ICT in Education/The Promise of ICTs in Education
What is the promise of ICT in education?
For developing countries ICTs have the potential for increasing access to and improving the relevance and quality of education. It thus represents a potentially equalizing strategy for developing countries.
- [ICTs] greatly facilitate the acquisition and absorption of knowledge, offering developing countries unprecedented opportunities to enhance educational systems, improve policy formulation and execution, and widen the range of opportunities for business and the poor. One of the greatest hardships endured by the poor, and by many others who live in the poorest countries, is their sense of isolation. The new communications technologies promise to reduce that sense of isolation, and to open access to knowledge in ways unimaginable not long ago 
However, the reality of the Digital Divide—the gap between those who have access to and control of technology and those who do not—means that the introduction and integration of ICTs at different levels and in various types of education will be a most challenging undertaking. Failure to meet the challenge would mean a further widening of the knowledge gap and the deepening of existing economic and social inequalities.
How can ICTs help expand access to education?
ICTs are a potentially powerful tool for extending educational opportunities, both formal and non-formal, to previously underserved constituencies—scattered and rural populations, groups traditionally excluded from education due to cultural or social reasons such as ethnic minorities, girls and women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly, as well as all others who for reasons of cost or because of time constraints are unable to enroll on campus.
- Anytime, anywhere. One defining feature of ICTs is their ability to transcend time and space. ICTs make possible asynchronous learning, or learning characterized by a time lag between the delivery of instruction and its reception by learners. Online course materials, for example, may be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ICT-based educational delivery (e.g., educational programming broadcast over radio or television) also dispenses with the need for all learners and the instructor to be in one physical location. Additionally, certain types of ICTs, such as teleconferencing technologies, enable instruction to be received simultaneously by multiple, geographically dispersed learners (i.e., synchronous learning).
- Access to remote learning resources. Teachers and learners no longer have to rely solely on printed books and other materials in physical media housed in libraries (and available in limited quantities) for their educational needs. With the Internet and the World Wide Web, a wealth of learning materials in almost every subject and in a variety of media can now be accessed from anywhere at anytime of the day and by an unlimited number of people. This is particularly significant for many schools in developing countries, and even some in developed countries, that have limited and outdated library resources. ICTs also facilitate access to resource persons— mentors, experts, researchers, professionals, business leaders, and peers—all over the world.
How does the use of ICTs help prepare individuals for the workplace?
One of the most commonly cited reasons for using ICTs in the classroom has been to better prepare the current generation of students for a workplace where ICTs, particularly computers, the Internet, and related technologies, are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Technological literacy, or the ability to use ICTs effectively and efficiently, is thus seen as representing a competitive edge in an increasingly globalizing job market. Technological literacy, however, is not the only skill well-paying jobs in the new global economy will require. EnGauge of the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (U.S.) has identified what it calls “21st Century Skills,” which includes digital age literacy (consisting of functional literacy, visual literacy, scientific literacy, technological literacy, information literacy, cultural literacy, and global awareness), inventive thinking, higher-order thinking, and sound reasoning, effective communication, and high productivity.  (See Table 1 for a brief explanation of each skill.)
The potential of ICTs to promote the acquisition of these skills is tied to its use as a tool for raising educational quality, including promoting the shift to a learner-centered environment.
Figure 1: Table 1: Skills Needed in the Workplace of the Future
Source: Adapted from EnGauge. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Available online at http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/21skills.htm. Accessed 31 May 2002.
How can the use of ICTs help improve the quality of education?
Improving the quality of education and training is a critical issue, particularly at a time of educational expansion. ICTs can enhance the quality of education in several ways: by increasing learner motivation and engagement, by facilitating the acquisition of basic skills, and by enhancing teacher training.  ICTs are also transformational tools which, when used appropriately, can promote the shift to a learner-centered environment.
Motivating to learn. ICTs such as videos, television and multimedia computer software that combine text,sound, and colorful, moving images can be used to provide challenging and authentic content that will engage the student in the learning process. Interactive radio likewise makes use of sound effects, songs, dramatizations, comic skits, and other performance conventions to compel the students to listen and become involved in the lessons being delivered. More so than any other type of ICT, networked computers with Internet connectivity can increase learner motivation as it combines the media richness and interactivity of other ICTs with the opportunity to connect with real people and to participate in real world events.
Facilitating the acquisition of basic skills. The transmission of basic skills and concepts that are the foundation of higher order thinking skills and creativity can be facilitated by ICTs through drill and practice. Educational television programs such as Sesame Street use repetition and reinforcement to teach the alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes and other basic concepts. Most of the early uses of computers were for computer-based learning (also called computer-assisted instruction) that focused on mastery of skills and content through repetition and reinforcement. (See section below on Computer-Based Learning.)
Enhancing teacher training. ICTs have also been used to improve access to and the quality of teacher training. For example, institutions like the Cyber Teacher Training Center (CTTC) in South Korea are taking advantage of the Internet to provide better teacher professional development opportunities to in-service teachers. The government-funded CTTC, established in 1997, offers self-directed, self-paced Web-based courses for primary and secondary school teachers. Courses include “Computers in the Information Society,”“Education Reform,” and “Future Society and Education.” Online tutorials are also offered, with some courses requiring occasional face-to-face meetings.  In China, large-scale radio-and television-based teacher education has for many years been conducted by the China Central Radio and TV University,  the Shanghai Radio and TV University and many other RTVUs in the country. At Indira Gandhi National Open University, satellite-based one-way video- and two-way audio-conferencing was held in 1996, supplemented by print-materials and recorded video, to train 910 primary school teachers and facilitators from 20 district training institutes in Karnataka State. The teachers interacted with remote lecturers by telephone and fax. 
How can ICTs help transform the learning environment into one that is learner-centered?
Research has shown that the appropriate use of ICTs can catalyze the paradigmatic shift in both content and pedagogy that is at the heart of education reform in the 21st century.  If designed and implemented properly, ICT-supported education can promote the acquisition of the knowledge and skills that will empower students for lifelong learning.
When used appropriately, ICTs—especially computers and Internet technologies— enable new ways of teaching and learning rather than simply allow teachers and students to do what they have done before in a better way. These new ways of teaching and learning are underpinned by constructivist theories of learning and constitute a shift from a teacher-centered pedagogy—in its worst form characterized by memorization and rote learning—to one that is learner-centered. (See Table 2 for a comparison of a traditional pedagogy and an emerging pedagogy enabled by ICTs.)
- Active learning. ICT-enhanced learning mobilizes tools for examination, calculation and analysis of information, thus providing a platform for student inquiry, analysis and construction of new information. Learners therefore learn as they do and, whenever appropriate, work on real-life problems in-depth, making learning less abstract and more relevant to the learner’s life situation. In this way, and in contrast to memorization-based or rote learning, ICT-enhanced learning promotes increased learner engagement. ICT-enhanced learning is also “just-in-time” learning in which learners can choose what to learn when they need to learn it.
- Collaborative learning. ICT-supported learning encourages interaction and cooperation among students, teachers, and experts regardless of where they are. Apart from modeling real-world interactions, ICT-supported learning provides learners the opportunity to work with people from different cultures, thereby helping to enhance learners’ teaming and communicative skills as well as their global awareness. It models learning done throughout the learner’s lifetime by expanding the learning space to include not just peers but also mentors and experts from different fields.
- Creative Learning. ICT-supported learning promotes the manipulation of existing information and the creation of real-world products rather than the regurgitation of received information.
- Integrative learning. ICT-enhanced learning promotes a thematic, integrative approach to teaching and learning. This approach eliminates the artificial separation between the different disciplines and between theory and practice that characterizes the traditional classroom approach.
- Evaluative learning. ICT-enhanced learning is student-directed and diagnostic. Unlike static, text- or print-based educational technologies, ICT-enhanced learning recognizes that there are many different learning pathways and many different articulations of knowledge. ICTs allow learners to explore and discover rather than merely listen and remember.
Figure 3. Table 2. Overview of Pedagogy in the Industrial versus the Information Society
Source: Thijs, A., et al. Learning Through the Web. http://www.decidenet.nl/Publications/Web_Based_Learning.pdf. Accessed 21 May 2002. New link - http://www.decidenet.nl/apps/documenten/download/almekinders1.pdf