30 April 2008

Teachers and the integration of ICT in education

By Heng Kiat Sing

(Published in ‘Campus & Beyond’, a weekly column written by Swinburne academics in the Borneo Post newspaper) 

During the past decade, there has been an increasing momentum in the world towards the use of ICT in schools. ICT is influencing the development of wide-ranging education policies in the world.

The idea to integrate ICT into the teaching and learning process is being adopted in the hope that it would change the pedagogy and learning outcomes of students.

If teachers were to make appropriate decisions regarding their use of ICT, they would need to be familiar with how ICT works and how it could be integrated into their learning areas.

Their views would be one of the most important factors in ensuring the successful integration of ICT into the learning areas.

Integrating the teachers’ views into an ICT development model would make the model relevant to the teachers. That is, if a school wishes to take full advantage of ICT, it is essential to implement a professional development model that factors in the teachers as part of the ICT delivery process.

The ICT model that I have designed does that. This model, which I have named the Professional Development Model, is presented in Figure 1.

(Source: K.S. Heng, 2004)

This model consists of five phases: leadership, teachers’ needs, sustained professional development, support and time. As the figure suggests, these five phases are linked in that each phase is dependent on the preceding phase being activated through an on-going collaborative process of development.

Leadership plays an influential factor in establishing and maintaining an ICT policy within schools. The policy makers need to incorporate the rationale for integrating ICT into the learning areas and the methods of achieving the outcomes in the ICT plan.

This is due to the fact that teachers need to understand how the integration of ICT will change their roles, pedagogical skills and classroom management.

Next, teachers’ needs have to be considered before arranging any professional development activities. This is crucial as professional development activities involve a great deal of resources such as time, finance and manpower.

If professional development is perceived by teachers as irrelevant to their classroom practice, then the effort invested in preparation will be wasted.

Thus, teachers’ involvement in the process of developing and updating school policies regarding the implementation of ICT is strongly encouraged.

Furthermore, ongoing and sustained professional development programmes for teachers are required and not just ‘one-off’ sessions. These sessions need to be conducted on-site so that there will be a match between the needs of teachers and activities.

In addition to that, teachers need ongoing support in terms of opportunity to collaborate, technical support and resources. Thus, implementation of a mentoring programme is necessary. This programme provides a vehicle for teachers to share their thoughts and to develop their relationships.

Through this programme, teachers who are the competent users of ICT could become mentors to teachers who are less competent in using ICT.

The establishment of an ICT committee in schools in solving the technical problems is recommended. This effort is crucial to avoid the disruption to the ICT-related activities that were scheduled by teachers and to enable teachers to focus their attention on their learning areas, rather than worry about the technical problems.

Time is a crucial factor in order for teachers to apply their skill and knowledge into their classroom. Time needs to be allocated for teachers to reflect upon their professional development activities.

Moreover, teachers also need time to practise their skills, to engage in collaborative activities and to prepare ICT-related activities for their learning areas.

If the ICT professional development activities are held during the school days, then relief teaching and timetabling need to be organised systematically.

Heng Kiat Sing is a lecturer with the School of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. She can be contacted at kheng@swinburne.edu.my .