miércoles, abril 29, 2009

ICT isn't merely changing chalk for mouse and blackboard for screen

Reportaje realizado a monicaK por Petru Dimitri de la Comisón de Educación de la Comunidad Europea en Febrero 2003

  • What do 'distance learning', 'online learning' and 'e-Learning' mean to you?
Distance learning is learning away from any educational center using any communication means, ie, snail mail, radio, TV, email, etc.
Online learning? The word says it! You learn online, by means of any ICT tool, elists, email, websites, forums, etc.
e-Learning means courses with special targets (for school pupils, teachers, corporation managers, factory employees, doctors, U students, etc.) to be finished in a fixed time, with a definite purpose and curriculum, taught online.

Definitely distance learning is a way of living, I think it'll be very hard for me nowadays to study at a brick and mortar university or school.

  • Is our life becoming increasingly dependent on technology?
Yes! We don't hand write any more, we use cars not carriages, we use telephone communications all day, we watch TV, listen to the radio ... I mean, most of us are dependent on technology at large not only on ICT!
As to ICT, I'm one of the privileged 2 % people in my country (Argentina) to have Internet access and one of the privileged 10% who owns a computer. Apart from Sweden, the US and some other lucky country, I think these are common numbers for "developed" countries. Think of the Third World countries! So when you say "our life" you are talking about a very few, privileged number of "lives". But yes, my work as ISO consultant, as teacher's teacher, as translator, editor and as moderator/facilitator depends exclusively on my computer. I can't hand write any more!

  • Do you have some experience in integrating modern technologies to your daily classroom work? If so, how do you manage it?
Not to "my" classroom work as I retired before the ICT boom. But I had large experience as facilitator at the school where my husband worked till 2000. Basically I taught teachers not to be afraid of using computers. They were encouraged to use computers for their daily classroom work.
So Geography teacher would ask her pupils to visit the sites of several countries and prepare a lesson using power point with images, texts, songs, historical sites, etc. The Art teachers (they were largely the most creative) were the ones to profit more from using computers. They started by teaching their students to use Paint to draw with the mouse instead of a pencil and then using image editors to get different effects, mixing colors, etc. You can't imagine the wonderful works of art they got!!! After learning to use these tools most of them didn't want to study xilography or engraving techniques. "After all" they said "you get the same effect using the PC and printer!" .
The English language teacher used the Web and emailing with kids around the world as a "hook" to get her pupils interested in learning a new language. The Tech teacher taught the kids (most of the time the kids taught him! :-) to draw complex blueprints just using the most unsophisticated tools Windows provides. And most teachers found it was easier to get their pupils to the computers lab than to the very small and very poor library we have here. Of course students found visiting the web much more interesting than leafing through old books to do their researches!
The greater achievement was that ALL pupils were asked to give in their home work written with a word processor. Most of them loved it and even devised rosters to use the 10 available computers after class hours. You see, they could use their remaining time to navigate! Teachers were asked to submit their lessons and quiz plans the same way too. It made them "conversant" with computers and it was a starting point for those who wanted to learn more about ICT.
Anyway, I don't believe in exchanging blackboard and chalk by mouse and screen. What's really great of integrating ITC to the classroom is that for the first time in history children don't depend on adults to learn! If you give them the proper tools they can go and learn by themselves! This is something that makes us, teachers, humble!
About the "other" ;-) modern technologies they use a lot educational videos.

  • If so, how do you manage it?
I think the best way to integrate them to the classroom work is starting to integrate points of the subject you teach to other subjects in a "transversal" common project. First, after you're used to do collaborative work with other teachers it comes naturally to use better tools to teach, including ICT. (They say two - or more- heads think better than one! In this way you get used to leave your "cozy classroom corner" and open your mind to other disciplines and different ways of teaching them.) It also allows you to benefit from fellow teachers who are more conversant with ICT. Next, students don't feel that what you teach is completely apart from what other teachers teach. Last, when a kid comes across some useful info (on the web or wherever) or gets a new ICT skill she/he fully uses it. There's no saying here "this belongs to another class/subject, it isn't useful now."

  • How do you collaborate with other colleagues in your school over project work involving ICT?
This is not my case, but I helped teachers and students to collaborate with each other mainly teaching them how to "concoct" transversal collaborative projects, even in Kindergarten. Also teaching them some ICT skills, giving them tips as to finding some shortcuts for working better, translating into Spanish - unfortunately most of really interesting projects and websites are in English. But mainly helping them not to be afraid of using this new tool. I've got wonderful result... as long as teachers were willing to do it...

  • Does ICT improve communication and cooperation between pupils inside and outside school?
Inside school: Sometimes, yes. In most cases kids (and teachers!) learn from their classmates. This builds a particular bond between them. It also helps those considered "nerds" (usually shy, introvert kids) to leave their shells and become classroom stars. On the other hand, some kids that have computers at home tend to form an "elite" disregarding the rest. Depending on the class I've seen the two. It's the work of teachers to balance this.
Outside school: kids communicate and cooperate with others kids around the world learning all you already know about respect for dissimilarity, multiculturization, etc.

  • Tell us about your successes and failures, so we all learn together.
My greatest success was: a) making teachers who never touched a PC enthusiastic about integrating them to their classroom work. b) making kids disregard the sound of the bell and keeping them "at class" long after leaving time.
My greatest failure was: a) not making some teachers (and principals! ) understand that this is a wonderful tool, nothing demoniac or promoter of laziness in it! b) Failing to make understand some "Computers" teachers that ICT isn't an end in itself but merely a means to impart "quality education" integrating it to every class. After all you don't need to know how a carburetor works to be a good driver!

  • Should all teachers and pupils have a laptop?
Should hunger/wars/ abuse be stopped?
Of course they should have a laptop! But first all kids should have enough to eat, parents should have better paid jobs, and teachers... the list is long!

  • How can ICT help better integrate pupils at social risk and/or children of migrants, gypsies, travellers and/or pupils with special educational needs into the school system?
Students at social risk: By providing them with attractive projects which enable them to do something useful, entertaining and interesting. This will prevent them feeling misfits, will prop their self estimation and will keep them out of the streets or out of abusing homes. I've seen it done!
Children of migrants, gypsies, travellers: Establishing a national wide "school on the net" to allow them to "attend school" no matter where they are. It will also benefit kids that are long- term hospitalized. I think the project mentioned at the chat is wonderful!
Pupils with special educational needs: Though this isn't my subject I know there are lots of special devices/projects/programs to help them to integrate. Some were mentioned at the chat too.

  • Are new technologies a support for international educational collaboration?
It goes without saying! Never in history there was an opportunity for international understanding and collaboration such as this.
How does it fit in your curriculum? Remember I'm a retired teacher now but I've seen many projects promoting international educational collaboration - even international collaboration for kids, period.

  • Are computers still motivating elements?
For children, absolutely. At least in my country, where many kids still don't regard them as an "everyday home appliance."
I'm not so sure about teachers... :-) Some regard them as something that encroach on their time, challenge their teaching abilities and makes them to change their paradigm about learning-teaching activities.

  • What is your vision of future education with ICT?
Inclusiveness is what building a new and hopefully more democratic world is all about. Of course, this must start with children and the best place for this are schools.
I think that the future is now in the sense that ITC came to stay and the better we, teachers, learn to use it, the best results our students, and the world at large, will achieve.

  • What will change?
Everything that it already changed. And much more as more and more schools use it. Foremost, that, as I said above, it's the first time in history of humankind children can learn without the immediate help of their elders.

  • Will it be better?
Of course! Education (and the world) is definitely getting better as each century passes.
ICT is just a tool for achieving a better education and a better understanding among people of different cultures, etc, but what a powerful tool! As with any tool you can always misuse it. Think of a hammer, you can make a table with it or break someone's head. With ICT you can volunteer for the Red Cross or establish a terrorist cell through it. But I hope (and the results up to date prove it) that it can help to eliminate boundaries among people/nations/gender/generations.

  • Will it be worse?
Definitely NO!

  • Will we manage?
It's up to anyone of us. But I definitely hope so!

And thanks, Petru, for asking what I think! And to the rest of you for giving your time and attention to my words!

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