Challenges to Using ICTs in EFL Classes
It gives me a great pleasure to be here at Algiers Best Practices Conference, and to be speaking on a subject that has a potential to change the face of the society in the 21st C.
Educational systems around the world are under increasing pressure to use the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) which include radio and television, as well as newer digital technologies to teach students the knowledge and skills they need in the 21st C.
The teaching profession is evolving from an emphasis on teacher-centered, lecture-based instruction to student -centered and interactive learning environments.
Since the implementation of the competency-based approach in the secondary education some 5 years ago, we have witnessed a dramatic change in our educational system. The Ministry of Education (MOE) recognizes that ICTs have a vital role to play in improving the quality of education.
So, we may say that Algeria’s policies for ICT use in education are the center of the nation’s efforts for innovation in education. At the initial stage of ICT introduction in education, Algeria mainly focused on computer use; the focus at the beginning of the reform was providing the physical infrastructure of ICT use and hiring ICT teachers. So, the provision of computer hardware and basic skills to learners was the priority of the MOE.
In fact, we may ask Why ICT?
1.ICT removes problems concerning space and time
- the students can communicate any where, any time
- the student can contact the teacher any where, any time
- the student can collect and exchange information any where, any time
2.ICT gives access to knowledge
- In principles, the students can draw on a global pool of knowledge
3.ICT makes saving-and sharing- knowledge easier
- The students can individually and/or together create records of notes and presentations (portfolio) and thus register their progress and use it for exams
- This way they are also trained for future participation in global research communities…
Computer hardware becomes available in an increasing number of schools around the country, more attention needs to be given to the capacity building of the key transformers in the process, namely, teachers.
That’s why; I do believe that the most important agent for the implementation of ICT in education is the teacher. Therefore, I would welcome an ICT training program both for teachers and supervisors. This training program should focus on the ‘I’ and ‘C’ of ICT rather than concentrating on the traditional ‘T’ for technology. The teachers will not only ‘learn to use ICT’, but –more importantly- ‘use ICT to learn’.
In our case-study, basic skills training initiatives were organized at the beginning of the reform. In this computer hardware training which was delivered by two committed teachers, teacher-trainees learned basic skills, use of power point and presentation design. The aim, in fact, was computer literacy.
To increase the likelihood of successful initial computer training we considered teachers’ anxiety about the change, learning and computer. Initial sessions aimed to build ‘computer comfort’, not high-level skills. Teachers were asked to learn by doing, not to learn by listening. We wanted to make them feel that they have to change otherwise they will be left behind. Teachers’ concerns around technology and their willingness to use it depend upon a number of factors:
1.Complexity: a teacher may feel more anxious about a computer, which is a complex tool, versus a radio for example.
2.Support: teacher ability to implement an innovation depends upon the amount of available support
3.Expectations: the more dramatic the expected change, and the more intense the teacher concerns, the more help teachers will need. If ICT is kept simple, expectations are modest and ongoing support is provided, teachers are more likely to implement innovation at the school level.
To understand these three factors, I invite you to consider the following report based on data collected from a questionnaire given to 155 high school teachers in Oran on September 9 & 12, 2010.
Question1: How was your first reaction to the use of ICT in teacher training?
Question2: Did you attend any ICT teacher training program?
Question3: Have you already used ICT in classroom teaching?
Question4: Do you find problems in using ICT equipment in your teaching situations?
The 75% and 15% of the respondents noted that it is due to
- Non-availability of ICT equipment
- Vast physical wastage: hardware broken or ineffective
- High educational wastage: insufficient irrelevant contents…
Question5 : Has your attitude towards using ICT changed?
The process of change is long. In creating and conducting professional development programs for teachers, it is important to be able to identify and understand change ‘types’ In order to set realistic goals for TPD.
The conclusion I can draw after 5 years of the educational reform is that there are different kinds of teacher attitudes towards ICT:
1.Innovators: These are people who, by nature, always want to try new things. They like to be at the front of the process and embrace innovation. Innovators are a small percentage of any group. In this case-study, they represent 02%
2.Early adopters: These are people who are typically opinion leaders. They have the respect of their colleagues. These influential people are not as adventurous as the innovators, but typically keep track of new ideas and initiatives to see what might be worthwhile. If they decide to use ICT, their opinions and actions will influence others around them. Though not as small in number as innovators, early adopters are also a small percentage of any group. In this case-study, they represent 14%
3.Early majority: These people are a bit more conservative than the early adopters. They are ‘deliberate’. They adopt new ideas just before the average member of any group does, but don’t tend to keep track of ideas and initiatives that might be new and exciting. Early majority comprise a significant portion of any group. In this case-study, they represent 35%
4.Late majority: Late majority people go along with a change, not out of belief, but out of necessity or inevitability. They are concerned about doing a good job according to exciting standards and methods, so they are slow to risk of a new approach. Late majority represent a significant portion of any group In this case-study, they represent 37%
5.Resistors: Resistors are highly resistant to and never accept change, preferring the status quo. Resistors are a small, but often very influential, percentage of any group. They refuse to embrace whatever change is being promoted. In this case-study, they represent 12%
The change associated with ICT is rapid and dramatic. In contrast, I noticed that some teachers tend to resist change or embrace it slowly. This tension demands the presence of “change agent”, a person who supports those resistors and understand their own frustration. Not every teacher will react to an innovation (ICT is a new instruction) in the same way. Some will embrace innovation; others will reject it. When working with teachers, it is important to understand that there are “change types” who will exhibit similar patterns of behavior toward a proposed change. Even if teachers want to use computers or radio for instruction, they will approach this use with a number of concerns. The concerns vary in stages from how something (a computer, for example)
- Affects them : Self concern
- To how they can use it: Management
- To how it fits with their teaching: Adaptation
Then the last question of the questionnaire was: Do you want to attend an ICT Teacher program?
The conclusion I draw is that it is high time to plan ICT teacher training program. Most of the ICT training initiatives I held with committed staff were crash programs which focused on computer literacy and didn’t enable teachers to integrate ICTs into day-to-day classroom teaching. I come up with the idea that learning to use the computer and the Internet is a relatively simple task, but mastering ICT use as an effective tool to improve teaching and learning is certainly not. I do believe that the quality of teachers is known to be a key predictor of student learning. Therefore teacher training is crucial. ICT can become a tool that on the one hand facilitates teacher training and on the other hand helps them to take full advantage of the potential of technology to enhance student learning.
‘Teacher ICT training program’ will be reinforced to improve the professionalism of teachers, and enhance the quality of education. So, to maximize the benefits of training, training institutions, training centers and supervisors should include ICT training in their plan. To be more effective, we have to build partnerships with local and foreign institutions like MEPI to promote ICT use in education. I believe that involving external partnership can enrich national reforms through financial and expert assistance.
In addition to Best Practices for Inspectors Course held in different parts of the country by highly qualified staff…., we benefited a lot from the online sessions mentored by Lois and Neil. The integration of ICT was very effective in the Moodle site where the online training phases focused on the ideas, reflection, and discussion, sharing of expertise and different professional issues rather than the technology.
I can also add the e3Link Program designed to create a link between Algerian and American secondary school students (Oran & Michigan). The project intended to help improve Algerian students' English proficiency and provided a cultural exchange between students from both countries.
Last but least, the iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) enables some teachers to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world, and one of the committed teachers who has contributed successfully to iEARN online course becomes a Master Teacher in recognition of her outstanding achievements.
Benefits of ICTs in education
- Global access to knowledge
- Instant sharing of experiences and best practices
- Self paced and self based learning
- Simulations and experiential learning
- Learning becomes interactive and joyful through multimedia tools
- Opening windows for new thinking, an atmosphere of innovation
- Bringing excitement and motivation: proud of owning technology, feeling of-in-a-way being ahead of times
Key Challenges in integrating ICT into education
Based on my own experience with the schools, I would suggest that we must address the following issues to enhance the effectiveness of ICT literacy and education.
1.Making teachers a partner in this effort
Some teachers see use of ICT as an add-on, extra work. I believe we do not have an option but to engage with teachers because if teachers do not see that ICT is helpful in their work, there is no hope for ICT turning out to be an effective tool in our mission of literacy. ICT must become integrated in teacher’s repertoire of classroom practices.
2.Deciding what to, and what not to, deliver through ICT
The usual tendency is to try to deliver every learning item through ICT. I believe we must use ICT to deliver that which is best delivered through it, and we use other pedagogical tools wherever they are more effective, for example, ICT is most effective when the learning item requires visualization and simulation. There is no point in using an expensive electronic tool as a replacement of the whiteboard.
3. Building teacher motivation is vital
A good capability requires motivation to actually make it happen. It’s our challenge to create a motivating environment for the teachers so that schools truly become centers of learning. I suspect that this going to be our biggest challenge. I see ICT as a tool which will be effective only in the hands of a motivated and a capable teacher who is convinced that it can enhance the quality of education.
4. Investing time and money in teacher training and support activities
5. Providing a safe and inspiring environment to the ‘agent of change’
One of the biggest challenges we face is how ‘low tech’ staff are going to cope with their new ‘high tech’ environment as the ‘low tech’ staff, of a very mixed age and experience displays aspects of computer phobia.
Governments, on the other hand, should offer ICT professional development services to subject teachers rather concentrating on the hiring of ICT teachers only, the focus should not be only on technology skills.
To me ICT is not about the computer or educational CDs or the Internet or the specific device or medium we use. It is really about a different process that we deploy for the purpose of enhancing the quality of education. It is about providing alternative learning experiences to the children who currently do not have options others than the textbook as a learning tool.
The fundamental aim is to give the learners the opportunity to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, information literate citizens, knowledge managers and finally team members who are proficient collaborating with others. Meeting this aim requires a fundamental change in how teachers are trained and in curriculum development approaches.
Considering that the quality of education is determined by the quality of teachers, and the society of the future will require creativity and problem-solving skills through cooperation, teachers have a serious responsibility. Teachers have innovative strategies and methods to reinforce their capabilities, and renew awareness on the development of their capability. This is not only a mission for future society, but also a key challenge for the development of the future of education in Algeria, and ELTalgeria website is one of the outstanding achievements of engaged teachers and supervisors around the country.
It is said that the foundation of every country is the education of its youth, yes that’s right, but without the consideration of the key transformer of education, namely the teacher, we cannot achieve the objectives assigned by policy makers, planners and other educators. This is why new prospects are in the hand of the new generation of subject-teachers who are eager to apply ICT efficiently and effectively.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you my thoughts about ICT integration and my own experience with ICT as a supervisor for the last five years.
"Special thanks to the teachers who contributed to
the questionnaire and interviews"
1. ICT in Education Victoria L. Tinio
2. Information Communication Technologies Planning Guide - UNESCO 2002
3. The Impact of ICTs on Schools Gillian M. Edie
4. Using Technology to train Teachers Edmond Gaible é Mart Burns
5. Teacher Training on ICT Application in Education Eugenius Korilovas
6. Enabling Teachers to Make Successful Use of ICT Peter Scrimshaw
7. The Importance of ICT By OFSTED
What's your opinion about using ICT in our EFL classes?