digital inclusion

Technology in the classroom: knowledge, understanding, wisdom

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | education | No Comments

When technology is brought into a school and teachers are confronted by it, they are often stymied: What are they going to do with it?  How are they to use it?  Their lack of knowledge, understanding and wisdom may freeze them into inactivity.

Survival skills: knowledge, understanding, wisdom

Survival skills: knowledge, understanding, wisdom

To illustrate: let’s assume you encounter a bull in the field.  You recognize the animal as a bull; perhaps you’ve seen one before, or seen pictures or videos of a bull.  You have also gained some basic information about bulls: they are stronger than humans; they can run faster than you; they can’t climb trees; and they don’t like humans.  All of these facts constitute knowledge about bulls.

When you meet the bull in the field the information you’ve gathered must assist you to understand the situation you find yourself in.  The bull is going to kill you; you have to take action fast!

Wisdom comes into play when you make the right decision at the moment when you confront the bull.  Are you going to try and outrun him?  That will not be so smart because he is faster than you.  So you will get into a tree as fast as possible.  Without knowledge of bulls and their behaviour, as well as an understanding of your situation, you would be frozen in your tracks.

Think now about a teacher who is confronted by technology in a classroom.  Prior knowledge is essential.  How does it work?  What are its affordances for education?  What are the constraints?  Knowing these things will lead to an understanding of how technology can improve teaching and learning.  Now, when faced with technology the teacher will have the wisdom of putting it to use to improve educational outcomes.

Note the sequence of these three steps.  First knowledge: without this you will never be able to take the next steps.  Then understanding: knowing how to operate a computer (or any other digital device) will be of no use unless you understand how it can improve educational outcomes.  Then wisdom: knowledge and understanding will help you to develop the ability to harness technology to make your classroom a better place.  But true wisdom can only be gained through experience, so you have to take the bold step of putting the knowledge and understanding to work.

The road leading from knowledge to understanding to wisdom for surviving bull encounters is quite easy.  The road leading from knowledge to understanding to wisdom using technology in the classroom is much more difficult.  It requires time, effort and dedication and then more time, effort and dedication.  But the results will be rewarding, for both the teacher and the learners.

(Picture credit: http://www.crossfitfuture.com/angry-bull/ )

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Why must teachers move towards digital inclusion?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 | Computer Usage, ICT in Africa | 3 Comments

The opposite of the digital divide is digital inclusion.  You are digitally included when you have access to digital resources and have learned how to use them – you have crossed the divide and are reaping the benefits of access to the digital world.

Teachers, are you digitally included?

You should be!  Teachers play a critical role in helping learners to move towards digital inclusion.  But teachers must hurry up – learners are overtaking them.  Many learners have cell phones in their pockets.  They seldom use these devices to make calls – they don’t have money to do so.  They mainly use them to send text messages and pictures – in digital format – to their friends.

Where does this leave the teacher?

A cell phone used to send and retrieve digital information is a digital device.  Learners using such devices are digitally connected – they have achieved a measure of digital inclusion and are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Children are mostly using technology for entertainment.  Those who have their own computers, or have access to them at home, use them to play games; they download music videos and movies; and they interact with their friends on Facebook.  When their digital inclusion is through cell phones, they use these devices for social networking.  It is debatable how much learning takes place in this way.  For meaningful and directed learning to happen, they need guidance – guidance that only their teachers can give them.

Sadly, some teachers have not yet made the transition to become digitally included – they are left behind, while the learners are surging ahead.  Learners need guidance, but how can they be guided if their guides have been left behind?

The role of teachers is an important one.  You have to guide them so that their tools of choice – computers and cell phones – are used gainfully as learning aids.  In this way they will build skills required for prospering in the twenty-first century.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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World Teachers’ Day

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 | education | 6 Comments

Did you know that today, 5 October 2010, is World Teachers’ Day?  What is this day about?

According to the World Teachers’ Day website, its aim is as follows:

Recovery begins with teachers

On World Teachers’ Day 2010 hundreds of thousands of students, parents and activists around the world will pay homage to all teachers who have been directly or indirectly affected by a major crisis.   Be it a humanitarian crisis, such as the earthquake in Haiti and China, or the global economic crisis that has devastated many developed economies over the past year, the role of teachers and other education personnel is vital to social, economic and intellectual rebuilding.

All those who are fighting to provide quality education to children of the world can join teachers and their representative organisations to celebrate the profession and show them their support!

Teachers affected by a major crisis?  Perhaps the recent strike?  I don’t think strike action qualifies as a crisis for teachers – it is self-inflicted – but it does constitute a crisis to the victimized learners.  Maybe we should have a World Learners’ Day to give support to learners who are trying to get a quality education in spite of their teachers!

A definite crisis is the lack of support offered by education authorities to empower teachers to use technology!  While learners are becoming increasingly digitally included, many of our teachers are still on the wrong side of the digital divide.  True, many of them are reluctant to use technology, but the real crisis lies in the lack of support for teachers to change their attitudes towards technology and to become skilled practitioners.

I applaud all those teachers who are willing to do whatever they can, in spite of their circumstances, to provide their learners with a good quality education.

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Schools must move towards digital inclusion

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | ICT in Africa | 6 Comments

A huge gap exists between those sections of the population that have access to digital resources, such as computers, the internet, and other technologies, and those that do not. This gap is called the digital divide.

The digital divide includes the imbalance in physical access to ICTs, as well as the imbalance in connectivity, and the skills needed to participate effectively as a digital citizen.

The digital divide is often linked to other divides, such as the gender gap, racial inequalities, urban-rural divide, the gulf between rich and the poor, and developed versus developing world.

In Africa the digital divide is quite severe, and it often goes hand in hand with the other divides along gender, racial, location and poverty lines.

The opposite of the digital divide is digital inclusion.  A person who is digitally included has crossed the divide and is now benefiting from digital resources.

Teachers can play a critical role in moving towards digital inclusion.  Once teachers have crossed the digital divide, they will be able to lead learners over the bridge.  But teachers must hurry up – learners are overtaking them.  Many learners have cell phones in their pockets.  They mainly use these devices to share information – text messages and images – with their friends.

A cell phone used to send and retrieve digital information is a digital device.  Learners using such devices are digitally connected – they have achieved inclusion and are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Sadly, some teachers have not yet made the jump – they are still left behind, while the learners are included in the digital world.  This means that learners are let loose on their own in a bewildering world of information.  At times the information sources are incorrect and misleading; some websites contain objectionable material.  Learners need guidance, but how can they be guided if their guides have been left behind?

So there is your first reason for concerning yourself with ICTs and e-learning: you have to cross the digital divide in order for you to provide guidance to your learners.

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Digital divide … or digital inclusion?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 | technology | 8 Comments

This picture speaks volumes!

Teachers are teaching learners in classrooms devoid of all technology, while almost every learner carries a cell phone.  That means learners are party to digital inclusion, while their teachers are not.

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