Internet Access in Schools and Quality of the Educational System

The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2007-2008 is out. In my opinion, it does not bring any surprises, but reinforces some trends that we’ve been seeing lately:

  • The increasing strength and importance of wireless technologies to get connected to the Network
  • A gradual shift of the research focus from quantitative/economic impact analysis towards more qualitative/social impact analysis
  • Hence, the realization that ICTs are much more than (information) productivity tools, and they have a role in socialization (through communication), mediated by digital literacy

Part of the Global Information Technology Report gets its data from the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, which, conducted annually, captures the perceptions of the leading business and investment decision-makers worldwide (many of whom represent the Forum’s member companies). As a qualitative survey, and based on perceptions, all conclusions arising from it might be taken with tons of caution. Nevertheless, there are some findings that, even if taken with caution, are worth deserving a thoughtspan:

As the chart shows, there is a clear relationship between quality of an educational system (at the aggregate country level) and the existence of not computers but Internet access in schools. As said, while Internet access in schools is measured quantitatively after surveys sent to sample schools in every country, the Quality of the Educational System is a variable measured through a qualitative, subjective indicator after asking the 8,000 interviewees of the Executive Opinion Survey. In the survey, the respondents range the educational system from 0 to 7 whether the Educational system
[serves the] needs of competitive economy
.

Depending on how you agree with the definition of “quality” for a national educational system, and how you’d like the reality to fit your beliefs, different interpretations arise:

  • The more straightforward: Internet access increases the quality of the educational system. The more Internet access, the better education.
  • Inversely, we can say that high quality educational systems are more eager to introduce the Internet in schools than lower quality ones. The more quality of the system, the more (awareness in) the use of Internet.
  • There’s a relationship between educational quality (as understood by the Executive Opinion Survey) and Internet access in schools, but we do not know which is the cause and which the consequence: they just happen to go hand in hand.
  • Even if some of the previous statements are sweet music for cyberoptimists (like me), I wouldn’t strongly stand for any of it: there are too many loose ends to be axiomatic.

    But one thing is absolutely clear: even if we cannot establish (yet) any causality between quality and educational Internet access, the perception is that some degree of relationship does exist. And if this perception is widely shared at both the decision-taker and policy-maker levels, some consequences in the short run would be likely to be expected:

    1. Firms would be more likely to hire candidates with strong digital competences, as it looks like Internet and quality go together, and quality means a more competitive economy (i.e. firm).
    2. Stress would then be put in teaching digital skills in the design of educational strategies, along with the introduction of the Internet in the school
    3. If the Internet — this huge information silo — enters the classroom, the role of the educator should change, and shift from an information holder to a knowledge acquisition enabler or facilitator
    4. Open educational resources should be coming in and out of the classroom both as input and output
    5. This abundance of (educational) material would require more and better reputation systems and information assessment systems, all of them based in more and better digital skills
    6. And back to #1

    In the most conservative scenario, I see this as the perception of inflation: regardless whether there is not the slightest chance for inflation to happen, if citizens believe so, there’ll be inflation. The sensation is now that digital skills matter and that we are going to evaluate education under this light. Schools must not just let themselves go along with the current (i.e. the cyberhype), but neither swimming against it.

Seminar: The Personal Research Portal: The Virtual Faculty or the Net behind the Classroom

The Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research, University of Athabasca, has invited me to impart a seminar in the framework of the CIDER Sessions about my digressions around The Personal Research Portal. The focus here will be on the educator, as I did in my article El portal personal del profesor: El claustro virtual o la red tras las aulas [The Personal Research Portal: The Virtual Faculty or the Net behind the Classroom].

The seminar will take place online — using Elluminate — on Friday 11th April 2008, at 17:00h GMT (in English).

Relevant info

Abstract

Instructional technology has suffered, in our opinion, two revolutions and a half during the last decades. The first one was, there is no doubt, the introduction of the personal computer in the educational environment. The second one, the appearance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in a broader sense – that implied, among other things, connecting the PC to the network – and their use in teaching. The “half” left, as it actually is a corollary of the latter, the one brought by the so called Web 2.0, thus giving birth to what has been dubbed as Education 2.0.

Notwithstanding, the emphasis has been put, most of the times, in how these technologies impact the relationship between teacher and student or how these technologies whether and how enhance the learning process and its results: how can ICTs be used to improve education administration, how can they help teaching in a classroom, applications in distance learning, etc.

Our aim in this seminar is to shift out of the spotlight and focus on the “hidden” practices of education, to stress on all the tasks that happen outside the classroom – be it of bricks and mortar or virtual – before or when designing a subject or teaching it to the students, what happens after that teaching, etc. in this necessary phase of reflection and redefinition of concepts, syllabuses, practices and so on… but without students. We want to make some proposals on how educators can use ICTs in their more open, participative and social side to build themselves a place on the net, to weave their own network of colleagues, to share resources, exchange experiences or suggest doubts and questions to the rest of education professionals.

Our ultimate goal would be to highlight that we think it is possible to build a virtual faculty based on their personal portals built with Web 2.0 tools, way beyond teacher spaces inside virtual learning environments or other corporate tools from educational institutions, thus leaving room for individual initiative and, most important, digital presence and digital identity.

Acknowledgements

Sincerest thanks go to Lynn Anderson for the proposal, all the e-mailing that we’ve been having through the last weeks and the support in preparing the seminar.

The Teacher’s Personal Portal: the Virtual Faculty or the Net behind the Classrooms

My article El portal personal del profesor: El claustro virtual o la red tras las aulas [The Teacher’s Personal Portal: the Virtual Faculty or the Net behind the Classrooms] has just been published in the last issue (#223) of Comunicación y Pedagogía, a monograph about Social Networks in the framework of communication and education.

For those already familiar with my recent interests in open access, open science and open education, you’ll find the article is based on my former The personal research portal: web 2.0 driven individual commitment with open access for development, though this one is lighter (in all senses), fresher, and includes a new section about Open Educational Resources (OER).

Acknowledgments

As it always happens, I had already submitted the article when I discovered Tíscar Lara‘s article Blogs para educar. Usos de los blogs en una pedagogía constructivista [Blogs to educate: blog uses in a constructivist pedagogy]. I would have undoubtedly used it for my article had I found it before.

Actually, she’s published another article in a Monographic about Blogs in Education issued by the Spanish National Center of Educational Information and Communication (CNICE), whose Head of web contents and educational Television, Carmen Candioti, visited us last October to take part into the Web 2.0 and Education Seminar. The monograph is a good gathering of interesting experiences and reflections about educational blogging and Education 2.0 in general.

When I was writing the article, I couldn’t get out of my head the people that, later on, formally created Grupo Nodos ELE. Grupo Nodos ELE is a group of Spanish as a Foreign Language teachers whom I really admire for their resolution and commitment to work online to share knowledge and efforts to improve their own works. It all began with scattered personal blogs and it’s evolving into a rich virtual community of practice. My kudos to them for that brilliant initiative and the passion they show.

Another initiative I want to highlight is Aulablog, whose blog keeps the Spanish speaking community up-to-date about Education 2.0 projects: I mean, real projects where people do things. Your needed daily dose of reality.

And I want to thank Lorenzo García Aretio, the coordinator of the monograph, and Adolfo Estalella for encouraging me to (re)write the article. Their task was not easy for them, so thank you.

More info
Update:

A Reader on Education 2.0

When preparing my speech about The Web 2.0 and the role of the University for the UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning Fourth International Seminar: Web 2.0 and Education, I gathered a good bunch of references to prepare what I wanted to say. You can find all the references I used — and some more, added after — after this words. But as this is an evolving selection, the up-to-date version of this list can always be consulted here: A Reader on Web 2.0 and Education. Feel free to write back to me with proposals for inclusion in the list and/or corrections for found errors.

The collection is far more than just “Education” or “University” or “Web 2.0” but pretends to give a framework comprehensive enough to approach the Education 2.0 phenomenon. I personally think that a good approach to Education 2.0 should include:

  • digital capacity building, including the zilliion different digital literacies: technological, informational, media, e-awareness…
  • team working
  • digital identity, presence on the Net, e-Portfolios
  • creation and importance of social networks and connectivism
  • the digital natives concept
  • long life learning and student-centered learning
  • open educational resources

To which I would add Business 2.0:

  • creation based on gift economies
  • distributed creation and the wisdom of crowds
  • entering the conversation with the consumers… and the prosumers

And a longest etcaetera of concepts, hypes, buzzwords and so — easy to see this is just a superficial reflection, not a deep analysis of the concept. Of course, the categories are arbitrary and just a means not to have 47 references one after the other without a break:

Economy

Benkler, Y. (2002). “Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm”. In The Yale Law Journal, 112(3), 369–446. New Haven: The Yale Law Journal Company. Retrieved June 12, 2007 from http://yalelawjournal.org/images/pdfs/354.pdf
Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks. Lecture presented on April 18, 2006 at Harvard Law School. Cambridge: Harvard Law School. Retrieved December 21, 2006 from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/audio/uploads/12/58/benkler_2006-04-24.mp3

Digital Literacy & Digital Media

Ittelson, J. (2001). “Building an E-dentity for Each Student”. In Educause Quarterly, 4, 43-45. Boulder: Educause. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0147.pdf
Kalz, M. (2005). Building Eclectic Personal Learning Landscapes with Open Source Tools. Conference proceedings for the Open Source for Education in Europe, Research & Practise conference. Heerlen: Open University of the Netherlands. Retrieved April 14, 2007 from http://www.openconference.net/viewpaper.php?id=16&cf=3
Marquès Graells, P. (2000). Competencias básicas y alfabetización digital. Roles de los estudiantes hoy. http://dewey.uab.es/pmarques/competen.htm. Barcelona: UAB. Retrieved March 01, 2007 from
Prensky, M. (2001). “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”. In On the Horizon, October 2001, 9(5) NCB University Press.
Prensky, M. (2001). “Do They Really Think Differently?”. In On the Horizon, December 2001, 9(6) NCB University Press.

Pedagogy

Lorenzo, G. & Ittelson, J. (2005). An Overview of E-Portfolios. ELI Paper 1: 2005. Boulder: Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved July 26, 2005 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf
Prensky, M. (2005). “Engage Me or Enrage Me. What Today’s Learners Demand”. In Educause Review, September-October 2005, 40(5), 60-65. Boulder: Educause Review. Retrieved August 22, 2007 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0553.pdf

Open Access & Open Educational Resources

What is the Web 2.0

Fumero, A. & Roca, G. (2007). Web 2.0. Madrid: Fundación Orange. Retrieved April 25, 2007 from http://www.fundacionauna.com/areas/25_publicaciones/publi_253_11.asp

Education 2.0 & e-Learning 2.0

Alexander, B. (2006). “Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?”. In Educause Review, March/April 2006, vol. 41(2), 32–44. Boulder: Educause. Retrieved September 08, 2006 from http://www.educause.edu/apps/er/erm06/erm0621.asp
Anderson, P. (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education. JISC Technology and Standards Watch, Feb. 2007. Bristol: JISC. Retrieved June 19, 2007 from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/techwatch/tsw0701b.pdf
Attwell, G. (2007). “Personal Learning Environments – the future of eLearning?”. In eLearning Papers, 2(1). Barcelona: P.A.U. Education, S.L.. Retrieved February 06, 2007 from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/out/?doc_id=9758&rsr_id=11561
Cobo Romaní, C. (2007). “Aprendizaje colaborativo. Nuevos modelos para usos educativos.”. In Cobo Romaní, C. & Pardo Kuklinski, H., Planeta Web 2.0. Inteligencia colectiva o medios fast food. Barcelona / México DF: Grup de Recerca d’Interaccions Digitals, Universitat de Vic.
Downes, S. (2004). “Educational Blogging”. In Educause Review, September/October 2004, vol. 39(5), 14–26. Boulder: Educause. Retrieved April 25, 2005 from http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450.asp
Downes, S. (2005). “e-Learning 2.0”. In eLearn Magazine, 10/17/05. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved June 25, 2007 from http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=29-1
Downes, S. (2006). Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. Discussion Paper #92. [online document]: Instructional Technology Forum. Retrieved April 26, 2007 from http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/paper92/paper92.html
Lara, T. (2005). “Blogs para educar. Usos de los blogs en una pedagogía constructivista”. In TELOS, Octubre-Diciembre 2005, (65 Segunda Época). http://www.campusred.net/telos/articulocuaderno.asp?idarticulo=2&rev=65. Madrid: Fundación Telefónica. Retrieved October 24, 2007 from
Leslie, S. (2003). “Some Uses of Blogs in Education”. In EdTechPost, October 8th, 2003. Retrieved April 03, 2005 from http://www.edtechpost.ca/gems/matrix2.gif