search advanced search
UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
search menu

ICT4Kids through ICT4Teachers

23 Apr 2014
Martine Koopman, Sector Developer ICT4Education and country manager for Ghana at the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD),
Martine Koopman
Learning for children through the use of technology can work if:

- teachers have the ability to integrate ICT in the classroom and

- ICTs are integrated in the surrounding education system as well.

The quality of teachers and their continuing professional education and training remains central to the achievement of quality education for children. Supported by my experiences as sector developer for education and Ghana country manager for ICT4D projects, I believe teachers who are trained with 21st century skills will create the pathway for children to learn through ICT’s. If, in general, ICT for Education programmes were to focus more on the people that use the technology (teachers, school principals) to improve teaching and learning, outcomes will improve worldwide. Teachers should be in the driver’s seat when making decisions on relevant ICT-enabled solutions suited to their pupils and overall context.

Deploying an ICT infrastructure to a school or providing (on a large scale) ICT equipment to children does not in itself improve the quality of learning for children. The work by IICD has demonstrated that for ICT-enabled solutions to become real instruments of learning,1 teachers are an important key to achieve results.

ICT integration goes hand in hand with student-centred learning when teachers develop the ability to integrate technology, pedagogical and content knowledge.2. Learning will then become more than reproducing information for exams. Children need modern 21st-century skills to be better prepared for their future.3

Through a step-by-step training approach teachers can understand how to improve teaching and learning. The first step is to learn basic ICT skills. A firm training in these and in ICT-assisted learning familiarizes teachers with the different types and uses of digital materials. Training is equally important to introduce ways of integrating ICT into usual classroom routines, so that newly acquired skills can be immediately applied. In IICD’s work with teacher training colleges, such as Makuba University in Zambia,4 we see that this helps teachers integrate ICT into their curricula to create the next generation of teachers.

Secondly, the teachers are trained in content creation and existing digital materials that are relevant in their local context. A primary focus here is training teachers to develop their own learning tools using ICT. This approach ensures local ownership and more relevant and usable materials. Alongside teachers’ own self-developed materials, there is a growing online availability of learning tools, including books, videos and games. These too can be used to boost motivation and skills, not only of students but of teachers as well. In a project supported by IICD and its local partner EDUCATIC Bolivia,5 the use of educational computer games in schools led to an increase in school attendance. In Peru reintroducing traditional Quechua songs into teachers´ pedagogical methods in the classroom through ICT, lead to more parent involvement and higher student attendance.6 They are a valuable complement to traditional teaching methods.7

In the third step, teachers start delivering lessons in the classroom with basic ICT enabled methods. In addition, ICTs are used for peer-to-peer learning with video observation to improve pedagogical methods. Teachers observe their voice, movements and the way they invite students to participate and the videos are used for peer assessment; teachers give each other feedback on their teaching practices, which increases the collaboration among teaching colleagues. In IICD’s projects we have seen that introduction of ICT in schools through teachers has led to intensified collaboration among teachers. Developing learning tools together provokes discussions about teaching strategies and methods. Sharing materials and experiences is easier, and colleagues stimulate one another to further improve their results.

Through these main steps IICD has seen teachers utilizing integrated technology to deliver their subject content in an interactive and engaging way whereby technology, pedagogical and content knowledge are integrated.

In addition to improving teaching competences, ICTs are also integrated into the educational support system around the classroom where they can be developed to improve school management, to strengthen youth employability and not least to feed into and improve education policy and strategy.

ICT for school management should receive as much attention in programmes as use in the classroom. Manual administration in schools takes up time that could be better spent supervising and teaching. Use of computer software for administration also improves accuracy, for example, of students’ grades, monitoring of performance, and attendance figures. Digitization of school administrative systems is relatively low cost. It therefore offers a ‘quick win’: administrators and teachers adapt easily to it, and in our experience it is often a first step towards the more challenging use of ICT in teaching.

One illustrative example is provided by an IICD project in Malawi. School principals there had dozens of lengthy forms to complete each month. The forms then had to be sent to the district educational office, where more work was done entering the data into the central system. This was time-consuming and error prone. The principals now use school management information systems, and the job takes only one hour a week. Following a similar transition, school principals in one of IICD’s projects in Ethiopia reported effective gains of twelve working days per school year, days they could now spend on teaching children.8

Integrating ICT skills in order to strengthen youth employment is a key area of support. Occupations such as carpenter, tailor and welder are the backbone of many communities. Local availability of such vocations is especially important in developing countries where manufacturing industries are emerging. ICT skills are valuable in most jobs, and integrating ICT into vocational curricula improves the relevance of schooling in any area. Business skills, like marketing, administration and accounting, as well as life skills and career development, are all aspects of vocational training that can be improved with ICT support. IICD focuses its capacity development on instructors at vocational training institutes. An example of this is our vocational school programme in Kenya.9

The projects that we support teach them to use simple ICT tools to create educational content that is relevant to their students and context. Students not only work with their hands, but they also watch videos showcasing work done by peers, and digitally document their own products and projects.

Beyond any one school or institution, it is important that local and national education authorities should influence ICT for education policies.. We support strategy development in ICT for education at the regional and organizational levels.10 Our experiences in grassroots education projects feed into our inputs to policy development. We connect local experts and ICT champions with higher-level policy developers, stimulating policies that are based on local expertise. This approach creates a win-win situation: government gains access to on-the-ground expertise and lessons, and project partners find recognition for their efforts and perhaps access to additional funding.

Whereas many ICT for education (ICT4E) projects focus on the transfer of new or innovative technologies, IICD focuses not on technology, but on people in an integrated manner. A step-by-step approach to building the capacity of teachers to use ICT in the classroom combined with strengthening the education system supporting them will ensure that ICT4Kids really will work to provide all children with the education they need to prepare for their future.

Sources:

1- Through an ‘ICT-led-social-innovation-process’, local stakeholders are put in the driver’s seat. Government representatives, school administrators and managers, teachers, parents associations and local communities prioritise, co-create and implement their own ICT enabled interventions.

2- Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model, 2012, Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra. See: http://www.tpack.org/

3- Partnership for 21st century skills - Holistic Framework for 21st century skills. See: http://www.p21.org/

4- Creating the next generation of teachers. Available at: http://rsr.akvo.org/project/410/

5- Connect4change project description of EDUCATIC Bolivia. Available at: http://projects.connect4change.nl/nl/project/317/

6- IICD - Documenting indigenous knowledge through participatory video in Cusco, Peru. Available at: http://www.iicd.org/articles/documenting-indigenous-knowledge-through-participatory-video-in-cusco-peru

7- IICD - ICT for education (2013). Five years of learning. Available at: http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict-for-education-five-years-of-learning

8- IICD - Better School Management Systems Increase Quality of Teaching in Rural Ethiopia. Available at: http://www.iicd.org/articles/better-school-management-systems-increase-the-quality-of-teaching-in-rural-ethiopia

9- IICD - Integrating ICTs in Vocational Training: A Pilot Project Step-by-Step. Available at: http://www.iicd.org/articles/integrating-icts-in-vocational-training-a-pilot-project-step-by-step

10- IICD has supported the Governments of Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia with the development of an ICT in education policy or strategy.