Group Projects

Networked Learning

John Schoene | Bonnie Benkler | Vilma Castro | Keith Nightlinger

This project is an examination of IT readiness from the standpoint of Network Learning.

I. School's Access to Information and Communication Technologies
The guide for developing countries, which discusses the "Readiness of the Networked World," advises that schools must integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools into their learning processes if they are to be part of the Networked World. It is also important to incorporate programs that give students access to information and communication technologies in the classroom, a fundamental step to improving readiness.

The guide recommends that schools' readiness in terms of access can be broken down into six broad areas which include: the number of computers, physical access to computers, types of computers, diffusion of the network, access to and organization of electronic content, and quality and speed of connection in schools. Therefore, the diffusion of information and communication technologies is driven by unit cost per pupil. Computers tend to be adopted first at the University level, then by the secondary school system, and finally by primary schools.

Argentina is in Stage 3 in regard to Schools' Access to ICT. Brazil is in Stage 3 in regard to Schools' Access to ICT.

II. Enhancing Education with ICTs
Technology availability is the first step of network learning and the ability of a country to leverage an ICT. How the country uses the ICT brings us to the critical next step, namely, infrastructure is only a physical object that has no benefit until used. Teachers and educators must make a concerted effort to integrate these new technologies into the educational system. Successful ICT educational projects focus on developing capacities and cognitive skills as well as on providing access to an appropriation of technology. In order for integration to take place, instructors need to learn the technology and rewrite existing coursework. The process for developing good ICT for education projects requires a significant investment. Unfortunately, the cost-effectiveness of performing such an exhaustive process cannot be measured in the short term. This makes it difficult for teachers to justify the redesign required.

The Readiness for the Networked World provides four stages to evaluate the effectiveness of an ICT in the educational system. The first stage is to determine if teachers or students can even use computers. In the second stage, computers are primarily used at the university level. The teachers that do use computers do so in a limited fashion with only basic computing skills. The third stage is where instructors and students use computers to gather course material from cd-roms, the Internet, and other sources to support traditional research and study efforts. The fourth stage requires a complete integration of the ICT into the curriculum. Teachers and students must demonstrate advanced computing skills, using them for collaboration, project based learning and interaction with others over a great distance. Argentina has achieved stage three; Brazil is at stage two.

III. Developing the ICT Workforce
Economies in Argentina and Brazil can begin to better capture the benefits of the Networked World by providing future and current ICT workers with training opportunities in software programming, hardware engineering and World Wide Web design. Developed nations successfully prepare their workforce through formal technical programs at both pre-university and university level. In addition, ICT workers have access to distance learning universities, professional certification programs, online training, digital libraries, web forums and other Internet-based tools for continuing training.

In terms of School's Access to Information and Communication Technologies, both Brazil and Argentina have significant challenges to overcome, but have still made sufficient progress to be rated at level 3. In the evaluation of Enhancing Education with ICTs, our study determined that Argentina has achieved stage 3, while Brazil has only achieved stage 2. In the final section of this paper, we explored the topic of Developing the ICT Workforce. At the university level, Argentina and Brazil appear to have the technical training programs needed to train and prepare an ICT workforce that participates in the Networked World. In addition, the low turnover, knowledge of the English language and implementation of current web tools provide these economies with a unique opportunity to train and retain professionals who become experts in a given area. However, their challenge lies in making technology an essential part of education in earlier stages and increasing the number of high-school graduates who enter the available university programs.