Friday, November 19, 2010

Technology in Education: Why, what for, and how

Summary of presentation on Competitiveness in America Forum (Atlanta, Nov 2010)

Sugata Mitra says that “if a professor can be replaced by a computer, then that professor should be replaced by a computer”.

This provocatively draws attention to a key in the integration of technologies in education: teachers are fundamental to the process, but different teachers, with a new role, as articulators of learning experiences for their students. A good professor is indispensible and irreplaceable.

When considering that technologies will have a fundamental role in education in the 21st century, some believe that we speak of technology devices, gadgets, iron, cables, and plastic.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On education, learning, and learners

Paulina Araneda
IDB Consultant

During the 19th century, the 20th century, and 21st century thus far, the massification of education was relevant in the context of developing countries. This process, which countries of Northern Europe had previously, allowed them significant coverage rates much earlier than the majority of countries where education and access to it were still underway.

These days we are witnessing a relevant and distinct challenge in increasing country coverage. We know now that the effort to support education for all and equality of opportunities doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with the industrialization of the pedagogical process, nor a homogenized approach to teach in a way that everyone learns.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The future of learning institutions in a digital age

While we broadly speak about the ways in which learning has changed as a result of new technologies, a recent (2009) publication, part of the MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media Learning, elucidates this topic. In The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (available for free on the MIT Press Website), authors Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg give us a sneak-peak to an upcoming book on the future of learning institutions and provide us with 10 principles by which to think of the future of learning.

The premise of this paper is that learning institutions have changed far slower than the technologies that have transformed how we learn and interact with information. Phenomena such as participatory learning and remix authorship have completely changed the ways in which people learn online.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Education: Old answers to new questions?

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Ways of creating and diffusing knowledge, production structure, and social participation, have radically changed in the last 20 years; these changes have undoubtedly had a significant influence on the expectations that society has on school systems. The question of what quality education in the 21st century means is a perfectly legitimate, with the answer almost certainly being very different from the schools we’ve inherited from the 20th Century.

The great challenge of 20th Century education was democratization: that ALL children have access to the MINIMUM education that would allow them to function in society as competent workers and citizens. In general, Latin America was particularly successful with this effort, especially noted in the progress made during the 1980’s to 1990’s.

Nevertheless, we recognize this endeavor as insufficient. Today more children are in schools, but the educational results are far from settling. Not simply because those same international tests show us the enormous gap that separates us from developed countries, but because we have noticed that the school, in its current form, appears impermeable and too rigid to address the challenges that the 21st century presents.

The big question of 21st century education will be how we can continue to offer an education that serves ALL, but offers spaces and strategies to develop the MAXIUM potential in EACH student.

There are two trends that characterize this 21st Century education challenge. The first is that after the tremendous effort of democratizing education in the 20th century, quality has necessarily succumbed to the same diversity of schools. The educational systems that were elite and homogenous gave way to massive and highly heterogeneous systems. This condition is the root of the difficulties confronted by countries as they improve the quality of their educational outcomes.

The effort of personalization requires educational organizations that are very different than what we have today: much more flexible, open, and capable recognizing the abilities and interests of every child, collaboratively develop their potential, while staying connected with their social and cultural environments. This requires systems and practices for which today’s school is not prepared.

21st Century Skills
Ways of thinking
  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Critical thinking, problem solving,
    and decision making 
  3. Learning to learn, metacognition
Ways of working
  1. Communication
  2. Collaboration and teamwork
Work tools
  1. Information literacy
  2. Digital literacy
Living in the World
  1. Citizenship, local and global
  2. Life and career
  3. Personal and social responsibility,
    includingcultural awareness and
Source: ATC21S Project (2010)
The second trend and challenge is how schools will prepare their students to face the future work and civic environments marked by constant change, where critical thinking, creativity, and lifelong learning skills are required.

These are called 21st Century Skills, to support the reorganization of educational systems so that they prepare students for what is most relevant. This involves developing better instruments to measure abilities, preparing teachers for new roles, identifying and extending new educational practices that strengthen the development of these skills, and providing educational resources that support these new methods.

These two trends represent the most important challenges for education systems, particularly in Latin America, where they must face the challenge of quality to advance competitiveness and economic development without abandoning the effort to expand coverage in contexts of high inequality.

It is unavoidable that these advances take advantage of technological developments. The use of technologies in education is not related to the quantity of digital devices distributed by governments without ways in which education systems can integrate technology holistically to promote and support changes that enable them to achieve learning that is relevant to the demands of society.

The educational policy decisions of the present are those that will be with us during the upcoming years. The current discussion about education is a good excuse to ask a more basic question: are we looking for answers to 21st century questions or are we still trying to mend the education of the 20th century?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

10 Keys to understanding the impact of technology in education

  1. Productivity and competitiveness of countries in the Knowledge Society necessarily incorporate the intensive use of Technologies in Education, which not only have changed the type of product that countries can develop, but also their own production processes. 
  2. The social, cultural and productive impact of technologies in education represents a major challenge for education systems, demanding the formation of citizens who have specific skills to manage these technologies, but also develop generic skills particularly relevant to this new society called "21st century skills". 
  3. Children born after 1980 have been named "digital natives". They have grown up in a society where technologies are a natural part of their ecosystem, either through direct access or aspirational. They have developed a spontaneous relationship for enjoyment of these technologies, incorporating them into their strategies for interaction, communication and production. 
  4. The efforts made so far by most Latin American countries, have aimed to reduce the gap in access to technologies, allowing in many cases, that children in remote and poor places, have the opportunity to meet and interact with technologies in their school environment. That effort, combined with teacher training, has reduced the gap between poor schools and rich schools, and between children and their teachers. 
  5. The indicator of success in introducing technologies in education will be the impact on student learning, both in the acquisition of curriculum content, as in the development of skills and competencies that will enable their full integration into knowledge society.
  6.  The development of low-cost laptops (netbooks) has permited in the past two to three years, local and national governments to consider, for the first time, the possibility of investing in the massive distribution of computers, that meet the basic needs of school users, network access, communication and basic productivity. 
  7. Distribution strategies of "one computer to each student" (1-to-1 models) seek to strengthen the development of these skills and competencies by drastically reducing the gaps in access, massive presence of computers and connectivity (in order to create collaborative networks and support), and the proper equipment, allowing the permanent use, both inside and outside of school. 
  8. The experiences of developed 1 to 1 strategies in the world so far have shown that investment just in equipment and connectivity do not produce impacts on student learning, and it is essential to consider a set of additional measures which fundamentally change educational practices, in order to take advantage of the investment. Among those, include teacher training, the availability of relevant digital educational resources, curricular adjustments, legal changes and long-term policies. 
  9. The institutional framework for such initiatives is based on the alignment and coordination of three essential factors: strong political commitment of the authorities, close linkage and integration of stakeholders in the education system and implementing a detailed logistical and technical. 
  10. The recent development of these initiatives requires very close monitoring, rigorous evaluation and fluid communication channels between those who are implementing, in order to develop and share knowledge and expertise in a collaborative way, to improve the chances of being effective in achieving the intended impact .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

IDB on Webinar about 1-to-1 Models

We are participating in the Webinar "Integrating ICT in Education: Models 1 to 1" organized by the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) from UNESCO and FLACSO Argentina.

Here you can listen the presentation we have made and to participate, until tomorrow Thursday, the forum:
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