June 2007

Making a Reflective Teacher with ICT

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In 1947, when India got independence, there were nearly 46% untrained secondary school teachers. In 1970-71, 24.64% of the 630,000 secondary and higher secondary teachers were untrained; and  in 1990-91, in spite of massive distance teacher education initiative of dual mode universities, there were still nearly 9.05% of 1.27 million teachers untrained. During 1996-97, nearly 10% of the 1.5 million teachers were untrained. As a rough estimate, today above 500 thousand in- ervice teachers are untrained. Nearly 12% of the three million teachers at the primary and elementary level are untrained.

Can ICT take a reformative measure in improving teacher competency?

It will not be an exaggeration if one says that the present and the future of education and the society lies on the teachers, and especially the quality of teachers. Not surprisingly, considerable importance has been given to teacher education in all the Five Year Plans and in all the Commissions and Committees on Education in India. The Kothari Education Commission had noted that the fate of India was being shaped in the classrooms, and that the teachers were the most important determinant of this. However, with increasing use of technology and blended learning, the fate today is shaped more outside the classroom, and the definition of a teacher has changed considerably.

Today, teacher education is organised through:

  • University teaching departments of education
  • Colleges of education
  • District institutes of education and training
  • Shiksha Karmis and non-formal teacher training centres
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and DRCs, BRCs and CRCs.

There is National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) responsible for continuing professional development of teachers, and also the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) responsible for regulation, accreditation, and quality assurance.

The three million primary and elementary teachers need recurrent orientation to innovations in teaching and learning at the school level. The District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) have been charged with this responsibility. Of the 520 districts in the country, there are 424 DIETs, which are able to meet the training needs of 0.3 million teachers every year, out of a total of three million teachers. NCERT has made considerable efforts through the Special Orientation of Primary Teachers (SOPT) scheme in the past years to train primary school teachers as well as teacher educators housed in DIETs

In parallel with the development of educational technology itself, use of ICT in teacher education has evolved from the traditional audio-visual method to the present multimedia-based online learning/online professional development. NCERT had made significant efforts through SOPT and PMOST (and Classroom 2000+) to use teleconferencing for teacher continuing professional development. When the fully dedicated educational satellite (EduSat) was launched in 2004, I, as head of Inter-University Consortium at IGNOU, was given the responsibility, on behalf of the NCTE, to orient/train the directors and faculty of SCERTs and DIETs on effective use of EduSat and other ICT interventions through a series of workshops organised in many parts of the country.

Distance Teacher Education

In 1947, when the country got independence, there were nearly 46% untrained secondary school teachers, and therefore, pre-service training was carried out by one-year teacher training institutions located in many states of the country. In 1970-71, 24.64% of the 630,000 secondary and higher secondary teachers were untrained; and  in 1990-91, in spite of massive distance teacher education initiative of dual mode universities (DMUs), there were still nearly 9.05% of 1.27 million teachers untrained. The 1960s saw the initiation of correspondence teacher education. In 1966, the Central Institute of Education (later known as the Faculty of Education) of the University of Delhi initiated a B.Ed. programme through correspondence-cum-contact, followed by the Bangalore University and the Regional Colleges of Education of NCERT. This was in pursuance to the 1968 delegation to the erstwhile USSR for teacher training and its strong recommendation for teacher training through correspondence education.
 
By 1991-92, out of 46 university level correspondence course institutes and six open universities, 15 correspondence course institutes and two state open universities were offering B.Ed. programme through the correspondence/distance mode. The highest enrolments were at the correspondence course institutes of Maharishi Dayanand University (33,000 students) and Annamalai University (21,417 students), and the Kota Open University had about 9,000 students in 1988-89. The lowest was 223 students enrolled in Kakatiya University. In absolute terms, the number of untrained teachers came down from 155,000 in 1970-71 to just 115,000 in 1990-91 due to these efforts.

The situation got aggravated due to appointment of still untrained teachers; and, during 1996-97, nearly 10% of the 1.5 million teachers were untrained. As a rough estimate, today above 500 thousand in-service teachers are untrained. Realising the importance of such a massive effort, NCTE  a statutory body of the Government of India to regulate and maintain quality of teacher education in the country, also expressed grave concern with regard to the quality of teacher education through distance mode. Strict guidelines were issued to state governments and teacher training institutions to discontinue the practice of pre-service distance teacher education and concentrate on in-service distance teacher education. Each institution was to enroll no more than 500 teachers in a year. 

Given the satisfactory quality of in-service teacher training by university level correspondence course institutes, the open universities took to the initiation of quality in-service distance teacher education. During 1990-96, three state open universities  Kota Open University, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, and Baba Saheb Ambedkar Open University began to launch in-service programmes. IGNOU initiated a two-year distance education B.Ed programme, which, with English and Hindi as the media of instruction, can be completed by students admitted into the programme within a maximum of four years from the date of their admission, and which requires in-service teachers to have two years of full-time teaching experience and clearance in a national entrance test. 

In case of primary and elementary teacher education, nearly 12% of the three million teachers at the primary and elementary level are untrained.  Both NCERT and IGNOU in the past have made attempts to provide untrained in-service teachers with training through a combination of print, teleconferencing, and face-to-face interaction.

The three million primary and elementary teachers need recurrent orientation to innovations in teaching and learning at the school level. The District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) have been charged with this responsibility. Of the 604 districts in the country, there are 424 DIETs, which are able to meet the training needs of 0.3 million teachers every year, out of a total of three million teachers. NCERT has made considerable efforts through the Special Orientation of Primary Teachers (SOPT) scheme in the past years to train primary school teachers as well as teacher educators housed in DIETs. The teaching end is located at the teleconferencing studio of NCERT and IGNOU, and the learning ends, where teachers gather for training, are the DIETs which have downlink, interactive audio and video, and toll-free telephone facilities.

Given the satisfactory quality of in-service teacher training by university level correspondence course institutes, the open universities took to the initiation of quality in-service distance teacher education. During 1990-96, three state open universities Kota Open University, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, and Baba Saheb Ambedkar Open University began to launch in-service programmes

IGNOU is also offering a Certificate in Primary Education since 2001,designed  initially for the teachers of Sikkim and the northeastern hilly states of India, where there are a large number of untrained school teachers and where there is inadequacy of communication facility. There has been considerable development initiative for the North-East by the Prime Minister's Office, and IGNOU's involvement for distance education and training covers many areas, including teacher training. There are about 175,000 untrained primary school teachers in these states, and IGNOU had been identified as the nodal agency to offer a six-month Certificate in Primary Education from 2003 to clear this backlog within the next five years. Instructional components include self-learning printed materials; audio and video programmes; face-to-face counseling at DIETs, colleges of education, IGNOU regional centers, and the IT/community learning centers of IGNOU; assignments; practice at designated institutions; work-related field project; video-telecasting by Doordarshan (national television network); broadcasting by All India Radio; teleconferencing from IGNOU studio; phone-in radio counseling; and Gyan Darshan (television transmitted through cable networks) and Gyan Vani (radio cooperative). In all, there are 30 hours of face-to-face intensive counseling, 16 hours of teleconferencing, eight hours of phone-in radio counseling, and some audio and some video programmes. 

Sarva Shiksha Abiyan (SSA)

The Government of India had launched in 2001 the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme for Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) to achieve certain goals like universal retention by 2010, all children completing five years of primary schooling by 2007, and all children completing eight years of elementary schooling by 2010. The task was enormous, and therefore distance learning was adopted to achieve the target goals within the stipulated time frame including professional development of all the functionaries involved in it for ICT capacity building through distance learning. Initially implemented in 18 states, the SSA extended implementation to cover all the 29 states and 6 union territories with Distance Education Programme (DEP) as an integral component.

Computer Based Elementary Education (CBEE)

CBEE is a reformative addition to the DEP-SSA, which aims at improving teacher competency to use IT and interactive multimedia CD-ROMs in teaching the hard spots in subjects of English, Maths, Science, Social Studies, and MIL.

It was visualised that the CBEE implementation plan includes four components: Training and capacity building of trainers, teachers, students, other SSA functionaries and the community.; Development of context-specific, self-learning, interactive multimedia CDs for hard spot areas and other subject areas at upper primary and elementary levels; Availability of low cost and user friendly IT infrastructure in the schools; Implementation and continuous evaluation of the implemen-tation, including continuous dialogue through ICT and face-to-face modes.

The four components include:

  • Development of learner-friendly and contextual interactive multimedia CD-ROMs on hardspots in school subject areas in regional languages as well as in English medium.
  • Installation of hardware and software, and their maintenance, in the elementary schools.
  • Training and capacity building of teachers, students and other functionaries involved in the SSA on IT-enabled education.
  • Implementation, constant monitoring, timely evaluation and follow-up revision of the programme.

      The implementation plan which many agencies including IGNOU adopted included broadly the following:

    • Training of trainers for further aining in the design and development of interactive multimedia CD-ROMs,

    • Actual development of IMM-CDs,

    • Orientation of learners            through 'colour picture workbook' on how to use the CDs for self learning individually and most importantly in groups,

    • Teacher orientation through manuals, guides, workbooks, and f2f workshops and teleconferencing for developing ability to teach through ICT,

    • Orientation of various functionaries in the district project offices (DPOs), cluster resource centres (CRCs), block resource centres (BRCs) and village education committees (VECs) to facilitate collaboration, networking and actual implementation of the scheme of CBEE,

    • Orientation and training of evaluators and researchers to build continuous evaluation, research and improvement into the programme, and

    • Continuous interaction of state level and central level officers with grass-root functionaries.

      The need today

      Over the years, it has been realised that elementary education is the crucial stage, and the elementary school teachers need training in three main areas:

      i) Curricular areas: These include hard spots (difficult concepts which teachers find difficult to teach and the learners find difficult to understand) in teaching of content in Mathematics, Science, Languages, and Social Sciences. The CBEE attempts to address this area.

      ii) Pedagogical areas: Teachers capacity building is needed in areas of minimum levels of learning (MLLs), child-centred approach, classroom transaction, evaluation techniques, development of teaching-learning materials (TLMs), innovative teaching learning methods, and others.

      iii) Contextual areas: Issues that requiring special attention of the teachers to improve educational status girls' education, gender sensitisation, IED, bridge courses for out of school children, quality management, education of disadvantaged groups of society, community mobilisation, among others.

      A New ICT Framework

      From many research studies and from experiences world over, two important aspects are coming to fore with regard to ICT integration with teacher education: i)  teachers need to be reflective in what they do in the form of teaching and facilitating student learning, and ii) the offline community of practice and the networked community of professional community need to be intergrated into a omprehensive framework of continuing professional development (CPD). Some of the important skills associated with reflection included:

    • Self-awareness: Ability to analyse feelings, especially examining how a situation has affected the individual and how the individual has affected the situation.

      Description: Ability to recognise and recollect accurately the key features of an experience and/or situation.

      Critical analysis: Ability to examine the knowledge components of a situation, identifying existing knowledge, challenging assumptions, and imagining and exploring alternatives.

      Synthesis: Ability to integrate new knowledge with previous knowledge.

      Evaluation: Ability to make judgment about the value of something.

      It must be underlined that in any sort of ICT intervention in teacher education and/or any ICT-integrated teacher education, reflection needs to play a critical role in contextualising teacher education practices as also to critically reflect on teacher education as professional discipline and professional practice. The framework given above depicts an integrated and comprehensive online teacher professional development in which culture, professional community, curriculum design, online presence, and individual and collaborative reflection contribute to transformation in professional identify and
      professional practice.

      The context in the framework for the professional development of the teachers involves: the online learning community (OLC), the community of practice (CoP), and one's social community/culture. Therefore, all three aspects need to be taken into consideration while designing for online professional development of teachers. In our framework we have identified three types of contexts: culture, community of practice, and online learning community. Thus, professional development for online facilitators needs to be embedded in the social and physical contexts of OLC and CoP- though there might be virtual surrogates of online and offline work environments.

      In this framework of online constructivist continuing professional development, reflection is assumed to play the major role in underpinning the change in cognitive structure through independent study, online collaboration and negotiation, collaborative group/project work, knowledge construction and negotiation in the community of practice.

      Change of professional identity is visualised as the goal of professional development for teachers. Professional development involves participation in CoP, transformation of knowledge in form of experiencing one's identity and change in both individual and community identities. So, there must be a context in which the change takes place: the context being the transformative practice of the professional community.

      Also, culture is an important component of 'context' (the other two components being 'community of practice' and 'online learning community'). Culture is intimately related to both online and offline communication, and, therefore, various cultural aspects need to be taken into account while designing and administering programmes for development of teachers.

      Collaboration requires an environment of shared goal, peer learning, use of personal experiences and problems, and dialogue in web-based professional development of teachers. Online environment also promotes and facilitates dialogue and discourse among participants, in which they openly contribute to the meaning created by each other, and in the process reconstruct their mental models or frames of reference. Mentor-observers can facilitate this by encouraging diversity of views and advocacy, expansive questioning, making provision for constructive feedback on each other's views and performance as well as engendering reflection.

      Teachers as professional developers must be helped to transform their frames of reference so that they can best appreciate and understand their own experience. To do this, both observer-mentors and facilitators need to do more critical reflection themselves. Transformation of online facilitators is the goal visualised in the framework discussed above. To effect this, we definitely need to design and develop online resources of various kinds. The online resources can be categorised into five types: Orientation and organisation tools, Learning activity tools, Interaction and collaboration tools, Support tools and Analytic tools.

      These components need to be designed such that reflection can be built into various activities, that the use of resources can promote reflection, and that transformative learning and transformation in professional practice can take place. Any ICT intervention in teacher education/teacher professional development must take these aspect into consideration, as today's professional development needs considerable transformation.  

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