Constructivism – Emerging Model of Pedagogy : Robert B Kozma, independent consultant- government, multi-lateral agencies

Robert B Kozma has worked as an independent consultant with government, multi-lateral agencies and commercial clients on policies, programmes and solutions that connect use of technology with education reforms. Some of the leading projects that he has been associated with include the Millenium Villages Project in Africa, World Links Arab Region Programme in Jordan, Evaluation of National Technology Master Plan for Singapore. He has also lent his expert skills to initiatives in Egypt, Chile, Thailand and agencies like UNESCO, Ford Foundation, besides corporate clients like OECD, CISCO, Intel, etc.

Dr. Kozma has made valuable academic contribution to the field of technology and its application in education.

In an interview with Digital Learning, Dr Kozma speaks on various aspects of ICT in education, its key role, R&D, ICT literacy, policies, etc.

What key role does ICT play in education?

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has two primary roles in terms of its application in education. One of its role is to support the existing education system by increasing access and providing additional resources to allow greater efficiency for education processes. By and large, education hasn’t experienced the kind of transformation that businesses have witnessed. For example, if you look at technology in business, it has really changed the way things are done. India is a very good example of how businesses can outsource a lot of back office services and thereby reduce costs.

The second role of ICT in education is to facilitate a transformation in the teaching processes. Technology has enabled many countries to move towards service economy and provide knowledge services. It has changed the way these high-end knowledge workers work. In schools ICT can support a shift towards knowledge workers by developing knowledge skills like information gathering and analyses, problem solving, collaborating, etc. These are the 21st century skills.

Today classroom lectures are given with Power Point presentations and students solve problems on computers instead of books, there are ways the computer can make that model more efficient and extend access. Countries have to consider which model they want to pursue – whether to support education to improve access and increase efficiency or use ICTs to develop 21st century knowledge service/skills.

Tell us about the latest model in the area of technology-pedagogy?

The emerging model of pedagogy is called constructivism, where students learn through a process in which they actively engage in, manage and play a large role in determining what they are going to learn and how and also assessing whether they are doing well or what they need to do to improve. This process grooms the child for lifelong learning. And it fits with increased dynamism in the economy where jobs come and go, creates new ideas and innovations to build an efficient knowledge workforce. This approach to learning connects with the second role of ICT in education as it prepares the students to be knowledge workers with 21st century skills. ICT has an important role to play in this model by supporting education to enable students to be lifelong learners.

In what ways can ICT literacy be incorporated in teacher training programmes?

ICT literacy, also known as ‘Information literacy’ or 21st century skills, refers to use of technology in information gathering, data analyzing, report writing , creating models, ideas and innovations. Using technology for these activities require different type of skills.

Often, teacher training or student programmes are geared towards ICT literacy and a certificate is awarded to support the technology competency standards. But this process is still underdeveloped and involves basic understanding and use of technology in classroom teaching. UNESCO also provides a set of standards that government agencies and private sector can use in designing training modules for teachers.

The emerging model of pedagogy is called constructivism, where students learn through a process in which they actively engage in, manage and play a large role in determining what they are going to learn and how and also assessing whether they are doing well or what they need to do to improve

The other teacher training module focuses on the constructivist notion of learning and knowledge workers. So a country can opt for a training model that supports their goal of education. The key is that ICT policy be aligned with other policies, such as accessibility to education. When it is aligned, the resultant educational reforms will focus on 21st century skills. The educational reforms will have implications on curriculum, assessment, which can be then aligned with components of ICT policy. 

India seems to be taking the construc-tivist approach. The government needs to do some rethinking on the 11th Five Year Plan and use ICT to approach the goals of education.

What role do you foresee for Research & Development in ICT in education? 

Research and development plays an important role in ICT, but simply doing research is not enough. Many studies do not connect with the classrooms as it is done in labs with small groups of children merely to prove a theory.

The aim should be to establish a more integral relationship between the research and classrooms. Researchers need to ask teachers about the problems faced while implementing technology. They need to adopt the problem solving approach where there is collaboration with teachers for solutions. Teachers also need to actively engage themselves in research where they try out new ideas and innovative ways of education delivery.

Take the case of Singapore, the government there is doing high end theoretical research on the technological pay-off investments in ICT in schools have given. It is a field based research involving various organisations rather than the traditional research centre associated with the university.

With technology coming into classrooms, what is the role of teachers. 

Teachers are the source of knowledge which is delivered to students, while students are seen as passive listeners. This is the role most school teachers engage in. The use of technology can provide teachers with a new role in which students are more actively involved in designing new products and solving problems by engaging in self-learning. The teacher hence requires a deeper understanding of not just the subject but also the process by which students learn and how to use technology to do that. The teachers here are model learners or guides. For instance they not only know Chemistry as a subject, but also the ways to learn it. So the teacher sets certain criteria to support the students in acquiring knowledge as learners. This is a fundamental shift and requires support and direction for participation.

What are the major mistakes countries make in adoption of ICT in education policy?

First we have to ask what role will ICT play in education, then identify the best way of re-sourcing teachers into the classrooms. Technology and infrastructure are just models of delivery to achieve the educational goals. There is an implicit assumption that putting technology in schools will make a difference, but it is actually an alignment of policies and programmes that matters. This is one of the major mistakes that most of the countries have made.