OECD Study Finds More Freedom for Schools to Decide How They Want to Teach
Decision-making in schools is becoming more decentralised as the education systems of OECD countries move away from centralised command systems based on government edicts and adapt to the flexibility required for the modern knowledge economy. Decisions on how teaching is organised are now mainly taken by schools in all OECD countries, rather than by local, regional or national authorities, according to the 2004 edition of Education at a Glance.
The trend is significant because it shows how school authorities at local, regional and national level in 17 countries with comparable data are responding to demands for improved efficiency, increased responsiveness to local communities and encouragement of innovation and quality improvement.
Education Levels Rising in OECD Countries but Low Attainment Still Hampers Some
More people around the world are completing university courses and other forms of tertiary education than ever before, according to the 2004 edition of Education at a Glance. However, progress has been uneven across countries and some have significantly fallen behind, potentially compromising their future ability to keep up with economic and social progress.
Almost all OECD countries have seen a rise in the education levels of their citizens over the past decade, and in some countries the increase has been spectacular. Enrolment in tertiary education, which covers both university-level education and high-level vocational programmes, increased between 1995 and 2002 by more than 50% in the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Korea and Poland, and still by more than 20% in Australia, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Austria, France and Germany are the only countries which did not see increases, mainly because rising enrolment rates could not make up for the demographic decline in these countries.
However, in eight OECD countries, 20% or more of 20-to-24-year olds have at most only lower secondary school qualifications and are not in education. Mexico is in the least favourable position, with 70% of people in this age group having lower secondary education or less, followed by Turkey (56%), Portugal (47%), Spain (32%), Iceland (29%), Italy (25%), the Netherlands (21%) and Luxembourg (20%). Low educational attainment concerns more young males than females in 19 out of the 27 countries for which statistics are available, and particularly in Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
"We are all adult learners. Most of us have learned a great deal more out of school than in it." (Laurent A Daloz, Effective teaching and mentoring,1986, ch.1)
A key feature of adult learners is that, in general, they attend classes voluntarily, unlike the Shakespearean schoolboy, "creeping like snail, unwillingly to school". That said, another characteristic of adult learners is that they have an agenda, a reason to be there. This differs from one person to another. Some researchers suggest that where the motivation is professional or work advancement, attendance cannot be said to be truly voluntary. However, a general distinction can be made between those attending school because it is compulsory or pursuing formal academic and vocational qualifications on one hand, and the majority of adult learners on the other.
The way in which adults learn
It is only relatively recently - from the 1970s onwards - that attention has been paid to the way in which adults learn as distinct from the way children learn. Malcolm Knowles cites four key differences.
· self-concept ; adults are less likely to ’brush off’ failure;
· experience : adults who cannot master a new skill suffer a lack of self-esteem;
· readiness: children are more willing and able to learn and accept new ideas;
· time : children are unafraid of failure as they feel they can always learn later; adults are less likely to feel like this.
Subsequent researchers identified other factors affecting the adult learner:
· Scheduling problems
· Lack of time and money
· Family and job responsibilities
· Transport problems
On the other hand, research also suggests that adults compensate for outdated knowledge by working harder, find it easier to incorporate new knowledge into existing knowledge, are more highly motivated and have a clearer purpose. Some writers suggest that older learners can compensate for being slower in some psychomotor skills by being more accurate and less likely to resort to trial and error. A corollary of taking errors personally and thus lowering self-esteem is that adults take fewer risks, relying on tried and tested methods.
Much of this applies to any class of adults, and it can be straightforward to deal with some issues. For example, open-ended sessions benefit those who do not want to miss their ‘bus or train home.
It could be argued that teaching computer skills to adults is a special case. Older learners are faced with a subject which may not have existed when they were undertaking school or post-school education. At worst, this can manifest itself as "computerphobia" or "communication apprehension". Brosnan and Davidson (The psychologist,vol. 7, 2, 1994, pages 73-8) looked at evidence which suggested that between a quarter and a third of all people are computerphobic. However, surveys suggest that computer ownership amongst older people (55+) is increasing - the so-called "silver surfers" - and that the average age of Internet users is therefore rising.
On my courses, familiarity with the computer, both hardware and software, varied amongst the participants. This confirms the findings of a survey by Clyde and Klobas of Internet trainees based in Iceland. The opening class is a good time to check if students are familiar with right-clicking, minimising windows, etc.
Motivations to learn ICT
Icebreakers in week 1 give each student a chance to say why he or she is there. Some reasons were obvious:
· retired people seeking a new interest (or wanting to keep up with their grand-children!);
Others were less so:
· need to use IT skills at work but lacked training opportunities;
· working towards European Computer Driving License;
· wanted to use Internet to plan and book holiday
With retired people, the motivation was often general - a desire to find out about new technology - but sometimes quite specific. One retired gentleman in my Internet class was also attending classes in JAVA, and wanted to find and download applets from the Web. A former English lecturer was interested in newsgroups and Web sources on his favourite authors. He later returned to my HTML class, and began building his own website. Another class member wanted to research family history, particularly connections with the Boston area. Within the overall plan for the class then, it had to be possible to cater for individual and quite specific interests, without neglecting those whose interests are more general. Learning to use the Internet can be a useful starting point for the acquisition of general computer skills.
Teaching about the Internet should establish general principles about searching, but also pass on useful information such as what to do about spam, or perhaps what not to do. Students should become aware that any information on the ’Net has to be approached with a degree of caution. Anyone who uses the Internet as a source of information has to learn to do so critically. Books on library shelves, articles in a journal, have normally gone through a selection or editorial process, which is transparent to the user. Such quality control does not necessarily apply to Internet sources.
Even those comfortable with the general skills of personal computing can find the Internet daunting. Searching for files on hard disk, floppy or CD-ROM is relatively uncomplicated. Using the Internet to find and download information is less so. Response times vary, error messages can be difficult to understand, and the lack of a coherent structure to the Internet is confusing, like having to use the telephone system without a phone book.
As one of "30 things we know for sure about adult learning", Ron and Susan Zemke say:
"…straightforward how-to is the preferred content orientation. Adults cite a need for application and how-to information as the prime motivation for beginning a learning project" (Innovation Abstracts Vol VI, No 8, March 9, 1984)
Applying that to teaching about the Internet means a minimum of formal lecturing and a strategy of using practical, hands-on exercises where possible. Instead of talking about truncating URLs, which generate error messages, let students point the browser at a problem URL and gradually truncate it until it works. Get them to e-mail a bogus address and then look at the resulting error message rather than just describe it. A student mistake such as typing one ’/’ instead of two in a URL, that can be used to reinforce correct practice. Once again, it is important that the students develop understanding and skills which will be relevant and lasting.
"We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 -- and half the things he knows at 40 hadn’t been discovered when he was 20?" (Clarke, Arthur C. The View from Serendip)Additional Info:
The University of Strathclyde Centre for Lifelong Learning: Adult Learning programme
Learning in Later Life programme;
The Senior Studies Institute
Computer Buddy Project
Therefore we want to commit ourselves simultaneously to both goals. On the one hand, we face the challenge to work on the educational objectives in an efficient and child-centred way. On the other hand, we want to respond adequately to the expectations of society and continuing education with regard to ICT competencies. That is why we are looking for instructive activities that reinforce our education sector in the first place and strengthen this ICT competency at the same time.
Competencies focusing on the learning process
As a consequence, the core of the ICT competencies is embedded in the skills that are inherent in the vision of attainment targets and developmental objectives. They are competencies focusing on the learning process. They enable pupils to use the possibilities of ICT in a functional way so that their own learning process is backed and reinforced. Indeed it is all about ICT as a means for co-operation, independent learning, making differentiated exercises, exchanging information…
For that reason they are explained by or concretised in sub-competencies and classified in a manner that fits in the learning process in the classroom : respectively planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating. Where they are specific to the core competency, also operating subskills or attitudes are mentioned. These subcompetencies are only important in relation to the core competency to which they belong.
The competencies focusing on the learning process are the core of the ICT competencies in primary education. In this brochure we distinguish two other competency levels apart from those focusing on the learning process.
Technical and operating skills
A second category of ICT competencies encompasses technical and operating skills. Being able to use the computer, the peripheral equipment, the operating system, the software also requires specific knowledge and attitudes. And yet we consistently use the concept of skills. In doing so we want to emphasise that these competencies are different from those focusing on the learning process.
These technical/operating skills are not an objective in themselves in primary education. That is why they are called operating or supportive skills. They are best learned when a practical and constructive application comes up within classroom practice. Thus technical skills are never an aim in themselves. Indeed practice teaches us that many children find it easy to master the procedures to work skilfully with ICT or to explain them to each other. Some children will already have acquired a lot of skills outside the classroom. Therefore, it is not at all our intention to develop a curriculum with technical/operating skills that has to be systematically mastered by all children. We do not opt for an ICT curriculum, but for a vertical integration of ICT across the school.
This integration does not have to start at the same time for all competencies. It is possible that schools only start with the “communication” aspect in the upper years of primary education, while ICT are already used for independent learning and practising in nursery education.
Social and ethical competencies
A third category of ICT competencies contains the social and ethical dimension of the application of ICT. These social and ethical competencies refer to the development of attitudes : to cope in a justified and responsible manner with the new technology. They are about complying with agreements, approaching ICT in a critical way, helping each other in case problems occur… They directly anticipate the impact ICT can have on the development of (learning) children and that is why they are very important. Obviously, these competencies are interwoven with what children do with ICT and are gradually acquired thanks to the permanent effort the teacher engages himself in to draw the children’s attention to them.
These competencies are to be read against the background of primary education, taking into account the potentialities and the limitations related to the age of the children and the material equipment of the average primary school.
It should be stressed that it is not the individual teacher who is accountable for the degree to which ICT is integrated at school. The teaching team draws upon a relational approach to determine how fast the school integrates ICT. This varies from school to school. A high-quality use of ICT stands or falls with a well-considered vision of the impact of ICT as a supportive means to reinforce learning. This is teamwork.
The competency diagram and the core competencies
Competencies focusing on the learning process
1. The pupils can co-operate in a functional way in order to perform a straightforward search assignment by means of ICT.
2. The pupils can represent information multimedially with the aid of ICT.
3. The pupils can learn independently in a ICT supported learning environment.
4. The pupils can collect, process and save information by means of ICT.
5. The pupils can send their own messages and receive messages for their attention with the aid of electronic communication resources.
6. The pupils can practise independently with the support of ICT.
7. The pupils can engage independently in an assignment by using ICT.
8. The pupils have the requisite operating knowledge and skills to be able to use the ICT equipment in relevant contexts.
Social and ethical competencies
9. The pupils use ICT adequately and in a responsible manner.
Competencies focusing on the learning process
When I pass by, the children are sitting in front of a computer screen in small groups of four or five. On closer inspection, they are dividing the tasks of an assignment with regard to environmental studies. Some of them propose to look for information in the library. Others suggest that they will find something on the Internet…
Computers in primary education ? Many teachers are afraid of the image of pupils sitting on their own in front of a computer to study, process, practise subject matters independently. Indeed, the computer is an adequate resource for children to set to work individually, at their own pace and level. But children also learn in group, with each other and from each other.
It is all about learning processes that allow pupils to decide jointly how to comply with an assignment. They finish together this assignment, respecting the contribution and the personality of their fellow pupils. From the diagram of ICT competencies it appears that “working together on an assignment” takes a special place in relation to other competencies. They are supportive to and interwoven with other competencies. We have in mind situations in which children consult each other in view of a talk, retrieve or pass on information as a result of a partnership with another school, work on a project in small groups, practise educational software in twos, etc.
The attention paid to co-operation has still another advantage as children have a largely differing starting position with regard to computer use. A lot of children are already very successful in using the computer and their expertise may be very rich and wide-ranging. It would be very regrettable if this expertise were not used. The children – as well as the teachers – can learn from and with each other to use this tool efficiently.
Core competency 1: The pupils can work together in a functional way on a straightforward search assignment with the support of ICT.
1.1. The pupils are able to jointly decide for which parts of the assignment it would be helpful to use ICT as a tool.
1.2. The pupils can discuss with each other how they will use ICT for working on the assignment and who will take on which tasks.
1.3. The pupils can gather and compare information, insights and opinions in a targeted way and process these data into group results.
Monitoring and evaluating
1.4. The pupils can make a provisional assessment of the group’s progress, thereby exchanging and using constructive feedback.
1.5. The pupils can assess the specific benefits of the use of ICT for their co-operation.
1.6. The pupils respect each other’s contributions and opinions.
1.7. The pupils respect agreements and timetables.
1.8. The pupils are willing to help each other taking the differences in ICT competencies into account.
2. Proposals of information
After an educational walk to a piece of wet meadow each group has further elaborated another aspect : birds, insects, other animals, flowering plants, trees. They collected more information, summarised the main issues, typed them in on the computer and linked them to the material they brought with them (they made labels) and to the photos and drawings they found (text + photo on one sheet)… With this material they presented their small project to the whole class.
By presenting the information we mean that the pupils, alone or in co-operation with others, are able to communicate or show information to others with the support of multimedia. This does not mean that the whole presentation must be done with ICT. Here we have in mind simple things such as making the class listen to a music fragment, supporting their text with a photomontage composed via ICT, showing a number of (parts of) web pages to the whole class. A simple presentation, made, if possible, by means of a specific presentation programme is also an option.
Core competency 2: The pupils are able to represent information multimedially with the aid of ICT.
2.1. The pupils can decide in which order and in which form the information will be presented.
2.2. The pupils can decide which ICT applications are most suitable to present (parts of) the information.
2.3. The pupils can present information (text, images and sound) in a targeted way to their target audience with the help of ICT. Monitoring and evaluating
2.4. The pupils can reflect upon the procedure followed and draw their conclusions from it.
* Each work session within the biotope project starts with a brief lookback: what have we done already, what do we have to do next ? The group that focuses on insects finds that each of them has done overlapping work for the greater part. Therefore they decide to make better arrangements about who engages in which task.”
2.5. The pupils can judge and give feedback about the quality of their own or other people’s presentation.
2.6. The pupils’ presentations take the characteristics and expectations of their target audience into account.
3. Independent learning with the support of ICT
In small groups of three the children work on a number of assignments related to mammals. For each question they can click on one or more web sites where information can be found. This makes them read texts, interpret tables, follow further links… In this way children learn what a wealth of information they can find on the web.
By independent learning we mean that the pupils acquire and process new educational contents and that the computer takes over, so to speak, the role of the teacher.
An example of this is the ‘Webquest’ teaching method, which leads the pupil step by step to sites where information can be found and makes him process this information by targeted assignments. Also the ICT support developed by publishers for their teaching materials can offer alternative learning methods that teach pupils how to acquire knowledge in an autonomous way.
If the computer is equipped with good software it can adapt the level of the educational content to the pupil on the basis of the response of pupil (for example by offering additional information), give feedback, save a report for the teacher, etc.
It is evident that this type of learning can also take place in (small) groups.
Core competency 3: The pupils are able to learn independently in a ICT supported learning environment.
3.1. The pupils are able to plan an individual learning pathway by means of an electronically controlled step-by-step procedure.
“When searching the web within the proposed sites, the pupils use a checklist to examine whether they have sufficient information to finish their assignment before they click on the next site.”
3.2. The pupils can learn independently using a familiar educational programme.
3.3 The pupils can implement a simulation with the support of a suitable educational programme and draw their conclusions from their activity.
*The children play with a programme in which a little chap finds all sorts of food in a maze. When they make the little chap eat too much or unhealthy food the little chap falls ill. After the game, they draw conclusions in the classroom on healthy and balanced food.”
Monitoring and evaluating
3.4. The pupils can reflect on the procedure followed and on what they have learned in combination with the objectives set.
*At the end of the project the pupils check whether the things they have learned correspond with the objective set at the start. That is why they verify whether all questions or assignments are sufficiently dealt with.”
4. Collecting and processing of information For the transport theme the teacher has developed a word field together with the children. In addition he has written a list of words that are unfamiliar to the children on the blackboard (karos, velocipede…). On the basis of these key words the children look for images of various ancient means of transport.
They have to arrange them (cutting and pasting) on a time line. They choose between searching the Internet or searching (printed and electronic) reference books and encyclopaedias they have at their disposal. They experience that it is possible but also time-consuming to use the photos from a reference book.
The search for information happens partially in the ‘electronic library’ that is available on CD- ROMS, the school server or the Internet. We have in mind here electronic encyclopaedias, translation dictionaries, educational CD-ROMS with text, image, sound, animation … and of course web pages. In the same way children find the books to suit their taste in the section of a real library that is dedicated to them, the teacher can delineate here a ‘platform’ that only provides the information that is appropriate or targeted to them. He can make the children work with search engines specially designed for them.
By processing information we mean that among other things the children decide what is interesting in the framework of their objective or assignment; that they use information to offer solutions for a question or an assignment; that they arrange this information in order to present it later to others…
Core competency 4: The pupils can retrieve, process and save information by means of ICT.
4.1. The pupils can choose in an adequate way the most suitable sources of information to assemble specific information.
*The pupils decide to look up the explanations of words in a dictionary, the maps on a CD-ROM and illustrations on the Internet.”
4.2. The pupils can decide in which way they will save the information found in order to consult it again later on.
*They will print their work immediately or save it.”
4.3. With the support of ICT, the pupils can formulate and implement a search assignment.
4.4. Under supervision the pupils can judge which information is relevant and interesting for the search assignment.
4.5. Under supervision, the pupils can arrange and save the useful information.
Monitoring and evaluating
4.6. The pupils can adapt their own search process in the light of the provisional findings.
4.7. The pupils can indicate why their own approach was successful or not.
4.8. The pupils adopt a critical attitude towards the available information.
4.9. The pupils aim for precision and a systematic approach when consulting arranging and saving information.
*They keep printed information in cardboard folders on which is labelled the name of the project as well as the correct name of the electronic folder in which they can find the related files.”
4.10. The pupils mention spontaneously the sources they have used.
4.11. The pupils show their commitment and perseverance when searching for information.
Specific operating skills
4.12 The pupils are able to carry out search tasks by means of simple procedures such as : entering a web site address, searching by means of a search engine, navigating through a series of hyperlinks, applying relevant menu options.
5. Communicating information
With a view to an excursion the children collect information about the city to be visited. That is why they contact, under the guidance of a teacher, the tourist board (they search themselves the address or e-mail), another school, the museum and the playground.
By communicating we mean that children are able to use the facilities offered by ICT to give information or to ask for information from a third party. We have in mind here the facilities that can contribute to the learning process, such as: making appointments via e-email, attaching electronic documents to an e-mail message, chatting live to pupils of another school, etc.
It is of importance that when communicating by electronic means the pupils learn to observe a number of prevailing rules and conventions.
Core competency 5: The pupils are able to send their own messages and receive messages for their attention with the support of electronic communication resources.
5.1. The pupils make a targeted choice between the different means of communication taking the possibilities and limitations of these tools into account.
*The pupils choose e-mail as a means of communication because their message is not urgent and they do not want to disturb the person their message is sent to.”
5.2. The pupils can indicate in advance the essentials of their message.
5.3. The pupils can communicate efficiently in the framework of an assignment using the current means of communication.
Monitoring and evaluating
5.4. The pupils can assess whether the communication was efficient and whether adjustments are required.
5.5. The pupils take the cost price of electronic communication into account.
5.6. The pupils respect the general code of conduct when communicating by electronic means (also called ‘netiquette’).
5.7. The pupils react in an alert and self-assured way to unusual messages.
*As was agreed in the classroom, the pupils do not open themselves the attachments of unknown or unexpected senders.”
5.8. The pupils do not disseminate confidential information by electronic means.
Specific operating skills
5.9. The pupils are able to use the current means of communication.
6. Independent practising with the support of ICT
In the computer room or the own classroom (activities in different classroom
corners or self-directed tasks) children work independently on an exercise that makes them estimate the outcome of a number of multiplications by placing a comma in each product. The programme adapts the level of difficulty to the educational performance and offers help when the children give wrong answers.
After the children have acquired new educational contents, it is of importance that they can practise them sufficiently. For that purpose, the computer can be a useful tool. We have in mind for example the widespread tutorials for practising the basic arithmetic operations (such as drilling multiplication tables), for clock reading, for spelling…
The added value of this ICT integration strategy lies among other things in:
variation (in exercises, in responding to different learning methods), differentiation (of pace and level), individualised feedback, gain in time when evaluating.
Core competency 6: The pupils can practise independently with the support of ICT.
6.1. The pupils can independently learn to use an educational software program they are familiar with.
*In the computer corner the pre-schoolers can learn autonomously how to use a familiar programme that was made available by the teacher.”
Monitoring and evaluating
6.2. The pupils can assess whether they have brought their assignments to a successful conclusion.
6.3. The pupils use spontaneously the help functions intended for them.
7. Creating with the support of ICT
The children work in small groups to make a number of carefully designed invitations for the school party with the support of various programmes. The ICT co-ordinator and the class teacher offer their help. Most children soon master the basic facilities of various software packages. Moreover they give their imagination free rein.
ICT can also facilitate creation. We have in mind for example the creation of a poster, the illustration of a self-written text, the use of different fonts and character sizes, the careful preparation of a contribution to the school newspaper. The children can use the elementary possibilities offered by a variety of text, image and drawing programmes to create, manipulate and combine texts and images in a creative way.
Core competency 7: The pupils can create independently an assigned project using ICT.
7.1. The pupils can judge which ICT tools can help them to create an assignment.
7.2. With the use of ICT, the pupils are able to engage creatively in the process of shaping and communicating their ideas by means of text and image.
*Within the theme ‘rich and poor’ they make an electronic photomontage and enhance the effect by using respectively shades of colour and grey. They print it in two different sizes but save it also in an electronic folder named after the project theme.”
Monitoring and evaluating
7.3. The pupils can assess whether they have brought their assignments to a successful conclusion and reflect upon their approach.
7.4. The pupils can give feedback on the work of their fellow pupils and indicate how they would tackle the assignment themselves.
“When discussing each other’s creative assignments, the pupils tell which parts they consider successful and why. They make suggestions to each other about how they could improve their approach.”
8. Using the equipment
As soon as the children have found an interesting image, they ask themselves how they can print it and paste it into another document. A fellow pupil shows spontaneously how they can do this by means of ‘copying and pasting’.
In order to be able to make maximum use of the facilities offered by ICT integration, a minimum of operating skills is essential. These supporting ICT skills are also useful for further education, independent learning (for example in the context of hobbies and areas of interest), the development of social self-reliance (for example finding a book in a library), etc.
However, these skills are learned functionally in primary education, this means that these skills are acquired while the children are working on some assignment or other. For instance they learn how to copy and paste when they want to rearrange or illustrate a self-written text.
As a consequence these ICT skills are not necessarily learned at the same time by all children. Children can also learn from each other and are also allowed to use skills acquired elsewhere. Indeed practice teaches us that many children find it easy to master the procedures to work skilfully with ICT or to explain them to each other. Some children will already have acquired a lot of skills outside the classroom. It is not at all our intention to develop a curriculum with technical/operating skills that has to be systematically mastered by all children.
Core competency 8: The pupils have the requisite operating
knowledge and skills to be able to use the ICT equipment in relevant contexts.
8.1. The pupils are able to make a functional use of the correct basic terminology.
*The pupils know what is meant by ‘saving on hard disk’.”
8.2. The pupils are able to use the elementary features of a computer and the peripheral equipment available to them.
*The pupils know how to obtain a capital letter or how to type an ë or an ê.”
8.3. The pupils are able to save their own data digitally in a structured way.
8.4. The pupils are able to apply the basic procedures of a familiar operating system.
8.5. The pupils are able to apply the basic procedures of straightforward writing, drawing and presentation programmes, of search and communication programmes.
8.6. The pupils are able to observe the elementary operational and safety provisions.
*The pupils are able to close themselves the programme they are working with as well as the computer.”
Social and ethical competencies
9. Using ICT in a responsible way
Two pupils are looking in vain for information. Rather than wasting time endlessly or surfing aimlessly, they turn to the teacher for advice after some time.
ICT integration also contains a social and ethical factor. Social skills, self-reliance, self-direction are closely linked with co-operation, communication, presenting, independent learning and practising, but also with tackling information from others.
There are conventions, rules, the so-called netiquette to be observed. That is why each school should make clear arrangements about downloading, printing and copying.
Core competency 9: The pupils use ICT adequately and in a responsible manner.
9.1. The pupils adopt a discerning-appreciative approach to ICT as a social phenomenon.
*The pupils understand the many opportunities offered by ICT, but they are aware that ICT is not the only means and not always the best means to achieve a goal.”
9.2. The pupils work in an accurate and careful manner and check their work for errors.
*The pupils know that when retyping a mail address of the name of an internet page the link will not work whenever even the slightest error is made. That is why that they use ‘copy and paste’ whenever possible.”
9.3. The pupils handle the equipment and software with care.
9.4. The pupils inform a trustworthy adult about any harmful or discriminating contents.
9.5. The pupils operate the computer in an ergonomical way.
9.6. The pupils try to estimate and monitor the duration of an ICT assignment in a realistic way.
*The pupils agree that they will not type everything but only the titles so that they do not lose too much time.”
9.7. The pupils spontaneously give assistance or ask for help in case of computer problems.
9.8. The pupils have respect for the intellectual property of others when using information and software.
9.9. The pupils take the financial and ecological aspects of the use of ICT resources into account.
*The children do not print at random each tryout.”
9.10. The pupils are aware of the existence of viruses, spam, pop-ups,… and spontaneously report unusual messages.
The merit lies in having made communication and distribution resources available as sources for research and scientific endeavour, be it the development of analytical methods in film in order to linguistically establish visual elements of information; the study of sources in the human sciences, which decipher and evaluate ancient traditions by taking into account not only the content but also the outer form and context surrounding the creation of the work; or the philosophy of language, with its models on the correlation between mind and reality for the medium of language.
In their scientific discourse, Humanists have always associated the objective of media communication through reflection and analysis with the consequences of the mechanisms and intentions of production and the consequences as regards the content of the information passed on. In this respect, it would seem to be merely a question of time until the new technologies get to grip with the focus of analysis in letters.
The new technologies may, however, draw on the vast accumulation of experience in letters, not just as a subject of study but because these technologies also have numerous applications as a tool for creating and circulating information regarding research and teaching. In this way, they can make a valuable contribution as an instrument to support and improve education and advice in letters. Seminars with large numbers of students, the potential lack of adequate tutoring, the consequent—sometimes simultaneous—demand for less study material are just some examples of the everyday difficulties faced in letters that call for a rethinking of teaching and the concept of tutoring, in which there is a real place for the use of supervised e-learning.
In the umbrella project entitled “Humanities on the Internet” (GW-net), run by the University of Hamburg, a number of projects on integrating multimedia training elements into university education are being put to the test. So far, six pilot events, all different in theme and structure, have been developed into a seminar on integrated learning. In these events, the classic figure of the teacher in attendance was replaced by on-line educational offers that provide interactive learning. On this occasion, exams attended in person were not replaced by this distance learning.
This project has demonstrated the existence of enormous potential for students in the humanities, who are predisposed towards and interested in forming part of this kind of integrated training event. For this reason, the evaluation of the five GW-net seminars conducted during the summer 2003 semester and the winter 2003-2004 semester was that they were more than acceptable. 62% of students who attended the seminar felt that they had been positively influenced by the announcement of the e-learning system in choosing the seminar. The fact that the new communication media were taken into consideration seemed to them to be an added attraction and encouraged them to sign up for the seminar.
Another survey conducted at the end of the event demonstrated that there is growing interest among students, who approved of the new form of teaching in the integrated learning seminar. 81% of the students stated that they would unquestionably want to repeat the experience of attending a seminar with an integrated learning platform. Furthermore, 84% of the participants would recommend this new form of learning to other students.
The results of the GW-net project to date not only demonstrate the potential for introducing these new resources into letters, but also reveal other key aspects regarding the pre-requisites and determining factors to be taken into account in applying the concept of integrated learning in this academic field. There are a number of aspects, each of which has an impact on the others, as described below:
Firstly, it is essential to ask oneself who the new form of seminar is aimed at. What infrastructure—both hardware and software—do students have access to, either at home or at university? Carefully designed distance learning often calls for an Internet connection with broad bandwidth for data transmission. It is possible, therefore, that video clips and large animation files may quickly come to cause problems for students without broadband access. Given the technical standards of the computer equipment that students in letters have at home, GW-net has discovered that the levels of complexity applied to converting multimedia teaching materials are largely unimportant.
To prevent technical problems in the use of the virtual learning and teaching platform, it is useful to draw up specific information on the hardware and software students will require, in addition to basic configurations (for example, type of browser, software version, etc.). Similar problems have also been found in the target audience’s IT skills.
Students’ level of skill has a direct impact on the level of complexity of multimedia material in the learning content and plays an important role in balancing the learning programming. It is essential that a student with limited IT skills should still be able to access the selfsame volume of material as a student with more advanced IT skills. Efforts should be made to ensure that technical problems are not a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the material in this kind of learning.
Lastly, mention should be made of the type of learning that ought to govern the event. In other words, there is a need to consider the extent to which students are already experts and whether they have already taken on board the principles of acquiring knowledge in studying letters.
For the concept of integrated learning to work, it is essential to be able to access the material supplied in a number of different ways. This is especially true of letters, in which learning occurs in the main through the use of a broad range of different learning methods. A good example of this is the link between the contents of some subjects and personal scientific knowledge, either already understood or yet to be addressed. Here we must ask ourselves how this form of knowledge acquisition in accordance with the principle of ‘learning by exploration’ can be turned into learning units that are useful for integrated learning. Questions concerning representativeness, and hence the possibilities for customising multimedia material to a field that is so complex and that involves so many different experiences, as well as the reuse of this material are key. The production of large volumes of teaching material is only worthwhile, in terms of balancing costs and benefits, if the material produced can be used over a long period of time.
Type of seminar
Introductory courses, practical experience and main seminars present completely different demands of support for e-learning components. For example, there are clearly far more participants on introductory courses than on the practical experience sessions, yet it is possible with the selfsame staff to provide closer attention through the learning platform than on introductory courses. Similarly, the orientation of the content also influences the type of seminar: firstly, the content of the subject matter dealt with at learning events becomes more complex as the course advances; secondly, an introductory course has a complicating factor in that a very different approach has to be taken nowadays to the teaching of knowledge, which has to be done through the link between the practical content in subjects and basic methodological knowledge. Even the type of knowledge taught and its checking play a key part in the design of an effective integrated learning seminar. For example, the teaching of declarative knowledge can turn into new resources for learning in a simpler way than the principle of learning by exploring.
The teacher’s goal is of course a decisive factor in the success of the integrated learning concept. The objective of the use of this learning platform must be clearly defined and must be included in the later conversion phase of the seminar. Equally, the teacher needs to decide the balance they wish to achieve between distance learning and classes that students must attend in person. Lastly, the level of complexity of the multimedia material must also be established. At this point questions to do with the teacher’s skill at devising content arise, as do other issues regarding the subsequent use by students of this educational option.
The building of the concept of integrated learning taking into consideration all these aspects will make one of the more complex teaching tasks as regards the new forms of learning easier for academics in letters. This task is the construction of well-founded models expressly designed to aid individual learning that combine learning requiring personal attendance with distance learning.
The GW-net project “Humanities on the Internet” is to be managed in the Department of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Hamburg. A total of six partial projects, to be run at the same time and ending in late March 2005, will deal with introductory subjects and the use of the new technologies in teaching and research in letters. The main goals are to improve teaching and tutoring at the University of Hamburg, which has a large number of students; to teach skills to teachers and students alike; and to instigate a critical appraisal of information technology as a tool in letters. The GW-net project is to be conducted in the framework of the resources of the special programme “Project to Promote e-Learning and Multimedia”. Further information on GW-net
Although most of these countries seem to suffer from a lack of resources and despite the fact that some miss a higher number of computers in schools and Internet users and even though they complain of the high cost of Internet connections, they enjoy a high level of technology literacy and foreign languages knowledge. Moreover, in most countries there has been made a great investment on technology and e-learning counts with a wide political support.
Click on each country to view the answers to the questionnaire
SloveniaYou may not find information in some countries, the answers to the questionnaire have not yet been provided. The information about these countries will be posted as soon as it reaches the portal editors.
The use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) to support self-pace e-learning is expanding at an enormously rapid rate. However, these current e-learning systems support online learning through the use of up-to-the minute technology, but often fail to take into considerations learners’ context i.e. learners’ characteristics and level of prior-knowledge.
These new requirements from learners for using LMSs raise challenging issues in instructional design for courseware.
1. How the individual learner’s learning requirements can be captured for packing the learning material;
2. How the appropriate learning objects can be selected and presented based on the learner’s requirements;
3. How learners’ participation during the learning of the materials can be monitored;
4. How the required support can be provided by the system.
We address these issues by applying a method for personalised instructional design (MPID). The main aim of MPID is to build a software component through which the individual learners can express their learning requirements, e.g., a way they prefer a presentation for the learning materials. This method has been experimented in one of our existing courses in the University of Reading
Learning as knowledge construction process
It is recognised in education that learning is a process of knowledge construction. This view is supported by major learning theories such as Constructivism and Semiotics. Constructivism claims that learners construct their own reality, or at least interpret it based upon their perceptions or experiences. Constructivists emphasise the role of the learners, who take on increasing responsibility for their learning.
Semiotics, as a discipline of the study of all kind of signs (e.g. verbal language, pictures, literature, motion pictures, theatre, body language, and more), has a strong influence on the way we understand the world which we live in and the way we conduct our work. It is difficult to assume for all learners involved that they will derive the same association between a given object and a sign, as it involves issues such as meaning, cognition, behaviour, culture and social context.
Adopting semiotics and constructivist paradigm would have a tremendous impact on designing e-learning environments. An e-learning environment should:
· facilitate learners to interpret the multiple perspectives of domain context;
· guide learners to conduct and manage their personalised learning activities;
· encourage collaborative and cooperative learning for critical thinking and problem-solving.
These two paradigms raise some challenging issues in e-learning on how individual learners can be facilitated and supported effectively during the learning process. We believe that an understanding of individual learners’ learning behaviour and styles is one of the fundamental functions which should be built in learning management systems.
A case study: - Identifying learning styles and assessing prior knowledge for a programming course at the university of Reading
A learning style is simply a preference for the method by which an individual learns and remembers what he or she learned. Everybody has a preferred learning style. Knowing and understanding our learning style helps us to learn more effectively.
In addition, Instructional designers need to identify clusters of learners with similar patterns for perceiving and interpreting situations in order to adjust learning environments for each cluster.
There are many different classifications of learning style found in the literature. The most common and widely used is the perceptual style which refers to the preferred sensory modality for receiving information. Generally, learners prefer a Visual (learn through seeing), Auditory (learn through listening), or kinaesthetic (learn through touching, doing and moving) mode, although most use a combination of perceptual strategies for selecting and processing information. For the instructional designer, what matters is to provide key concepts in more than one modality, with learner control built in.
From the way learners respond to information, they can be categorized as Activists, Reflective, Sensing and Intuitive learners. Activist learners tend to retain and understand information best by doing something active with it--discussing or applying it or explaining it to others where as Reflective learners prefer to think about it first. Sensing learners tend to learning facts whereas intuitive learners often prefer discovering possibilities and relationships.
In addition, learners can be grouped into two other categories depending on the way they prefer to access information or learning materials in this case. These are sequential and global learners. Sequential learners as the name suggests, prefer to learn materials in a sequential manner by following logical stepwise paths in finding solutions whereas Global learners prefer to be presented with the overall big picture of the problem to solve at first and then work they way through it randomly.
We identify the above different clusters of learners using a multi-dimensional model (see Figure 1) with Dimension 1 (sequential and global learners); Dimension 2 (Activists, Reflectors, Sensing, and Intuitive learners); and Dimension 3 (Visual, Auditory, and Tactile).
The combined results from these three dimensions help to capture learner’s preferences. Instructional designers can then select and configure the learning content and delivery method according to their learning needs. For instance, designing for Visual learners would require additional visual aids such as graphs, animations, picture or charts. Auditory learners would rather have sound files (for instance an audio tape of a lecturer explaining difficult concepts) or video with sound. Tactile learners would be satisfied with content such as “drag and drop” quizzes where they will need to use objects on screen as part of their learning experience.
However, these three dimensions do not indicate the learner’s past experience in terms of prior knowledge. If one’s prior knowledge is known before the learning materials are packaged, learning would become more interesting and effective. Therefore, prior knowledge has been considered as Dimension 4 to figure 1.
A learner’s profile is created by MPID to capture both the learner’s learning styles and prior-knowledge. We have devised a mechanism to identify the individual learner’s learning style and assessing his/hers prior knowledge for formulating parameters for the optimisation and personalisation algorithms. There are two main steps to carry out the analysis process.
The first step involves a design of questionnaires by which the learner’s learning preferences can be identified. As figure 1 exemplified, there are three dimensional factors which influence the presentation and sequencing of learning materials. However, the organisation of learning materials is somehow incomplete because of the lack of learners’ level of background knowledge. This is where the fourth Dimension plays a vital role in assuring that adequate, relevant and personalised learning materials are presented to learners based on their prior-knowledge (this is the knowledge or skills that learners possess before interacting with learning materials).
MPID is conceived as a solution to the deployment of an IT course entitled “C Programming Language” and this specific course is used to demonstrate how learners’ prior-knowledge can be extracted and later on used in the pre-test. Three different levels of prior-knowledge were identified. These levels are: little prior-knowledge, enough prior-knowledge and good prior-knowledge.
Each level of prior-knowledge has a specific content level associated with it and will determine what instructional strategy to adopt during the delivery of the learning material. The following are learners’ Prior-knowledge characteristics using the “C programming” course as an example:
· Learners with “Little” Prior-knowledge: These learners need help, guidance and support from the instructor. They have a little level of autonomy. The learning materials should be organised and presented in a step by step guided manner.
· Learners with “Enough” Prior-knowledge: This group of learners require some flexibility during the learning process and have some level of autonomy. They understand the basics idea about the subjects and do not entirely rely on the instructor.
· Learners with “Good” Prior-knowledge: These learners have a high level of autonomy during the learning process and require more flexibility to skip certain parts of materials as they have the knowledge and experience from other programming languages.
Discussion and future work
MPID takes the four dimensional factors to determine the learners’ requirements on personalised learning materials. A small scale of experiment has been carried out in our C programming language course. A prototype system has been developed that can establish the learner’s level of competence and preferred styles of learning. The prototype will then dynamically create a personalised set of learning material that can be used to support the individual learner. MPID will be piloted in many other courses across the university. The experience and feedback on the use of this method from both learners and instructors will be systematically acquired to establish the best practice patterns. Figure 1
It is possible to group the views that guide educationalists and experts when dealing with the integration of ICT and education into three clusters of views. These clusters are far from arbitrary – they reflect three very different starting points and perspectives for viewing the "merger" of ICT and education. The clusters represent three paradigms. We have chosen to call these paradigms, without hiding our biases, the Technocrat, the Reformist, and the Holistic.
1. The Technocratic paradigm:
The Technocratic paradigm characterises those who avoid any discussion about the nature of ICT, its desirability or the extent schooling should or will change as a consequence of the integration of ICT and education. They take the ICT revolution as given, unavoidable and as consisting mainly of necessary instrumental and behaviourist changes ("working with computers or the Internet"), take schools as a given, ignore the issue of the desired or predicted results of the "meeting" between the forces of ICT and education, and refer only to "technocratic aims" as the proportion of students per computer, or the location of computers in schools, or the nature of the connection to the Internet.
2. The Reformist paradigm:
The Reformist paradigm characterises those who see ICT as a tool that can assist in promoting the "right" didactics. The most fashionable buzzwords that are mentioned in this context are: "interdisciplinary", "constructivist" and "collaborative learning". Adherents to this view conceive the ICT revolution as consisting of more than just new instruments and behaviours; they rather see it as encouraging a certain kind of attitude to knowledge and learning that supports constructive leaning (usually without feeling the need to sustain this view - in many cases it is presented as an axiom).
3. The Holistic paradigm:
The Holistic paradigm characterises those that, unlike the educationalists and writers belonging to the previous two paradigms, usually present an explicit set of assertions regarding the socio-cultural situation and the defining impact ICT has on it (cultural approach). They also have an opinion as to the desired values that should guide educational decision making (ideological approach). Not only do they aspire to have comprehensive theories and clear recommendations for the education system, they do not evade discussing the theories of their rivals (unlike the two previous groups). Included in this group are those who start from cultural-ideological approaches. Their attitude is either conservative (e.g. Postman, 1995) or radical and extremely radical (e.g. Aviram & Comay, 2000; Kristmundson et al., 2000).
We call these three clusters of perspectives mind-frames, and the proposed or already-implemented policies they entail towards ICT and education "paradigms" because they differ on fundamental issues. To better understand the opposed views let us take a look below the surface, at the suppositions each of these groups make about the worlds of ICT and education. As we will see, their suppositions about these worlds are different and to a large extent contradictory.
Suppositions underlying the three paradigms
Concerning the world of ICT, the upholders of the three above paradigms give (mostly tacitly) opposed answers to the four following questions concerning the defining nature of the ICT revolution, its predetermined nature, and its ethical value:
· Is the ICT revolution neutral, that is, does not influence our lives, or is it a defining revolution?
· Is the ICT revolution predetermined or can we influence it?
· Can the ICT revolution be judged ethically?
· If so, is it good or bad?
What are the views of the three emerging paradigms regarding the four above questions?
1. The Technocratic paradigm: ICT as technological "progress"
The Technocratic paradigm is implicitly neutralist. Basically, Technocrats do not treat seriously what other take to be defining influences of the ICT revolution (i.e., the way it is redefining major aspects of our lives), and do not take ICT to have far-reaching impact on who we are. Moreover, this paradigm is also implicitly determinist: its members perceive ICT as a "necessary force" the educational system should adapt to, and the sooner the better. They neither imagine that society could, if it so chose, mould ICT according to its needs and values, nor believe that the education system could channel the influences ICT holds in store. To put it simplistically, they buy computers for schools because there are computers to be bought and they are taken to represent "progress" or what is "in" - without further questions or thoughts.
It is reasonable to assume that adherents to this view would give an implicit negative answer to the third question (concerning our ability to ethically judge the ICT revolution), and that their answer would stem both from their determinism and neutralism concerning ICT and their lack of interest in questions of values and about basic educational goals. Thus, Riffel and Levin (1997) conclude from their field study that "technological imperatives (to have the latest, most powerful computers available) overtake unclear educational objectives…the overall educational focus of [’the schools’] efforts remains unclear."
2. The Reformist paradigm: ICT as promoting constructivist didactics
The Reformist paradigm is based on an understanding of some aspect of the defining nature of ICT, and it is therefore non-neutralist. It is also determinist: its adherents don’t think they or anyone else can, or should, have a say concerning the general development of technology. If there is notion of indeterminism in this view it does not lie in its adherents’ understanding of technology’s relationship to culture but rather in the educational use that can be made of it. Many of them seem to believe that since technology is there, schools must learn to do interesting and desirable things with it. They do ask themselves what educational purpose ICT might and should serve; their answer is that ICT can be used to promote the desired (constructivist) didactics.
From the above it follows that they do presuppose positive answers both to the third and fourth questions. Basically, they too perceive novel technologies to be "advancements", and therefore place an ethical judgement on ICT. Moreover, they find that ICT exerts a positive influence, since it encourages constructivist tendencies, or may potentially do so. This viewpoint underlies the question posed by the editors of the SITES project report in the concluding chapter - "Is our education measuring up with regard to its innovative potential?" (Pelgrum & Anderson, 1999)
3. The Holistic paradigm: ICT as redefining our culture and lives
The third paradigm, the Holistic, is actually defined according to its non-Neutrality, as its upholders treat ICT as a major defining force of culture. Its view is basically indeterminist, although different holists might hold different kinds of indeterminism. Postman (1995) believes it is impossible to preserve the good parts of "American cultural institutions and heritage" while allowing uncontrolled technological development, and advocates serious discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of technology and the way it changes our perception of the world. Aviram & Comay (2000) strive to form "strategies for channelling the inevitable [ICT] revolution in socially and humanely beneficial directions" (italics in the original). One can say that these are two different kinds of indeterminism: strong indeterminism in Postman’s case – since his appeal for social discussion on the fundamentals of the ICT revolution is implicitly based on the supposition that society could change those fundamentals; and soft indeterminism in Aviram and Comay’s case – since here it is assumed that the mere fundamentals are given, but it is possible to channel the processes based on them.
Obviously, authors in this group do not evade discussion of what the desired values of education are. They then judge the ICT revolution in regard to these values - answering the third question positively. As to their judgement, they vary from neutral to negative and positive. Thus, Hermant de Callatay (2000) states that "Technology will have to serve the educational purpose. It should not be the other way around"(- a rather neural judgement). Postman believes ICT is harmful due to its influence on culture at large (Postman, 1992) and on education); While we believe it to have both positive and negative potentials and that its impact on society and on education depends very much on the way we channel its introduction to education (Aviram, 2000).
The differences between the three groups stand out in Table 5, which summarises their presuppositions and the relationships amongst them.
Will the educational system last in its present shape?
Yes, with some modification of the didactic aspects
No opinion (positive answer implied)
Should the educational system last?
Yes / No(depending on the values of the specific writer)
Yes, with some modifications
No opinion (positive answer implied)
Is the ICT revolution neutral or defining?
Is the ICT revolution predetermined?
Can the ICT revolution be judged ethically?
Is the ICT revolution good?
Yes / No(depending on the values of the specific writer)
No opinion (positive answer implied)
|TABLE 5: Suppositions|
We have described the three general paradigms in the field of ICT and education, and showed that there are substantial differences between the suppositions these paradigms make about the worlds of ICT and education.
The most basic concepts of rationality and science entail that when there are three competing theories in a scientific field, a discussion between their upholders is to be expected. The field of ICT and education is a blatant anomaly when viewed in this light. Essentially, there is no rational discourse between the different views about the introduction of ICT to education. Each of the upholders of the three above paradigms takes a stance, either explicitly or implicitly, but doesn’t seem to be aware of and/or care about the existence of competing theories. Most authors, especially the Technocrats and Reformists, but to some extent the Holists as well, do not have a meta-level perspective on the place of their view within the discourse, which is a cornerstone of rationalistic-scientific conduct (see Aviram & Talmi, unpublished).
The question of the field’s development is not only theoretical, but obviously eminently practical, too. The lack of rational discussion is true not only in regard to the theoretical debate; it is even more evident concerning practice (and how could it be different if practicians don’t have systematic theoretical debate to rely on?). Schools, districts, regions and countries develop and implement ICT products and models of ICT based education, but due to the basic lack of culture of rational discourse and rational development, in too many cases there are no clear threads of ongoing improvement to existing models. As it is, everybody is reinventing the wheel time and time again.
The different implementation policies stemming from the different views have an enormous impact on the future of the educational system and the society at large. Given the history of very ambivalent results (to say the least) in the productive introduction of ICT to education in the last twenty years and the huge investments involved, we cannot afford to continue treating this process in the shallow unmindful manner currently prevalent (we elaborate on this issue in Aviram & Talmi, unpublished). It is vital that we look below the surface of the process of ICT introduction to education, expose the fundaments of the different views that have guided this process until now, and encourage an ongoing rational and critical discussion among them. In order to make well-founded implementation decisions in the field, we must initiate a rational discourse between the different theories and form a model for ICT introduction that reflects the state-of-the-art in the field. HolistsReformistsTechnocratsWill the educational system last in its present shape?NoYes, with some modification of the didactic aspectsNo opinion (positive answer implied)Should the educational system last?Yes / No(depending on the values of the specific writer)Yes, with some modificationsNo opinion (positive answer implied)Is the ICT revolution neutral or defining? DefiningDefiningNeutralIs the ICT revolution predetermined? Non-determinedPredeterminedPredeterminedCan the ICT revolution be judged ethically?YesYesNo opinionIs the ICT revolution good?Yes / No(depending on the values of the specific writer)YesNo opinion (positive answer implied)
|TABLE 5: Suppositions|
Aviram, A. & Talmi, D. (in press). "ICT and Education - The Lacking Discourse", in J. Hernandez and Goodson (eds.) Geographics of Educational Change. London: Kluwer.
Riffel, A. & Levin, B. (1997). Schools Coping with the Impact of Information Technology. Educational Management and Administration, 25(1), 51-64.
Pelgrum, W. J. & Anderson, R. E. (Eds.). (1999). ICT and the Emerging Paradigm for Lifelong Learning: A Worldwide Educational Assessment of Infrastructure, Goals and Practices. Enschede, The Netherlands: Printpartners Ipskamp.