The Issue: Some 98 percent of primary and secondary schools in Qatar have access to Internet, 93 percent of them broadband. Almost all teachers and students in universities and 96 percent schoolchildren have access to PCs for educational purposes.
These figures show the integration of Information and Communication Technology into Qatar’s education system. However, how many of the students actually benefit from the enhanced technology? How this influences the school environment? Will schools change and use alternative learning tools? Are they prepared to fully accept the new technology into the classroom yet?
The number of computers in the classroom continues to increase and tremendous support for technology integration exists in government, business, and academia all over the world. A major discrepancy, however, exists between the level of technology use expected of educators and the actual use and integration of technology in the classroom including those in the developing world.
Governments around the world (including in the developing world) have different strategies to provide computing power to their classrooms. Recently India and Bangladesh unveiled what they claimed to be world’s cheapest tablet (Akash) and laptop (Doel), respectively. Both the devices are aimed at enhancing the reach, accessibility and quality of education.
Across the world, new technologies are helping to distribute resources for education, connectivity and health far and wide. Innovators are finding ways to enhance technology for use in education and therefore helping increase the accessibility to education.
Qatar is fairly advanced in implementing similar initiatives; SEC has outlined e-Education initiatives including the deployment of advanced learning management systems that let students, teachers, administrators and parents share information and communicate online and the creation of national e-library for digitised books and other digital learning resources.
As part of the National Development Strategy, Qatar aims to have a set of ICT standards that are mandatory for public education institutions and strongly recommended for private institutions.
An independent school here started using iPads as a learning tool, replacing a huge bulk of books and heavy school bags. The school authorities say that the device will help improve academic performance of the students with all curriculum installed on the device. However, a majority of schools here ban even the use of mobile phones in school campuses. Concerns range from price of devices to the fruitfulness of these devices in education. While many argue that it can help lessen the burden of heavy school bags and big textbooks that can overwhelm students, many others stress that students since they are well versed with modern technology can use the devices for other purposes like chatting or watching movies. Still others argue that it can kill the reading habit in children, while some say it is environment-friendly as trees are not cut down for paper.
A concern about the use of technology is lack of training, especially for teachers who use them. Since technology is not the end goal of education, but a means by which it can be accomplished, educators must have a good grasp of the technology being used and its advantages over more traditional methods.
Another major issue arises due to the evolving nature of technology. New resources have to be designed and distributed whenever the technology platform changes, which many will not find easy on their budgets. If there is a lack in either of these areas, technology will be seen as a hindrance and not a benefit to the goals of teaching.
Technology is not a substitute for good teaching, it just provides teachers with powerful tools to enrich and extend what teachers are good at: explaining, demonstrating, and involving and engaging pupils in learning.
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