Teacher Education for the Effective Use of New Information Media in School - Malaysian Perspective
The information age poses a whole new set of challenges and questions to Malaysian schools. The quality of our nation's political, social and economic future will depend on the ability our young generation to become functioning members of society who understand how to access information (and determine its significance), manipulate data, draw independent rational conclusions and communicate findings.
Students today need a higher level of academic, technical, communication and information-processing skills in order to function effectively in society. The contemporary workplace requires that employees be adaptable, team players with strong problem-solving and decision-making skills. Schools will have to accommodate a variety of learning styles, interests and life experiences if they are to educate today's students. Leading experts have suggested that an organization's ability to learn, and to keep improving the way it learns, may be the ultimate competitive advantage.
With our interest in the goals for students in Vision 2020, we are beginning to look at what it takes to educate our children for the world of the future and what skills they will need to acquire to become productive citizens. It is interesting to explore the wide range of skills in communication, critical thinking, and even problem solving that the world of work would ask educators to consider when planning curriculum, as well as the advanced technical skills associated with the
information society we are going to become.
For today's children, the information age is already a reality. By the "click of a mouse", they are connected to the entire world. Yet many are incapable of accessing and utilizing this asset.
Our vision about future classrooms as being much debated in the Malaysian Smart School concept requires the transformation of the roles of teachers and students, For the teacher, the evolving role encompasses individual student assessment and planning to maximize learning potential, a very time consuming, yet important task. Students are taking more responsibility for specifying and initiating some of the learning tasks, including team-oriented investigation. A new pedagogy, supported by a set of widespread classroom practices, is emerging that encourages individual and small group investigation of student-generated questions. The teacher becomes a consultant, guide and facilitator as students seek answers and develop skills. As a mechanism of accomplishing these tasks, technology becomes a most important enabling asset.
Technology can make the learning process more efficient without detracting from established educational objectives. Once the individual is proficient in the basics of reading, writing, computations and oral communication, then the learning experience can be further enhanced by calculators, distance learning, computer-assisted instruction using integrated learning systems, microcomputer-based labs, presentation software and telecommunications.
While educational technology includes numerous modes of delivery and support mechanisms, the computer is often a major component. Simply placing computers into classrooms is not going to change teaching and learning. The training of teachers and students is essential. New ways of teaching and developing critical thinking must be invented. New facilities such as multi-media learning center that allows teachers and students to use graphics, media integration, desktop publishing, authoring tools, simulations and access to telecommunications will bring teaching ;earning processes to life.
The role of the classroom teacher is evolving from that of a giver of information to that of a facilitator of student learning. Thus, we are witnessing a shift in the paradigm of the teacher to that of information manager. The implication for teacher education is that preservice teachers should be trained in both the processes and products of technology-based instruction.
Teacher education in the utilization of technology should have an instructional focus. In addition to the operational aspects of information technology, preservice teachers should be able to integrate technology within the curriculum to achieve instructional objectives.
IT is coming rapidly in Malaysian Schools and these can be observed through the growing number of software’s and homepages available for the public today. Schools are no longer alien to the new technology and so are teachers. The government and private sectors are helping in providing the infrastructure of IT environment in schools throughout the country.
Development of Information Media in Malaysian Schools
The development of information media in Malaysian Schools has different levels of media usage depending on the available facilities. Some schools are technologically inclined while others are still struggling with the technology. The main concern is not just about the physical aspects of the technology but to use the technology effectively in teaching and learning. Many teachers are not exposed on how to use technology effectively in the classroom. Technology must be seen as an important tools in diversifying techniques in teaching: thus making classroom activities more flexible, interesting and more challenging. Technology, without a proper use will not bring out the full potential of technology use. Worse still, teachers will find it as burden and resort to the traditional teaching strategies.
One of the initial project of new information media is the implementation of the Munsyi Project to 14 secondary schools nationwide in 1996. This project was sponsored by Telekom Malaysia that includes the supply of 220 computers, make up a RM3.75 million network providing services on information technology, including internet.
Another project in the utilization of new information media is Jaringan Ilmu administered by the National Library. . This project connect all the information centers and libraries throughout the country in the network. Users can access information online from information centers from 137 countries and states fast and at a lower cost. Users can access information in the form of bibliography, text, multimedia dan hypermedia.
The Ministry of Education have plans to equip most schools with computers in the Seventh Malaysia Plan. Initial deployment of a computer lab that comprises of 21 multimedia networked personal computers and related peripherals and softwares to 110 secondary schools was carried out. Teachers from these schools have undergone 14 week intensive Computer In Education course. Another 90 primary school nationwide has also been selected to participate in the project. These school will receive one computer lab by the year end.
The Teacher Education Division Ministry of Education has supplied the second computer lab that comprises of 35 multimedia computers, LCD projectors, digital cameras, scanners and softwares. This is apart from other computer facilities that was sponsored by the student's union. Due to the need for upgrading of technology usage in schools, the Educational Technology Division has supplied computers to all it's Teacher Activities Centre throught the nation. This will enable serving teachers to outsource for more knowledge with the help of the Coordinator of these centres.
Demand for Teachers to use IT
Ever since the advent of technologies into society and the work place, teacher education programs have struggled with the question of how to teach and apply the wide variety of technologies that are available to enhance the teaching and learning process.
While parents and communities stress the importance of students having access to technology, it is a mistake to focus primarily on students. For the educational enterprise to adapt appropriately to our new world, we must invest in training teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum.
IT is coming to the classroom and almost inevitable for teachers not to use it. With the introduction of Smart School concept in 1999, IT will play the role as a very essential tool in facilitating teaching and learning. The effective use of IT: be it for the teacher’s preparation or in the classroom is very important in making sure that the running of the school will be smooth and efficient. Internet for example will facilitate teachers in communicating with others in sharing of the lesson planning and getting feedback’s from colleagues nationwide or worldwide. Without Internet, communication will be so inefficient that some of the plan might be too slow to work.
Pre- Service Training
Pre-service teachers in Malaysia are exposed to information technology from the first year of their training. The expected outcome of these courses is for the preservice teachers to gain a certain level of computer literacy. At this level, preservice teachers must have an understanding of concepts regarding what computers can do, what learners can do with computers, and what teachers can do with learners and computers. It is our objective that preservice teachers to feel comfortable integrating technologies into the curriculum they must first feel comfortable with technology as a tool for personal productivity.
Many preservice teachers were becoming efficient in the use of applications programs and in software evaluation, as part of their college courses of study. However, computers were not being utilized as teaching tools due to constraints such as the lack of computers and computers that are not eqipped with new capabilities (multimedia and internet capabilities). This realization led to another reexamination of computer literacy for preservice teachers. Emphasis on how to use computers in teaching mathematics, science, English, Bahasa Melayu and other disciplines became the focus for the Ministry of Education as a starting point.
Preservice teachers are usually directed to develop an in-class presentation using various technologies as appropriate. Furthermore, in their search for appropriate media to complement, supplement, or enhance their presentations, they need to become familiar with the technology that displays or produces the item. When potential media are located, they can use them as they are or modify them as needed. If media are not located or available, students are then encouraged to use the technology to develop their own.
Ubiquitous multimedia instruction for preservice teachers will probably be the next step in computer literacy evolution. At this writing, our new batch of teacher training college students are being introduced to the wonders of multimedia and internet. This new area of computer literacy is exciting and vibrant. Computers are now being sold as "multimedia and internet ready computers" indicating that business recognizes multimedia as a successful teaching tool. Just as authoring tools are now being taught to preservice teachers for content specific software development, multimedia development shall become an accepted part of the preservice teacher's computer literacy skills.
This development is considerably better than their counterpart in the rest of the world. These teacher’s dynamics are essential for them to be technology literate. Some modification is required though, in stressing more on the use of technology in teaching and learning activities. Malaysians also have teachers trained in IT as a subject major, which is very uncommon in the rest of the world. These IT teachers are exposed to not only the application of IT but to develop suitable courseware’s for classroom use. This fits into the country’s need for locally developed software’s as those written overseas are not tailored to our curriculum. Only teacher knows best what should be included in Malaysian Curriculum.
As we stress the integration of technology into education, many educators and students readily acknowledge the importance of its use. However, few know how to incorporate technology into their own teaching or use. Both groups, preservice education students and teacher education faculty, must become aware of what is available in technology resources (e.g. CD-ROM, programs, laserdisc, internet) in their content, subject, or grade. Then technology must be modeled for them to show how the hardware and software are set up and used.
After the initial exposure and they are aware of available resources and have seen some modeling of technology, they are ready to select technology resources to use. This includes both hardware and software selections and how they will be used by an individual or group.
While incorporating technology in the learning process is becoming more and more essential, access to the requisite equipment is limited. Most schools do not have the support systems to maximize the learning process using new information media.
Most schools do not fully utilize modern technology. They do not have the system or building infrastructure to maximize the potential benefit of this equipment. Moreover, because computers and other equipment are often not connected to any other computers in the school or the outside world in a network, they cannot access the information superhighway.
This evidence of inadequate infrastructure, technical support systems and teacher preparation demonstrates that our schools have a long way to go to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.
The conviction that educational technology is important to the learning process is gathering support from leaders of government, business and education. Information is no longer primarily in the minds of teachers and in books. Information is everywhere. Yet, our schools are large bureaucracies, institutions that adopt change slowly. Thus, there are significant barriers that must be confronted.
Our focus is how technology can be applied creatively to enhance teaching and learning. In addition, it is imperative to address the fears and concerns of teachers. Teachers must have opportunities to see new methods in action, realize their significance and be convinced of the tremendous benefit to children. Teachers need access to hardware and training. They need time to become familiar with how technology can enhance learning and how administrative duties could be accomplished more efficiently. Of significant importance is fulfilling the teacher's need to interact with others who are struggling with the same experiences. Integration of technology into the curriculum ought to be interrelated with learning techniques that can improve student achievement. These strategies include:
(1) learning in a context that interests and challenges
(2) learning by involvement in the process,
(3) learning by replication,
(4) learning by receiving immediate feedback on performance, and
(5) learning by practicing different parts of the task separately and
then incorporating them into the task as a whole.
A knowledge society requires citizens who are lifelong learners, people who explore and share ideas and benefit from the thoughts of others. Technology is a simple, yet integral means toward that end. Teachers of the 21st century must be prepared to maximize the learning of all children; ready to share their knowledge and experience; ready to share their heart; and, dedicated to helping all children find success in their world. New technologies can help them do that. We can delay no longer.
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