Innovative Use of ICT to Empower Educator Pedagogical Practices
The use of ICT in Dubai’s Public Education has enhanced teaching and learning experiences, particularly, within K-12 virtual schools. According to reports released by the National Centre for Education Statistics (2011), 42 percent of public school districts have teachers who are able to provide distance education course. This means that the rising level of technology and changes in methods of communication make Dubai one of the countries in the world to first mandate virtual learning (Cerone, Persico, Fernandes, Garcia-Perez, Katsaros, Shaikh & Stamelos, 2014). The precondition for the growth in Dubai’s Public Education is based on the fact that through policy changes, the government can now advocate for teachers’ adoption of virtual learning experiences while at the same time making sure that students in their areas of learning obtain the highest quality education. Such policies have become prominent in ensuring rapid increase in schooling across the country (Cerone, Persico, Fernandes, Garcia-Perez, Katsaros, Shaikh & Stamelos, 2014). In other words, current studies maintain that online learning, otherwise known as virtual learning, is an important new approach for K-12 schools in Dubai.
Even though there is close connections between the educator’s ecosystem and learners’ experiences, little studies have been conducted to understand the innovative use of ICT in enhancing pedagogical practices in Dubai’s Public Education from K-12. This means that teachers and students have very little information about the best practices meant to facilitate teaching in K-12 virtual settings (Cerone, Persico, Fernandes, Garcia-Perez, Katsaros, Shaikh & Stamelos, 2014). With the new policies about the country’s education practices, there is hope for face-to-face adaptation of instructional practices, guidelines and standards that can be adopted by institutions for effective teaching and learning. ICT infrastructure allows teachers or educators to address some of the best practices applicable to virtual learning (Downing & Holtz, 2008). Educators now have grounds to emphasize on content areas of expertise like communication skills and instructional design, which are prerequisites for other of other study areas. Based on the condition for successful incorporation of ICT in pedagogical practices, there is need to analyse Dubai’s current educator ecosystem, find the gaps and suggest solutions to bridge the gaps between complete ICT integration and current education system.
Current educator ecosystem in Dubai
Even though majority of educators in Dubai provide face-to-face education to learners, there is commoditization of public education system. Just like other interdependent and competitive countries in the world, Dubai government promotes education as means of producing productive and more competitive educators. As at present, the country’s education systems are managed by the government and innovative groups at the primary and secondary levels (In Scheuermann, In Pedró, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development & European Commission, 2009). With the numerous universities established across the region, the government aims at fledgling its systems of education and making it relative to the UAE education system. The existence of the three levels of education, primary, secondary, and university, has helped transform Dubai’s education landscape with majority of beneficiaries being the poor members of the society. The current face-to-face system of education in Dubai is considered a boost to the country’s local education product and brand of teachers.
Apart from the face-to-face system of education, the current ecosystem of Dubai’s education and the policy of commoditization have led to higher costs of education and educators find it hard to complete the better part of their studies (Vrasidas, Zembylas, Glass, Centre for the Advancement of Research & Development in Educational Technology, 2009). Educators are compelled to seek for additional funding not only to complete their pedagogical practices, but also to market their skills in a market that is now more competitive. Studies conducted in the past have shown increasing cost of education Dubai, which makes it almost impossible for educators to complete their training. The increase in cost of education and time of completion is one of the issues young educators will continue to face.
From these perspectives, it is clear that current education ecosystem in Dubai is characterized with commoditized face-to-face systems within which educators must function. Even though there are several challenges encountered in this ecosystem, one poignant truth is that educators must work even harder to ensure that the quality of education offered to students does not falter (Cerone, Persico, Fernandes, Garcia-Perez, Katsaros, Shaikh & Stamelos, 2014). This, therefore, call for the introduction of easily managed systems that are fast, efficient and effective towards improving the quality of service provided to students. In the recent past, the government of Dubai through policy changes created a platform within its education system that recognizes technological changes and its contribution towards improving the overall learning environment (European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning & Wolpers, 2010). The use of ICT to improve the roles of educators and learning experiences of students has gained prominence in Dubai, particularly in areas of virtual learning. This is the main basis of comparison; ICT supported education and face-to-face education systems based on the impacts on educator’s learning experiences.
Innovative use of ICT in Dubai’s Public Education from K-12
The introduction of ICT in areas of learning in Dubai’s Education systems has led to the establishment of virtual schools, otherwise known as online learning. The use of ICT has also impacted positively on teachers and as such, studies show close connections between virtual schooling and teachers’ relationship with students (In Scheuermann, In Pedró, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development & European Commission, 2009). For example, virtual teachers have gone to the extent of modifying the instructional practices and pedagogical methods that are widely applied in face-to-face teaching so that they can incorporate online teaching. The use of ICT in areas of learning has also allowed teachers to incorporate skills of an interaction facilitator or introduce into their roles knowledge and experiences of an instructional designer. Based on these positive attributes, virtual teachers are expected to develop skills that can foster proper interaction and communications within and between students (In Scheuermann, In Pedró, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development & European Commission, 2009). This is because online learning, unlike face-to-face, require proper interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills so that even though teachers may not be in a position to see their students, the online environment can still be considered to allow for effective learning. For interaction and effective communication to occur, teachers must apply pedagogical techniques including the use of telecommunication tools. Therefore, the application of these techniques in areas of learning will make it possible for teachers to support collaboration among students in order to facilitate knowledge acquisition. The fact that virtual teachers can use communication tools to establish a higher level of interaction is fundamental towards facilitating students’ learning in online environments.
Otherwise mentioned, the skills and knowledge required for teaching in a virtual learning environment rest upon teachers’ functions as points of intersection for pedagogy, technology, and content delivered to students. The possibility of selecting and coordinating these three factions is the primary tasks for teachers in Dubai’s Public Education (Vrasidas, Zembylas, Glass, Centre for the Advancement of Research & Development in Educational Technology, 2009). This is because there is growing needs to provide students with quality and appropriate online learning opportunities. The fact that teachers are required to implement these new systems in Dubai’s Education for K-12 means that teachers must undergo major changes from off-line experiences so that they can fully embrace online learning. However, the country seems to be lacking standards for preparing in-service teachers to meet the growing demands for online teaching environments. This together with other factor mentioned in this paper may be a challenge to the new online course teachers, and linking pedagogy with technology could be a problem.
ICT is an important tool for teachers in a public school who would want to change their classroom management techniques, engage students in effective assessment, engage students with content or make the course meaningful to students, provide support to students, and maintain communication and interaction with the community.
The use of ICT in classroom management
With the introduction of ICT and development of a virtual learning environment, teachers now have the opportunity to monitor and manage inappropriate or abusive behaviours of students in public learning forums. Therefore, the only requirement is for teachers to learn the basic skills that can be used to manage abusive behaviours of students enrolled in these virtual courses. This pedagogical technique is important because it allows teachers to establish a non-threatening learning environment for students. Some of the management techniques that can be applied in this context include creating portals with highly protected passwords for each individual to prevent students from posting inappropriate pictures or any material that may be interpreted abusive. Similarly, the ICT platform allows teachers to establish rules of conducts otherwise known at terms of usage to ensure that the learning environment only upholds appropriate values and learning practices. Apart from being able to manage students’ behaviours, teachers can innovatively use ICT to monitor venues of communication in their respective course in order to single out students with personal problems. Teachers in their course must acknowledge the emotional turbulence among students and be an active participant towards the identification of the students’ needs. Studies have indicated instances where ICT has been used to identify students in crisis and the measures to be taken to ensure student’s well-being. It is true from these studies that students enrolled for virtual learning can interact or communicate with their teachers and school mates at any times, present their views and concerns for effective intervention.
The use of ICT in students’ assessment
Teachers in their respective online courses can innovatively use ICT to design multiple strategies for students’ assessment throughout the learning period. There is need for an online school teacher to design and use multiple domes of assessment in their specific course so that students can have a better competitive environment. The types of assessment and strategies employed by teachers may vary based on the content area of the course and the number of students available for assessment. Despite the strategies of assessment used, teachers must incorporate all the criteria of assessment so that the results can reflect students’ abilities.
The use of ICT to engage students with content
Virtual teachers innovatively use ICT to build course components in a way that reflect the interests of students and the general public. Through ICT, teachers find it possible integrating into their knowledge the interest of students during the development of course contents. The interests of students as highlighted in Dubai’s education system relates to the strategic value of ICT, which is known to facilitate enjoyment in learning processes (Rodrigues, 2005). This makes online learning enjoyable and ultimately enhancing learning of the designed content. Teachers through ICT engage in decisions meant to develop course materials capable of ensuring quality education in the country.
Similarly, ICT allow teachers to remains flexible in the use of pedagogical strategies and able to accommodate different learning styles in the country. Today teachers find the use of student-centred pedagogical practices important strategies that can be used to address the various learning styles of students enrolling for different courses. The teachers also get the opportunity to explore the interests of students in a way that meet their instructional needs. The only way successful virtual teachers can meet both the needs of students and personal instructional needs is by integrating their interests and skills into the teaching program. This is because these programs are only meant to make students see relevance in the things they are being taught and also to prepare them to be responsible future citizens.
It is also possible that through the use of ICT, teachers are able to establish strong relationships not only with their students, but also with their mentors (Rodrigues, 2005). Mentorship programs are known to play important roles towards supporting students’ learning experiences. With ICT, it becomes easy for teachers and students to form string relationships with onsite mentors. Onsite-mentorship facilitated students’ virtual learning experiences by ensuring that they have all the support required to be successful throughout the learning sessions. As already mentioned, teachers need to ICT platforms to establish effective communications between students and their mentors so that the interaction between teachers, mentors, and students can enhance positive growth.
ICT and ICT programs allow teachers to virtually develop multiple strategies to facilitated students-teachers interaction during learning sessions. This discussion is based on the understanding that ICT addresses issues like formation of strong relationships between teachers and students enrolling for various online school course. The fact that teachers can establish and nature strong relationships with their students would mean that there are possibilities of providing quality education.
Through ICT, teachers are able to motivate students by organizing and structuring the course content based on the learning criteria outlined by the government. This is a practice emphasizing on the needs to implement effective methods of plans of instructional design to allow students in public education system benefit from online learning experiences (Rodrigues, 2005). Both teachers and students who are participants in the new systems of education require content based instructional design so that the needs of the two groups can be met. ICT in this case play important roles like providing motivational elements required to support course development and implementation at relatively lower costs. Through appropriate ICT systems, it is also possible for teachers to lay out pedagogical programs that will allow students understand clearly the directions to be taken if they are to perform in their respective course.
Through ICT, teacher can accurately embed deadlines within the courses they offer in order to motivate respective students to complete their course requirements in time. The use ICT becomes important for teachers who want to implement activities and deadlines within the course content so that students’ actions can be controlled and also motivated towards completing their course within the required time (Rodrigues, 2005). ICT systems also make it possible for teachers to encourage students to actively engage in course discussions while remaining focussed on individual’s tasks. This has made Dubai’s Education System to have positive impacts on the lives of students since there are always possibilities that students will their courses. For the purposes of meeting the valuable education outcomes, teacher apply ICT in identifying those programs favoured by students and encouraging students to apply for those programs. In other words, ICT allows teachers in their areas of profession to be very organized, understand the contents to be covered by the students, and also allocate enough time for the students to complete the courses (Voogt & Knezek, 2008).
ICT is also widely applied by teachers in the provision of multiple opportunities for students to engage in content analysis according to their needs and various learning styles. The teachers in this case play interactive roles by ensuring that students have the best platform to complete their courses. At the same time, teachers have the opportunity to integrate different mediums for the purposes of delivering similar contents to students. The ICT systems can be used by teachers to add audio components to the usual textual components with the aims of facilitating students’ participation in their courses while at the same time maintain effective students’ management.
The use of ICT to make the course meaningful to students
Teaches use ICT as a strategy to connect with students’ needs while at the same time establishing strong teacher-student relationship. The connection between teachers and their students allows for positive outcomes capable of increasing students interests and focus for higher career achievements (Voogt & Knezek, 2008). Otherwise stated, the connections between teachers and students through the new ICT platforms create a foundation that demonstrates students’ commitments towards successful learning.
The new ICT platform allows teachers to engage students in conversation about areas to be covered in their learning programs and also discuss other non-content topic related to the students’ areas of studies. Proper engagement in all the online discussions demonstrate teachers’ interests to improve the students’ out-of-course lives, which relate to teacher’s instructional opportunities like the kind of knowledge offered by teachers (Voogt & Knezek, 2008). ICT is this line of teaching allows teachers to make the course offered to students meaningful and knowledge improving. In the same line of argument, teachers find it possible using ICT as an effective means of communicating to the students about their vested interests.
Through ICT, teachers can encourage and effectively support communication with students and between students so that the students can share on important areas in their course contents. Studies show that there is value attached to both teacher-student and student-student communication, especially in relation within the learning environment (Voogt & Knezek, 2008). Therefore, teachers must at all times encourage students to establish strong communication amongst themselves and also with their respective teachers so that there is growth in knowledge acquisition and skill development. Effective communication between students and with their teachers provides a social climate that forms a foundation for communal growth and development. In other words, the use of ICT has become common in establishing community learners that embrace every little opportunity that comes with changes in technology.
Through ICT, teachers are able to search and make available all the supplemental support tools with the sole purpose of meeting the diverse needs or demands of students within their specific learning environments (Pullen, & Cole, 2010). Teachers use ICT to identify and recognize the range of learning needs among students enrolled for the virtual programs. Similarly, ICT systems are explored by teachers who want to identify and incorporate supplemental learning materials to facilitate teaching and also obtain positive results from students.
The use of ICT to provide support to students
Teachers use ICT to monitor and control students’ progress in addition to identifying and taking appropriate measure to fill the knowledge gaps that may exist between students. With ICT, teachers find it easy to determine the causes and effects of knowledge gaps between students. This will also mean addressing the gaps using good strategies or methods for knowledge remediation.
Through content and non-content conversations, teachers facilitate the formation of a community by ensuring that students participate in all the activities designed to improve their skills (Pullen, & Cole, 2010). Teachers, through the new ICT platform, provide learners with space for discussing issues affecting their communities and this has led to the formation of social communities. These connections provide students with additional venues of support that have positive impact when in areas of decision making and participation in policy development.
Apart from the areas mentioned, ICT allows teachers to provide students with immediate feedback on their performance in order to maintain personal motivation and also allow students complete their courses. Giving students prompt and meaningful feedback related to instructional outcomes have positive impacts since there is creating of a more competitive learning environment.
The gaps between complete ICT integration and the current face-to-face education
For many years, face to face mode of teaching has been the commonly used method of learning in Dubai’s system of education compared to online or rather ICT integrated mode of teaching. Educators in face-to-face learning environments have developed numerous skills to guide them through perfecting the process in order to give learners the best results (Pullen, & Cole, 2010). The set of skills that may work effectively in face-to-face education system like in the case of Dubai may, however, not work in ICT integrated system of learning. This is because these two systems are completely different even though they both work to achieve good results for the students.
For instance, under ICT integrated system of education, the educators or rather the teacher may have less sense of control and in many cases gets ignored by students. There is no direct contact with the students in this form of learning and this makes it really difficult to handle the needs of students or challenge their bad behavior. However, in face-to-face system of education of communication, the educator through his or her presence creates a sense of leadership and able to control the behaviours of students (Law, Yuen & Fox, 2011). Educators can only ensure good performances among students if there is a possibility of instilling discipline and nurturing moral behaviours. Based on the mentioned gaps, it is advisable that while there is need to incorporate ICT in Dubai’s Public Education, policy makers should also recognize the importance of face-to-face education and how it affects learning outcomes (Ogalanya, Okafor & Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze, 2007). Where the education system requires regular contacts between educators and students, face-to-face mode of learning should be considered since it is more effective compared to online learning.
In the past, online education did not offer any form of major competition to face-to-face mode of education, but due to the changing needs where multitasking is the order of the day, many people desire to study online and at the same time do other side jobs (Law, Yuen & Fox, 2011). Face-to-face education system has become so much demanding, and in most cases it becomes very difficult to pair it with other side jobs. Therefore, where someone is more disciplined and is capable of following his schedules and has other side job to do other than learning, online study is the best mode of study for him to consider as this would allow him to work.
IT integrated systems also uses a totally different mode of study compared to face to face system of study. In online system the, discussions are often through texts and in most cases the texts are comprehensive and detailed. Nonetheless, these texts are always permanent and can be viewed for a while (Ogalanya, Okafor & Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze, 2007). On the other hand, study modes in face to face systems are always verbal, this means therefore that they are impermanent hence vanishes after the meetings. This mode of verbal study is however the most common used mode in most learning institutions since it’s very interactive. Information shared through learning should always be kept permanent for future reference, face to face systems therefore should adopt ways of making most of their meeting with instructors permanent through note taking and other means that ensure that the information discussed are not distorted as in online learning
Most instructors prefer meeting their students physically for effective sharing of ideas. This is only applicable to face to face modes of study. This physical presence gives room for interaction between the instructor and his students, it also allows the students to gel with each other and know each other (Law, Pelgrum, Plomp & International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, 2008). These interactions are always very effective during group works where the students are then required to do certain assignments together. In online mode of study, there is no physical contact between the instructor and his students therefore making it really hard to gel. It is therefore evident that face to face mode of study creates unity and togetherness among learners through bringing people together as compared to online mode of study. Instructors in online learning should therefore work out ways of bringing their audience together once in a while for physical contact (Law, Yuen & Fox, 2011). This can be achieved through coming up with term papers at the end of every learning period that students come together and sit in order to do it physically.
Mostly, IT integrated mode of study has always given most instructors a hard time since most of them have to first of all go through teaching their students how to operate the online learning cites therefore consuming a lot of time and resources (Law, Pelgrum, Plomp & International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, 2008). Face to face has however no such process giving the instructors a lot of time to interact with their audience. For institutions that use online learning modes, the systems should therefore be kept easy to use and access for everyone needless of prior education on how to use them in order to make them really effective and efficient in service delivery to learners.
In giving feedback of peoples work, online method proves to be the most efficient of all. Feedback on work in this case is very detailed as compare to face to face mode of communication where the discussions on topics are always very general and cover very minimum details (Kidd, 2010). Feedback to discussions in face to face form of study is always verbal, verbal feedbacks always disappear after time as compared to feedbacks put as texts which are available for a long period of time. Since face to face study method is always physical mode of study, feedbacks are always compared to online mode of study where feedbacks take a long period of time for them to be replied. After the feedbacks, there are always some discussions in face to face mode of study to look at the wider issues; these discussions are often very little in online learning.
Prior knowledge of the study discipline you want to do also determines whether someone can choose online or choose face to face system of study. For instance, if you have prior knowledge however little of the subject you want to undertake then you can take online method of teach (Kidd, 2010). On the other hand, if you know nothing about the subject or discipline you want to undertake then it’s advisable for one to consider face to face mode of communication. However, someone’s personality also matters a lot when choosing which mode of study to use. For example, some people prefer learning alone in quiet places preferably their homes whereas others would prefer going out to learn with friends in open. Therefore when someone is an introvert he should use online form of study and when one is an extrovert, its face to face mode of study that is most effective for him.
There is also the issue of costs of learning in both forms of study, online mode of study would look cheaper to use compared to face to face mode of study (Hung & Khine, 2006). Take for example, online mode of study does not require physical classrooms to operate on therefore greatly cutting the cost of constructing a modern classroom, nonetheless, online mode of study as well cuts the cost of housing students and therefore cutting on costs too, as if that’s not all, online mode of study as well cuts the transports costs of students to and from school making it a very cheap method of learning that can be affordable to most learners out there (Hung & Khine, 2006). Huge difference in cost of study can be cut through reducing the cost of accommodation and other levies imposed on students taking face to face mode of learning.
In the recent past, online study wasn’t considered viable in job markets, only face to face to face or rather the physical education system was considered good for employment by employers, however, that mentality has greatly changed and nowadays online study is also considered viable by most employers. Both online and face to face systems of education produce professionals in the respective fields of study therefore employers should consider both of the while jobs arise (Hung & Khine, 2006). With the fast growing global world though, soon most employers will start looking for IT integrated learners since they are the ones who will be highly competitive for the jobs, therefore, instructors in face to face modes of learning should try and incorporate a little of online work in their study methods through posting of assignments online among others.
The discussions presented in this paper is an indication that the health of a country’s economy, developed or developing, depends highly on the active roles of teachers and the quality of education the country provides to its citizens. In this relation, the paper brings a perspective of changes in Dubai’s Public Education and the successful integration of ICT in educators’ pedagogical practices (Gupta, Jaroliya & Prestige Institute of Management and Research, 2008). The discussions presented in this paper also bring a notion that successful incorporation of ICT into teachers’ training programs require careful planning on the side of policy makers, and to a larger extent depends on how well teachers and learners understand and appreciate education dynamics.
Much has been discussed and reported about the effect of ICT on teachers’ pedagogical practices and majority of researchers tend to focus on the positive impacts of ICT on learning. In other words, the studies conducted in this field of investigation have consistently revealed the benefits achieved by administrators, teachers and students following the successful incorporation of ICT in learning practices.
For the case of Dubai, the integration of ICT in public education has raised contentious issues and this is one of the major causes of the gaps identified in this paper (In Barajas, 2003). At one point, there are individuals who feel that ICT will bring no pedagogical benefits, but its incorporation in the country education system may create a disaster. However, there are those individuals who believe that successful incorporation of ICT into the country’s education system will change the Dubai’s education system. ICT systems with forever engender dramatic increase in the performance of educators and the impact will be seen through positive changes in students’ performance (Law, Yuen & Fox, 2011). To this end, there is a common belief that despite the gaps between ICT integrated education and face-to-face education systems, proper integration of ICT and the development of virtual schools will potentially improve teaching and leading processes. Possibly, ICT-enabled education will potentially promote the development of educators’ skills of decision-making and problem solving. At the same time, ICT will enhance the acquisition of data processing skills and communication capabilities; concepts that facilitate policy development and implementation.
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