ICT IN BASIC EDUCATION – THE CHALLENGES OF OUR TIME
Let me start by stating that the theme for this is very appropriate, both for schools and the nation at large.
I hate computers. They are flashy, absurd and in my opinion, unnecessary. I have always wondered why the letters on the keyboard had to be so poorly arranged. But love it or hate it, computers and other similar technologies like the so-called smart phone are here to stay. For someone who claims to hate computers so much, I have quite a number of them and, my hate speech on technology was actually prepared using technology; the irony of my life.
This shows how indispensible technology has become in our fast moving, quick paced world. Made to make life a whole lot easier, and some of us of the older generation might believe a whole lot complex, education and readiness for this thriving world demands that we incorporate as hastily as possible Information Communication Technology not just as a subject in basic level education, but as an integral part of the entire education curriculum. Indeed, ICT has become for the basic education teacher what Fleming called the language across the curriculum. In incorporating ICT into our basic education curriculum, we are likely to face a number of challenges. Some of these challenges may range from the obvious lack of ICT facilities, to the less obvious yet equally important need for qualified instructors/teachers.
When people think of ICT we think of computers. So whenever we recognize this need for ICT curriculum, we build ourselves a computer laboratory or sometimes simply convert one unfortunate classroom into a lab. Next, we roam the world of benefactors and sponsors who our principals beseech to help make a wonderful and essential part of education real. Money is a great challenge for any school, and it becomes more profound when ICT becomes a must. And it does not end there. I once met a high school headmistress looking worried and exhausted and I asked her, “madam, what’s the matter?” In a sad meekly voice she replied, “There’s never enough money for these ICT people. Yesterday they wanted mouses, I mean mouses, who would want a rodent? Today they say we need internet and those internet people are not cheap…” and that is how it is. Technology, especially advanced ones are not cheap and it never ends with getting it, because new ones are churned out on a weekly basis – new software, new gadgets, new processes etc.. And the old needs to be maintained (And this is where the maintenance culture comes in). These challenges are daunting but there are ways around it. Some have adopted the “bill the students” approach which is fine in itself because it makes our students/pupils part owners of the facilities and you would expect them to take care of things they have contributed to purchasing. There are also possibilities of teaming up with corporate bodies who may be allowed to advertise in the labs for a fee. There are numerous ways of making money that we can try, the key lies in thinking outside the box.
So after we build ourselves a lab and get the best gadgets available, one would think the problem would be solved right? Wrong. Research conducted by Dr. Agyei of the University of Cape Coast shows that contrary to popular belief that the greatest challenge to ICT use in basic education is the lack of facilities, the real problems lies in the absence of teachers trained in the use of ICT as a tool to make teaching and learning more interactive. While our teacher training institutions have been for some years now producing teachers for ICT courses and there has been published a wide variety of books on the subject, very little attention has been given to training teachers of the traditional subjects of English, mathematics and science in the skill of incorporating ICT into their classes. You
see, the point of ICT is not to merely learn about it, but to incorporate it in our daily lives. Of what use is it that we can learn all the fanciful names and describe their uses if alas we cannot use them to make a math class exciting and a science theory come alive or a Shakespeare drama more enthralling. The above makes it imperative that our teachers be sent back to school on refresher courses that seek to train teachers in the use of ICT in teaching. Partnerships with the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education could help in resolving this challenge and I am pretty sure that the students/pupils would love to see their teachers go back to school for a change.
Finally, there is the challenge of continuity. In introducing ICT as an important component of education is to assume that the skills acquired by our students/pupils will be used by them in acquiring knowledge for a life time. It was Oscar Wilde who said that’’ nothing worthwhile in life can be taught’’. It is up to us to prove the great sage wrong. This challenge is one that you our pupils must embrace and face head on knowing that your education is meant to result in a change in behavior and thus, we must see you use the skills acquired in teaching you by using ICT in your entire lives and that goes beyond face booking and texting. Surf the internet for knowledge, be more than just a social zombie caught up in social networking and most of all, be innovative in your thought because that is what drives ICT – innovation. Do that and you would find that ICT is enjoyable; even if you hate it as much as I do.
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