COURTING CHANGES By ASSOC PROF FONG SOON FOOK
In today’s learning environment, teachers must be equipped with ICT knowledge and move from being passive users to active contributors.
IN today’s ICT-enabled learning ecology, conventional training programmes to produce technically competent teachers are no longer adequate. To learn and work effectively in an increasingly information-rich environment, students and teachers must use ICT effectively.
The necessity for this skill has already been proposed, rationalised and justified many times over in expert journals globally.
Teachers are learning to use the computer more effectively to enhance their teaching skills.
Malaysian students have been trained and empowered to achieve important ICT skills so that learning will be self-directed, self-paced and self-accessed.
Teachers are responsible for establishing the classroom environment and preparing the learning opportunities that facilitate students’ use of technology to learn, communicate and develop knowledge. But how well are they equipped to provide their students with these skills and opportunities?
Conventionally, ICT competencies refers to the sets of basic knowledge and skills that are exhibited by a user in a digital era. Hence, various agencies within the Education Ministry have conducted training courses to equip teachers with ICT knowledge and skills.
Concurrently, teachers have also been trained at the school, district or state level, and some have learnt ICT skills on their own as part of their on-the-job-responsibilities.
Through these training programmes, the Ministry envisages that all teachers will move forward from being “computer literate” to actual users of supporting software developed by various agencies, and even capable of planning and designing effective constructive environments for students.
The question now is: what is the impact of these training initiatives among teachers? Are our main stakeholders – the students – achieving expected outcomes? Are the training models used adequate to meet today’s demands?
We propose that conventional training models be reviewed and transformed in alignment with research findings and current global demands for new learning environments.
To be equipped with technical ICT skills and knowledge is the key to effective implementation of ICT in teaching and learning, but are these sufficient to address the current ecology of ICT-enabled learning?
We surmise that training standards are as much about knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy, reflecting a shift in emphasis away from ICT as content to ICT as a tool.
A national ICT Competency Standard may serve as a reference point for development of ICT training programmes. This standard can ensure that all the trainings are of high quality and are relevant to the specific needs of teachers and students.
The following categories of ICT competencies and performance indicators should be considered as benchmarks for all ICT Training Programmes for Malaysian teachers:
·Knowledge and Skills in basic ICT tools, including productivity applications software, web browsers and learning management system.
·Planning and Designing Rich-Learning Environments to support student-centred learning among students of diverse needs, including the use of collaboration and communication tools to support problem-based learning for a community of learners (COL).
·Pedagogical strategies to develop innovative ways to encourage students’ critical and creative thinking skills, including preparation of tools, rules and roles for students in a community of learners.
·Application of ICT-enabled Assessment and Evaluation to maximise learning through self-assessments of problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creative & communication skills.
·ICT-enabled Continuing Lifelong Professional Learning, Practice and Productivity for Just-in-time learning, including active participation in knowledge communities, sustaining own lifelong development and contributing to other COL.
·Ethics and moral values surrounding the educational use of computers and software applications.
We advocate the establishment of a Malaysian ICT competency benchmark that will govern and direct the realisation of a transformed cohort of teachers who could contribute to higher quality education — and in turn produce a higher quality competitive workforce for the wellbeing and advancement of our economic and social development.
One of the core skills surrounding this aforementioned issue is an ability that is directly related to the rapid expansion of the World Wide Web (WWW). It requires teachers and students with superior competencies in using ICT to sieve through and choose relevant information that is available on the vast sum of human knowledge that is represented and available on the Web.
The WWW had long ago reached singularity where information is infinite. Where Web 1.0 was about information storage, we are now in Web 2.0 where collaboration and global projects are the norm (think Facebook) and fast heading into Web 3.0, where individual IQs will no longer matter. What will instead matter will be collective intelligences, which bring together the collective IQs of teams of global citizens to work on decision making processes that has at its base a collective IQ amounting to millions of points.
Is Malaysia ready for this? Are our teachers and students geared for this radical shift in thought processes and approaches to learning and problem solving? What innovation is taking place in our schools and ministry that will create opportunities for exploring and developing new, unheard of skills that will soon become essential to not just the levelling up of our talents, but to sheer survival in new marketplaces?
Where is Malaysia in the blossoming of new areas of studies in the fields of NBIC (Nano, Bio, Info and Cogno) technologies? In a world where these new areas of studies are being presented at primary and sometimes preschool levels, where does Malaysia stand in the complete overhaul and transformation of its curriculum?
Learning the new rules, new roles and new ways of a learning environment that go hand-in-hand with ICT integration requires that teachers have opportunities to participate in an extended process of professional development.
Teachers need time to acquire technology skills and develop new teaching strategies for integrating ICT into the classroom.
At present, except for occasional in-service programmes, teachers often have no time built into the school day for their own professional development.
In conclusion, it is important to ensure that all students have the opportunity to use ICT for student-centred projects. This is so that participation is enabled in complex, authentic tasks within a collaborative context and development of higher-order thinking skills will be developed and achieved.
ICT that is used for deeper learning and that support a challenging curriculum will result in improved teaching and learning, increased student motivation and higher levels of student achievement.
Although there has been a strong push to have teachers trained and to supply educational software and hardware into the hands of teachers, many obstacles to implementation still exist.
Equipment may not be placed in easily accessible locations. Hardware and software often pose problems for teachers in the classroom, and just-in-time technical support is unavailable. Teachers may lack the time and the motivation to learn ICT skills. School administrators and the ministry must persevere to find time for teacher professional development especially with regards to the upgrading of ICT competencies for the realisation of the new learning landscape.
Assoc Prof Fong is attached to the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Through this fortnightly column and through the revolutionary ENGAGE Programme – Education for Sustainable Global Futures – USM has started, he and his colleagues hope to help transform the landscapes of Malaysian schooling and higher education systems. He can be contacted through email@example.com.
Source : The STAR Education Beyond Computer Literacy Sunday May 30, 2010