1.1.2 Improved access to existing resources
Studies have shown that the introduction of ICTs in the educational process has great potential for knowledge dissemination, effective learning and the development of more efficient educational services. Similarly, improved ICT infrastructure and technology applications can increase and improve access to ICT resources and services. Within this context, however, experience also shows that there are certain formats that make multiple educational resources more readily accessible, as well as more relevant, to most teachers and learners in least developed countries (LDCs). Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), laptops, Pocket PCs, and mobile phones -- even material stored on CDs or USBs -- can provide interactive content to previously unreachable and remote locations.
In Ethiopia, there is a programme supported by IICD (Institute for International Cooperation and Development) and Edukans in the Connect4Change consortium, and by Ethiopian partner Development Expertise Centre Ethiopia. This programme allows primary school teachers and teacher trainees at 75 schools throughout Ethiopia to record their classes on video. They can then evaluate and improve their teaching skills and make use of computers to plan their lessons more efficiently. According to teachers participating in the programme, the motivation of students has increased and results have improved. 2
Traditional, classroom-based approaches to learning can be supplemented by learner-centred, anytime-anywhere learning modes, potentially increasing participation and school retention rates. Delaying the introduction of ICT-enabled education resources is no longer an option. But the simple introduction of e-readers can be an initial starting point for the full integration of ICTs into schools.
The main point is that technology is essential. A recent McKinsey report, commissioned by the GSM Association, shows that in the United States, for example, the oral fluency of kindergartners in New Mexico tripled just three years after educators began using mobile computing devices to assess individual students’ progress and to tailor lessons to their needs. This is just one example of m-education’s tremendous potential.3
Experience also shows that when broadband service replaces a slower Internet connection, such as dial-up service, students and educators gain even better access to existing resources and materials that previously may have been too time-intensive to download --or were simply unavailable without the bandwidth provided by broadband connectivity.
Internet connectivity also provides new opportunities and additional value to coursework designed to train people to use ICTs. This transforms isolated personal computers (PCs) or computer labs into tools for accessing information from around the world.
Despite significant differences in levels of development and educational programmes around the world, Internet and mobile phone-enabled educational tools can be incorporated into curricula across all socioeconomic levels. Specific areas of focus can be customized to suit the needs of each community.
2 IICD, “Ethiopian Teachers Use Video to Evaluate and Improve Teaching Skills,” October 2012. Available at: http://www.iicd.org/articles/ethiopian-teachers-record-and-evaluate-teaching-skills-by-recording-video
3 McKinsey & Company, Transforming Learning through mEducation, GSMA, April 2012.