Learning unleashedRealising the potential of technology—especially in the classroomis of vital importance
In recent times, education technology has succeeded in making learning collaborative and interactive. Following the onset of digital transformation, teachers have made changes in the way they teach, assess and even conduct classes. Given that, the interrelationship between these three seemingly basic, yet highly intricate components—namely, teachers, technology and transformation considering the technological constraints of our own educational realities cannot be overlooked any longer.
Realising the potential of technology—especially in the classroom—is of vital importance because without this prerequisite, a teacher cannot really exercise ICT to its full capacity. When technologies are introduced in teaching and learning without a comprehensive understanding of how they could transform pedagogical practices, they will be put to minimal use, and they tend to become an end in itself. Damian Maher, an Australian educational-technology researcher, therefore argues that the underlying importance of digital technology is not on the technology itself but in the manner in which technology is integrated into the learning process.
For teachers to learn how technologies can be integrated seamlessly in teaching and learning, they have to first experience the use of technology in their own education during the pre-service teacher training. In an effort to train future teachers on the use of technology, universities in Nepal have recently introduced modules on ICT in teacher preparation courses. For example, Tribhuvan University offers ‘ICT in Education’ courses both at the bachelor’s’ and master’s level to train teachers on pedagogical approaches that leverage technology.
While those courses may be useful to raise awareness of ICT, they carry a risk of making technology an end rather than a means of educational transformation. Echoing the perspectives of Alona Forkosh-Baruch, these courses can only help develop ICT ‘constituent competence’, which is often disconnected from pedagogy and course content. Consequently, the question persists whether the graduates from those courses can really contribute to the effective integration of technologies across the school subjects when they lack experiential, theoretical and pedagogical knowledge related to use of technology.
So, what could be a solution? Based on our experiences and global scholarship, we advise that the teacher education program designed in universities should model the use of digital tools in teaching and learning underpinned by pedagogical principles. ICT courses introduced at the university should be delivered as a loop input so that students can learn the process of integrating technology for teaching and learning through experiential training. ICT has to be made a means of educational practices and in order to reach this milestone, transformation in teacher education courses is vital.
While there are constraints of access and infrastructure for technology use, there has been an unprecedented rise in mobile phone ownership among youths and adults. The official figures say that mobile phones outnumber the total population in Nepal—and a lot more people than in the past have access to the internet now through cellular network. Therefore, teacher educators have to plan on leveraging what is available rather than whining about not having enough ICT facilities.
Institutions that provide can teacher education can first pursue this effort by devising campus policies that create and use virtual learning spaces on social networking sites (SNS). These sites are freely available and popular among students and teachers. Similarly, Google and Outlook give free access to cloud services (such as Google Drive and OneDrive) when one signs up to their email accounts. Those platforms offer great services, which can help in collaborative and project-based-learning—which are argued to transform teaching/learning practices.
Study carried out by an educationist Bidya Nath Koirala in 2016 painted a dismal picture of ICT in education: more than half of the teachers that they interviewed were not capable of using technologies and the rest noted that their computer skills were below average. It is high time that we addressed this issue through proper teacher education courses and rigorous teacher training programs that intentionally integrate experiential learning for technology use.
It is obvious that teachers can bring transformations in their regular teaching and learning through the mediation of technology—provided that they are systematically guided on the educational use of ICTs. For ICT education in Nepal to be successful, technology first needs to be made approachable.
Laudari and Shrestha are PhD students in University Technology Sydney, Australia and Dublin City University, Ireland respectively