Educational policy makers and strategists are faced with two major challenges:
- The demands for more, better, and sometimes different, education anywhere and anytime are escalating. Yet the availability of financial, physical and human resources is not commensurate with these demands. A linear projection of past progress indicates that business as usual will not achieve desired targets within reasonable time. This may place some countries at risk of not developing their human capital to a threshold necessary for poverty alleviation, and for economic and social development.
- The world is experiencing a third revolution in the dissemination of knowledge and in the enhancement of instruction, through the advancement of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The first revolution occurred with invention of the written language, and the second with the development of moveable type and books. ICTs have the potential to enhance information distribution, learning, teaching and managing of educational services and make them affordable and available anytime, anywhere.
At the intersection of these two challenges, educational authorities are under tremendous pressure to provide every classroom (if not every student) with technologies, including computers and their accessories and connectivity to the Internet. The pressures are coming from vendors who wish to sell the most advanced technologies, from parents who want to ensure that their children are not left behind in the technological revolution, businesses who want to replicate in schools the dramatic impact that ICTs have had in the worlds of commerce, business and entertainment, and from technology advocates who see ICTs as the latest hope to reform education.
Experience is proving, however, that acquiring the technologies themselves, no matter how hard and expensive, may be the easiest and cheapest element in a series of elements that ultimately could make these technologies sustainable or beneficial. Effectively integrating technology into educational 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 co-requisites of effectiveness of ICTs for education, and the prospects of this process within the dynamics of educational change and reform.
The process of integrating ICTs into educational systems and activities can be arbitrary, ad hoc and disjointed -- leading to ineffective, unsustainable and wasteful investments. On the other hand, a comprehensive set of analytical, diagnostic and planning tools can force a certain discipline on the process. It does not make policy formulation �scientific� and �rational�. Nor will it replace the political/organizational nature of policy formulation. It will, however, enlighten, enrich and systematize the process of policy making and planning, by:
- Providing the necessary information and policy options
- Facilitating deliberate planning for implementation and feedback
- Allowing for a systematic and constructive engagement of different stakeholders
- Adding precision and efficiency to the different procedures
The purpose of the Toolkit is to assist education policy makers, planners and practitioners in the process of harnessing the potential of ICTs to meet educational goals and targets efficiently and effectively. To this end, the Toolkit provides education strategists six toolboxes - containing a total of 18 tools - that cover the following areas:
- Mapping the present situation in terms of national goals, educational context, ICTs in education, and the dynamics of change
- Identification of educational areas for ICT intervention and formulation of corresponding ICT-in-education policies
- Planning for implementation of infrastructure, hardware, contentware, and personnel training
- Planning for Contentware
- Consolidating implementation plans and their financial and managerial implications into one master plan
- Assessment of implementation, effectiveness and impact of ICT interventions and subsequent adjustments and follow-up actions
The Toolkit also provides decision makers, planners and practitioners with a reference handbook of what is known about the potential and conditions of effective use of ICTs for education and learning, by drawing on worldwide knowledge, research and experience.
Potential beneficiaries from the Toolkit are:
- Countries and educational institutions as they struggle with the challenge of introducing and integrating ICTs into education
- UNESCO in its advisory services for Member States
- Officers and specialists of development agencies as they identify, prepare and appraise ICT-in-education projects or ICT components of education projects
There is an old proverb: A bad workman blames his tools . It is important to keep in mind that, like any tool used in any field of science, technology or industry, the Toolkit is only an instrument to facilitate and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of decision making, planning and implementation. It does not replace the commitment, brainpower and actions of the user, nor does it make up for deficiencies in these attributes. It is how the toolkit is used and with what skill that determine the results.
- Education development succeeds or fails on the basis of the nature and quality of educational policies and strategies and sound implementation practices.
- 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 get us there faster. Providing schools with hardware and software does not automatically reform teaching and improve learning. Much depends on educational practices and how ICTs are used to enhance them.
- ICTs are not one monolithic entity. They 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 interactivity.
- Technology should not be equated with computers and Internet. There is still an important place for other technologies, such as interactive radio and broadcast TV.
- There should be an operational distinction between instructional technologies and dissemination technologies . Technology-enhanced materials used on location can be used at a distance with the utilization of the appropriate dissemination technology. This makes it possible to invest in the same materials that may be used on location and at a distance, thus widening the circle of users and lowering the unit costs.
- ICT-enhanced education activities should not be perceived as a substitute for conventional schools. ICTs can expand the potential of conventional delivery systems, complement its existing elements, and empower instructors to become better teachers.
- Introducing ICTs into the teaching/learning process is an innovation �sometimes a radical change. Success necessitates meeting all the pre-requisite and co-requisite conditions for innovation and change including building constituencies, relating the innovation to the conventional, articulating the added value of ICTs, assessing risks, and planning for change management.
- ICTs have great potential for facilitating the fulfillment of educational objectives and for enhancing solutions of educational problems. We know this from experience in case studies � as well as by extrapolation from e-business, e-commerce and entertainment. Yet the road from potential to effective application is a long and sophisticated one that requires deliberate planning, sustained implementation, calculated course modification, and continuous maintenance.
The Toolkit is made of six toolboxes and one reference handbook. The content is listed below and schematically depicted in the flow chart:
|ICT for Education: A Reference Handbook
Part 1 - Decision Maker’s Essentials
Part 2 - Analytical Review
Part 3 - Resources
Part 4 - PowerPoint Presentation
|Toolbox 1 - Mapping of Present Situation
Tool 1.1 - Mapping of National Vision, Goals and Plans
Tool 1.2 - Mapping of Educational Context
Tool 1.3 – Mapping of ICTs for Education
Tool 1.4 - Analysis of Dynamics for Change
|Toolbox 2 – Development of an ICT –Enhanced Policy Program
Tool 2.1 - Identification of Educational Areas for ICT Intervention
Tool 2.2 - Formulation of ICT Policy Interventions
|Toolbox 3 - Planning for Implementation: Physical and Human Requirements
Tool 3.1 - Program Locations
Tool 3.2 - Planning for Infrastructure
Tool 3.3 - Planning for Hardware
Tool 3.4 - Planning for Personnel Training
|Toolbox 4 - Planning for Implementation: Contentware
Tool 4.1 - Contentware Requirements
Tool 4.2 - Identification and Evaluation of Existing Software
Tool 4.3 – Exploration of the Web for Educational Content
Tool 4.4- Evaluation of Course Authorship and Management Systems
Tool 4.5 - Design, Development, and Testing Curricular Contentware
|Toolbox 5 - Planning for Implementation: Summation
Tool 5.1 - Cost and Finance
Tool 5.2 - Master Plan
|Toolbox 6 – Assessment and Subsequent Actions
Tool 6.1 - Evaluation of ICT Intervention
Tool 6.2 – Adjustment and/or Scaling Up