In the environment surrounding the potential and use of ICTs, many myths and misconceptions have developed and are being promoted across countries and institutions. It is important for decision makers to be aware of these myths in order to avoid making decisions based on them.
2.1 Myth 1: ICTs are one monolithic entity
Decision makers frequently question the potential of technology in the singular. Such inquiry is unanswerable for two reasons:
- Technologies differ in their properties, scope, and potential. An audio technology can only capture sound, while a video technology depicts sound and motion. A CD provides multimedia digital content, while a Web version adds connectivity.
- Different technologies can be used for different purposes. The potential of technologies is influenced by what we use them for. There are different levels at which technologies may be used, including:
- Presentation of a piece of information
- Demonstration of a concept, idea, phenomenon, law, or theory
- Drill and practice to gain competence in applying knowledge
- Research for certain topics or projects using multiple sources
- Interaction—manipulation of variables to reach generalizations or to draw implications from a law or theory
- Collaboration on projects with other students in the school or in other schools in the country or elsewhere or with scientists in the field
- Production of educational materials
The questions here become:
- Which technology and what level of use? For instance, if technology is to be used for presentation and demonstration only, investment in computers and connectivity may not be justifiable. On the other hand, the potential for interactive and collaborative learning can best be achieved by networked computers and connectivity to the World Wide Web.
- What is the value added for using one technology compared to a simpler and cheaper one? For instance, why use a video instead of a photo, a digital text instead of a textbook, or a simulation instead of an animation?
2.2 Myth 2: The effects of ICTs are definite
Technology is only a tool: no technology can fix a bad educational philosophy or compensate for bad practice. In fact, if we are going in the wrong direction, technology will only get us there faster. Likewise, distance learning is not about distance, it is about learning. Just as we can have bad education face to face, we can have bad education at a distance. Similarly, if teaching is demonstrating and telling, and if learning is memorizing and reciting, using learning technologies and multimedia programs for this purpose will not have the desired impact. Also, if students are not asked to search and work collaboratively, and if teachers function independently, investment in connectivity will not be cost effective.
Many of the factors that constrain the expansion and effectiveness of on-site education also work against ICT-enhanced education—sometimes more intensely. These factors include availability of affordable physical infrastructure, quality ICT-enhanced content, financial resources, and acceptability by the educational establishment, parents, and teachers. Additionally, in many countries the main hurdle is the legal frameworks. ICT-enhanced systems, with their ability to reach beyond political boundaries, defy many of the national and international legal frameworks that were created for a world with frontiers. Solutions, albeit necessary, have been difficult to find and implement. Distance education providers have to deal with telecommunication monopolies and restrictive regulations, accreditation and certification, and intellectual property.
2.3 Myth 3: ICTs mean computers and the Internet
Under pressures to be fashionable and adopt the latest educational innovations, the temptation is to limit ICTs to the Internet and exclude other technologies such as radio, television, and print. These technologies use reception equipment that is readily available in homes, have proven to be effective and inexpensive in packaging high-quality educational materials, reach “unreachable clientele,” and overcome geographical and cultural hurdles.
Experience is proving, to our surprise, that acquiring the technologies themselves, no matter how hard and expensive, may be the easiest and cheapest component in a series of elements that ultimately could make these technologies sustainable or beneficial. Effectively integrating technology into learning systems is much more complicated. It involves a rigorous analysis of educational objectives and changes, a realistic understanding of the potential of technologies, a purposeful consideration of the pre- and corequisites of effectiveness of ICTs for education, and the prospects of this process within the dynamics of educational change and reform.
To "tech" or not to "tech" education is, therefore, not the question. The real question is how to harvest the power of ICTs to make education relevant, responsive, and effective for school settings and lifelong learning.
2.4 Myth 4: ICTs are a substitute for schools and teachers
ICT-enhanced education activities should not be perceived as a substitute for conventional schools. Despite its shortcomings, the school system has been remarkable in its contribution to fulfilling basic learning needs, to skill formation, and to the preservation and evolution of cultures. We have reached the limits of this model, however, in providing high-quality education for all, anytime, anywhere, in an affordable and sustainable manner. ICTs can expand the potential of a conventional delivery system, complement its existing elements, and empower instructors to become better teachers. (See Section 5)