I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Information Technology in Education Master Class: The UK Experience

Speaker: Paul Hynes
Organised by: British Council, Bangkok (Thai-UK Education Festival 2006)
Date: 4 February 2006
Location: Novotel Hotel Siam Square, Monet Pissarro Room, Bangkok

The first speaker was Paul Hynes who talked about how in the past information has been kept very segmented in forms of “Information Islands” and now the technology exists to bring these islands together. One example of this is a “Parents portal” which enables the bringing together of relevant electronic systems where merits, achievement logs, attendance, reporting/assessments, library books, and websites visited by students can all be monitored by parents whenever needed and therefore parents can take a more active role in the child’s education.

Virtual Learning Environments are also a very new innovation, they provide a medium where course information and content can be placed online and where communication and collaboration tools facilitate students working together with each other and with their teachers. VLE’s also provide online assessments and assignment collection which rduces the administration workload for teachers. VLE’s can also give links to external sites, links to other school systems and are available 24/7 which means they can be accessed beyond the timetable constraints put in place by the school; they are also accessible by parents, learners and teachers and are highly personable to meet the diverse needs of different teachers, different subjects, and different learner needs.

There are several other new system enhancements that are coming into use in the classroom. ‘Interactive’ whiteboards, wireless projectors, tablet PCs, wireless Keyboard and mouse, and handheld interactive systems. Research still needs to be done to see if significant educational benefit can be derived from the usage of new technological gadgets in the classroom and ascertain whether they are just gimmicks that initially provide some benefit with the benefit declining overtime as student familiarity starts to breed contempt.

Two very recent technological innovations that have great educational benefits are “Wikis” (one example being http://www.wikipedia.org) and “podcasting” (software that enables mp3 broadcasting through http://www.itunes.com) Wikis are websites that no one owns and are now being used in schools. Any person can edit any webpage at any time, all student input can be assessed by the teacher as well as the other students and all content is available to all at any time. Teachers can Podcast all lessons and Podcasting enables students to use their mobile phones, IPODS, or MP3 players to listen to classes or indeed to take other courses and to learn on their own, supplementing their own learning. An excellent example of podcasting for language learning is http://www.chinesepod.com for those who want to learn Mandarin Chinese. Podcasting however also lets students work as producers; enabling them to communicate without images and text. These audio files can be made available for anyone, anytime, irrespective of geographical location.

In order for a school to make best use of ICT in the classroom, it needs to develop itself to be an “E- Confident school”. There are ten different pre requisites that help facilitate a school to be “E-confident” and these were presented as follows:
  1. High levels of staff confidence, competence and leadership
  2. Re-designed teaching, learning and assessment, integrating effective use of ICT
  3. Leading and management of distributed and concurrent learning
  4. Effective application within organisational and management processes
  5. Coherent personal learning development, support and access – for all leaders and teaching and non-teaching staff
  6. Secure, informed professional judgement
  7. Appropriate resource allocation to ensure sustainable development
  8. Availability, access and technical support
  9. Pupils with high ICT capability
  10. School as the lead community learning and information hub
High levels of staff confidence, competence and leadership are also required so that there is clearly defined who monitors the development of innovative teaching and learning, and that there is the establishment of an environment where teachers naturally mentor their colleagues.

Of course ICT needs to be used appropriately and schools need to focus on demonstrating improved attainment by the appropriate use of ICT. This may mean that schools have to face some issues such as the extent traditional methods of assessment block the development of ICT in the school; they also need to assess how to use ICT to improve assessment and to reduce teacher assessment workload. For students the issues are different, we need to consider how students incorporate their learning outside the classroom into their school work and ascertain whether there are teaching strategies in place that help this process with particular emphasis place on any ICT solutions that could be put in place to help this process. It should also be stressed that the involvement of parents should become even more crucial in child development; especially in respect to monitoring appropriate use of technology outside the classroom. This will mean that parents have to also be technologically savvy so that they can guide and protect their children.

More about developing students' language proficiency at Looking for Practical Ways to Help Develop Students’ Language Proficiency http://education-articles-and-conferences.blogspot.com/2011/11/looking-for-practical-ways-to-help.html.

(c) cafavier, 2006-2011

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