Information and Communications Technologies at school (ICT) have implied large investments. An example are the schools in this study, have both infrastructure and software resources. However, there is no evidence of an impact on learning through ICT.
How often have we heard that the reason for not innovating is the lack of the necessary resources or support? In basic education schools, one of the recurring concerns is the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). There is an abundance of bibliography and references, but few testimonies about how they are being applied in schools and what their impact has been.
This article includes in-depth interviews with four private schools that offer the international baccalaureate in Lima, Peru, covering the primary (6 to 11 years), secondary (12 to 16 years) and international baccalaureate (17 to 19 years) levels.
“There is an abundance of bibliography and references about Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), but few testimonies about how they are being applied in schools and what their impact has been.”
In general, classes are taught to groups of 20 to 25 students per classroom. Each school spends at least 90 minutes per week on the computer science course. They have a variety of facilities, such as equipment, licenses and a dedicated multidisciplinary teacher-support team. The institutions commented that their IT infrastructure consists of the following equipment: a set of laptops or tablets for the classrooms, smartboards, projectors, and classrooms specially equipped with computers and Internet access. Only one of the schools has a 3D printer and a laser cutter. All of them have service platforms configured according to the users: teachers, students, administrative staff and parents. Each of them is accessible from the institutional website.
A striking feature of these schools is that they have a dedicated IT service staff. Two of them have three people trained for this purpose, one has eight and the other twelve. The tasks they perform range from the help desk to technological infrastructure, and managing the website and social networks. Only the school with twelve people has a small team whose function is to advise teachers and students on the use of technology, according to their demands and needs (some of them serve a specific level: pre-school, primary, secondary or high school).
“Deserves a special mention the challenge still pending, about how technology can serve the teaching-learning process of special-needs students, the blind, or those with mobility impairments, among others.”
How is technology used in class?
All the schools coincided in first developing office IT programs and computer assembly as of primary school, and then moving on to programming languages and robotics in secondary school. For now, at the preschool level, specific content is reinforced with games on the tablets or laptops.
Just two of the schools have proposed an initiative in which the pre-school children learn how to program a robot to move. This proposal progressively presents computer applications, algorithms and problem-solving techniques with the aim of developing algorithmic and logic skills through programming over two years, completing a small project at the end of first grade of primary school.
In this respect, all the schools implement the basic use of word processors, multimedia presentations and calculation programs, seeking to apply these skills in their academic work. For multimedia development, secondary school and international baccalaureate students work with graphic design, video production and 3D design programs at most of the institutions.
At the baccalaureate diploma level, students carry out an innovative design project to identify and solve real-life problems by designing and creating a new invention. To earn their baccalaureate diploma, students are expected to have an understanding of the fundamental concepts of technological thinking and other digital media. At this level, students learn how to plan and implement IT solutions. To accomplish this, they are invited to identify problems, design, build and evaluate the proposed solutions, and work with clients to obtain a successful solution.
Interestingly, some of the schools explained that being technologically inclined, like any curricular area, art or sports, depends on each individual’s interests. Therefore, those who wish to study these tools in greater depth form after-school clubs or teams that work on virtual reality technologies (essentially video games) or on building robots.
The challenge (still pending) of how technology can serve the teaching-learning process of special-needs students, the blind, or those with mobility impairments, etc., deserves special mention. In this regard, UNESCO (2012) indicates that the greatest challenges in Latin America regarding the implementation of ICT to support people with disabilities are: lack of trained teachers, prohibitive costs, an inadequate public policy framework, limited infrastructure and little exposure to emerging technologies
A model yet to be defined
Technologies have implied large investments and the schools in this study have both infrastructure and software resources. However, there is no evidence of an impact on learning through ICT. According to the OECD (2015) report, even countries that have invested heavily in ICT for the education sector have not seen any clear improvement in student performance in terms of the results of the PISA test in reading, math or science.
According to this study, and in the context of the four schools presented, there are no pedagogical models that integrate technologies transversally in school settings. This article proposes transferring the current focus of teaching office IT to programming as the center of digital competencies. As for robotics, the ideal packages would be those that allow variations in the configuration and structure of the robot, resulting in the imagination or creation, based on a set of knowledge and materials, of robotic versions with different degrees of originality. The model is yet to be assembled!
About the author
María Elena Mifflin Rosay holds a Master’s in Educational Management and a Master’s in Distance Education and Open-Access Learning. She currently coordinates the area of pedagogical innovation, accompanying the informatics support team at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.