The society we live in today is dominated by technology and most of us accept the discourse of fast and everchanging developments in technology which have transformed, or have the potential to transform, the way we live and relate to one another.
Digital inclusion is about opportunities, outcomes and practices. Conceptualising digital inclusion as being about access, prompts us to acknowledge that digital inclusion in part involves providing equality of opportunities so that all members of society can benefit from the affordances that technologies offer. Conceptualising digital inclusion as being about use and empowerment, prompts us to acknowledge that digital inclusion is also about equality of outcome.
The assumption that educational systems and institutions have a role in seeking to redress social exclusion, particularly in relation to the digital divide is common. Cook and Light for example write "In other words, as networks offer the potential to develop from connecting people to connecting the things around us, new skills and sensibilities are needed to understand the world and design for it. We need to make explicit what these new abilities are and place the means for learning these skills at the heart of society."
Hohlfeld et al. (2008) comment further on the influence that teacher skills and knowledge can have on digital inclusion: … even if schools have the mission to provide this bridge for their have not students, their teachers may not possess proficient ICT skills and knowledge about how best to integrate technology into the curriculum. Many teachers were educated before personal computers existed or were integrated into teacher education… If these teachers have not re-educated themselves, they cannot model and promote the critical ICT skills for their students. In turn, students will not have the opportunities to develop sufficient ICT skills in the authentic contexts that are necessary for future personal and career endeavors.
Walker and Logan (2009) locate digital inclusion firmly in schools and colleges as formal educational institutions. Conceptualising digital inclusion as the use of ICT to support inclusive practice, Walker and Logan (2009: p4) argue that education providers will need to focus on the needs of individual learners in order to help them overcome “any barriers that may prevent them from reaching their potential”. They then go on to highlight principles that education institutions should adopt in order to demonstrate inclusive practice. Schools and colleges are therefore encouraged to “build” or “design” inclusive institutions (Walker and Logan: p15).
ICT Learning-Teaching Processes in Croatia
In Croatia, compulsory schooling is between the ages of 7 and 15. School education is managed at state level and the ministry determines the curriculum and content taught in schools. The curriculum includes key competences. At the present time the existing curriculum is undergoing revision. Secondary schools (vocational) are already following the new curriculum and other schools (primary and secondary) are preparing to do so. Teachers use textbooks prescribed and selected by the ministry of education, using methods adapted to their own style and following recommendations and advice from senior advisers in the Education and Teacher Training Agency. There are national strategies for ICT, especially e-learning and digital competences, and there have been national research projects and initiatives for ICT. In primary schools ICT is as optional subject for 5th to 8th grade and in secondary schools ICT is a separate subject, the duration depending on the type of secondary school (vocational or gymnasium). In the Croatian system the National Curriculum Framework integrates ICT in many subjects in addition to regular teaching ICT as a subject. As regards published recommendations regarding hardware and software to be used in Croatia there is a problem with hardware because schools use 6-7 year old desktop computers and the economic crisis makes replacement problematic. ICT teachers try to do their best for the students and they install newer technology for which they have the approval of the Ministry of Education. The ministry has an agreement for software licensing for all schools with Microsoft Croatia. Teachers are expected to – and want to – use ICT in class. In the preceding two years all Croatian teachers undertook two training modules on how to use ICT in education. The Education and Teacher Training Agency in collaboration with the Croatian Academic and Research Network are working on the systematic training of all teachers in ICT. There are currently no expectations for the use of ICT in examinations and assessment.
Digitally mature schools are at a high level of integration of ICT in the life and work of the school and in the whole system which support digital inclusion. In mature digital schools is present systematized approach with use of an ICT in school management and teaching processes. That type of school is in the supportive environment, with adequate resources, which include not only financial resources but also adequately equipped classrooms, offices, teachers and students of ICT equipment.
Also, institutions in the education system who work with schools, including the founders of schools (cities and counties), agencies and institutions in the system MZOS (Agency for Education, the Agency for Vocational Education and Training, CARNet), and Ministry of Science, education and Sports must be interconnected, adequately equipped and trained, with an established online communication and collaboration channels using shared systems in the cloud.
The current situation in Croatian schools
A study conducted for the European Commission in order to monitor the progress of the Digital Agenda in the fields of education and ICT research schools: ICT in Education (Survey of Schools: ICT and Education) analyzed the results of a comprehensive analysis of the use and integration of ICT in teaching in European schools. In this comprehensive study participated Croatian schools.
Results of the analysis for Croatia of the studies Research schools: ICT in education show the following:
1. In Croatia, for every 12 pupils in primary schools comes a one computer, whether computer or laptop. The EU average is one computer for every six students, while for example in Denmark and Norway average of one computer for every three students.
2. The situation is somewhat better in secondary schools, where Croatia is still below the EU average.
3. The number of students per laptop connected to the Internet is extremely low - for every 64 pupils in primary schools in the Republic of Croatia comes a notebook computer with an Internet connection. The EU average is one such computer to 17 students.
4. Eencouraging indicators in terms of confidence in the application are the percentage of implementation of ICT in the daily work of teachers. In elementary schools in Croatia, 38% of teachers use ICT in teaching in more than 25% of lessons, which is above the EU average of 31%.
5. Equipment is also a problem, lack of equipment and non-operational ICT equipment – in the Republic of Croatia, on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 4 (a lot of) an average of 2.77 indicates that principals of primary schools consideres that equipment is just one of the major obstacles in the implementation of ICT in teaching. Teachers average rating is even higher, the more negative and amounted to 2.82.
6. The question of school policy and strategy exposes the lack thereof, and one of the key points that must be resolved.
7. On the other hand, principals of schools in majority, while teachers moderately, consider the use of ICT helpful in learning and teaching.
Data from CARNet database of information collected by the annual survey of CARNet member institutions and annual reports, and through analysis of similar projects carried out clearly show that under 17% of Croatian schools are at a higher level of IT maturity, that is, less than 17% of schools can be considered mature digital or digitally capable.
How Croatian schools can become digitally mature?
Croatian schools will be encouraged to digital maturation using five key activities to ensure the networking of schools and connect to high speed Internet as well as access to the Internet in every corner of the school, by equipping schools and teachers with appropriate computer and, in general, the ICT equipment. Simultaneously with the creation of infrastructural preconditions will develop e-services and e-contents that teachers and administrators utilize in their daily work, which are the foundation of the project. Special attention will be paid to systematic support for teachers and other school staff in the implementation of technology in teaching and business processes in the school, because only their daily use of the available technology school will become digitally mature.
Digital maturity schools will be developed through the application of the following main components of the project e-School:
• E-services for business
• ICT in learning and teaching
• Network infrastructure
• Local networks in schools
• Training and support for teachers
ICTs are used in education in two general ways: to support existing ‘traditional’ pedagogical practices (teacher-centric, lecture-based, rote learning) as well as to enable more learner-centric, ‘constructivist’ learning models. Research from OECD countries suggests that both are useful, but that ICTs are most effective when they help to enable learner-centric pedagogies
Furthermore, it has been proved that new technologies have lots of benefits on the students.
ICT allow for a higher quality lessons through collaboration with teachers in planning and preparing resources (Ofsted, 2002). Students learn new skills: analytical, including improvements in reading comprehension (Lewin et al, 2000). ICT also develop some writing skills: spelling, grammar, punctuation, editing and re-drafting (Lewin et al, 2000). Still new technologies encourage independent and active learning, and students’ responsibility for their own learning (Passey, 1999) ICT proves that students who used educational technology felt more successful in school they are more motivated to learn more and have increased self- confidence and self-esteem. It is also confirmed that many students found learning in a technology-enhanced setting more stimulating and much better than in a traditional classroom environment (Pedretti and Mayer-Smith 1998).
Websites that Provide Resources, Ideas, or Professional Help
Great Websites for the Classroom and/or Students
Awesome Blogs for Teachers
Sources: Jane Seale: A Research Briefing by the Technology Enhanced Learning Phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (2009)
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