Since 1995, schools across the world have been asking how ICT will influence primary schools in the future. It is interesting to note that while schools in some countries are just coming on board the ICT journey, others have pulled right to the new frontiers and chartering new heights. Nonetheless, the ICT journey is very much an individual one, depending on the capabilities of the school and the country the school is in, and one’s school future is very much another’s past.
ICT encompasses far too many aspects to be covered in a single year. However, based on what young children are capable of doing with technological gadgets, it is likely that schools in the future will need to harness the partnership of companies dealing in ICT software and technology in their programs.
At present, Primary School children carry along a mini white board and markers. In some ICT-advanced schools, the mini white board has been replaced by IPads, Note Pads, and other slimmer and lighter digital tabloids. Knowledge is of secondary importance as it is available by simply keying in some words into the on-line search engines and within a matter of minutes, one would have links to sufficient resources to read up for a couple of hours.
What is of key importance is how Primary School children will make use of the information and data to harness new understanding and create new ideas. At the base level, ICT will be used for individualized programs in which Primary School children will acquire basic linguistic and mathematical knowledge and skills on a learning management system.
What educators must note is that programs are after all programs and have loopholes that even Primary School goers can take advantage of. Students are still at the mercy of human teachers who will facilitate the learning process. Without a good teacher to facilitate the learning process, the Primary School ICT Program can be likened to releasing the children into a large building without any maps or directions. How much the children will be able to learn at Primary level will depend on how much thought the teacher has put into the lesson.
The good news about ICT is that because of the Internet and World Wide Web, there is no need for a child who is absent to be totally deprived of learning. Imagine this scenario: Angel is down with the Chicken Pox. She will be away from school for at least a week. She connects on-line via a conferencing tool. Both she and her teacher are able to see each other.
At the more advanced level, the teacher can place a camera eye at a strategic position in the classroom so that Angel can see what the teacher and the class are doing. Angel becomes the teacher’s virtual student and the teacher, Angel’s virtual teacher. Angel need not miss any lesson at all. She hops onto the School’s learning management system, completes the same lesson that her classmates are doing and submits it on-line. Her teacher previews her performance the same time her teacher previews her other students’.
David goes abroad on a family holiday. He logs in to his computer and conferences with his friends back in his hometown. They decide to play League of Legends. Apart from being able to physically share a dish of ice cream and cookies and play soccer or give each other a bear hug, he is not missing much of his friends. The physical intimacy, or the human touch, is what schools will need to consider carefully in balancing the use of ICT in the Primary School with other aspects of school life that makes education holistic.
UNESCO’s definition of 21st Century Skills includes problem solving, communication, collaboration, experimentation, critical thinking and creative expression. Among the richer schools and countries that are able to provide the ICT hardware, these skills are already in place among Secondary School goers.
Primary School teachers will have to collaborate with ICT providers on how the higher order skills can be implemented on a wide scale in the Primary School with ease. For example, something that has been happening for the past decade in some countries: children can write their essays using an e-story publishing software, at the most basic level using the PowerPoint instead of writing it on paper.
For teachers who are ICT-savvy, the journey will be an exciting one. How far and wide the net is thrown will depend on how much a country is willing to invest its budget in its Primary Schools and how far it can buy in the teaching force into the ICT journey in school.