ICT in Education to Continue Despite Challenges

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Barbadians have been assured that Government, despite its challenges, will continue to expend significant resources to bring "students in line" with what is happening within the global context of information communication technologies (ICTs).

Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, gave this assurance recently as he addressed participants at the Caribbean ICT Roadshow at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.

Noting that since 1999, Government had seen the value of integrating technology and pedagogy, as well as integrating ICT and education, he said tax payers would know, that "nothing comes cheap" and a significant amount of money had already been expended.

Mr. Jones stressed: "One thing that we know is that we cannot allow our students to go unattended in a world that is so different from the 70s, 80s and 90s… It is a world where information and communication technologies have literally expanded at such a rate and at such a pace that even national legislation is unable to deal with what is happening. Of course, the question might very well be asked: do we need new legislation to deal with the burgeoning of ICT in the world?"

Highlighting some of the difficulties encountered with ICTs in Barbados, the Education Minister said. "…We introduced ICTs in all of our schools, but we did not teach ethical use of our technology and therefore the wandering imagination of students went far and wide because you can find on the Web, Ipads and Netbooks and Laptop any and everything…"

He explained that children would search either deliberately or aimlessly and find things which did not necessarily elevate their minds.?? "It could, in fact, create certain mental tortures based on what they were previously taught, and the kind of cultural environment in which they were developed," said Mr. Jones, adding that the Ministry had invested in filtering software but attempts within the schools had led to filtering out very important information which children needed.

"It will filter everything out that has a connection," stressed Minister Jones as he noted that this had become a burden within the school system.?? "What I have to embed within the mind of the youngster is that nothing is value free. There must be an ethical relationship as you use the various technologies," he maintained.

As the Minister acknowledged the high cost to Government each year to harness the power of ICT and of innovation, he reasoned that this was "to bring young people to the centre" so they were "not left out" or "poverty stricken in the use of ICT. We have to harness the use of the virtual world," said Mr. Jones, though admitting that technology could not replace human contact.

Mr. Jones said that he was thankful that more teachers were becoming less resistant to new technology in the classroom and proffered the view that they must be aware of the link between technology and ensuring that the pedagogy made sense. "It still must make sense as you educate a nation as you educate a people. It can’t be erratic, it can’t be fissured; it has to be reasonably coherent because there must be things we want to achieve as a nation within a world that is changing.

"So, there are complexities which we have to unravel as leaders, as instructional leaders within our schools. All of these create challenges and issues which we have to work through and I say yes we must and will embrace the technology. The only thing that is stopping us from using the technology in the schools the way we want to is the money," Mr. Jones argued.

The Caribbean ICT Roadshow was held under the theme: Harnessing The Power of Innovation – The Engine For ICT-Enabled Development.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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