Throughout my time as a teacher thus far, the number of courses that have had an impact on me are few and far between. So few in fact, that a single hand is more than enough to count it all. It doesn't mean that other courses haven't been helpful. The growth it brings about is incremental and some are simply a waste of time. This course brought a fundamental change. There were many tips and things we learned. But to sum up, the big question: Why ICT?
1. ICT Allows Everyone to Participate Effectively
As we move towards creating self directed and collaborative learners, it is important that everyone in the class or learning community can participate. In the classroom, this hardly occurs. The more the teacher is the one in front, the less it occurs. No doubt, there are strategies that the teacher can use to get every person involved, but this often takes a long time to set up. Also, because of constraints on time and space, everyone is unable to hear and speak to everyone. Collaborative learning may occur, but it is limited.
ICT enables the class to be free from the constraints of space and time such as discussion forums where anyone can post a comment at anytime for anyone to see. But it can be very powerful in class as well.
One of the activities we did in the course was to have a debate. Usually, what happens during a debate is the audience members are passive and it's not before long that some of their attention begins to fade. On a good day, a teacher can expect half the class at any point in time to be meaningfully engage with the debate. In our course, we used a platform called Cover It Live where each of us could chat with one another during the debate. Unlike most chat platforms, the thread could be moderated - comments are added only when approved by the moderator - with added functions such as polls and the ability to add videos from YouTube as well as links to relevant websites.
It was amazing to see that everyone was engaged and participating in the debate. Some teachers commented thereafter that they didn't like how messy it was, that too many discussions were ongoing. However, I think it otherwise, that this is a happy problem. Which would you rather have, a single discussion with partial participation or multiple discussions with full participation? Sure, it is messy but ICT not only allows everyone to participate, it also serves as a repository where all the learning is saved in a location that everyone can access. The online discussion we had was saved that can be used as a resource for future lessons.
2. ICT Enables Collaborative Consolidation of Learning
ICT is already a valuable resource with content and information available in all sorts of mediums - Wikipedia, YouTube and Google come to mind. However, consider also that ICT allows students to create their own resource. Just like the debate we had, the chats were saved and serves as a possible resource for future learning.
The idea here is that students can do more than write essays or create PowerPoints and share with one another. We used an online MindMapping tool and as a class, we created a mindmap exploring water issues for developed and developing countries within an hour. That's a lot of content covered in a short period of time. And because the mindmap is saved online where anyone can access, this means that students and teachers can use it for future learning and revision!
Unless the teacher wants to develop students to become self-directed and collaborative learners, ICT is probably nothing more than a tool to do what has already been done faster, cheaper and easier. Using ICT is not about doing the same old things faster or more efficiently; it's about radically changing pedagogy; it's moving away from teaching and towards learning; it's where teachers are co-learners and students are teachers themselves.
In conclusion, before any talk of ICT begins, the question we must ask ourselves first is what do we want to change? Are the changes small and incremental or large and fundamental? ICT is just a tool that serves a purpose. What is your purpose?