It’s now a buzz world over to talk about technology in education. Though the level of digital education competencies differs from one country to another. Digital literacies in education, are competencies aligned to achieve educational goals through the effective use of technology or ICT in education. The understanding and application of these digital skills in education is still a challenge for many educators on the continent especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The cause of this challenge is multifaceted complexity with varying contributions including but not limited to knowledge deficiency in the governance tier and lack of the impetus to acknowledge the dynamic requirement of the evolving education systems in the 21st century.
When educators a supported and positioned to drive professional development using digital resources, the trickle-down effects should be almost immediate and visible in their teaching practice.
Often, the soft landing we propel now and then is the lack of funding which in most cases is eased with some intervention from education forerunners. This is not void of shortfalls that lead us from copying and pasting solutions. Besides that, interventions have a timeline and often focus on a defined population. The study we conducted, recommends a sustained intervention powered at the institutional level, leveraging communities of practice.
The study was carried out in Kampala and majorly targeted educators from urban schools where 78 percent of respondents indicated to be ICT proficient, with the ability to fairly use a computer. This does not necessarily imply admitting to utilizing ICT for education purposes or teaching in a digital environment. Equally, the majority of the respondents admitted to having a computer lab at school but the study did not find again the use of these resources to support educators’ professional development and teaching practice. The investment in technology for education has not yielded the expected outcomes for educators entrusted with the mantle of driving teaching and learning.
The Digital for Education Knowledge and Skills Gap
Whereas most educators who participated in the study had achieved some level of ICT literacy and had access to a computer as a personal device or at the school computer lab, many did not express ICT literacy skills beyond what Buckingham (2015) defines as limited to the ability to understand basic ICT terminologies, use word processors, and worksheets, save, copy, paste, and manage data. It is worth mentioning that the application of technology in education requires a set of digital literacies not limited to the knowledge scope but also the digital practical approaches that highlight the pedagogical benefits and learning outcomes. These digital literacies are not among educators, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
It yields no value to promote technology in education rooted in what Oliver & Tower (2002) describe as ‘the appropriate familiarity with technology to enable a person to live and cope in the modern world’. Effective use of technology in education requires ICT or digital literacies as defined by Panel (2002) that promote the ability to use digital technology, communication tools, and networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information to function in a knowledge society. This should encompass what the Joint Information System Committee-JISC (2014) describes as digital behaviors, practices, and identities. Additionally, such skills for educators can not be void of Wiley’s (n.d) 5R abilities (Retain, Remix, Revise, Reuse, and Redistribute) that empower educators to create and/or adapt resources leveraging digital affordances.
The Policy gaps
Without the enabling policies, it is not tenable for institutions and educators to navigate digital education on their own. Studies indicate that educators need support from institutions to sail through the levels of digital education and institutions need supporting policies and guidelines. The national ICT policy of 2014, emphasizes the need for technology in education but falls short when the only indicator associated with ICT in education looks at the number of teachers trained to teach ICT to students. There is no indicator to measure the number of educators proficient in ICT literacy. The study recommendation highlights the need for indicators for educators’ digital competencies, the application of the skills, and a measure of resources available to them.
The ideal digital literacy models for Educators
The researchers looked at the different frameworks that can be used to guide the implementation of digital education as a means to promote digital education in professional development and teaching practice. The models are ideal for informing policy and PD curriculum design for educators’ digital support programs.
The TPACK framework, Mishra & Koehler (2006)
TPACK is an acronym for technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. The framework identifies areas of knowledge, educators need to understand to effectively integrate technology in education.
- The understanding of how technology is used in a specific content domain.
- Understanding technology broadly enough to apply it at work and in everyday life.
- Being able to recognize when information technology can assist the achievement of a goal.
- Being able continually to adapt to changes in information technology.
- Teachers’ knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning (e.g. knowledge about Active Teaching and Learning).
- This generic form of knowledge applies to understanding how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.
- Teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or taught.
- It refers to the body of information that teachers teach and that students are expected to learn in a given subject.
The Anatomy of the 21st Educators, Bates (2004)
A 21st Century educator integrates a range of artifacts to support teaching and learning. This makes teaching a dynamic process relevant to the need of today’s learners. The framework promotes a learner-centered approach to teaching and learning.
Training educators for digital education requires a focused digital approach away from the misapprehension that ICT skills are enough. This should be a consolidated effort that involves guiding policy enactment, awareness, and practical approaches to promoting digital professional development riding on the affordances of digital provisions that promote communities of practice, and collaboration among educators. Our team is designing an ideal program for implementing professional development in a digital environment supported by digital provisions in a community of practice. The team is also working on digital learning content suitable for promoting Technology Enhanced Learning(TEL) and others. We welcome those who wish to join us in this endeavor.
This article is based on a study carried out in Kampala- An assessment of factors hindering educators in primary and secondary education in utilizing digital resources for professional development and practice. Details in paper https://rb.gy/0ervh
Buckingham, D. (2015). Defining digital literacy-What do young people need to know about digital
media?. Nordic journal of digital literacy, 10(Jubileumsnummer), 21-35. https://doi.org/10.18261/ISSN1891-943X-2015-Jubileumsnummer-03
Bates (2014) Anatomy of a 21st-century educator, adapted by Ontaria Extended.
JISC. (2014, March 6). Developing digital literacies. Jisc. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies
Oliver, R., & Towers, S. (2000). Benchmarking ICT literacy in tertiary learning settings. In Learning
to choose: Choosing to learn. Proceedings of the 17th Annual ASCILITE Conference (pp. 381-390).https://ascilite.org/conferences/coffs00/papers/ron_oliver.pdf.
Panel, I. L. (2002). Digital transformation: A framework for ICT literacy. Educational Testing
Service, 1(2), 1-53. https://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/ICTREPORT.pdf.
Wiley D. (n.d.) ‘Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources http://opencontent.org/definition/