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By Prof. Mohd Akhtar Siddiqui

Introduction

Although the new learning environment can be created without the use of technology, ICTs can provide powerful tools to help learners to access vast knowledge resources, collaborate with others, consult with experts, share knowledge, and solve complex problems using cognitive tools.  ICTs also provide learners with powerful new tools to represent their knowledge with text, images, graphics, and video.

ICTs may also support effective professional development of the teachers.  A limited initiative to integrate an innovative approach to teaching and learning with one new technology for a large population of teachers can be an important early step for a nationwide strategy.  The UNESCO document, Teacher Education Through Distance Learning (UNESCO, 2001), describes for example inter-active radio, a professional development model in which radio programmes provide daily half-hour lessons introducing pupils to English through active learning experiences with native English speakers.  The radio programmes reach 11,000 teachers across South Africa.  The initiative is successful in developing teachers’ pedagogical, language, and technology skills.  Much of this success is due to the appropriateness of the technology choice for South Africa in context.

ICT enabled teacher education programme in the key to educational reform

Educational systems around the world are under increasing pressure to use ICTs to teach the students the knowledge and skills they require in the 21st century. With the emerging new technologies, the teaching-learning is evolving from teacher-centred lecture based instruction to student-centred interactive learning environments.  Designing and implementing successful ICT enabled teacher education programmes is a key to fundamental wide ranging educational reform. Based on their long experiences with traditional modes of learning, teacher educators may find it challenging to incorporate ICTs into their own instructional practices.

Competance of Teachers in use of ICT

Demonstrated competences of teachers in use of ICTs in teacher education has become increasingly important in making accreditation, certification and programme review decision.  Technology should be infused into the entire teacher education programme.  Restricting ICT experiences to a single course or to a single area of teacher education, such as methods courses only, will not help the student-teachers to be technology using teachers.  Pre-service teacher education students should learn about the application of a wide range of ICT products across their professional preparation, from foundations courses to pedagogy, from method courses to internship in teaching and other field experiences.

ICT should be introduced in contexts. Teaching pre-service students basic computer literacy such as – the traditional operating system, word processor, spreadsheet, database, and telecommunications topics is not enough.  In every profession, there is a level of literacy beyond general computer literacy.  Professional literacy is best learned in context.  Pre-service student-teachers should learn multiple uses of ICT because the various components of pre-service programme may require different use of ICT.  They should observe how their professors and mentor educators model innovative uses of ICT; they should use those in their own learning, and they should explore further creative uses of ICT while helping the learners to learn.

Student-teachers should experience innovative ICT supported learning environments in teacher education programmes.  ICT could be used to support traditional forms of learning as well as to transform learning.  A Power Point presentation, for example, can enhance a traditional lecture, but it may not necessarily transform the learning experience.  On the other hand, using multimedia to teach topics that have previously been addressed through lectures may well be an example of a learning experience transformed by ICT.  Student-teachers should experience both types of uses of ICT in their training programme.

Essential Themes

Context and Culture identifies the Culture and other contextual factors that must be considered in infusing technology into teacher education curriculum.  It includes the use of technology in culturally appropriate ways and the development of respect for multiple cultures and contexts, which need to be taught and modeled by teachers.  Leadership and Vision are essential for the successful planning and implementation of technology into teacher education and require both leadership and support from the administration of the teacher education institution.  Lifelong learning acknowledges that learning is a continuous process.  It is necessary that teachers and teacher educators model lifelong learning as a key part of implementation, and as an ongoing commitment to ICTs in teacher education. Planning and Management of Change is the final theme, born of today’s context and accelerated by technology itself.  It signifies the importance of careful planning and effective management of the change process.

ICT Competencies

The ICT competencies are organized into four groups.  Pedagogy is focused on teachers’ instructional practices and knowledge of the curriculum and requires that they develop applications within their disciplines that make effective use of ICTs to support and extend teaching and learning.  Collaboration and Networking acknowledges that the communicative potential of ICTs to extend learning beyond the classroom walls and the implications for teaches development of new knowledge and skills.  Technology brings with it new rights and responsibilities, including equitable access to technology resources, care for individual health, and respect for intellectual property included within the Social Issues aspect of ICT competence.  Finally, Technical Issues is an aspect of the Lifelong Learning theme through which teachers update skills with hardware and software as new generations of technology emerge.

Technology and Pedagogy

The most important aspect of infusing technology in the curriculum is pedagogy.  When implementing the pedagogical competencies for infusing technology, the local context and the individual approach of the teacher linked with that of their subject discipline must be paramount.  Teachers move through stages as they adopt ICTs.  Initially, the teacher adopting technology applies it simply as a substitute for current teaching practice where technology is not used (e.g., teacher lecture becomes electronic presentation supporting lecture, students writing papers by hand become students writing papers using a word processor, course syllabus on paper becomes course syllabus online).  The adaptation of ICTs by teachers should challenge and support changes in teaching practice, building upon individual pedagogic expertise.  As teachers’ pedagogical practices with new technologies continue to develop, and organizational support and access to ICTs grow, it becomes possible to move beyond the adaptation of ICT applications that fit with existing practice.  Transformation of the educational process will start to emerge and may move toward more student-centred learning environments.

In summary, as professional teachers educators continually develop their pedagogical use of ICTs to support learning, teaching, and curriculum development, including assessment of learners and the evaluation of teaching, they will :

·        Demonstrate understanding of the opportunities and implications of the uses of ICTs for learning and teaching in the curriculum context;

·        Plan, implement, and manage learning and teaching in open and flexible learning environments;

·        Assess and evaluate learning and teaching in open and flexible learning environments.

Collaborate and Networking

ICTs provide powerful new tools to support communication between learning groups and beyond classrooms.  The teacher’s role expands to that of a facilitator of collaboration and networking with local and global communities.  The expansion of the learning community beyond the classroom also requires respect for diversity, including inter-cultural education, and equitable access to electronic learning resources.

Social and Health Issues

The power to access information and communication technologies bring increased responsibilities for everyone.  Legal and moral codes need to be extended to respect the intellectual property of freely accessible information.  This respect can be modeled in classroom practice with students from an early stage.  The challenges faced by society, locally and globally, by adaptation of technology should become part of the curriculum in a way that involves learners and helps them to develop an effective voice in the debates.  Health issues of ICTs also need to be addressed.  For example, prolonged engagement with ICTs (including screens and keyboards) requires appropriate support for the body, especially the hands and back.

Technical Issues

Technical issues regarding integration of ICTs into the curriculum include the provision of both technical infrastructure and technical support for use of ICT throughout the curriculum.  ICTs will improve learning very little if teachers and students have only rare and occasional access to the tools for learning.  Reasonable access to ICTs has been considered as important for the acquisition of competence with hardware and software, especially for teachers.

Multimedia Presentation

Multimedia combines media objects such as texts, graphics, video, animation and sound to represent and convey information.  This could be a project based method of teaching-learning, wherein the student teachers may acquire new knowledge and skills by designing, planning and producing a multi-media products.

Tele-computing Projects

These are internet-enriched learning activities that often involve students in one location collaborating with students or adults in one or more than location.  They may share experiences, beliefs, data, information and problem solving strategies. Tele-computing tools include e-mail, electronic mailing list, electronic bulletin boards, discussion groups, web browers, real time chatting and audio and video conferencing.

The Vision of ICT in Teacher education

The performance of all teachers is improved through appropriate use of ICT.  Planning in teacher education institution will ensure that access to IC Technology is equitable and cost effective.  Teacher educators and the members of the community will understand and be supportive of the ways in which ICT is used in teacher education institutions to enhance learning and training.

Issues needs to be addressed

The following issues needs to be addressed :

·        What is the present level of ICT knowledge and skills of teacher educators?

·        To what extent the ICT is integrated to teacher education curriculum ?  What resources are required to provide the needed professional development ?

·        How effectively ICT related knowledge and skills be allocated among teacher education programmes/pre-service induction, in-service and continuing education ?

·        How will budget and funding constraints affect equitable access and use of ICT ?

·        What are the realistic estimates of funding available from internal and external funding sources ?

·        What are the current state of technology infrastructure and installed base of handware in teacher education institution ?

·        What is the present level of connectivity in pre-service teacher education classroom ?

·        What type of hardware and infrastructure are needed to achieve the goals and objectives ICT integration in Teacher Education Programmes ?

·        Will teacher educators receive personal computers to accomplish their work ?

·        What configuration of computers needs to be used ?

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