Guest post by Greg Butler, Senior Director of Education Strategy, Worldwide Education, Microsoft.
Quality education is a critical catalyst for social and economic development and the single most important investment in the future of individuals, communities and nations. In a 21st century knowledge economy however, it is vital that any investment in education incorporates the innovative use of technology for the benefit of both teachers and students.
The Innovative Teaching and Learning research shows the importance that quality teachers have on learning outcomes, and that quality revolves around their ability to enable pedagogies that engage and motivate students, while challenging them to apply 21st Century Skills to relevant and meaningful learning activities. This research points to the critical role that ICT use plays in enabling such student learning. While there are many promising examples of such teaching and learning, currently they are not the norm, and rely on individual teachers.
The challenge remains, how to develop teacher competencies around the use of ICT at a system level so we can remove the disparity between classrooms and teachers, and create opportunities for all students to engage deeply with learning content and develop the skills and knowledge for success in school and life.
To address, Microsoft partnered with UNESCO, industry partners Intel and CISCO, and more recently ISTE to develop the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (CFT). This framework provides a comprehensive model of Teacher Professional Learning, incorporating all areas of ICT competency teachers need to make the shift to more impactful learning. Key is that the frameworks presents a range of areas of development including pedagogy, classroom organisation, curriculum and assessment, ICT skills and administration. And because it uses a competency based approach, it provides guidance on how systems can measure where teachers are and then fill the gaps towards teacher proficiency, only working on what is needed.
Last week in Barbados with partners the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO, we hosted an ICT Education Leadership forum for senior education leaders across the Caribbean. At the heart of the discussions and information sharing was sharing knowledge of successful deployments of the UNESCO ICT CFT across the Caribbean, and building a community of support between ministries to facilitate the change required at the system level for countries to improve the quality of teaching and learning through the use of ICTs. One example of what systems need to do is the work in partnership between the Ministry of Education in Guyana, Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth of Learning and Microsoft. For the past two years we have worked to develop and execute a deployment model for the UNESCO ICT CFT in Guyana, which will be presented and has been documented in a detailed case study — http://ictf2012.org/resource-centre
The interesting thing about piloting this work in Guyana is that the country is one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the region and yet with strong leadership and focused support across all stakeholders they are seeing positive results. I am sure there are many lessons for all countries, as we look for more partnerships around the system level transformations in teaching and learning that will deliver quality teaching and learning for all students.