Worst practice in ICT use in education

Michael Trucano, senior ICT Education Specialist with the world bank has written a thought provoking piece in the EduTech blog (A World Bank Blog on ICT use in Education) titled Worst Practice in ICT use in education.It’s a timely reminder that amid all the excitement and optimism regarding the potential use of ICTs in education, there’s still room for error – and the larger the sums of money involved, the larger the margin for error is! Seems to me that it all comes down to the same old thing – lack of strategic planning, and lack of a ‘joined-up’ view of what the whole system needs to provide.

I read last week an interesting report by Sarah Putt in Techday – writing about the ‘lessons from NEAL (the North Shore education and access loop). The NEAL project was one of the five Broadband Challenge projects announced in 2006. Sarah’s article begins with “With the government poised to invest $1.5 billion in a broadband network, and with fibre optic cable to schools a top priority, it’s timely to look at NEAL – the North Shore Education Access Loop.” Her article makes for interesting reading. The following snippets are telling..

“Well, we built it and they didn’t come”
“t’s not reluctance; it’s ignorance
“Two years ago we went to the market and asked for expressions of interest for fibre-based IP telephony in schools, and got nothing”
“Schools Unwillingness to outsource ”
“Data caps and the cost of bandwidth – NEAL is throttled at 10MG ”
“I change to my Vodafone card because it’s faster than fibre.”

It seems. however, that the lessons learned are being acted on, and that 2010 is set to be the year the NEAL project reaches its potential – according to a recent article on Scoop. Now I’m not picking on NEAL – there are dozens of stories out there that could match this – from significant national level implementations, down to decisions around the purchase of hardware at a local school level – think of some of the large scale roll-outs of laptops for students, implementation of interactive white-boards, connection to broadband etc that occurred without adequate preparation of teachers or buy-in from schools etc.

So what are those worst practices identified by the World Bank? Here’s what they identified…

  1. Dump hardware in schools, hope for magic to happen
  2. Design for OECD learning environments, implement elsewhere
  3. Think about educational content only after you have rolled out your hardware
  4. Assume you can just import content from somewhere else
  5. Don’t monitor, don’t evaluate
  6. Make a big bet on an unproven technology (especially one based on a  closed/proprietary standard) or single vendor, don’t plan for how to avoid ‘lock-in
  7. Don’t think about (or acknowledge) total cost of ownership/operation issues or calculations
  8. Assume away equity issues
  9. Don’t train your teachers (nor your school headmasters, for that matter)

These warnings seem almost self-explanatory and obvious – but it’s surprising how they still go unheeded. A timely reminder as we enter into an unprecedented phase of investment at a national scale in ICT infrastructure, which will have a flow-on effect in terms of our schools and education institutions. Let’s hope that in another four years Sarah is writing in a much more positive tone, with examples of high impact on education and learning!

Just for fun I’ve turned them in to the positives – amazing what a change this makes to one’s ability to plan ahead!

  1. Plan, plan, plan, consult, explain, develop capability and understanding before introducing hardware into schools – then provide support!
  2. Learn from what is being done elsewhere, but plan specifically for your own context
  3. Think about educational content before you have rolled out your hardware
  4. Make provision for the development of educational content that is suited to your context
  5. Do monitor, do evaluate (and, when you do, make sure you take notice of the monitoring and evaluation feedback!)
  6. Avoid unproven technology (especially one based on a  closed/proprietary standard) or single vendor,  plan for how to avoid ‘lock-in”
  7. Think about (or acknowledge) total cost of ownership/operation issues or calculations
  8. Show concern for equity issues, take into account how these might be resolved
  9. Provide ongoing professional development opportunities for  your teachers (and your school principals, for that matter)

The only adjustment I’d make is to move number 9 up to the top of the list 🙂

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