By Zaidun Omar and Jusni Nasirun
Unit Teknologi Maklumat Institut Perguruan Darulaman
IT has changed the way people think and work and education is no exception. The arrivals of IT technology in the classroom has changed the way lessons and information is presented to teachers and students. More exciting and interactive courseware were developed using the latest multimedia technology. A wealth of information available instantly via the internet. Students and teachers can exchange ideas from all over the world and interact with their counterparts anywhere in the world. Now we have more energy in a wrist watch than all the energy to light up the city 40 years ago.
The abundance of information in this age make it possible for students to explore knowledge at their own pace. The have more freedom to find out on what they like. Their resources of information can either be packed in a CD-ROM discs or in the Internet among others. With all the available technology and information resources, education in Malaysia needs some kind of reformation to cater for the new information resources.
1) Existing Roles For a very long time the setting of the classroom in Malaysia looks very much the same even during our grandparents' days. Students sit in rows with a teacher in the front of the classroom. Most of the information comes from the teacher, or books. Lessons are conducted based on a set objectives extracted from the syllabus. All the activities in one lesson hopefully will cater for the whole class. Students will have to go through the activities no matter what. The role of the teacher here is to provide a good lesson plan based on topics/subtopics in the syllabus. The contents to be thought in one lesson is rigid. The activities are pre-set by teachers and students have less freedom in exploring new information or catching up with what they are missing. At home, parents will help their children with homework, taking them to public libraries or visits interesting places like museums zoos etc.
2) Changing New Roles
The impact of IT in education calls for changing new roles for educators and parents. Educators needs upgrading in various classroom management skills as teachers will move from lecture type activities to facilitating in the teaching continuum. With the accessibility of information supported by multimedia courseware, students must be allowed to choose to learn at their own pace. They don't have to be tied down to the boundary of the definite learning objectives.
Classrooms now are capable of providing students of all levels of competency equal opportunity to learn. Being in the same class does not mean that students are learning the same things and doing the same activities. Advanced students may choose to explore more complex materials on certain topics and slow learners may choose to practice on lower levels materials. Some people call this classroom setting as "virtual express class". Teachers need to facilitate the learning that are taking place. This calls for skills that is new in our classrooms. We are so used to teaching students in a boundary set by our curriculum and limits their creativity. Teachers need to upgrade the knowledge in their field in order to become a good facilitator. Students may come up with unexpected questions that they may acquire from the internet, which is unfamiliar to the teacher.
The assessment for the students has to be in a new format. The portfolio based assessment may be a solution to this as students are learning at different pace. Examination bodies has to come out with new format whereby exams must not be restricted to once or twice a year. Students must be allowed to sit for examinations whenever they are ready. Teachers have to guide so that students won't go astray from the designated curriculum. Two major mastery skills for teachers are facilitating and IT literacy. Without these two, teachers and educators will not be able to perform their roles to the fullest.
Parental involvement has been hailed for years as a very important predictor of students achievement is schools. Yet the quest for parental involvement is not easily accomplished without understanding obstacles and how to overcome them. Since information can be assessed from living rooms, parents need to play a bigger role in guiding their children towards a more systematic learning. In some homes, students have access to more than 30 TV channels, internet, and full multimedia PC in their living rooms. The problem is no longer on "How to get the information?" but more on "How to make a more effective use of information?".
Parents need to be more aware of the curriculum requirements. By this, parents can keep their children on track on what they are looking for. They must be prepared to respond to more challenging higher order thinking skills (HOTS) questions approached by their children.
In the past, parent involvement in schools meant baking cookies and organizing fundraising activities. Apart from these, parents should be present in schools; through participating in special parenting training programs; and through family resources and support programs. Parents need to upgrade their IT skills as much as educators do. Parents also need to operate telephone network with schools and other parents where ideas can be shared. Parents can be important resource to schools if wisely used.
The impact of IT had recognized the importance of professional development for teachers. Every proposal to reform, restructure, or transform schools emphasizes professional development as the primary vehicle in efforts to bring about needed change. With this increased emphasis comes heightened awareness about the quality and effectiveness of professional development in being able to facilitate systemic change in education. To meet the goals of reform, teachers must make changes that entail much more than learning new teaching techniques. The changes form the core of what it means to teach and learn.
With the advent of IT utilization in schools, our roles as educators and parents have to change. In Malaysian context, we would like to focus on the importance of recognizing that better education is everybody's business. We have encourage everyone - families, schools, colleges, community and corporations as partners - to make a commitment in inculcating IT knowledge, awareness and utilization to our children. Educators and parents as the guardian of our future generation needs to joint hand in hand with whatever effort and programs in an IT enhanced community. The collaborative commitment is also high of our MOE priority, i.e. 'pemuafakatan pendidikan' (Wan Mohd Zahid, 1994).
The Smart School concept as one of the flagship applications of the Multimedia Super Corridor can be used as Malaysia's future school. IT plays a very critical role in our future classrooms. This requires teachers not only to update their skills and knowledge but also to totally transform their roles as educators. It establishes new expectations for students, teachers, and school communities that some educators may not be prepared to meet. Professional development helps teachers learn new roles and teaching strategies that will improve student achievement. Steps have been taken by the Ministry to equip teachers with new skills of integrating IT in their work. The Ministry have supplied computers to every school to help schools administrative chores. One lab that consists of 20 computers have been supplied to selected secondary schools to integrate computer literacy subjects. And its is our Ministry's objective to equip every schools with computers, based on students enrolment.
Aggressive steps are also being implemented by Teacher Education Division in the training of pre service and in service teachers. Information Technology subject have been made a compulsory subject in the curriculum for every pre service course participants in the Diploma Perguruan Malaysia, and Diploma in Education program for the Degree and Diploma holders. For in service teachers, the division have started the Key Trainers Course in the integration of IT in the teaching and learning of four selected subjects, that is Science, Mathematics, English and Bahasa Malaysia. It is hoped that these teachers will train their colleagues in their respective schools and districts.
As a move to upgrade teachers in IT, five teacher training colleges have offered Kursus Diploma Perguruan Khas courses majoring in IT. Selected teachers will be offered places in the local universities to pursue the studies to be accredited with Bachelor of Education (Information Technology) that are capable to teach computer related subjects going to be offered in schools. It is hoped that teachers that are not selected to the universities will go to schools and are able to help their schools in integrating IT in the school administration or in teaching and learning activities.
Numerous courses have also been conducted by the Ministry in the dissemination of the Smart School concepts to education ministry officials, administrators of educational institutions and teachers all over the country.
Changing the attitude of teachers towards change and integrating IT into their workplace is a major factor to be considered. Teachers can do the following things to improve the learning process through professional development: o Teachers are committed to their own growth and development as educators with emphasis to be IT literate teachers. o Teachers have the time and mental space to become involved in the process of changing roles and improving practice in IT integration. o Teachers participate in a meaningful variety of IT training and utilize IT in their every day activities. o Teachers have opportunities to develop new understanding of the subjects they teach and the roles they play in the school, the classroom, and the larger learning community.
The most important factor for teachers to fully understand their roles in an IT community is for teachers themselves to be the users of IT. Every effort must be taken by all parties for teachers to own computers, to use computers to assist their job, use computers to access information and using computers as a tool for communicating.
Evidence shows a strong connection between parent involvement in schools and children's academic achievement, attendance and attitude. All parents are a vast resource which can be tapped to increase student learning. The high schools of the future should work to incorporate these parents into the daily plan (or at least the weekly plan). There are several types of parent-involvement in IT functions for our children : (a) parent as supporter of activities, (b) parent as learner, (c) parent as decision maker, (d) parent as volunteer/professional, and (e) parent as home activities teacher.
Parent as a supporter of activities: IT related activities in schools are quite limited. Children have the time to practice or try out IT related activities as an enrichment to the activities conducted in their school. Parents should prepare conducive environments at home. Are Malaysian parents prepared to invest ?
With the global impact of IT in education, educators have to be prepared to undergo a "mind-shift" from traditional teaching methods to a more versatile IT related activities in the classroom. This would mean extra preparation for teachers as the activities would involve new skills. Teachers have to constantly upgrade their IT literacy as the progress is at a very fast pace. Self exploratory is the best bay to tackle this through research on their own.
Schools are under increasing pressure due to decreasing resources, increasing needs of children and the demands of the 21st century. They cannot do the big job of preparing our most precious resource for the future alone. It is important, therefore, to take advantage of the resource of those most interested in children and their parents in new and innovative ways. Guidance from parents are necessary as children spent most of their time at home and exposed to information world wide. What is more important is not the retrieval of information but how well the information is utilized.
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