Canada and Jamaica - Partners in Technology and Education
Canadian experts in technology and education were recently invited to participate at a conference in Jamaica to share their experience in integrating technology into the educational curriculum. From the presentations at the three day conference, it became apparent that the problems and frustrations in working with computers and adult education are shared by many instructors, whichever country they reside in. The Adult Computer Education Programme, which is being implemented in part by the Jamaican Computer Society and the Jamaican Adult Literacy Foundation (JAMAL), hopes the use of computers will help realize the following goals: acceleration in the attainment of literacy and numeracy skills by adults and an increase in the number of adults who have basic computer skills, in order to enhance their literacy and employability skills.
As in Canada, implementation of the programs relies on the more computer-literate staff members, but professional development in this area is a key to making the program delivery more effective. Members of the executive of Canada's Telelearning Network provided workshops and training programs as part of the conference. Professor Linda Harasim delivered instructor training with Web-based Virtual-U software, which was designed in Canada as a telelearning tool. This program allows users to deliver or access online course material, to enable project work and to share data with other educational institutions.
Questions of evaluating suitable software for the classroom, administrators and self-access use were also raised, and discussions ensued as to how to develop a technology plan, find funding and ensure the security of the equipment once it was purchased. Canadian presentations also covered the definitions and misconceptions associated with technology. At present, technology is being designed for and by the large corporations, and in Canada and abroad, those who use the technologies in adult literacy classrooms have little influence over their design. In many of the presentations, the human issue in developing technologies was a repeated theme.
Doug Hull, Director General, Information Highway Advisory Board of Industry Canada, discussed the implementation of computer projects at sites in Canada, and repeated a very important message about preparation for implementing programs or purchasing new equipment and software. He urged participants to send their staff for training, even before the equipment arrives, in order that valuable time isn't wasted later when the computers and software are set up. If the staff/instructors are prepared in advance, then the technology is an asset as soon as it is operational.
The key issue facing adult literacy practitioners and administrators appears to be the challenge of making the right decisions in integrating technology in the curriculum in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and encouraging those who may be technology-resistant to participate in the project. Closing the broad gap between those with the latest in technology and those with ancient equipment is also a problem for Canadian literacy programs, not just those in Jamaica. As new software and equipment comes on the market daily, not only is it a challenge to try to keep current with the new programs, it is also a challenge to find the funding to continually upgrade existing computer labs and predict program's educational/technical needs for the future.
The 8th Annual Conference on Thinking will be a week-long conference focusing on innovative thinking and its application and practice. In seven modules: Information & Technology, Education, Brain Research, Business, Health & Aging, the Arts and the Environment. The conference will be held July 4 - 9, 1999 in Edmonton, Alberta. For more information visit www.thinkingconference.com
| BACK | CONTENTS | NEXT |