Secondary schools in East Africa were the host sites for a one-year study to understand how Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and training support could improve education
In one year, teachers reported significant increase in skill and comfort with using ICT for educational purposes
Study makes recommendations in key intervention areas for successful, sustainable integration of ICT in schools for the purposes of improved learning outcomes
A collaborative action research (CAR) study funded by Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC, news, filings), and managed independently by a team of multidisciplinary experts from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Columbia University Teachers College, University of Nairobi in Kenya, and Kampala University in Uganda, finds significant potential for improved teaching and learning with ICT tools. Specifically, the findings are only such when the tools are appropriately designed and adequately supported with infrastructure and ongoing professional development for teachers.
Investigators worked for one year to understand the effects, opportunities and challenges of integrating ICT into schools and teaching routines. To do that, university faculty and teachers worked in close collaboration at four rural schools in Kenya and Uganda.
Interviews, training workshops, surveys and observations conducted indicate significant improvements in teaching and learning when ICT tools and resources are well-designed with the school infrastructure and environment in mind, and when teachers are provided with on-going training and professional development in how to optimize these resources in their classrooms.
Research findings show that over the course of the study, guided use, training and professional development workshops offered essential support for teachers focusing on using ICT in their classrooms. There were significant increases both in teachers' reported skill and comfort with using ICT for educational purposes, as well as in the observed use of ICT in their classrooms. For example, where only 21% of teachers considered themselves to be "advanced" users of ICT at the beginning of the project; by the end, 45% of teachers were reporting themselves to be advanced users. There was also an 18% increase in reported use of ICT in the classroom over the course of the project.
Researchers compiled recommendations in several categories, including:
Physical infrastructure, calling for policies for open access to hardware, electrical outlets throughout all classrooms and security;
ICT infrastructure, where Wi-Fi networks, adequate airtime, and computers and projectors are basic needs;
Teacher pedagogical skills and knowledge development along with basic ICT training, where professional development should be facilitated in partnership with local universities or Non-Governmental Organizations, among other steps;
Open source teaching and learning resources, including use of Connect To Learn's online resource library and expanding the availability of locally relevant online resources;
Student ICT participation and knowledge, which encourages teachers to assign online research and computer-based projects; and
Public-private partnership implementation, urging each site to hire local facilitators to provide ongoing support to administrators and teachers, and forging partnerships with local decision-makers and telecommunications industry leaders to institutionalize the integration of ICT at all levels of education.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, said: "Education is at the very core of economic development and a key to ending poverty. In the world economy today, every nation's success depends on the education of its people, ICT will increasingly be at the center of the education process. ICT offers new and creative ways to combine classroom experience, home learning, global outreach, and connectivity of students and teachers to the burgeoning network of online learning now accessible throughout the world. Classrooms everywhere, from primary schools to higher education, will be dramatically transformed in exciting and enriching ways.
"Effectively integrating technology into teaching practices in resource-poor settings requires bringing many key elements together to enable ICT to fulfill its great potential for improving student learning outcomes," continued Sachs. "Reliable connectivity, a consistent energy supply, and teacher training are among the key elements for getting started. Designing new curricula that combine online and classroom learning is another high priority. Through broad-based investment and dynamic partnerships with the telecommunications leaders of the world, there is a huge and thrilling opportunity at hand."
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, said: "A world where all girls and boys have access to secondary schooling and all teachers and students are connected to quality learning resources through internet access is the vision on which Connect To Learn was founded. In the 21st century, mobile broadband means that access to quality education should no longer be an obstacle - it is increasingly possible to deliver this fundamental human right."
The ICT in Education Study was designed, commissioned and managed by the Connect To Learn team, based at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Millennium Promise. The study was conducted with funding and technical support from Ericsson.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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