|Learning for Life, Work and the Future - Stimulating Reform in Southern Africa through Subregional Co-Operation - Initial Workshop (UNEVOC - Bonn, 2000, 104 p.)|
This paper aims at underlining the importance of using modern technology in education in general and in teacher training in particular. The relation between the use of technology and its potential to realise more engaged forms of learning are illustrated. The focus of the paper is on the beneficial impact of the use of interactive videos (CD-ROMs) in teacher training. The absence of video material specifically designed for teacher training in the southern African region, as well as the disadvantages of the use of foreign videos, are highlighted. It is proposed, with appropriate expert assistance, to produce interactive video material in order to strengthen the training of teachers as a decision-making process. The production of such materials should be linked to the enhancement of the local/regional capacity to produce high quality educational video materials within the specific local cultural and educational setting.
The paper further links the video project to the need to provide in-service and distance education to teachers, especially in the vocational areas.
The National Commission on Education (1993) p.19, the National Development Plan 7, (1992 - 1997) and the National Development Plan 8 (1997 - 2002) emphasize three issues:
· The increasing impact of modern technology on society
· The need to prepare learners for modern technological society
· The shortage of well-trained teachers to assist learners in becoming critical, well-informed, participating citizens of such a society.
3. Technology in Education
There is still a low level, or in some cases a near absence, of use of modern technology in the education system in general and in the teacher training colleges in particular. In order to induce learners in a technologically rich society, their learning environment should be equally rich with technology. The potential of technology, if appropriately used, to enhance learning and achievement is well documented (Lewis and Blanksby, 1988). However, the relation between the use of modern technologies and forms of more engaged, active learning is not automatic, and the manner in which the technologies are integrated into the curricula needs careful planning. Given the explosive technological innovations that have taken place in most fields of human activity over the past decade, it is very likely that appropriate use of these technologies in education and training could significantly improve the teaching/learning process.
There are a number of reasons for the low level of use of modern technology in education:
The absence of technologies for teaching and learning in schools
In many institutions technology is not easily accessible by teachers (and learners). If resources are available, it frequently requires major planning/booking to bring them into the classroom/workplace.
Lack of technologically skilled teachers
The majority of teachers are not adequately trained and supported for integrating modern technology into the day-to-day instruction of their subjects.
Technical support and maintenance of equipment is a major problem.
The alienating effect of the use of foreign videos
There are few software/video/film resources that are specifically designed for the southern African region. The different cultural and educational settings seem to block transferability of otherwise relevant information.
Technology has not been integrated into the curriculum
The opportunities to enhance learning using modern technology in the various subjects at all levels of the education system have not yet been fully embraced.
A first step towards improving the situation is to equip student teachers during pre-service, and teachers during in-service, with knowledge and skills for the appropriate use of modern technology in the classroom/workshop. This requires:
· A learning environment that uses modern technology.
· Hands-on experience in the use of modern technology.
· Full integration of modern technology in the pre-service teacher training course.
4. Effectiveness of Technology
There is in the research literature a strong consensus that technology and technology-enhanced programmes can promote forms of more engaged and active learning. However, the selection of the type of technology and its use is critical. Jones et al (1995) mentioned six indicators for high-technology performance in education:
· Accessibility of the technology: the technologies and resources must be accessible to staff and learners, both within the classrooms and beyond the school
· Operability of the technology: ease with which the technology operates, i.e. the technical set-up of the system
· Organisation of the technology in terms of its location and distribution
· Engagability, or the capacity of the technology to engage students in challenging learning
· Ease of use: user-friendliness; fast, effective help; etc.
· Functionali1ty, or the technologys capacity to prepare students to use a variety of technological tools.
5. Email in Teacher Training
Email by itself is a low-performance technology because its sole function is communication. But email as a tool in teacher training can give student teachers access to rich learning experiences, such as communicating with tutors or mentors, consulting experts and producing collaborative project work.
6. Videos in Vocational Teacher Training
Videos are an effective medium for professional development (Mateff) when used in an interactive way that promotes discussion. The traditional use of videos, whereby the technology is seen as a replacement for or supplementation of the teacher, can be qualified as low technology and results in most cases in passive forms of learning. However, the very same technology can be used to create a much greater involvement of the learner in the learning process.
Effective use of video material requires interactive viewing: stopping for reflection, discussion or practice of what has just been viewed. The actual practice of a skill just viewed should be as close as possible to the actual viewing and therefore requires careful planning.
7. Need for (Regional) Video Production
Given governments commitment to enhance the quality of education, funds should be made available for the hardware side of creating modern techno- logical classroom environments. The software -
i.e. video production appropriate for teacher training in the region - is more of a problem. This is not only a financial but also a human resource issue. A combined team consisting of video production experts and teacher training facilitators would be needed. To make such an enterprise worthwhile, a regional approach is to be preferred over a local endeavour. Expert advice and support from outside the region might be needed, but should be related to capacity building in the region for educational video production.
CTVE proposes that a project to produce videos for teacher training is started in the region and funds are found for such a project.
Although the above concentrates on the use of videos in the training of teachers, a similar need for good instructional video material exists at the Technical Colleges when offering the Botswana Technical Education Programme (BTEP).
8. Interactive Videos (CD-ROMs)
Videos as described above, both interactive and promoting discussion, are extremely useful tools in the training of teachers when viewed in a group. However, they have one specific weakness. Teaching is a decision-making activity. Teachers take decisions continuously during the facilitating of the learning of their students. Modern technology allows the production of interactive videos (tape or disk): a decision is required and the viewer/s is/are asked to take it. Based on the choice, the video continues. One can now go back to the decision point and view what would have happened if another decision had been taken.
Interactive multimedia allows the learner to interact with the information provided through the computer. For teacher training, face-to-face or distance, this is a powerful learning tool. Interactive multimedia resources are also extremely useful for vocational education as they allow learners to gain experience through simulations of situations that would normally be inaccessible to them because of safety factors, security factors or costs. It has been established that the appropriate use of interactive multimedia resources reduces the time needed for training to the order of 30%-60% (Hosie, 1993).
Looking at the effectiveness of professional-quality resources to enhance learning, the advantages mentioned above and the vision for education for the (near) future, these resources should be developed. The development should be on a regional basis and - like the proposed video production - involve training of technicians and producers in the southern African region. External financial and expert support is needed to develop interactive multimedia resources.
CTVE proposes that a project to produce interactive videos for teacher training is started in the region and funds are found for such a project.
9. Distance Education and Technology
In the learning process, two types of interactivity occur (Bates, 1991). There is the interaction between learner and the learning resources (individual interaction), and the interaction between the learner and the facilitator of the learning (social interaction). During the learning process, the learner spends most time on individual interaction, interacting with the learning resources. For effective learning both individual and social interaction are needed. Until recently, distance education has not been able effectively to include the social interaction mode. However, in electronic form, distance education is a high-performance technology with great potential to realise more engaged and active forms of learning. The strength of multimedia distance education is that it has developed materials to enhance the quality of interaction between the learner and the learning resources. Now modern technology provides opportunities for social interaction to support learning effectively: audio teleconferencing, video conferencing (using interactive multi-media [IMM] mode) and computer-mediated communication (CMC). These technologies allow two-way communication between learner and facilitator.
CTVE proposes that a project to produce IMM/CMC materials for teacher training by distance education mode is started in the region and funds are found for such a project.
Technology alone is not sufficient to bring about the much-needed improvement in the quality of teaching at all levels of the education system. However, the power and sophistication of available technologies can be exploited to provide quality teacher training education at pre-service and in-service level. Learning to use technology effectively is difficult: many of us are hardly aware of its potential; it is time-consuming, carries a substantial price ticket and requires multidisciplinary teams of specialists. However, if we are committed to creating a high-quality education system for committed and well-informed citizens of the new millennium, it is necessary to provide high-quality learning/teaching environments. The issues raised are not just local ones: educators in the region (Namibia and South Africa for example) are exploring similar ideas. A regional approach would therefore be most appropriate.
Bates, A.W. (1991), Interactivity as a Criterion for Media Selection in Distance Education. Never too far, 16, 5-9.
Botswana, Republic of (1993), Report of the National Commission on Education. Government Printer, Gaborone.
Botswana, Republic of (1997), National Development Plan 8, 1997/98-2002/03, Government Printer, Gaborone.
Hosie, P. J. (1993), Technologically Mediated Learning: The Future of Training in Australia, Australian Journal of Educational Technology 9 (1), 69 - 86.
Jones, B. F. et al. (1995), Overview of Technology and Educational Reform http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/edtalk/tef.htm
Lewis, J. H. and Blanksby, V. (1988), New Look Video in Vocational Education: What Factors Contribute to Its Success? Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 4(2), 109-117.
Mateff, E. Video-Based Professional Development. http://www.videojournal.com/mateff.htm