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Catching up or not? It’s only a matter of time

(Last Updated On: January 18, 2019)

(Originally posted in Cloud 961- July 2016)

Updated:  April 25, 2018

Whether we like it or not, technology is changing the face of education. As Eric Shmidt, says, “For most people on earth, the digital revolution hasn’t started yet.” People who view the rise of social media, online classrooms and MOOCs like Coursera and Futurelearn as a fad are mistaken. The internet and what it brings is here to stay. Catching up is only a matter of time. 

That’s why countries like Britain, the United States, South Korea, and Singapore have already incorporated ICT (information communication technology) into their educational system. Britain is even going to become the first country to mandate coding into its primary and secondary education .

The Lebanese Scenario

While Lebanese and Arab schools seem far from that, let’s focus on the current Lebanese state of technological integration. According to a 2012 report conducted by the Education Development Center with the help of the ministry of education Lebanon continues to be classified in the “emerging” category of ICT integration. Despite its initial efforts: SchoolNet Liban in 2000, development of e-strategy in 2003, as well as its partnership with Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Ghafari Inc, and Occidental Petroleum for better reconstruction, its projects remain small scale. Moreover, ICT exists as an optional or extra-curricular subject in its curriculum; hence assessment of ICT skills is done separately. There is no official computer-embedded assessment.

The Current Situation

Mostly constrained by cost, and lack of computers Lebanon’s ICT initiatives focused on two main areas:

– Securing access ( hardware, software, connectivity) for teachers and students
– Connecting computer technology to teaching and learning by providing learning opportunities for teachers and students.

The small scale projects, lack of coordination, and lack of consistent follow up did not help in properly evaluating ICT integration efforts. This lack of feedback presents a missed opportunity – Lebanon could have learned a lot about how these tools interlock with its educational environment and national goals.

Currently though, it’s quite apparent that for technology integration to be taken seriously, it has to be aligned with content, curriculum, instruction and assessment. Given that most of the curriculum for the “terminal” exam is content driven, teachers primarily focus on covering content as much as possible with little incentive for ICT integration.

Where to Get Inspiration from?

Lebanon would do well to learn from the success of nations like Singapore and South Korea as well as the back slides of others like Jordan and India. The former two were successful due to their constant efforts in revising and aligning their curricula to match collaborative cognitive ways of learning. They either do not have “Terminal” or their exams are driven to measure higher-level skills. As for the latter, despite the fact that they attempted to incorporate technology, and reform, their exams still focused on declarative knowledge versus procedural and conceptual knowledge. This made it difficult to implement new teaching practices or take risks.

Moreover, the issue for Lebanon is not providing computers for the majority of private schools are equipped; there is a relatively small number of public schools as compared to other countries. The challenge lies in determining where technology is situated. Presently, computers are placed in separate computer labs just like Jordan’s case, despite the fact that research has shown it to be more effective when placed in classrooms. Furthermore, teachers only receive an average of 5 days of professional development per year. Exposure to new ideas and innovation primarily occurs outside the school at teacher training centers. However, support which is ongoing classroom based focused practice rarely happens since the center for Educational Research Development (CERD), describes its “continuous training” as a simple follow up where it is not obliged to work in classrooms. Furthermore, the fact that the internet in Lebanon is expensive and connectivity is unreliable really makes it more difficult for schools to use it in teaching.

What Effective Reform Involves

Nonetheless, improvement is not out of reach; we could learn a lot from countries who did it right like Singapore and South Korea, the two highest global performers in ICT, or countries who managed well like Britain, and the US.2 From their experiences with ICT integration, we deduce that effective reform has to include restructuring the following:
– Inputs: improving the quality of recruited teachers
– Financing education systems: so that no student is excluded from the educational resources offered
– Processes: developing a shared language about teaching technology, i.e. by building a rubric about desired levels of technology use, educators can help define their vision.
– Educational framework: aligning technology uses with content, curriculum, instruction and assessment.
– Training and Formation: Training teachers to become literate in teaching with technology using new ways of instruction, communication and assessment.
– Outcomes: Defining success by developing the appropriate indicators using practical measures.

What lies behind the Corner

The good news is that Lebanon has already thought about this reform, for the Ministry of Education has already issued Lebanon’s educational technological plan on July 2012. Consequently, it proposes that by year 2017, 100% of students and teachers in Lebanon will have access to appropriate classroom technologies that support the fulfillment of curricular and instructional objectives in all subject areas. The plan recognizes that “ICT must be a central component of overall reform of all components of the educational system to improve the quality of education for students in order to assure their continuous improved academic achievement” .Therefore its aim is to produce digitally qualified teachers who are able to integrate technology into their instruction, content, as well as assessments. It focuses on promoting students’ skills and competencies, the skills necessary for the 21st century workplace. These skills are outlined below:

– Information media & technology competencies consist of: information literacy, media literacy, ICT literacy, and other digital illiteracies.
– Learning and innovation competencies consist of: creativity & innovation, critical thinking & problem solving, communication and collaboration
– Life & Career competencies consist of: flexibility, adaptability, initiative, social & cross-cultural skills, productivity & accountability, as well as leadership & responsibility.

The future looks promising, but whether the new government will be able to stick to its plan is another question.

Alternative Solutions

Meanwhile if you are a teacher and eager to apply some of this in your classroom, we offer the below suggestions :
– If your school has no moodle, subscribe to Edmodo.
Edmodo looks a bit like facebook, you can have a profile, add your whole class and assign tasks on it too. It also has a mobile app version, it makes connecting with them easy. You also can access other teachers around the world. Parents can subscribe as well, so it’s also a means of communication between teachers and parents.

– Collaborate using apps like Whiteboard
– Allow students to create their videos using Animoto app, or Windows movie maker.
– Encourage individual student blogging using Kidblog
– Allow your students to create digital stories using Voicethread
– Encourage multi-media presentations using Prezi, Libre Office, and Google Docs
– Poll students by using Poll Everywhere or Socrative
– Go for interactive websites like BrainPOP

Hope’s still there

Interestingly enough the ministry of education’s plan for 2017 lists some of the above open education resources in appendix C . Thus, for more ideas, refer to it . Finally we can say that the Lebanese ministry of education does not lack ideas, nor plans. It’s only a matter of time before complete implementation takes place.

For now however, we content ourselves with faith. It helps to see the bright side of life sometimes, doesn’t it?

Also published on Medium.

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