Faculty of Education and Language Studies
Building teachers' professional knowledge through ICT:
experience and analysis across the 'digital divide'
Jenny Leach, Bob Moon and Tom Power
Centre for Research and Development in Teacher Education,
Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Presented to the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Lisbon, September 11th - 14th 2002
'What struck me so forcefully was how small the planet had become during my decades in prison... . [ICT] had shrunk the world, and had in the process become a great weapon for eradicating ignorance and promoting democracy'.
(Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom)
In the small teachers' room of a primary school on the edge of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, is the visible evidence of the global challenge to provide universal, primary education. The school roll, neatly printed by hand, shows the first and second grade classes with 210 and 205 children. The third grade has 98. Three years ago Lesotho introduced free primary education, and enrolments doubled. The school continues to wait for extra classrooms. The 205 six-year-olds in grade 2 cram into a space that would, uncomfortably, take 40 in many parts of the world. Two teachers are allocated to the grade, neither is qualified.
Two and a half thousand miles to the north, in Rwanda, enrolment in primary education barely tops fifty per cent in many parts of the country. The buildings are poor and the classrooms crowded. Children sit five or six on a bench designed for three. They have no shoes. There are no books. Dog-eared cardboard 'slates' serve as writing paper. The teacher has no qualifications. Her education finished at the end of primary school.
Only 7% of the Rwandan population goes on to secondary school. Sister Josephine, the head teacher of a girls' secondary school in Rwamgna, sixty kilometres from the capital Kigali, speaks quietly. She has 230 girls in her school. Half of them are orphans. Many saw their parents killed by machete in the genocide that ripped through Rwanda in just 100 days in 1994. 'We watch the girls carefully', she says, 'sometimes the memories become too much. But our support has to be on an individual basis. Every girl responds in a different way. And now we have HIV/AIDS. On top of everything, some of the girls are testing positive.'
In a stuffy, dim classroom twenty miles north of the luxurious Luxor Hilton on the Nile in Egypt, three nine year old girls sharing a single desk, excitedly answer questions about the time, working with small clocks they have each constructed out of scraps of cardboard carefully saved by their young teacher. Her teaching has encouraged more pupils than usual to attend classes at the school this term. Egypt's population is 71.1m; it is one of nine high-population countries targeted for improving literacy under an international initiative. More than 30 million of its adults are non-literate and 1 million girls are estimated to be out of school. Although the official net enrolment rate is 80% for boys and girls, household surveys tell a different story. In Upper Egypt school attendance rates vary between 67% in Assuit /Sohag and less than 55% in the surrounding rural areas (Watkins, 2000).
In the East End of London, George Green secondary school has 800 pupils and amongst them over a hundred different mother tongues. Many have just arrived in the country; from Somalia and Kosovo. A few from the refugee camps in France have made perilous trips to gain entry to the United Kingdom. Twelve-year-olds study eleven or twelve different subjects through a curriculum prescribed by national laws. Only two of their teachers are permanently based in the school. The remainder come and go, sometimes on only a daily basis.
Four schools in four places, places rich, poor and very poor, places of political and social instability, in Europe, in the Middle East, and in sub Saharan Africa. Places like this exist across the globe in rich and poor nations, in rural and urban communities. And these places have teachers, usually poorly paid, often unqualified, and frequently without any form of support to grapple with the huge challenges they face.
This paper is one of a series [Leach and Moon,2002; Leach, 2002; Dladla and Moon, 2002; Leach, Power,Klaas & Mnqgibisa, 2002] which is looking at the experiences of these teachers and millions of others who, in different parts of the developing and developed world , carry out their work in challenging, and sometimes undignified circumstances. In looking at their experiences, we are developing three arguments:
First, the importance of seeing the world-wide challenge to educate all our children is a challenge for us all, not just a mission for those in the so called 'developing nations', or those working in the challenging urban, inner city areas of London, New York or Lisbon;
Second, if we are to educate all our children, then we also need to educate all our teachers. More attention, we suggest needs to be given to this complementary challenge to providing universal primary education. And to do this, we are arguing, it is necessary to formulate models and practices of professional development that are conceptually strong, confident, and whilst sensitive to the inevitable complexity and contrariness of local circumstances, are capable of establishing discourse across and between communities;
Third, we want to point to the enormous potential of information and communications technologies for transforming the models and processes of teacher development and learning, as well as professional support.
The global challenge
Other papers in this series have presented the challenges of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in some detail; the statistics and analyses make salutary reading. Despite strenuous efforts over the last decade, over 100 million children world-wide go without primary schooling and 60% of these are girls. In almost all respects, the challenge of providing UPE is at its greatest in sub Saharan Africa.
A news release from UNESCO's Institute of Statistics (12 April, 2002), states that four out of every ten primary-age children in sub-Saharan Africa do not go to school. Of the ones who do, only a small proportion reach a basic level of skills. The number of primary school-age children in the region grew from over 82 million in 1990 to 106 million by 2000 and is projected to rise to 139 million by 2015 (UNESCO, 2000). Running in parallel with this problem, is the growing imbalance between the output of trained teachers in low-income countries and the demand as primary provision is expanded. A third of existing teachers in sub Saharan Africa are untrained. Of the thousands of teachers that are being recruited each year to primary schools, they largely have inadequate subject knowledge and little or no pedagogic preparation. Teacher supply is also now severely affected by the impact of the HIV/Aids epidemic. UNICEF estimates that 860,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa lost their teachers to Aids in 1999 (UNICEF, 2000).
What is clear is that the 'bricks and mortar' institutions of teacher education created in the last century are unable to cope with this scale and urgency of demand (Moon, 2000). In broad terms we would argue that creative and radical solutions to the problems of teacher education need formulating and the agenda around teacher education be recast (Moon and Dladla, 2002). Our experience suggests that such training needs to be strongly conceptualised and that medium and long-term planning for professional development must incorporate the use of new interactive technologies. This paper focuses on a research and development project, DEEP (the Digital Education Enhancement Project), funded by the Education Department of the UK's Department for International Development [DFID], which is investigating some of these issues. DFID's overall objectivei is a commitment to the internationally agreed target of Dakar to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. An associated target includes ensuring universal access to primary education by the same dateii. The specific research theme addressed by the DEEP project falls under the strand Globalisation, ICTs and their educational implications. DFID is committed to carrying out evidence-based research on how educational services are changing in response to globalisation. It also seeks a greater understanding of how international education services, the development of global labour markets and the spread of new information and communications technology (ICT) are transforming educational contexts, processes and outcomes. As part of this research theme, the DEEP project is focusing on the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning in a range of primary schools in Egypt and South Africa.
DEEP: Digital Education Enhancement Project
|Dongwe Combined Primary School is perched on top of rolling hills, on the outskirts of a sizeable village, 15 kilometres from King Willamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Comprising five classrooms and over two hundred learners, it is co-educational, catering for learners from grade 1 to grade 7 and has eight teachers (three males and five females) including the principal.|
|The school is one of the many disadvantaged rural primary schools in the Eastern Cape; it has electricity but no staff room or office. The principal shares a class with the grade 5 or sometimes the grade 1 class. The school is severely lacking in resources, especially for isiXhosa, the learners' home language. All learners in the school are isiXhosa speaking, with children living with isiXhosa speaking guardians.|
|Across a scrubby path in a classroom, with views across the valley, a meeting of teachers from a cluster group of schools is working on the Inkanyezi project. Seated on low pupil benches they share battery powered lap-tops with their project partner; each teacher is also working with a state of the art hand held computeriii.|
The purpose of the meeting is to evaluate their progress on the project, as well as to share ideas about pupil achievement and progress. Mandla, one of the young teachers from Dongwe School, shows an animated intsomi (folk tale) he has created in Xhosa and English to support literacy work, whilst his colleague discusses issues of classroom organisation when using a single lap top with a large class. Colleagues from a nearby school demonstrate power point presentations, spreadsheets on animal classification, and illustrated poems produced by their pupils in literacy and science lessons.
'With the arrival of the laptop everyone in the school was overjoyed. The first time I introduced it to my learners, they were so curious and wanted to use the computer right away. Using the computer makes teaching and learning more enjoyable. Computer technology has done a splendid job for me as a teacher. ....I'm no longer a traditional teacher who always coughs information for learners to absorb....I, together with my project partner always plan activities in such a way that learners work cooperatively..... Even shy and withdrawn learners become involved. ....with the theme 'ENDANGERED ANIMALS' we're able to integrate with other learning areas like Literacy and Science. PowerPoint presentations for learners (as they work in groups) improve what was previously difficult work for them. Animated stories like 'HARE AND TORTOISE' enhance learners' curiosity and they in turn want to create their own animal stories. By doing ACROSTICS using animal words, learners develop language and critical thinking skills....learners can become poets and writers. Stories like these also help learners to master reading and writing. They're an entertaining way to foster the love of reading, increase vocabulary and learn a moral/life lesson that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives...Because there is a lack of isiXhosa reading stories I allow learners to translate these stories into isiXhosa, in which they showed great creativity. I'm proud to say that a number of learners have showed tremendous improvement in reading and writing and are more confident with using a computer. Using the laptop also contributes in developing learners' spelling skills. For me there is less work because those learners who are confident are able to teach others! Many learners have shown more responsibility for their work especially on assignments and research that needed computer use....I believe that by acquiring computer skills, these young people will have greater opportunities for finding employment when they become adults'.
Mandla Mngqibisa (Project Teacher).
The DEEP research project is jointly co-ordinated by three partner institutions: Fort Hare Institute of Government [FHIG], Eastern Cape, South Africa, the Programme, Planning and Monitoring Unit [PPMU], Cairo, Egypt and the Centre for Research and Development in Teacher Education [CReTE], Open University, United Kingdom. It builds on long standing collaborations between these three institutions and their experience of developing flexible models of teacher professional development within their own country contexts. These models emphasise:
- the development of the school as a site for learning and
- the support of teachers through a curriculum of professional tasks.
The DEEP project draws on these models, but also places particular emphasis on:
the use of information and communications technologies to support learning.
DEEP involves twenty-four educators in 12 schools in both countries. All 24 schools serve disadvantaged communities, however, in Egypt the project schools are situated in Cairo, whilst the majority of the schools in South Africa are in rural settings [see map Figure 1].
Figure 1 DEEP Schools in the Eastern Cape
DEEP's primary concern is not with developing teachers' ICT skills. It's main purpose is to research the development and implementation of ICT enhanced and transforming strategies for teaching and learning in numeracy, science and literacy in the 9-13 age range. There is a paucity of research on the application of ICT to teaching and learning specifically in these key areas in developing country contexts. DEEP educators are therefore working closely with the DEEP research team to pilot and research a framework of curriculum focussed ICT enhanced teaching strategies in science, literacy and numeracy which focus on the overarching, cross curricular theme of endangered animals. A shared electronic conference and web environment has been developed that links the educators to each other and which is also being evaluated by project participants.
The project's research questions centrally focus on the impact of ICT on (a) learner achievement and motivation and (b) on teachers' pedagogic knowledge viz:
What is the impact of ICT-enhanced and transformed strategies on pupil achievement and motivation?
How does ICT transform the pedagogic knowledge and practice of teachers and the communities in which they work?
Both research questions place educational content, processes and outcomes at the heart of the investigation. Both questions provide the basis on which long-term benefits of the research can be built, focusing thinking about improvements in the quality of learning in schools and communities.
Why ICT for teacher professional development?
A wide range of research shows that the quality of learning [e.g. Davis et al. (1997)] can be significantly enhanced when ICT is approached and utilised as an intellectual 'multi-tool', adaptable to learners' needs. Research [e.g. Bransford et al, 1994] also shows that ICT can enhance:
- critical thinking;
- information handling skills;
- higher level conceptualisation
- and problem solving.
In addition, because many new technologies are interactive (Greenfield and Cocking, 1996) they are already being used extensively to create and sustain a wide range of collaborative processes and activity. The literature shows that (e.g. Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1993; McFarlane et al 1999; Bonnett et al, 1999; Leach 2000) ICT can facilitate:
- the refining of understanding;
- the giving and receiving of feedback;
- collaborative tasks;
- joint decision making and reflection;
- complex group interactions.
All of these affordances are central to effective teacher learning. In addition ICT enhances and extends teachers 'pedagogical means' [Simon, 1999] in the teaching of 'subjects' such as numeracy, science and literacy. Table 1 shows some of these 'means' for literacy activities, for example.
WHAT ICT TOOLS WILL HELP?
Word processing; E-mail, Computer Conferencing; Digitaldf Digital cameras; voice recording software
Focusing on Audience/ Purpose;
E-mail; Computer and Video Conferencing, Desk top Publishing; Web authoring; Databases and Spreadsheets; Multimedia software; Presentation software
Word processing; Desk Top Publishing; Hypermedia
CD ROM; Internet; video conferencing; electronic mail
Internet; CD ROM; Talking Books
Asking 'What If'? Questions
Simulation; Data bases; Internet text debates; video conferencing
Identifying features of text
Word processors; Text Disclosure Programme
Developing knowledge about language
Text Disclosure Programme; Internet; CD-ROM
The DEEP project is premised on the view that ICT can make some aspects of teacher professional development more efficient, and that it also has the potential to extend and transform the very process of teacher development itself (McCormick and Scrimshaw, 2000). We are aware in making such assertions of past disappointments with technologies. However, the potential reach and range of affordances offered by new forms of communication technology is formidable when combined with knowledgeable teaching and pedagogy.
New interactive forms of communication allow us to build into models of teacher education characteristics that we know contribute hugely to the establishment of effective learning and teaching settings, 'pedagogic settings' (Leach and Moon, 1999). They expand the availability of support for teachers, the possibilities for discourse, as well as access to new kinds of knowledge and ways of learning. When before, for example, have teachers had the opportunity to interact with other teachers and experts on a literally daily, even hourly, basis? Most importantly we argue, new technologies, thoughtfully used, can help develop teachers' professional identity, their personal dignity and self-esteem.
The DEEP project partners share a common commitment to introducing participating teachers to ICT only where it has the potential to make the teaching/ learning process itself more efficient, or where it can be argued that it extends and/or transforms the learning process. ICT is used within the DEEP project as:
- a scaffolding tool , to support teachers' construction and understanding of new professional knowledge;
- an environment and context for learning , enabling teachers to experience new situations, practices and people;
- a communicative tool , facilitating social participation structures [e.g. collaborative tasks];
- a metacognitive tool , enabling reflection on the learning process, both at individual and group level. [e.g. Conferencing; joint products such as electronic self assessment].
Many may argue that the technologies are not in place generally in developing country contexts to achieve the sea change we seek. As South African President, Thabo Mbeki, has more than once reminded international conferences espousing the wonders of information technology, we need to remember that half the grown-up world has never made a phone calliv. You might establish access and connectivity in the economically deprived parts of the richer countries. Technologies might have a role in London and Los Angeles. But can this be argued for Maseru or Rwamgna? In this paper we will strongly reject the belief, dominant in all too many policy circles, that some forms of human development and progress are a kind of luxury that only rich countries can afford. As Amartya Sen (2001) has so eloquently argued, basic human freedoms entail knowledge and educational skills. Building on this argument, we contend that denying the opportunities for new forms of professional learning and communication to any group of teachers is immediately contrary to the basic conditions of such freedom and implies for such a group an 'unfreedom'. The question then, from our perspective is not whether or not to use these new forms of communication, but rather how, and how quickly.
Neither hand nor intellect by themselves serve you much: tools and aids perfect (or complete) things.
'Nec manus, nisi intellectus, sibi permissus, multam valent: instumentis et auxilibus res perfectur'[Bacon quoted in Introduction to Vygostsky, 1962 p. vii]
ICT related educational innovations are often described and evaluated simply in terms of the technological context, together with the tools and software used by teachers and learners and their impact on discrete, often skills based input/outputs. Social setting and the analysis of technology for learning are frequently separately considered; it is assumed that the interaction of learners [be they teachers or children] with computer hardware and software is unrelated to the surrounding pedagogy of the classroom or school. Even where context is considered, it is often seen as a fixed and static given. Latour has noted that when most people talk about context, they sketch in the air a shell about the size of a pumpkin. McDermott (1993) has commented 'in all common sense uses of the term, context refers to an empty slot, a container, into which other things are placed. ...... A static sense of context delivers a stable world'. The Deep project team believes that simple causal models of the impact of ICT on learning are insufficient and that a complex set of interactions between learners, teachers, tasks and the new technologies (McCormick and Scrimshaw, 2001; Leach and Moon, 2000) needs to be acknowledged. It is not technology of itself, but a 'whole cloud of correlated variables - technology, activity, goal, setting, teachers' role, culture - exerting their combined effect' (Salamon, 1991). Chief amongst these, but usually the most neglected, are the purposes, values and goals of teaching and learning.
For several years now we have been researching the diverse, but also the common dimensions of what we have come to call a 'pedagogic setting' (Leach and Moon, 1999). Our view is that if we are able to agree on the enduring, essential features of teaching and learning environments, this might enable us to be able to talk more precisely about the comparative nature and effectiveness of different pedagogies, regardless of context. It will also tell us what a 'professional toolkit' needs to contain, if a common entitlement is to be provided for all teachers, whatever their context.
The concept of a pedagogic setting as we are developing it, seeks to capture and thus enable us to describe and analyse this complexity. We define a pedagogic setting, as 'the practices that a teacher or teachers, together with a specific group of learners, create, enact and experience (Leach and Moon, 1999a). We distinguish 'setting' from the encompassing 'arena', or institutional framework - be it school, home, teaching hospital, club, college etc. The arena, as a physically, economically, politically and socially organized space in time, exists independently of the individuals who work and learn there on a daily basis. Arena and setting intersect to create context, however, since much of what is traditionally viewed as context for learning - the physical surroundings, the materials used; the social, institutional and personal purposes at play; the people involved and the language used - are an essential part of learning [Lave,1988]. A pedagogic setting, we propose, can be described and analysed across several inter related dimensions. Whilst remaining broadly constant, we have modified these 'pedagogic dimensions' over time in the light of our ongoing research [see Figure 2 below]. 'Tools/ artefacts', for example has been added as a key dimension, as a result of our recent work on the Learning Schools Programme, as we came to appreciate the widely varying technologies and artefacts integral to any human setting that create and mediate thinking and activity as powerfully as the 'primary tool' of language (Vygotsky, 1962)
Some of these pedagogic dimensions we argue are directly observable and experienced:
- learning activities and assessment activities define and structure classroom activity [and that outside the classoom];
- roles and relationships - both of teachers and learners - include such aspects as who controls the learning in the setting, as well as the extent of collaboration among learners.
Each of these are mediated by:
- discourse, which Vygotsky has called our 'primary' tool of thought [here we use the term to embrace not just the chosen language of instructionv, which can be both a critical and conflictual dimension of some pedagogic settings, but also the norms, behaviours, and codes- the microculture/ 'language of subject' (Cobb et al, 1997) ]
- tools/ other artefacts. Vygotsky has shown the way in which these mediate and shape thinking.vi
All of these dimensions are implicitly, or explicitly, informed by:
- goals and purposes, which provide the intention, rationale and values of the setting;
- views of learning, which inform the way in which teachers and learners believe that learning takes place
- views of what counts as valued knowledge.
The inter related 'pedagogic dimensions' of our model are brought into being and constantly modified by the interactions of teachers and learners, their communities as well as the wider context. At the heart, or on the periphery, of the setting - or somewhere in between depending on individual experience - lie participants' personal identities.
Pedagogic settings always have a past, present and future. For learning goals, activities, discourse and outcomes are informed by expectations and interactions between teachers and learners beyond a single moment in time. Many pedagogic settings endure for a year, sometimes more, in some elementary schools, for instance, where the same teacher works with a single group of learners. And they do not have fixed physical boundaries, since the boundaries of settings are selected and determined by participants themselves. One example would be the explicit integration of visits to museums, home based research, use of IT suites or field studies in some settings [e.g. Caswell and Lamon, 1999; May, 1999l; Woods, 1999]. Another is the inclusion of a virtual electronic environment for students or teachers as integral to their learning or professional training [e.g. Morgan, 1999; Arnold and Putz, 2002; Leach 2002]. Teacher(s) and learners we argue, create, enact and experience - together and separately - purposes, values and expectations; knowledge and ways of knowing; rules of discourse; roles and relationships; resources, artefacts - and the physical arrangement and boundaries of their setting. All of these together and none of these alone. Indeed it is the interdependence of all its parts over time that makes a pedagogic setting a single entity (Moon and Leach, 1999, p).
In using these dimensions to understand and analyse how pedagogic settings are created and sustained, we can also observe if and how changes in one of more of the dimensions effect the others. As teachers in DEEP access new 'pedagogic' knowledge, try out new learning activities or use new tools and artefacts we can ask, what impact does this have on their goals and purposes, their views of knowledge, or their roles and relationships with each other as well as with their learners and others in the community?
In order to capture this complexity, a variety of approaches to data collection have been selected involving the partner researchers, as well as participating teachers and school principals. These include teacher entry and completion questionnaires; semi-structured interviews with teachers; teacher and learner diaries; teacher portfolio evidence [e.g. lesson plans, pupil work]; head teacher questionnaires; videoed classroom observations and pupil outcomes [e.g .news letters, powerpoint presentations].
In addition teachers are being asked to complete a concept-mapping task before and after the project..
Figure 3 Example of the pre-project concept map
Concept maps are thought to be particularly useful as a tool for exploring the acquisition of knowledge and understanding about a new tool or set of tools. In this sense they draw on Vygotskian activity theory which as we have already indicated, locates meaning making in the process of mediated action. Concept-mapping is a commonly used method for clarifying connections between concepts, and for this particular project draws on previous work carried out in two projects in the UK (REPRESENTATION, 1998; ImpacT2, 2000). The focus here is on teachers' understanding of the potential use of ICT in teaching and learning and the aim of the approach is to try and track conceptual change in the educator's affordances of the potential of ICT in pedagogy and learning across the life of the project
In the second part of this paper we discuss some of the participants' settings and experiences in more detail, focusing mainly on South Africa where the research is furthest advanced. The interim findings of the project [the first phase finishes in December 2002] are based on :
four semi-structured interviews, with 20 out of 24 [83%] of the educators;
questionnaires- one per school; 9 [75%] were returned for analysis;
1-1 interviews with 20 of the project teachers and head teachers in their own schools;
preliminary analysis of 10 classroom observation videos involving more than 300 pupils;
feedback from pupils;
lap top 'histories';
teacher and learner diaries.
The DEEP Project in practice - interim findings
Inkanyezi sisinambuzane esincinane, esikholisa ukuqapheleka ebusuku ngenxa yokudanya-danyaza kwaso. Udanya-cimi esiye simenze uthi "Ndileq' undibambe!". Kokukukhanya okuye kubenomtsalane ebantwaneni. Ayibobungakanani bayo obubalulekileyo, koko ligalelo layo ekukhanyiseni nakwintsunguzi yobusuku. Umntu ongaziyo kuye kuthiwe usebumnyameni. Nantsi inkanyezi engu-DEEP isiza nolwazi lwe Computer ebantwaneni. Masiyileqe siyibambe ingekathi "swaka!"vii
In South Africa the project is called Inkanyezi, which in Xhosa [one of South Africa's twelve official national languages] means 'glow worm', the name chosen by the South African project team (see footnote vii). Inkanyezi's 12 project schools are situated in Eastern Cape Province, one of South Africa's former homelands. One third of the schools are located in town areas, the rest in rural locations. The range, type and intake of schools in the project typify the region as a whole. Poverty is at its severest in rural locations in SA and data shows that the provincial share of the country's poverty gap nationally is greatest by far in Eastern Cape. The majority of the 24 teacher participants (2 per school) are female (71%: 29%) and more than half are between 40 and 49 years old. They were selected from 91 applications province wide, following widespread advertising on radio, in schools and teachers centres. Criteria for selection, drawn up by the South African research team, was unrelated to ICT experience, but required dedication to teaching and learning and an interest in new teaching methods.
Researching the use of new professional development tools for new forms of learning
Participating teachers' prior use of technology varied considerably. Of the 10 who had prior experience of using computers, only 3 had used them on more than one or two occasions.
Table A: Prior use of technology
No. used before (%)
No. never used before (%)
Their schools also vary in the range of tools and other resources they provide. Two of the three town schools, are relatively well equipped. One has a small (albeit out of date) school library, some science equipment, a television and video player, and some musical instruments including a piano and a small computer lab with 6 computers (another school utilises an old tape recorder and cassette as accompaniment to their remarkable school choir). The majority, by contrast, are resource challenged. They have no heating, even in winter when snow falls in the mountains. Many have no windows, some have dirt floors and children have to stand because there is not enough furniture. There is poor lighting and fragile furnishings. In one school the floor boards have been ripped up to provide firewood during a cold snap. They have the minimum of educational resources: a small number of well worn books and poor quality chalk boards perhaps. Three of the schools have no electricity. Nearly half of the schools are without telephone connectivity.
In deciding on the kind of ICT hardware and software to introduce to the project teachers, the DEEP project team was guided by the new forms of professional knowledge it hoped might be developed. Four key elements of teacher professional knowledge were focussed (i.e. 'subject' knowledge, 'school' knowledge, 'pedagogical' knowledge and 'personal knowledge - see Figure 2), which are discussed in some detail in other publications (Banks, Moon and Leach, 1999; McCormick and Scrimshaw, 2000; Leach and Moon, 2002).
- to advance 'subject' knowledge, project teachers need access to resources sufficiently detailed and broad to provide for a professional level of enquiry. The technology therefore needed to enable Internet, CD (or DVD) -ROM access to high quality, subject focussed resources related to the project theme.
- To facilitate the development of new 'pedagogic' knowledge, flexibility was needed in order to support ICT enhanced activities in a variety of settings [e.g work both at school and home]. This pointed to the need for laptops or palm-top devices that allowed for portability.
- In order for project partners to develop their 'school' knowledge, a mechanism was needed for sustaining collaboration, as well as support over distance. Some form of email list or conferencing environment for the teachers seemed essential.
Technical requirements were also driven by consideration of how the teachers might use the technology during classroom based activities. Small group-work requires a display large enough for several pupils to be able to see the screen and work together at one time. Multimedia can enhance the way learners research a topic, and present their findings to others; so support for sound, animation and video was also seen as advantageous.
In this way, starting from the kinds of professional activities that teachers would be encouraged to carry out and evaluate, and working back to the technologies that would enable this, a specification for the project equipment evolved. (Appendix 1: Technical Specification). A similar approach was taken for the infrastructure requirements for participating schools (Appendix 2: Infrastructure). Potential project partners were approached, from the private and voluntary sectors and over a period of time, significant levels of corporate funding acquired for the project, so that the project participants have been provided with:
Lap Top Computers
In Eastern Cape, each project school has been provided with a new laptop manufactured in South Africa [in Egypt, teachers have used the computers already available in the schools] and a small budget for connectivity.
Every teacher has a powerful hand-held, state of the art 'pocket pc' [206 MHz processor]
Every teacher has a small digital camera add-on to the pocket-pc
Both research teams have one high-resolution digital camera, to be shared amongst the project schools.
Every school has one of these 'all-in-one', and an allocation of ink cartridges and paper.
Each school has been provided with operating system and 'Office' software appropriate to their equipment
The research team have also provided a large selection of web-sites on CD-ROM, and further software utilities.
To avoid 'technology overload' this equipment has been introduced gradually, beginning with the computers and software; the hand-held computers a few months later, finally the small cameras and all-in-one devices some six months into the project. One unexpected benefit of introducing the printer late in the project has been that the teachers have concentrated on learning to use the computer first and foremost as a tool to support pupil learning, rather than taking the route of many European teachers and using it primarily for worksheet production. In future developments this staging process will be maintained.
An interim review only three months into the project showed that not only had every educator significantly developed personal and professional ICT skills, but in addition all, with one exception, had also been using ICT with their learners in the classroom under very challenging physical circumstances [e.g. no electricity, class sizes of 40 minimum; dirt floors and windowless classrooms, very poor quality furniture and lighting;]
14 had been using the lap top 'many times'; 6 had used it 'once a week or more'; 2 had used it at least twice a week; 2 had used it daily. The majority (22) reported that they felt ICT was 'very important' for learning and the remainder, 2 that it was 'of some importance' (Table 2).
TABLE 2 Importance for learning
TABLE 3 Confidence in using ICT
All considered themselves to be very/ quite confident or confident in using ICT (Table 3).
The DEEP resources comprise:
short print study Guide
Activity Card summaries [see Appendix 3 ]
DEEP web site (which links the research sites, and can also link those educators who have internet access, so in principle, educators can now share experiences, resource difficulties, ask questions, or discuss pupil outcomes).
Additional electronic resources focusing on the theme of endangered animals and the local environment [Life and Living]. (These incorporate case studies of the way ICT can scaffold a variety of subject concepts and facilitate a range of graduated classroom activities e.g. from simple literacy word processing activities and web search activities about local animal species, to e-mailing research findings to pupils in other schools).
Three months into the project:
24 [100%] of the educators had used DEEP CD-ROMs ; 94% word processing; 33% spread sheets; 88% had used presentation software; 100% had used solitaire or other games;
20% had used web sites other than the ones provided by the project;
24 [100%] had used the computer for classroom activities including:
simple word processed literacy tasks [e.g. acrostic poems of animals/ pupil names/ concepts [e.g. 'duty' from a Grade 5 text]
extracting scientific information from a web site;
making a power point slide with text and images to present some scientific research;
creating a spreadsheet on animal classification;
reading and discussing multi-media fables;
Africans language activities.
Evidence was also given of a wide use of the computers outside of school and classroom - by school principals, other colleagues, friends, children, local organisations, sisters, girlfriends, husbands:
'I've helped other teachers, made agendas for meetings and even typed an assignment for a colleague';
'we had to ask my 6 year old son's friends what word he might have used as a password to lock us out of the computer[laughter]'
'of course we use solitaire, we want to get more games, everyone likes them'.
Artefacts on the 12 computers add to evidence of wide ranging personal activity: personalised screen saver created by a teenager; CV of a colleague; minutes and agendas of a community council; folders of pupils' work; a school development plan; PowerPoint made by and for a variety of groups and audiences.
One teacher who had recently lost a brother and sister through Aids had composed her first ever poem to help her come to terms with this tragic loss, which she also plans to share with her learners.
You hounder of harmless people
Awunalusini empilweni yomntu
You have no compassion
Wonke umntu ukhala ngawe
All are complaining about you
How cruel you are,
Latha-latha ndini lesifo
You really have no compassion
Let our children be.
Yahlukana neentsana zabamtu
You have already filled up our souls with graves.
Oh: uwuzalisile umhlaba ngamangcwaba.
A project teachers first poem
Inkanyezi is predicated on the view that professional learning, including learning to use ICT, should be planned with the learner, the learner's context and the learner's needs at the centre. Pedagogic approaches which best meet learners' needs should first be determined by the educators, and the appropriate technologies/tools for supporting that learning be chosen. To be able to do that, however, the use of different technologies must not only be considered, but experienced by educators themselves, in order to establish the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of ICT, and how it can best be used. Educators need to be empowered not to be mere consumers of technology- or to be told that a particular technology is or is not appropriate to them in their situation. Rather, they need to have the freedom to:
- understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different available technologies and how they can be used to support either teaching and learning or the administration and management of the teaching and learning environment;
- understand how to integrate technologies into the teaching and learning environment.
Notumbovuyo Klaas, Project Teacher, Butterworth High School
'The time has come for us as educators to really be change agents. We have reached an era of change, changing from the old traditional approach to more advanced technological approach of teaching and learning. During this paradigm shift, we've made some exciting discoveries, which we would like to share with you. We didn't grow up with computers and were never trained to teach using computers. We had to overcome the biggest fear, the fear of failing...since it was our first time to teach, using computers. It was, and still is a challenge for the educators to organize their classrooms and to plan their daily activities. ...The implication of using the computer in class is vast. In the first place it is very exciting and productive. The environment becomes more conducive for learning and teaching.... learners are very keen to use computers for research. The natural curiosity of children can be utilized to its full potential because they are so keen to explore and discover more..... More knowledge is gained in a very short space of time because information is readily accessible. Learners actively become involved in searching for information for their projects and assignments.....Sound social relationships develop as learners discuss their findings. They have taken full responsibility for their own learning and very independent.....Emphasis is mainly on planning and creativity of the educator to always make learning fun and interesting. The web site .is curriculum based ..integrates many learning areas. We have used it for LLC (Languages), Mathematics, Sciences, Life Orientation as well as Technology. Using ICT skills means producing broad, life long learners who are encouraged to discover for themselves, but that doesn't shift the responsibility from educators. We always offer guidance and support their needs. Furthermore, the learners' capabilities, needs and limitations are taken into consideration'.
(An animal acrostic presentation, with pictures and sounds, by Grade 3 (age 7) learners)
|Here is an example of the planning carried out by a small group of pupils. Each professional development activity requires the teacher to develop related ICT and non-ICT tasks.|
|The same small group implemented their written plan on the computer as part of a whole-class presentation.|
|In another school, pupils have used printed information sheets from a web site to complete a DART activity, extracting key information about their chosen mammals and setting this against key headings.|
Researching the use of new professional development tools for collaboration and professional networking
Cawthera identifies three categories of ICT provision for schools in developing nations: Basic, using second-hand equipment, without training or support; Basic plus, using refurbished second-hand equipment , with some training or support; and Deluxe, using new equipment. He also notes that deluxe provision is usually found either as a result of a relatively wealthy school, or from centrally financed state provision. DEEP schools have deluxe provision; this is important if today's findings are to inform tomorrow's practice, for we would argue that equipment that is deluxe today will be basic tomorrow. It is important however to emphasise that all the participating DEEP schools are poor schools, serving disadvantaged communities.
The few studies that focus on implementing ICT in schools ; ; in developing countries tend to focus heavily on cost issues. This has not been the focus of DEEP. However, we have been interested to note that all attempts to lay out costs work on the assumption that schools will be equipped with computer suites. One rationale for this is given in Cawthera's recommendations:
"As the provision of equipment is only a part, often a small part, of the costs of total provision, where sufficient usage can be generated computer labs and telecentre [sic] should have a minimum of 20 computers. In this way the high fixed training costs are spread over a larger number of users and so drive down costs". (p.45, emphasis Cawtheras)
We would challenge this assertion. For many years schools in the northern hemisphere have invested large sums in ICT suites. Yet recent research from the UK and elsewhere suggests [e.g. Impact 2; BECTa; Cooper et al, 2002] that ICT can be used far more effectively for teaching and learning, in a range of curriculum areas, when one [or more] machine is integrated into the 'normal' classroom environment. In this context:
the ICT becomes literally one-of-many pedagogic means;
teachers and learners are more likely to see the subject as centre stage;
teachers and learners are more likely to use computers to support collaborative work, as well as individual computer use.
This is not to suggest that a school should not have 20 computers or more, but to argue that where computers are introduced to schools, they should be integrated carefully into the normal classroom environment, and always at the service of the subject, of the curriculum, of effective learning.
The DEEP professional development model required teachers to apply for the training in project pairs, in order to enable peer co-operation and ongoing support. All the Professional Activities invite paired work, as well as joint evaluation. Computer provision also requires that pairs share the laptop and all the other equipment, with the exception of the pocket PC. This model has generated very high levels of usage for several reasons:
the training has been tightly subject and professional development focussed (rather than ICT skills based) and collaborative. Teachers have begun to discuss and develop lots of opportunities for integrating the use of ICT into their lessons;
pairs of teachers using the machines has doubled the number of opportunities for using the equipment;
the computer has been used outside school, in the evenings and weekends, for professional development and personal learning;
within the classroom, groups have used the computer in rotation. This has meant that rather than 'a computer lesson' occurring at occasional intervals during the week, activities that use the computer have spanned several school days of continuous use.
This model, we would argue, is resulting in effective approaches to learning, good learner support, as well as quality learner outcomes. It also however, ensures very high levels of usage for project equipment, and addresses several of the recommendations Cawthera makes for optimising the cost-benefit balance in providing ICT to schools.
Table 4 Use of lap top
The project's emphasis on collaborative use of ICT has also ensured that school principals, community members and families have benefited. In the up-scaling of the project extending community use will be a particular focus. Most of the project teachers meet voluntarily in local cluster groups for additional support - and in some cases to power up their computers, connect to the internet or make print outs. 'We have no electricity so we walk together to the neighbouring hospital down the road to charge the battery. The hospital staff are very interested in the computer and some have used it;' 'We keep the computer at home - at the weekends when we go back to our families we store it a the principal's house'; These informal support structures have been another key element of the success of the project to date.
Only six years ago Raj Dhanarajan (1996) argued that 'for the first time we have the means to reach almost every single community on the planet and to create societies of lifelong learners. Well designed and facilitated virtual environments will provide places capable of establishing professional discourse across and between communities'. Many such environments now exist and are beginning to be sustained across time (Leach, 2002). Dhanarajan's (2001) own organisation, the Commonwealth of Learning, has hosted regular, highly successfully on line professional forums for the debating of key issues such as Empowerment through Knowledge and Technology since 1999 (see http://www.open.ac.uk/eci/forum/forset.html). Those of us working on DEEP however, still get excited when we read a 'first' message 'I've arrived- is anyone there?' or 'Hello Glow Worms, I'm now deep in the use of ICT! Its fun to be involved in this educational transformation.' What seems to be the smallest step for one teacher in a new aspect of knowledge, we know can represent an enormously symbolic achievement.
The DEEP virtual community is enabling the project teachers to communicate and collaborate as a professional community, whether they are in Cairo or Queenstown South Africa. The environment is still in its infancy, and many of the teachers find communication fragile, nevertheless there have already been 77 message postings. Here they can exchange ideas, resources, debate problems, or in the future perhaps, arrange collaborative projects.
Or simply continue to contact the team for help:
Friday, May 24, 2002 - 02:26 pm
We have not yet received the modems and the photocopiers. By the way we are in a process of learning how to
use the jornadas. Andile's jornada does not work properly. The problem is the calculator, it does not show any
Now we are in a process of registering the jornadas.
Andile: if your Jornada is still not working properly, there is a
'reset' button on the back of the machine: push this to
make it start afresh.
You will not loose any information when you reset.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 - 04:30 pm
I don't know how to thank you. I have followed your instructions, and now my jornada is working. You know what,
YOU ARE AN EXPERT. Thank you.
Some of the discussion is taking place through the medium of IsiXhosa and it will be interesting to see how this element of the environment develops.
Language within the project has been deeply debated and at times has proved a major complexity. In Egypt the training has of course taken place through the medium of Arabic and the print materials have been produced in Arabic. The web site is also currently being built in Arabic. Problems however, have occurred in finding suitable web sites in Arabic to support the project, and there have similarly been problems in providing an Arabic interface for the DEEP 'talk' area, which is still being worked on.
A note on costs
In the private and public sector, vast amounts have been spent on ICT, because it is relatively easy to compare costs: implementing effective ICT solutions have saved companies and governments far more than the costs of the installations, and the responsiveness and capacities of the organisations have been transformed . In education, the cost comparisons are much harder to make. Teachers' salaries are the primary cost in education, and no one sensibly suggests that ICT should replace teachers. If a teacher teaches more effectively or more efficiently, this is rarely likely to generate any extra income for the school; so investment in ICT is often seen as a cost, not offset by any financial gains.
As we have stressed, costs have not been our focus. This is a future-looking project. We are arguing that the increasing roles of ICT and open learning are inevitable if we are to meet the challenge of education for all . This project is therefore addressing the why and how's of effectively using ICT for the professional development of teachers, and the benefit of learners. In any case, others are focussing specifically on the costs of implementing ICT in schools within developing nations . We would however make some observations relating to this issue from our research fundings to date.
Firstly, during fieldwork for the project, we have asked two fundamental questions: 'what have you used the computer for; and, [how] could / would you have done that without the computer?' The technology has provided many services to the teachers and their pupils. It has been a tool for teacher training; a library; a way to see and hear things not accessible in the local environment; a way for teachers and learners to produce and present work; a means for communicating with peers; a camera; a music player; a voice recorder; a photocopier; a way of raising the profile of the school, teachers and pupils within the community; a means of strengthening links with the local community. Much of what has been done would not have been possible without the technology. Alternatives (buying books for each topic, sending the teacher away for 'centre-based training', using conventional photography or printing, using analogue audio devices) each have high initial and ongoing costs associated with them.
Secondly, we have not involved ourselves with detailed costings because there has, for many years, been an almost exponential rise in the power, capacity and bandwidth of ICT systems, whilst at the same time, an almost exponential fall in the unit costs of each of these. Over a thirty-year period, the cost of 1 Mhz of processor power has fallen from almost $10,000 to just over 10c. Over the same period, the power of a single chip has risen by over seven thousand-fold.
A very similar picture emerges for computer memory...
...whilst for communications bandwidth the situation has been even more stark, with prices for sending a trillion bits of data falling from over $100,000 to a little over 10c. (During which time, bandwidth has risen almost two hundred thousand-fold).
(After , source data given in appendix 3)
These trends suggest that whatever the cost of providing certain functionality is today, providing a similar functionality in three to five years time is likely to be vastly less expensive. It is therefore important that when researching the potential benefits of ICT for teaching and learning, the best equipment available is used. The current level of ICT power and capacity will not be a luxurious expense in the imminent future, when research filters through to practice. In order to adequately discuss the costs of ICT provision for schools in developing nations, further research will need to be carried out to paint a clear and full picture of what the ICT is being used for, and the comparative costs of alternatives - where those alternatives exist.
The DEEP project set out to transform teacher knowledge, in it's constituent forms of curriculum, school and pedagogic knowledge. But learning is not merely the accumulation of knowledge and skills, detached from who we are and what we do. For example, when we talk of developing the teachers' pedagogic knowledge, we do not just mean that they have some familiarity with the theories of Piaget or Vygotsky. Pedagogic knowledge calls upon the teachers knowledge of the learners, the goals they are trying to achieve, the strategies and activities they choose to reach their goals, the discourse they engage in and the relationships they develop . In other words, the teachers' pedagogic knowledge is as much about the artefacts they use and the practices they engage in, as it is about 'what they know' in their heads.
Leach describes learning as
"...a process of developing identity - of becoming. It [learning] transforms who we are, what we can do - and what we believe we are capable of doing in the future. ... Professional identity is redefined over time as we develop fresh knowledge, take on different roles, and new ways of participating [in educational practices]."
When the project was conceived and implemented, notions of identity had not been uppermost in the project team's minds, and were not in the research design. But field notes from the first research visit (three months after project launch) showed that a transformed identity was very much on the minds of the project teachers, their schools and communities.
In all the case studies, project teachers provide testimony to the way in which their self esteem, dignity and professionalism has been raised. The Ikanyezi teachers' recent comments provide some illustration: ' At first I knew nothing. She [project partner] is cleverer than me. Now I know how to [...reels off long list..]. I'm doing well. At the end of the year I'll be a master! [everyone laughs]; 'I have grown up as a teacher' ; 'It has enhanced and developed my way of thinking. I'm exploring [Inkanyezi]a lot- I'm always using it- each time I learn a lot; I know something more than before.'; 'I'm not quite perfect! I'm developing myself at my own pace.'
Others feel they have become experts, to whom other colleagues can turn 'I've made certificates with borders; school sports timetable, agendas for meetings and even typed an assignment for a colleague', whilst two of the participants [one male, one female] who are school principals said the project it had dignified and extended their role 'I have used it as part of the process of developing our institution'. 'It helps me in my role. I use it at school to help me in my work. I've experimented, it's opened up new avenues' [P- school Principal].Three teachers have found the confidence to enrol on other courses for their own development.
Many teachers described how this sense of professional affirmation was not limited to the project teachers, but to other teachers within their schools: there was a sense of the whole school, teachers and pupils, being valued and esteemed: 'Both the kids and the other teachers were very happy to hear about the computer'; 'The class was very excited when they heard that they were going to learn from the computer'; 'Great excitement from parents and teachers...so there has been great enthusiasm' [principal]. Teachers expressed the view that they were no longer 'in the shadow' of the 'model school' in the town or city. 'There are a lot of computers in the model schools. It's appropriate technology. It's good we have one. Even other parents now want their children to come to our school'.
This building of identity and raising of esteem has also spread beyond the school, to family and community:' My family were very happy, they knew it was a great achievement. They honoured what I did'; 'We spoke to the parents at the parents meeting...and they were so interested. They were all really happy and praised the principal, because it was her that introduced this project. They even praised her over the radio too'.
The project team at one school decided to involve parents in decision making: We had a parents' evening- there was a proposal from the parents that we use it with Grade 7, as they are going to leave school soon, as a resources for their learning. 8 learners have been trained first to use the computers. They will facilitate small groups of peers'.
One project teacher summarised this change of identity succinctly:' We are working to develop our schools- everyone wants to know more.'; 'This computer promotes the school- even the community know about it'. We have called the community...we explained how the educators gave up their time in their holidays, they sacrificed.... we do it for the learners. It has raised my standards and dignity. Our school enrolment has increased' [Principal].
These are just a selection of observations from field notes and video transcripts, but it is clear that the development of [professional] identity has been an important outcome for the project teachers, as well as more broadly for the school and community.
An architecture for teacher development
This is not the first time that rapid changes in forms of communication have had the potential to significantly impact on our ambitions for educational and social progress. The printing press, the telegraph, the telephone all, in an earlier age, changed conceptions of the world. The end of the nineteenth century, for example, was a moment of rapid change. Not only was the world in the nineteenth century coming to be united in a net of steel, telegraph wires, and ideologies of progress, but also, and perhaps more significant, for the first time in history growing numbers of people in societies around the world - societies that differed greatly in structure, cultural practice, and historical experience - were coming to the realisation that their daily experience and the structural conditions of that experience were drifting apart. It was in the nineteenth century that, for the first time, self and society were beginning to be interrelated in a global milieu, one in which people's understanding of themselves and sense of the social world could no longer be identified as exclusively tied to only one place, only one tradition (Erlmann, 1999). Such changes in everyday perceptions of time, place and identity were so sweeping that Robertson (1992) speaks of it as a 'take-off phase' of globalisation in which the globalising tendencies of earlier ages gave way to a single inexorable form. On the ground, however, Erlmann (1999) has suggested that emergence of a singular conception of something called humankind and an increasingly interconnected world, was beyond the conceptual grasp of any one individual living under its sway. In the individual's imagination, wherever they were located, this 'global' system' took a wide range of forms of symbolic meanings. Thus emerged a new form of sociospatial, imagination that inscribed itself in the very syntax of language itself, the 'intersections of absence and presence' as Giddens (1991) has called them.
Into these new spaces created by rapid changes of technology came, in Pierre Bourdieu's terms, 'new cultural intermediaries' and new roles for intellectuals and artists. This is a process that we suggest is also characterising the new revolution in communications today. Within our modern forms of consciousness, however, Erlmann (op. cit.) has pointed to the way in which contemporary changes in turn engender and are expressed in a mirror dance between both Europe and Africa's images of the 'other', each retaining many of the legacies of the 'global imagination' that developed during the late nineteenth century. Most notable among these is the intertwined, persistence of fantasies of an abused and defenceless Africa and, inextricably, symbiotically linked with these, a certain heroic image of Europe and the individual.
If we detect something of this view of 'otherness' in the way the issue of developing teachers to meet the challenge of providing universal education is both perceived and framed, then the new forms of communication and our capacity to reconceptualise traditional divides and new practices, in turn offers an opportunity to think in new, and more realistic ways about what is humanly possible.
In this paper we have made a number of propositions:
First, the importance of seeing the world-wide challenge to educate all our children is a challenge for us all;
Second, if we are to educate all our children, then we also need to educate all our teachers;
Third, we have pointed to the enormous potential of information and communications technologies for transforming the models and processes of teacher development and learning, as well as professional support.
Across the world, many internationally recognised institutions and groups drive the improvement of teacher education, attracting scholars and ideas from every part of the globe. Few of these are situated in the developing world. Few are driven by the real agendas of the poor and the dispossessed. We believe that a task for teacher education, in parallel with UPE, is to create a new and imaginative 'architecture' for discourse and debate that is truly international, drawing on wide ranging practices and scholarship, and one that embraces the challenge set out in this paper. The entitlement to training and education for the millions of new teachers realising the quest for universal primary education should be a thoroughly modern one; an education and training that raises the status and dignity of a community's teachers and above all builds self-esteem and identity. The form of that architecture, the roles of individuals in creating and working together in this, as well as it's many globally and varied related communities, provides an agenda for the next stage of development.
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