Infusing ICTs into the curriculum

Rittu Abichandani

Many researchers – like Dr. Tim Kelly in his survey of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Education in India and South Asia and Anjali Khirwadkar in her study, Developing a computer software for learning Chemistry in Standard IX, 1999, MSU, Baroda – have shown that using information and communication technology in education has a deep impact on the teaching and learning process. As a result, all educators realize that ICT is a valuable resource for improving school education. However, the process of introducing and integrating technology into the curriculum is not easily or quickly accomplished. It is a challenge to reconsider teaching practices, the curriculum, the role of teachers, and the ways in which ICT can be incorporated into the school curriculum to maximize educational outcomes.

To implement the technology change in scholastic and co-scholastic areas, teachers need to accept the use of ICT in the classroom. The teacher of the future must not only be accomplished in the use of ICT but also in the integration of ICT into the curriculum. It is, therefore, inevitable that for any effective change to occur, the use of ICT in teaching and learning must be accompanied by a corresponding change in the curriculum.

ICT has to become as important as literacy in language and mathematics. Like reading, writing and mathematics, computing gives the student a basic intellectual toolbox with innumerable areas of application. Each one of these tools provides the student with a distinctive means of thinking about and representing a task, of writing his/her own thoughts down, of studying and criticizing the thoughts of others, or rethinking and revising ideas, whether they are embodied in a paragraph of English text or a set of mathematical equations, the simulation of a social process, or the development of a computer programme. To achieve these abilities, ICT curriculum should have substance in it. A national scheme of work for computer education should be rolled down to form the basis of curriculum planning. The practical skills of blogging, podcasting, ethical use of social networking must be inculcated in present generation learners. Computer education curriculum must include stances, which enable students to develop an appreciation for the emerging technology, usage and application of technology, and the impact of technologies on themselves and on society.

The successful implementation of computer education will act as a building block for ICT integration in to classrooms. For language teaching, the World Wide Web should be used to build vocabulary, activities on listening, pronunciation support and so on. The listening drills provide not only sounds but also visual inputs that equip learners with more contextual clues. Latest web technologies like wikis, blogs, and podcasting can be built-in within the lesson plans of literature to enhance creative writing, good communication and critical thinking in learners. Videos and multimedia presentations can be used for complex grammatical concepts, thereby avoiding the boredom of written script. As the technology integration process involves visual and audio usage, it automatically increases the learner’s concentration and retention, and can be used as a permanent record for recapping and revisions.

ICT simulations can be used in science education for understanding of theories, principles, ideas and concepts. Biological systems, industrial chemical plants and concepts such as radioactive decay and interactions within ecosystems, populations and food chains can be explained using CD ROMs, which are available with interactivity. A particular type of simulation is the virtual experiment through online laboratories. In some cases students can start at the beginning with a choice of apparatus, and move on to decide on amounts of materials or operating conditions. These kinds of software or online programs can be used by teachers to complement student practical work. It can be used as part of a pre-lab discussion to set the scene for the experiment, or to stimulate post-lab evaluation of experimental process and results. Various science educational applications make learning interactive and engaging.

For mathematics, different kinds of interactive learning environments are available in the form of 3D programs. The integration of these 3D programs for teaching geometry will lead to a better understanding of the concept with an impact on the minds of learners. Construction of point, arcs, line, and further complex geometrical figures can be explained using construction software that serve as an ultimate tool for introducing the concept of construction. Many information processing tools like the spreadsheet package, can be used to teach graphs, formulas and functions, which help to identify the role of concepts in the real world scenario.

Learners interacting with a computer actually use motor skills, which can have a strong reinforcing effect on the learning process by connecting physical actions like clicking and typing with desired results. Learners are also allowed more control over the learning process as they make the decisions on when to repeat questions, exercises and sequences based on their own progress. As a result, they experience expanded devotion towards the task, take the onus of the work done, learn independently, and are joyfully involved in the learning process.

Teachers with ICT skills will need to carefully consider when, what and how to teach the generative topics integrated with ICT tools. Teachers may choose to use very simple or complex technologies to achieve their educational vision. The role of technology integration should be to enhance the content and pedagogy. Learners need to be engaged in tasks where technology facilitates their learning.

It is not just the teaching-learning process that can be enhanced with the use of technology. Assessment of learning can also be heightened by the integration of technology. Capturing the moments of assessment using digital cameras and maintaining and calculating grades and marks, using information processing tools will save time and help teachers understand better how their students learn.

Educators need to perceive ICT primarily as a tool for teaching and learning across the curriculum although there are foundations skills in ICT that students need to learn before they can participate fully in an ICT rich classroom. Clearly we are all convinced that teachers need to inculcate the willingness to learn enough about ICT to use it effectively in the classroom. For teachers to rethink and re-structure teaching and learning they must first learn enough about relevant technologies to apply them in their professional arena, and to translate them to their students as part of the integrated learning of the subject matter. While in the past, the role of school was thought to be that of the distributor of information, in today’s context this role can no longer hold. The information explosion has changed the nature of knowing from the ability to recall information to the ability to define problems, to retrieve information selectively and to solve problems flexibly. This therefore changes the nature of learning from the need to master topics in class to the need to learn autonomously. Teachers and students now need to learn how to learn in an ICT rich environment.

Resources for the classroom

English

Math

Science

  • http://onlinelabs.in
  • Digital dissections videos – YouTube
  • iPad apps: 3D Cell Simulation and Stain Tool, Frog Dissection, myArm Muscles, Newton’s Laws, Periodic Table of the Elements, etc., makes learning interactive.

Computer Science

  • Write Comics is a super-simple tool to create comic strips without requiring any registration.
  • Disapainted may be just about the easiest tool out there to make simple “stickman” animations.
  • Jux is a great way to create nice-looking websites. It’s free and has a “drag-and-drop” interface, plus you can grab images off the web.
  • Scratch is a freely downloadable software to teach programming basic. Generally used in place of LOGO.

The author is a curriculum developer at Birla Edutech Ltd, Mumbai. She can be reached at rittu.a@birlaedutech.com/ritzkr@gmail.com.