Sunday, 18 September 2011

ICT Tools will not change the educational system, nor will it encourage a new pedagogy!

According to Perraton, Robinson and Creed teaching is becoming one of the most challenging professions in our society where knowledge is expanding rapidly and much of it is available to students as well as teachers at the same time (Perraton, Robinson, & Creed, 2001).

New technological devices were developed in most cases for purposes other than education (Amiel & Reeves, 2008), but due to the demands of the 21st century educational technologists, neo-liberalist and other interest groups, these technologies were introduced to education to enhance the impact of teaching and learning in the classrooms.  


In a number of cases these devices, as tools of mediation, had very little impact on teaching and learning. Starting four decades ago with the introduction of handheld calculators that were considered to be very important in raising the results for for underachieving maths students  did not have the effect that researchers wanted it to have. The expected outcome of the use of this new technology was much lower than anticipated (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). A number of case studies have shown, with exception of a few resourced schools (Bingimlas, 2009), that ICT did not trigger the change that researchers wanted it to have (OECD, 2010).
I think it is important to get a better understanding as to what changed in teaching and learning. I would like to look at the differences between 20th and the 21st century classroom. The 20th century classroom was a text book driven environment where learners had to work passively in isolation within the four walls of the room, compared to the 21st century classroom. The 21st century classroom is a more research driven environment due to the availability of tools such as ICT, and this is an active learning environment where learners work collaboratively with classmates and others around the world, because of the availability of Internet and other networks (Mitra, 2011). Researchers refers to the term Global Classroom.

Education departments in developing countries over the world started a number of e-Initiatives in the hope of achieving many developmental goals in “what seems to be straight forwarded achievable ICT based programmes” (Mofleh, S. & Wanous, M, 2008). Mofleh and Wanous argued that although e-learning which was considered to be one of the second largest projects in Jordan, the project has not been able to deliver it's most important intended goals due to a lack of focus, and the fact that decision makers did not understanding the real needs of businesses, schools and people (Mofleh, S. & Wanous, M, 2008). .

Amiel and Reeves argued that money spent on computers in classrooms could much rather ave been invested into the appointment of teachers instead of following a global pattern of investing money into tools that have failed the system in most cases (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). They substantiated their argument with the statement: "What evidence exists that the expenditures on educational technologies such as computers and Internet access have been worthwhile?" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). They quoted professor Larry Cuban of the Stanford University in that "e-learning in most public schools turned out to be word processing and Internet searches" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). I consider that to be a waste of time, money and under utilisation of tools and human resources.

According to a study done by Eacea, it was found that there is evidence from the research that ICT is pedagogically under-utilised. They argued that ICT can promote new pedagogical approaches only if fully integrated into subject lessons, but teachers tend to lack the pedagogical vision to integrate ICT effectively in teaching (Eacea, 2011).

In a study done by Eacea in 30 countries that invested in teachers’ digital competence development, it was found that many teachers entering the profession have little formal training in using ICT. Their research showed that professional development lacks a pedagogical dimension and is not matched to needs. According to them, reliable technical and inspiring pedagogical support for teachers is often missing (Eacea, 2011).


According to Koehler and Mishra, teaching with technology is complicated because of the challenges newer technologies present to teachers. Complicating teaching with technology is an understanding that technologies are “neither neutral nor unbiased and that certain technologies have their own propensities, potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks than others” (Koehler & Mishra, 2007). Social and contextual factors also complicate the relationships between teaching and technology and some teachers find it very hard to integrate technology into their work, because they have inadequate experience and qualified at a time when educational technology was at a very different stage of development than it is today. This is why they do not consider themselves sufficiently prepared to use technology in the classroom and often do not appreciate its value or relevance to teaching and learning (Koehler & Mishra, 2007).

Ferdig argued that two main building blocks upon which ‘good’ innovations are created, are good pedagogy and good people (Ferdig, 2005). He furthermore explains “that a good innovation is one where technology and pedagogy are not separated, and that a good innovation also engages a “process that enhances the relationships among innovator, educator, and learner” (Ferdig, 2005). He stated that “a good technology innovation is one that is integrated with academic content and good pedagogical practice, and that learning should take place from a social constructivist perspective” (Ferdig, 2005).

Amiel and Reeves argued that "If anything should have been learned from research in the field of educational technology by researchers and practitioners alike, is that is that a tool itself will not change the educational system or even implicitly encourage new pedagogy" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008).

Tsolakidis argued that there are grounds to believe that ICT will never change the education system but much rather advance education, because it can be used as a replacement for a pencil, book and textbook (Tsolakidis, 2010). According to him the Internet offers a number of solutions in various issues and fields, and that this certainly facilitates the learning process, that has started affecting all people, educational communities, parents, learners and teachers. According to him, there are also grounds to believe that ICT will help them in a direct way too (Tsolakidis, 2010).
Professor Alan Amory from the University of Johannesburg suggested that "much of education technology replicates hegemonic practices that limit educational transformation, have little to do with contemporary learning practices and much more to do with fundamental and totalitarian ideologies of instruction" (Amory, 2006: 01). Amory argued that tools include precise ideological positions and often support fundamentalist world-views (Amory, 2006, 01).
The very first question that jumps to mind, is whether a machine or an ICT tool can replace an educator in the classroom? Is this not about our newly born 21st century classes, where tools such as ICT had opened the doors to a more social type of learning or collaboration. I personally do not think that the simple or advanced artificial intelligent tools can replace educators. I am sure they can much rather mediate the learning process in the class. One can put a tool out of action by merely pressing the on or off switch, and this tool will become redundant. The learning process will always continue, no matter what, but we need tools to mediate the learning process.


The second question that jumps to mind is whether these tools have the ability to change the educational system and also whether these tools can encourage a new pedagogy. This is a far bigger challenge to prove that tools can change the educational system and also have the ability to encourage a new pedagogy.

I personally do not believe that a machine can replace an educator. According to Amory tools such as ICT function as cultural artifacts in a relationship "between self and society", and that "personal and societal transformation can be cultivated through fostering social collaboration" (Amory, 2006). Amory based his research on the foundations of the CHAT theory that developed over the last couple of decades through the work of Vygotsky, Engestrom and Leontiev. 

I believe that before one can make an assumption that ICT tools will not change the educational system or encourage a new pedagogy, one should first look at the most appropriate definition for the term "technology" and how that would impact on the statement or assumption made. Not only should we look at the term technology only, but also how processes of technology influence collaboration and mediation in the CHAT theory.

According to the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, the term technology has changed substantially over the last 200 years. Originating from the Greek language, the word "technology" is made up of "τέχνη" (téchnē), that means "art, skill, craft", and "-λογία" (-logía), that means "study of-" (Wikipedia. Internet source). When applied in general this word can include construction-, medical- and information technology (Wikipedia Internet source).

One supposes that the word "technology" should no longer be used in the educational environment, and that researchers should look at the design and implementation of a brand new word or term that would describe "classroom based technology" in the 21st century and we should find a "term" and "method" that is solely designed for ICT tools and their influence on education.

Amiel and Reeves argued that educational researchers have to be encouraged to move in the direction of a more systematic and collaborative method of investigation "that can promote research that makes the difference (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). According to them one should have a "clear understanding of technology and the technique as processes rather than artifacts; a resolute concern for values, and principles guiding educational technology research" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008, 31).

Amiel and Reeves argued two approaches; the popular use of the term technology and a more precise representation of the mentioned term  (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). They argued that the term technology should not be viewed as a product, but much rather a process, because tools are seen as a product of the technological system(Amiel & Reeves, 2008).

Amiel and Reeves quoted Hickmans definition of "technology" as a "more inclusive" definition. According to them Hickman used Dewey's pragmatism to illustrate technology as "a process that involves the invention, development, and cognitive development of tools and other artifacts, brought to bear on raw materials and intermediate stock parts with a view to the resolution of perceived problems (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). These researchers furthermore stated that although the defenition might appear to be broad in scope, one should concentrate on its ability to describe the "job that researchers and practitioners in educational technology regularly do" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008, 32); and that "inquiry into techniques, objects and tools in an effort to improve and refine the process of teaching and learning and, consequently, the design of the learning environments (Amiel and Reeves, 2008, 32).


Kort and Reilly argued that education traditionally concentrated on information and facts, and that this approach has not shaped the learning process (Kort & Reilly, 2009).  According to them learners receive their learning and education in a “polished form” that do not allow them mistakes or failure. They stated that learning naturally involves failure and that current educational pedagogy is lacking in certain areas and must be redesigned (Kort & Reilly, 2009).

Kort and Reilly is of the opinion that schools were concentrating on parrot fashion learning and that the focus of attention should shift to the construction of ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowledge’ should be combined with a personal or cultural value system to allow wisdom to emerge, because wisdom allows us to attach the power of knowledge for useful purposes (Kort & Reilly, 2009). They are also of the opinion that learning involves language and emotions of the learner (Kort & Reilly, 2009).

Amory uses the CHAT theory as a diagnostic outline to identify relevant design principles and as a way of considering educational technology, which he refers to as “tool mediated construction” (Amory, 2006: 02). He argued that tools include precise ideological positions and that the design, expansion and deployment of “technological artifacts (Objects)” are considered to be part of an activity system that includes communities, tools and language to create new tools or artifacts. The work of the communities is supported by specific expectations which he sees as part of the design of “Objects, Outcomes and Tools” (Amory, 2006: 02).


I have to admit, I do not entirely agree with the statement made by Amiel and Reeves that "a tool itself will not change the educational system or even implicitly encourage new pedagogy" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008).


Although researchers have proven after extensive research that tools itself will not change education or encourage a new pedagogy, I still believe that once all schools are resourced at the same level, use the same learning content, practice the same pedagogies and all educators are trained and have the same level of ICT knowledge, then one could make the assumption that tools cannot bring about educational change, or change pedagogies.


Teaching and learning is a social process whereby collaboration should take place and the tools of mediation in classrooms should help to mediate the learning process. Using the CHAT theory in evaluating how one learns from,  versus how one learns with technology (Amory: 2006), is a very important aspect in deciding whether teaching with technology will bring about educational change. We should never loose sight of the fact that knowledge not only supports social freedom and equality, but is viewed as a tool to support social reform in order to develop individual potential (Amory: 2006).


Why is it that a video game such as Warcraft III is to be regarded as one of the few successes in learning? The reason being that this tool not only increased perception, increased stimulation, challenged students in problem solving, but also provided collaboration on a social level through networking (El-Nasr, 2010).  El-Nasr uses a vry interesting term in her research called "modding". "Modding", a slang word, is a process whereby hardware or software are changed to perform a function that was not intended by the designer to suit the needs of the person playing the games (El-Nasr, 2010).


As mentioned earlier in this blog, most ICT used in schools were designed for purposes other than education. The problem we are currently faced with, is that these tools will never be able to change education or create new  pedagogies. I firmly believe that technology changes faster than the "ability" that the education departments have to communicate these changes to teachers and to train or re-train teachers in coping with these new changes. One can not only lay the blame at the door of the education departments, because a lot of this in my opinion has to do with attitude and ability of teachers, because teachers are not prepared to "mod" these tools of mediation into tools that will change pedagogies, stimulate learners, increase perception, challenge learners and enhance social collaboration.

 
References


Amiel, T., and Reeves, T.C. 2008. Designed -Based Research and Educational Technology: Rethinking Technology and the Research Agenda. Educational Technology and Society, 11 (4), 30.


Amory, A. 2006. Education and Hidden Ideological Contradictions. Educational Technology and Society, 01-17


Amory, A. 2010. Instructivist ideology: education technology embracing the past?. Interactive Learning Environments 2010, 1-15, iFirst article.


Bingimlas, K.A. 2009. Barriers to successful integration of ICT in Teaching and Learning environments: A review of the Literature. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 2009, 5(3), 235-245. 


Eacea. 2011. Study of the impact of technology in primary schools. Internet source. Accessed 13 September 2011. Available from: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/llp/studies/documents/study_impact_technology_primary_school/01_executive_summary_steps_en.pdf
El-Nasr, M. 2010. IT Education, Girls and Gaming Modding. Academia.edu. Internet source. Accessed 18 September 2011. Available from: http://neu.academia.edu/MagySeifElNasr/Papers/236688/IT_Education_Girls_and_Game_Modding

Ferdig, R. 2005. Towards implementing technologies in Education: Exploring the pedagogy and people of good innovations. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET April 2005 ISSN: 1303-6521 volume 4 Issue 2 Article 5.
Jung, I. 2005. ICT-Pedagogy Integration in Teacher Training: Application Cases Worldwide. Educational Technology &Society, 8 (2), 94-101.


Koehler, M., Mishra, P. 2007. What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge? Michigan State University. Internet source. Accessed 09 September 2011. Available from: http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm

Kort, B., Reilly, R. 2009. Restructuring Educational Pedagogy: A model for deep change. The Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Internet source. Accessed 12 September 2011. Available from: http://web.media.mit.edu/~reilly/pathways.pdf
Mitra, S. 2011. 21st Century Schools. Internet source. Accessed 14 September 2011. Available from: http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/


Mofleh, S., Wanous, M. 2008. Developing countries and ICT initiatives. Lessons learnt from Jordan's experience. EJISDC. (2008). 24, 5, 1-17.


Perraton, H., Robinson, B.,  & Creed, C. 2001. Teacher education through distance learning: technology,curriculum, evaluation, cost, Paris: UNESCO.


Toure, K. (2008). Introduction: ICT and Changing Mindsets in Education. Bamenda, Cameroon. Internet source. Accessed 15 September 2011. Available from: http://www.rocare.org/ChangingMindsets/pdf/ch01-ICTandChangingMindset.pdf
 Tsolakidis, C. 2010. ICT in education: The dawn of new era or the development of an accessory? Internet source. Accessed 15 September 2011. Available from: http://fundamentalchange.carolstrohecker.info/documents/CostasTsolakidis.pdf
Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Internet source. Accessed on 14 September 2011. Available from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology

OECD. ICT in Innovative Schools: Case Studies of Change and Impacts. Internet source. Internet source. Accessed 13 September 2011. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/11/11/41187025.pdf

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