Response to the consultation paper on the Fourth IT Strategies in Education
Prepared by HKAHSS 6/7/2014
The government has systematically promoted information technology education (ITE) since 1998. The three ITE Strategies launched have facilitated progressive advancement in schools’ IT infrastructure, teachers’ professional capacity and students’ learning. Yet the application of IT in pedagogical practice and student-learning is far from ideal.
Fourth Information Technology Education Strategies (ITE4)
In May 2014, the government published the ITE4 for consultation. The theme of ITE4 is Realising IT Potential, Unleashing Learning Power. We agree with the overall direction of the ITE4, but for the five recommended actions and some of the questions raised in the consultation paper, we have the following views:
1. Prioritization of the five recommended actions
The five recommended actions are:
Action 1 Enhancing schools’ IT infrastructure and re-engineering the operation mode
Action 2 Enhancing the quality of e-learning resources
Action 3 Renewing curriculum, transforming pedagogical and assessment practices
Action 4 Building professional leadership, capacity and communities of practice
Action 5 Involving parents, stakeholders and the community
The consultation paper states these five actions are equally important; but we think there is a need to prioritize them so that the more important ones are implemented first and with greater emphasis. According to the last three ITE Strategies, the key to ITE is curriculum and pedagogical practice. Therefore, Actions 3 and 4 are the most important, followed by Actions 1, 2 and 5. Having said that, schools should prioritize these Actions according to their own situation. We hope that the EDB will assist different schools to try different implementation schemes to maximise the benefits.
2. Integration of ITE Strategies with the overall direction of education reforms and policies so that all elements such as goals to achieve and assessments are well co- ordinated.
At the centre of ITE4 is student-learning. The goal is to strengthen students’ self- directed learning, their creativity, collaboration and problem-solving skills through an improved IT environment. But how could schools achieve this goal if the ITE Strategies are not integrated with the overall direction of education reforms and policies? The EDB should thoroughly review the existing situation and synergize policies launched at different times to achieve the desired results.
The EDB should also take the lead to pool the resources of academic bodies, schools and teachers together to produce IT learning materials that will suit different schools. Some schools and teachers have reservations on IT education because the existing assessment methods are mainly based on written tests. The EDB must provide effective IT assessment methods for different subjects so that both teaching and learning would benefit.
3. Paradigm shift in learning
The previous ITE Strategies have failed to achieve an effective paradigm shift in learning because there was no synchronised change in teachers’ development and professional leadership. To attain a successful shift to student-centred learning, schools should be led by their pedagogical practices and teachers’ development should embrace diversified learning methodologies. Also needed is to develop teachers’ competence to carry out classroom studies and set up appropriate IT network plans. As the gap in students’ learning ability continues to widen, there is a pressing need to use IT as a means to cater for the needs of students with different learning abilities and interests. We believe that self-directed learning and e-learning will help close the gap among the students. For any ITE strategy, achieving a paradigm shift in pedagogical practice is much more important than just increasing the IT facilities. Response to some questions raised in the ITE4 consultation paper
1. The IT supports and teachers’ IT capabilities of different schools are different. We must accept these differences and allow schools that are behind to catch up.
2. Out-sourcing and cloud-based services may reduce the workload of hardware support staff; but when the use of e-learning technologies in teaching and assessment increases, the demand for software support will not only increase but also become more sophisticated. With funds enough for only one technical support staff per school, schools lack resources to meet the demand of ITE4, and teachers will face a harsher demand for their time, effort and technical competence.
To implement IT in education and enhance student-learning, EDB must act as a leader with vision, direction and strategy. It must create a favourable environment that gives schools more space and support, encourage local and overseas exchange and cooperation, and explore the best school-based strategies for learning reform.