Integration of instructional technology in our educational system: the debate is on! |06 May 2021
Last week, the Ministry of Education held its first webinar on the perception of the use of technology in schools under the theme: ‘The Integration of Instructional Technology in Seychelles Education System: Opportunities and Challenges’.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced humanity to look for alternative ways to do things. Schools had to close down thus forcing us to find new ways of maintaining learning. Private schools in Seychelles have already moved to online classes thus ensuring continuity in learning.
Public schools adopted a different strategy where at first homework and lessons were given to parents. But some schools still went ahead to develop a special app to facilitate learning at home.
According to the Ministry of Education, technology integration is the use of information and communication technology tools in diverse domains. Also known as instructional technology or educational technology, technology integration in education allows students to apply computer and technology skills to learning and problem-solving. Research has shown that learning is enhanced through the use of technology. Many 21st century classrooms are replete and faced with digital natives. The latter do not know the world without the World Wide Web and need technological skills in order to be productive members of society. Arguably, however, current practices of instructions, lesson delivery and assessment in Seychelles state schools are not harnessed and guided with emergent technological skills. Therefore, one might ask whether at all instructional technology will ever be integrated in Seychelles’ state schools. What are the perceptions of educators? How are our counterparts in private schools implementing the use of technology in their classrooms? Around the world, the day of “chalk and talk” classrooms is becoming extinct. In order to integrate the level of instructional technology necessary for today’s classroom, one main drastic evolution is to focus in pre and in-service training programmes to better connect and engage the modern students. The ability of teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum is needed to guarantee the future success of their students.
The webinar was to provide an ideal platform for educators to share, and be informed on, current practices on the integration of technology in education, both in state and private schools and to discuss the shift from the pedagogical role of the teacher in a classroom to that of integrating technology.
Education Minister, Dr Justin Valentin, delivered the key note for the first webinar on this subject and the theme was ‘Big Dream: Dream Big’.
After referring to the historical aspect of how the web system started, Minister Valentin noted that he was privileged in the mid 90s, only months after WWW was launched, to be part of those very young and new teachers then to experience the excitement that the web was proposing.
“We explored modules like computer-based teaching, computer-based learning and these were the fundamentals to instructional technology. Many teachers who followed then after, were also introduced to that new tendency and it was clear from the outset that the world had embarked on its most progressive quest. Clearly, our system has adequate human resources that can make this target achievable,” added Minister Valentin.
Move away from traditional model
The minister reiterated that “the main theme of my strategic direction, the way I want to propel education in the Seychelles, at least for the next three years, is to raise aspiration and enthuse all individuals, both workers and learners, to strive towards making learning outcomes worthwhile. We are operating in a digital sphere and no matter how we seek to achieve our aim, it must done in the most efficient way. Specific to teaching and learning, we have been given a connected system of information which makes this goal achievable. We cannot continue to lead education using the traditional model. There must be clear evidence at all levels and within every departments of education that there has been a new technological revolution which has given rise to the digital era. If we in education cannot demonstrate that such revolution had occurred, there will be all reasons to suspect that we cannot inspire kids of this new generation. We exist for them so our practices have to be adjusted to fit their needs and aspirations. Time has come for all of us within this ministry to be digitally literate so that we can advance our transformative agenda”.
Minister Valentin stated that before we can even dream of instructional technology, he is of the opinion that we must have in place a vision that attempts to modernise the education system.
“We are losing money in creating physical storage facility. Our current administrative functions do not necessarily do justice to our conservation agenda. We remain too much inclined on paper. Though I still see the continued role of the ministry messengers, we should re-customise their functions around roles that cannot be digitised. I do no longer have a reason to justify why paper circular memos have to be sent to all schools, or why report cards have to be physical. Documents of these nature can be printed on request. Going paperless is no longer a luxury practice, it’s rather a necessity as it improves efficiency of the organisation. So we need to spend time to relook at EMIS (Education Management Information System) so as to make it a comprehensive system that adds value to what we are doing in this ministry. If we feel that the current one which we are using is not being efficient, the time to talk and shift is now.”
Making the MOE a technology-enabled institution
Making the Ministry of Education a technology-enabled institution appears on top of the minister’s agenda. “I will devote time and energy to convince every single individual why we need to move towards that direction. Our vision synchronises with that of other ministries, an indication that there are commonality in our design. Technology must reach classroom; and kids must be stimulated in classroom. Our leaders and teachers must shift. The other good news is that even international organisations like the Commonwealth of Learning is ready to give us a hand. The biggest opportunity hence, is that our vision is duly shared by our partners.”
He added: “My message is that people should no longer feel proud to be digitally illiterate. I will lead a campaign of transformation that will equip people within the education system in Seychelles to significantly improve their digital literacy. Both the teachers and the learners’ digital literacy should be good enough to allow them to engage meaningfully within digital settings.”
Transformation of Site
The last dimension of this ‘Big dream: Dream big’ campaign is the transformation of the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education (Site) into a centre of excellence where demo classrooms could be set up.
“I dream of converting Site into a modern education development centre where people willing to experience and engage with instructional technology could go. I dream of having over there, modern classrooms where teachers could take their kids during holidays or Saturdays and spend time interacting with modern equipment: equipment for students in the mainstream and also for those with specialised needs. I dream of having classrooms where parents can pay to have their kids experience the full power of a modern learning environment. I dream of having booths at Site purposefully built for simulations of learners, teachers and leaders on different instructional and educational devices,” said Minister Valentin.
Principal secretary for the department of education services, Dr Odile De Comarmond, noted that the webinar has given an insight of the realities on the practices, perceptions, opportunities and challenges that the new modalities of learning have brought about.
“A lot has been done in both state and private schools for the integration of educational technology in teaching and learning. For example, the use of classmate portable computers in primary schools, mobile and web application in secondary schools and e-learning teaching platforms in private schools,” said PS De Comarmond.
She also noted that nonetheless, regardless of the effort of many, there are still few who are still resistant to technology adoption. The generation gap in our educators at times creates the techno-phobia, that as a ministry, we need to find means and ways to eliminate through proactive capacity building of technology in education.
“Hence, capacity building is a key element in our move towards bridging the digital gap. The minister mentioned the role of Site in the training of teachers in ICT. We need to have an Advanced Diploma in Information Technology, just like we have for other subjects of the national curriculum. One of the other challenges that came up in all presentations is that internet is costly and mostly unreliable both at school and national levels. There should be more effort to improve internet access nationally, which will escalate in our institutions. This also implies more effort as a ministry to equip schools with the required technology to facilitate integration of ICT in teaching and learning,” explained PS De Comarmond.
PS de Comarmond concluded by stating that the creation or development of a multimedia learning portal will act as a learning management system (LMS) to revolutionise the education system and meet the needs of the 21st century learners while enabling them to develop their 21st century skills.
“Such platform enhances traditional passive learning methodologies to an active multisensory experiential learning and is an extension of the physical classroom. With such system, learning can happen anytime and anywhere because it allows teachers to populate content and students to download teaching and learning resources used in the physical classroom. This promotes independent or self-paced learning. It is important that we realign our curricula to emulate these practices knowing that this change will take place in the classroom and progress towards having a knowledge-based economy as well as producing globally competitive learners,” she said.
A chat with Daniella Marie, initiator of the webinar
Daniella Marie received her Diploma in Education from the National Institute of Education in 2008. She started her career as a teacher and later on continued her studies at the Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation, Malaysia where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Multimedia Technology and also received the award for best student.
She is currently an education officer within the secretariat of the principal secretary for early childhood, primary and secondary education, where her focus is on implementing the department's visions and plans where technology-enabled learning is concerned.
The webinar was organised to initiate a conversation to discuss the opportunities and challenges that remote teaching and learning (meaning where teaching and learning takes place online) have brought about, especially during the moments that schools could not open for face-to-face teaching. It was to give participants a chance to put forward their current practices and the perceptions of those around them (especially other teachers as well as students and parents) on those new modalities of teaching and learning.
The webinar saw the participation of both state and private schools representatives, because as the minister said, at the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Education wants to heighten the relationship between state and private schools, and this was an opportunity for us to also learn from one another and create new partnership.
“I was motivated to organise the webinar because as a multimedia technology specialist in education, I found that there was an increasing popularity in e-learning throughout the world and that this has made educators become more aware of the importance of keeping pace with changes, especially in curriculum and pedagogy. Therefore I found it important that in Seychelles, we also strive towards a robust integration of educational technology in teaching and learning and invigorate the zeal from our educators to use technology and reduce techno-phobia,” said Ms Marie.
The importance of such webinar is to get everybody (teachers, parents, students and society in general) onboard with the vision of the Ministry of Education, which is to transform the education system in Seychelles into a technology-enabled system. The webinar is just a start to initiate a conversation that will promote this vision and allow people to get accustomed to such idea, because eventually, with the help of all our partners, technology will have its rightful integration in teaching and learning.