Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play an increasingly important role in the way we communicate, learn and live. The challenge is to effectively harness these technologies in a way that serves the interests of learners and the larger teaching/learning community.
UNESCO considers that ICTs can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development as well as improve education management, governance and administration provided the right mix of policies, technologies and capacities are in place.
UNESCO takes a comprehensive approach to ICTs in education. It is through the Organization’s Intersectoral Platform that it focuses on the joint work of the Communication and Information, Education and Science Sectors where the issues of access, inclusion, equity and quality in education can be addressed.
UNESCO - its country and regional offices as well as institutes ––in collaboration with its partners, develops resources that can help countries elaborate useful ICTs in education policies, strategies and activities. This includes ensuring that strategies meet the challenges caused by the digital divide and the most disadvantaged populations.
Its programme includes:
- Capacity building and policy advice for the use of technologies in education, particularly in emerging domains such as mobile learning
- Ensuring that teachers have the skills necessary to use ICTs in all aspects of their professional practise through tools such as the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT CFT)
- Supporting the use and development of multilingual educational resources and software which are available for use and re-use as a result of open licenses (open educational resources – OER; free and open-source software – FOSS)
- Promoting ICTs for inclusive education, including for persons with disabilities and gender equality
- Collecting statistics and developing indicators on the use of ICTs in education
- Providing policy support to ensure that the potential of ICTs is harnessed effectively throughout the education system.
- UNESCO works with the educational community worldwide – Ministries of Education, specialised institutions such as the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE), teachers, and of course learners - to effectively leverage the potential of ICTs to benefit quality teaching and learning.
ICT Use in Education in Brazil
Brazil needs to enhance teachers’ ability to make use of Information and Communication Technologies in education. The way that the educational system incorporates ICTs directly affects the de reduction of the digital divide existing in the country.
Various issues have to be taken into consideration when trying to answer questions such as: How can ICTs be used to accelerate the development towards reaching “education for all and throughout life”? How can they provide a better balance between broad cover and excellence in education? How can they contribute to reconciling universality and local specificity of knowledge? How can ICTs and education prepare individuals and society in a way that they can dominate technologies that are present in all sectors of life, and how useful they can be to them?
First, ICTs are just a part of continuous technological development, starting from chalk and books. All technology devices can support and enrich the learning process.
Second, ICTs, like any other tool, have to be used and adapted to serve educational needs.
Third, various ethic and legal matters, such as the ones related to intellectual property, or related to the growing treatment of education as a merchandising product, or associated with the globalisation of education against the respect to cultural diversity. These issues interfere in the extensive use of ICTs in Education.
Searching for responses to the questions above, UNESCO in Brazil cooperates with the Brazilian government in the promotion of actions to disseminate ICT-use in schools to improve the teaching-learning process, perceiving digital literacy as a natural consequence of the frequent use of such technologies. The Organization also cooperates with the TV Escola Programme (School TV Programme) to explore the media convergence to broaden the interactivity of television contents used in formal and distance education.
UNESCO in Brazil also has a permanent partnership with UNESCO Chairs in Distance Education in various Brazilian universities that use ICTs as tools to promote the democratisation of access to knowledge in Brazil.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution.
UNESCO believes that universal access to high-quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.
In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in an unprecedented move, announced the release of nearly all its courses on the internet for free access. As the number of institutions offering free or open courseware increased, UNESCO organised the 1st Global OER Forum in 2002, where the term Open Educational Resources (OER) was adopted.
With the support of the Hewlett Foundation, UNESCO created a global OER Community wiki in 2005 to share information and work collaboratively on issues surrounding the production and use of Open Educational Resources.
UNESCO is developing a new, innovative OER Platform which will offer selected UNESCO publications as OERs and allow communities of practice including teachers, learners, and education professionals to freely copy, adapt, and share their resources.
In partnership with key European institutions, UNESCO is a member of the Open Educational Quality (OPAL) Initiative to develop a Framework of OER Practices that improve quality and innovation in education.
Mobile devices are transforming the way we communicate, live and learn. Mobile learning, or "m-learning", offers modern ways to support learning process through mobile devices, such as handheld and tablet computers, MP3 players, smartphones and mobile phones. We must ensure that this digital revolution becomes a revolution in education, promoting inclusive and better learning everywhere.
As mobile technology jumps from the margins of education to the mainstream, teachers will be key to the success of ICTs in teaching and learning. While not a panacea, mobile technology has a clear track record of improving educational efficiency. Mobile learning presents unique attributes compared to conventional e-learning: personal, portable, collaborative, interactive, contextual and situated, it emphasizes "just-in-time-learning" as instruction can be delivered anywhere and at any time through it. Moreover, it is an aid to formal and informal learning and thus holds enormous potential to transform the delivery of education and training.
Mobile devices are the most successful and ubiquitous information and communication technology in human history. They are plentiful in places where books and schools are scarce. In less than a decade, mobile technology has spread to the furthest corners of the planet. Of the estimated 7 billion people on Earth, 6 billion now have access to a working mobile phone. Africa, which had a mobile penetration rate of just 5% in the 1990s, is now the second-largest and fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world, with a penetration rate of over 60% and climbing.
The shortage in the number of teachers — both current and anticipated — impede a wide range of development efforts by preventing young people from gaining access to the high-quality instruction needed to excel in knowledge-based societies. The shortage of trained and motivated teachers is most acute in parts of the world where more and better quality instruction is desperately needed.
In light of the urgency of the global teacher crisis, UNESCO wants to better understand how mobile technology can help prepare new teachers and provide professional development to working teachers, and how it can collaborate in providing education for all. This way, UNESCO's programme of activities is based on growing partnerships geared towards exploring and promoting discussions on the most cutting-edge topics, such as Open Educational Resources; classroom apps for smartphones and basic phones alike, content for tablets and netbooks; mobile learning pedagogics; building mobile learning apps; social media and more.
Mobile learning is emerging as one of the solutions to the challenges faced by education. Improving educational access and quality requires political leadership, planning and action. Mobile technologies hold the key to turning today’s digital divide into digital dividends, bringing equitable and quality education for all.