1997, p. 17). Contrary to the advantages of the role of ICT usage Dahmani (2008) also quoted Leuven et.al (2004) who upon conducting a study concluded that there is no evidence for a relationship between use of ICT and students' performance. In fact, they find a consistently negative and marginally significant relationship between ICT use and some student achievement measures (Dahmani, 2008, p. 47). Again on the above study, it is not known about the research questions which Leuven used to come up the findings. The method of data collection as well as the sample used are not known. Hence it is difficult to synthesize the study and come up with its logical organization.
The other negative side of ICT use is the cost. Tinio (2010) argued that ICTs in education programs needs a large sum of money to start and maintain thereby countries of low economies need to be sensible on choosing to employ and adopt ICT so that their economies are not affected. There is a need to assess whether the values of the use of ICT with the costs incurred in the process of setting up the system (p. 25).
The focus of this research will then move in a different direction compared to the ones mentioned above, although there are in the same field. Therefore, the proposed research will look at the role ICT has played in the secondary schools of Bwaila Cluster in Lilongwe district. This study will not be an exact copy of any research conducted so far elsewhere although some elements and data to be gathered by this study might be related to some ICT related research.