I participated yesterday with two other staff members in the annual staff vs. students parliamentary debate. The debate topic was “This house believes the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education” (appeared in The Economist Debates of Monday October 15, http://www.economist.com/debate/overview/121). I think I was more stressed than the students about the speech … what follows is what I said as first speaker of the team that supported the topic. It was a really great exercise to reflect on the quality of education. Keep in mind I had 6 minutes, including taking points of information. Did I say I was nervous? 🙂
The topic for this debate is vague and ambiguous enough that it is important to clarify our (the team that supports the topic) interpretation of it.
In our opinion this statement implies that when new technologies and media are introduced to the education industry without a proper evaluation by trained educational professionals of the potential impact on the quality of education, it adds little to the quality of most education.
One of the acronyms for Information and Communication Technology is ICT, and someone has rightly commented recently that it also stands for “It Can’t Teach”.
The quality of education is not an easy concept to qualify. Many attempts have been made to identify the factors that indicate a quality education. In 2000 UNICEF outlined factors that are globally accepted as indicators of quality education (http://www.unicef.org/education/files/QualityEducation.PDF):
- “Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities;
- Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities;
- Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace;
- Processes through which trained teachers use child-centered teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skillful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities;
- Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.”
“According to the Education For All: Global Monitoring Report of 2005, two principles characterise most attempts to define quality in education: the first identifies learners’ cognitive development as the major explicit objective of all education systems. The second emphasises education’s role in promoting values and attitudes of responsible citizenship and in nurturing creative and emotional development.” (Sourced from http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20081128/education/what-is-quality-education.234848)
It should be obvious that just introducing new technology and media are not an assurance of quality because technology and media do not necessarily contribute to learners’ nourishment or make them ready to learn, the new technology and media may not be relevant to the context it is being introduced to, and due to a country’s political position on education, teachers may possibly be poorly trained and have no clear direction as to what needs to be taught.
The introduction of the iPad to Dalat International School also supports our interpretation of the topic. The administration of Dalat didn’t just decide the day before school this year that students need to show up with iPads for class. Months of planning and research went into this decision driven by people with current training and knowledge of sound pedagogy and the trends in the North American economical landscape. Teachers have received training and are still receiving training on how to use this new technology in a manner that will make substantial contributions to the quality of education at Dalat.
There are studies that show that introducing technology into the North American schooling system without proper training have resulted in no significant change in learning outcomes (http://www.economist.com/debate/overview/121). My colleague Mr. Steinkamp will expand on this idea and show that not only does the thoughtless introduction of new technologies and media contribute little to the quality of education, it may actually lead to a negative participation in society which is the direct opposite of what UNICEF says comprises a quality education.
In summary, the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education without the direct involvement of a trained teacher with a child-centered teaching approach.
- Technology in Education Debate, http://www.economist.com/debate/overview/121
- Defining Quality in Education, http://www.unicef.org/education/files/QualityEducation.PDF
- Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2005, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001373/137334e.pdf
- What is quality education? http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20081128/education/what-is-quality-education.234848
To lifelong learning!