In the recent days, there has been a great deal for Uganda Certificate of Education Examinations Results release. We have been able to see research carried out on the general performance in schools and performance analysis made in specific subjects. Let us take a look on:
- School improvement and school effectiveness and,
- On the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that these are two areas of educational research where great strides have been made in terms of finding out more about the links between processes of teaching and learning, and also in terms of producing findings that are useful to practitioners and policy-makers. Computers can be used individually, in small or large groups or by the teacher with the whole class. Each approach has been shown to be effective, though there are some differences in approaches and as a result upon outcomes. The difference comes in the way in which the teacher uses the different opportunities to help learners talk and think about their work.
Information and Communications Technologies present a range of tools that can be used by teachers to present and demonstrate as part of their teaching as well as something for students to use as part of an activity as individuals or in groups. These technological tools can be explicitly designed for use in educational contexts such as a mathematics teaching program or an overhead projecting calculator or they can be equipment or software used in other contexts, such as computers with data-projectors or word-processors and spreadsheets.
The choice of when and how to use such technologies in teaching and learning is complex and the above evidence clearly indicates that it is how ICT is used that makes the difference!
As ICT teachers, we should know that:
- Knowledge of, and experience with computers is not enough to enable teachers make the best use of ICT in the classroom.
- The way in which teachers’ skills, beliefs and practices are related affects the way that teachers choose to use ICT and how effective they are at using it. Therefore, effective use will depend upon the choices that a teacher makes about how to use ICT as part of their teaching.
- Teachers need support to develop both new technical and new pedagogical skills among their peers.
- ICT teachers need to embrace change, become good readers and be flexible enough to accommodate technological change.
Teachers need to teach students how to interact with each other when using the computers collaboratively so that effective learning can take place. ICT should be used to promote discussion in small groups and in whole class settings and in the end this will help to develop students’ thinking and understanding across the curriculum in a variety of subjects and with a range of outcomes.
No one can deny the impact that technology continues to have on almost every aspect of our daily lives, nor the speed with which new developments are adopted by us. The mobile phone is ubiquitous, and not just for anytime anywhere voice communication. Broadband data connectivity brings access to the internet and our personal and business communications. GPS can give us geographical guidance. A camera gives us video as well as image and sound recording capability, and local storage continues to get ever larger and ever cheaper.
Today it is the norm to use a range of personal data tools that specifically suit our needs. With the introduction of “apps” we now have almost untold free or low cost support to use and manage the information to which we have access. Just as devices are now ubiquitous, with the connectivity they offer, so too is access to knowledge. It is now commonplace to use technology socially to communicate, collaborate, elicit and offer opinion and share ideas to build knowledge. These are the skills our young people are developing and the very same skills that employers are seeking from potential employees. This must surely be the context in which education operates! As teachers, what should we be endeavoring to deliver in the 21st century? Are we demonstrating our abilities through the survival skills as indicated by Tony Wagner in his book “The Global Achievement Gap” (2008)? The survival skills were identified as:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing Information
- Curiosity and imagination
The importance of ICT to Education as a sector is far greater and we need to focus on “Learning to learn” and “Enquiry based learning” which move learning away from simple subject knowledge to higher level thinking skills in all subjects. It is not about excessive concentration on ICT skills per se, but allowing those skills to support the delivery of a much wider and more relevant curriculum. We have good infrastructure and we have some leading and exemplary schools and teachers who are really exploiting the benefits that can be gained from ICT and technology across their whole educational operations. There is still a culture of change that needs to be addressed and a workforce that needs to be supported. We must be careful not to throw away the heritage we have, but we must drive towards blending the new opportunities in the context of the successes of the past.