More homework neededWe only considered a few things while making policy to integrate ICT into education
There are several education policies like the ICT Master Plan in Education (2013-17) and the School Sector Development Plan (2018-23) designed to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) into education; but at the practical level, we are still struggling to make this happen. Is it because our policies were made without enough understanding of the ecology of ICT integration? ICT can always be a better means to deliver quality education. And we need to understand the action possibilities that ICT offers in our teaching learning context.
Prof Francoise Blin of Irish University maintains that there are four different types of action possibilities that ICT offers in an educational setting, particularly in language teaching. They are technological, sociological, educational and linguistic affordances. While integrating ICT into the education policy in Nepal, it may be that we only considered some of the tangible affordances, like technological affordances, and thought about how easily we can use certain ICT devices. We might not have thought about sociological affordances, such as whether ICT devices have the potential to engage learners in the classroom. So we need to consider all sorts of ICT affordances which can be realised when using it in a teaching-learning context.
What if the educational affordances are overlooked, meaning we are not considering if and how individual and team learning can be possible using ICT? Let’s consider how the idea of affordances can help in framing new policies or adapting existing ones. Using the idea of affordances in policy formation can make us realise the potential of ICT artefacts and their interconnectedness to technological, social and educational functionalities. Having thought about all these functionalities, we might be able to specify what kind of ICT use we are targeting as per our local context while developing the policy.
Similarly, we also need to specify the kind of digital literacies we are going to build in our learners, which can be a key means to learn any form of content in the classroom when technology is being integrated. We also need to have some guiding framework to define what digital competence is in our context, like the European Union has done for its citizens. Such a framework can help us assess the teachers’ and learners’ digital competence, and develop policies and strategies to execute them on the basis of their capability.
The European digital competence for citizens has identified five key areas such as information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety and problem solving. It has specified 21 competencies under these key areas. We can develop our own digital competency framework to help our educational practitioners find out what kind of digital competencies are required for learners and teachers while using ICT in an educational setting.
The third point that needs to be mentioned is the ecology of ICT in education which, to some extent, is connected with the affordances mentioned above. The question is whether we are only focusing on the macro level. Developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner includes it in the exo level, that is emphasis on a broader educational outcome that ICT brings during the policy formulation.
Or are we framing policies only considering the macro and micro levels, that is the learners and their roles? If so, how about the meso level, that is the learners’ possible interaction with the school, college, peers and family while using ICT? Therefore, if we are away from the nested ecosystem of ICT integration into education, there is always a high possibility of the policies and plans being too vague; and the follow-up actions can obviously be weak. Consequently, our policy will lose its solid ground, and maybe the discourse related to educational policy will always be a matter of critique.
We need to have some theoretical grounds on which our plans and policies can be firmly grounded. And we need to have a framework of digital competences which can help us identify our teachers’ and learners’ digital competence and further assist us in building our policies. It is definite that a proper understanding of the affordances and the ecosystem of ICT integration into education can help us come up with solid plans and polices which have the maximum potential to realise tangible changes in Nepali education.
Shrestha is a PhD student at Dublin City University, Ireland.