how can we prioritise ICT investment in education in a “recession”?

In Learning Technologies on May 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

On Monday (18 May 2009), we, LINK, organised our first free seminar on technology for education with the Irish Computer Society. About 35 people attended, primarily from K12, to hear myself, Dr. David Whyley (Wolverhampton Local Authority and Learning2Go), Ed Collins (Cambridge University Press & Global Grid for Learning) and via the Internet, Mark Nichols, Dr. Sam DiGangi and Angel Jannasch-Pennell (ASU alt^I and IDEAL) talk about our experiences with learning platforms. What became apparent from our experiences in Ireland, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the US was that the technology in itself need not be that expensive. In fact, it is managing people and their capacity for change that can be costly (although not necessarily so). From talking to attendees, there is clearly increasing frustration that despite a strategy for a SMART Economy, the Irish government is failing civic society through lack of investment in educational ICT. Although this lack of investment in educational ICT is an ongoing bugbear in Ireland (one commentator compares ICT investment of €75m in Northern Ireland vs €14m in the Republic), the mandarins are now reciting a familar refrain…how can we prioritise {INSERT ANY RANDOM INITIATIVE TITLE (in this case – ICT investment in education)} during a Recession? There are apparently so many other initiatives that need to be funded with limited resources.

Rather than focus on why we shouldn’t invest in educational ICT, maybe we need to unask the question and look at reasons why we should be investing in ICT:

1.   It’s about the information society – how can we expect people to function adequately in a society permeated by technology without embedding this in our schools and colleges

2. It’s about jobs – how we expect people to function adequately as professional workers in businesses permeated by technology without embedding this in our schools and colleges

3. It’s about learning – technology can increase learning time by extending it beyond the classroom and in to the home and weekend. It can improve the instructional process and learning outcomes and may provide advantages to students with learning disabilities. It may act as a catalyst and accelerate other educational innovations like problem based learning, collaboration and informaton handling – all skills required for advanced knowledge based economies.

4. It’s about industrial development procuring and buying technology may further stimulate the national technology industry and stimulate innovation. It may also attract foreign direct investment. This all results in more jobs, more income etc etc 

5. Its about cost technology can reduce the cost of educational materials, staffing, training as well as make academic staff more productive. There was an interesting interview on either Newstalk or Today FM with the owner of that illustrates this well. If you take books alone – there are some 10 million books in circulation in Irish education. In K12, these books are updated regularly (as they should) but this results in an additional cost burden to parents as the books can no longer be recycled. Similarly, publisher-generated workbooks are replacing copybooks for homework and class exercises. A technology-based initiative for school texts alone could reduce the cost for parents dramatically: ebooks are much less costly to reproduce and update and workbooks could be either interactive or printed from the Internet.

6. It’s about student numbers – technology usage could allow students that cannot attend educational institutions to participate more fully in formal education. At third level (and may be even secondary), technology may attract more students to a particular institution thereby increasing revenues at a much lower cost of delivery.

7. It’s about the environment – this is a stretch but using ICT in education and in particular online resources and delivery may reduce carbon footprint etc

8. It’s about global competitiveness – technology readiness, education, and innovation are all a key metrics in global competitiveness which impacts market confidence etc.

9. It’s about feeling good – the feelgood factor is a major thing. Failing Irish success in sports (and I have to admit we ain’t doing badly), we need as much to feel good about as possible. I have met teachers and parents whose schools have scraped the money together to buy a SmartBoard or some other equipment for their school and they REALLY feel good. Why? Their kids are excited about going to school – excited about learning – isn’t that justification enough?

10. It’s about investing in the future. 


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