Johan GROTH, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Groth & Groth Ltd.
PreambleThe introduction of information technology (IT) into the K12-school system raises many different questions of technical, economical, pedagogical, organisational, administrative and ethical character. Specific questions concern the role of the teachers, the development of curriculum and syllabi, the relationships between teachers, students and parents, students access to new types of learning and other materials etc. This presentation will discuss the Swedish experiences of national support for a local IT-development and try to draw some general conclusions in order to stimulate a discussion regarding the potential of true reform of the traditional schooling models.
1 IT and educationComputers and Internet create
- new ways to communicate
- new ways to exchange information
- imply changes in how we live, learn and work
1.1 IT implies changesAnalogue vs. digital information
Computers vs. networks
- easy to store and distribute information
- easy to present information
- easy to copy information, without loss of quality
- easy to change format of information
- easy to supply meta-information
Local vs. global
- share resources
- share information
- work together globally
- share resources
- share information
- work together globally
- "The network is the computer"
Information consumer vs. producer
- interests more important than "closeness"
Text only vs. multimedia
- access all types of information with one tool
- possible to create information in any format
- cheap to create information in all formats
- possible to reach a world wide audience
Issues vs. concurrent publication
- primacy of text is removed
- all formats equally easy to handle
- a return to "pre-printing press times"
- printed = permanent
- possible to change with time
- possible to change with user
- possible to change with user's needs
2 The Swedish School SystemThe Swedish school system consists of
The Swedish school system is
- approx. 1.2 million pupils
- approx. 120,000 teachers
- approx. 6000 schools
Goal orientation implies that
- goal oriented
Decentralisation implies that
- goals are set by government - school law, national curriculum and syllabi
- how to achieve the goals is a question for the schools themselves
- the municipalities organise, provide the resources and employ the teachers
However, the government
- responsibility for day-to-day work lies with the teachers and the school leaders
- schools decide about teaching material (including software), work methods, Internet access etc.
- municipalities may support with infrastructure, project money etc.
- the government does not provide hardware, recommend software, direct the use of IT in school etc.
- disseminates information
- may provide support for projects
- encourages the use of Internet in school
3 National IT initiatives within the K12-sectorEven though the K12-system is decentralised there are national organisations and projects that provide support for the IT-development in the K12-system:
Results at a glance
- The Swedish University Network (SUNET)
- state owned Internet provider for universities, museums, libraries and students
- initially an important source of knowledge for the K12-system
- The IT-commission
- An advisory body to the government
- "Monitor, initiate and support the development of a society in which IT is a natural and integrated tool for everyone"
- initially important in putting IT on the agenda and raising awareness
- The National Agency for Education
- a government body responsible for the K12-sector
- acts on specific commission from the Ministry of Education and Science
- acts on its own initiatives within the framework set up by the ministry
- supports a local IT development through information, services and examples
- activities include The Swedish Schoolnet, Netd@ys Sweden and The European Schoolnet
- The Foundation for Knowledge and Competence
- a semi-government body that funded IT-projects within K12-education
- "venture capitalist" supporting local IT-development
- allocated about $200 million during five years (cf. yearly cost of K12 $14.000 million)
- disseminate knowledge
- IT in School (ITiS)
- a three-year project run by the Ministry of Education
- focuses on further education for teachers, "a computer for each teacher" and Internet access to all teachers and pupils
- funding through a voucher-like system
- a rapid development of infrastructure
- 85% of all K9-schools use Internet
- 90% of all high schools use Internet
- nearly all larger museums and libraries use Internet
- lively pedagogical discussion
- K12-education is one of the "hot" topics in media
3.1 The Swedish SchoolnetThe Swedish Schoolnet
Philosophy behind the project
- spreads knowledge and information about Internet and education to teachers, school leaders, decision makers, pupils and parents
- acts as a catalyst to create new content
- is an "information broker" for organisations, companies, museums, government bodies etc.
Example of services and projects
- show possibilities and give advice - not "directives"
- teacher empowerment is a basis for school development
- support local, active work of teachers and pupils
- support learning by doing
- provide forums, collaborative environments, services, tools etc. for this
- "ultimate vision": school as "the centre of the village"
- school addresses - support for finding other schools
- dictionaries - support for international contacts
- Classroom On-line - maga/webzine for inspiration and ideas
- the Multimedia Bureau - support for publication
- the Link Larder - a collection of high quality but not necessarily "safe" links,
4 Some conclusions based the Swedish experiencesChanges in the educational sector
Competing factors when introducing IT (choose two!)
- new "doors" are opened into the schools
- subjects change and merge
- no common teaching material
- new resources available, simple and cheap
- processes rather than results
- growing ethical discussion, "vaccination" before "isolation"
- parallel changes (buildings, pedagogy etc.)
- education depends on a critical infrastructure
4.1 How should IT be introduced?Speed + acceptance = ad hoc approach to introducing IT
Speed + scalability = material approach to introducing IT
- builds on local initiatives (IT-enthusiasts)
- risk for disparate and non-standardised techniques
- low level of reusability in gained experiences
- non-sustainable solutions
Acceptance + scalability = content driven approach to introducing IT
- state buys hardware, Internet access etc.
- no consideration of local conditions
- risk for unsuitable choices of techniques
- weak coupling to other changes
Some practical advice
- state supports local initiatives through information etc.
- builds on local development and priorities
- dynamics and flexibility is included
- strong coupling to other changes
- Sweden is a good example
The role of industry
- start with a pedagogical idea
- nothing is technically impossible
- spend resources on education, not hardware
- specify function, not hardware
- flexibility through goal oriented curriculum
- acceptance through decentralisation
- focus on content rather than hardware
- prepare for organisational and administrative changes
Summary of the Swedish experiences
- share knowledge rather than distributing hardware
- school is a special market, develop new products and services
- participate in joint projects
- "content pull" (rather than "technology push") gives a solid IT development in K12-schools
- a focus on possibilities and advantages gives a widespread acceptance among teachers
- many different local initiatives combine into major changes given an appropriate national framework
- new technology must be accompanied by changes in organisation and administration
5 Socratic discussion (comments are welcome!)The issues raised when introducing IT into the K12-system are many and, in most cases, what could be called large scale, strategic topics. Some issues are
- According to which principles should a national curriculum be formulated in the IT-age (goal oriented, task oriented, time oriented etc)? Is a national curriculum at all needed or useful?
- Internet gives the possibility of "personal" teaching material as opposed to before when the same books were used in a whole country or region. What are the advantages/disadvantages of this? What happens to the "common knowledge" in society? Quantity contra quality?
- Internet makes it possible for companies, organisations, even individuals to offer courses and/or exams. How is the school system to cope with parents who chooses an "external" teacher for their children? What about home teaching?
- Internet is rapidly becoming a critical infrastructure in school. What happens when the net is down? Can school be allowed to rely on an [still] fragile infrastructure?
- Internet makes it possible for teachers to communicate on a daily basis with parents. What are the implications of this?
- In a totally distributed school system, how do we evaluate the results? Are national criteria even possible? Does IT imply that we have new goals to strive towards or do the old goals still hold (3 R:s)? How do we assess that computers and IT really deliver what many politicians, visionaries and others promise?
- How do we ensure that IT does not create new barriers to open access in education?
- When introducing IT in school, how should we avoid "technology push" (presuming this is a good idea, which I think is rather safe to say)?
- How do we on a national level help the teachers prepare for this brave new world?
- What do school politicians on different levels need to know? Do they know, else how do we inform them?
SummaryInternet and its use within education is today a question of major concern in many countries. Three reasons are usually given for the use of Internet and more generally IT:
- a need to raise educational standards (which IT supposedly can do)
- avoiding new social divisions, in this case between those that can make use of the new ways of communicating and finding information and those that can not
- improving the countries economic competitiveness
The introduction of IT and computers can also be seen as a process in time. During the first phase computers, hard to use and usually not connected to networks, were pushed out into the educational system. The overenthusiastic pioneers among the teachers stood out against the reluctant majority. The experiences from this phase are usually few, not widely applicable and dearly paid for.
In phase two, where we are now, awareness and knowledge have become more widespread among teachers, policymakers, parents and pupils. Work is, however, still project driven, experimental and, in many cases, carried out without a clear picture of what is really happening with the school in regards to pedagogical development, organisational change and administrative procedures.
In the third phase, I hope, that the use of IT has become a part of common pedagogical practice, that no one believes that IT is a "quick fix" for the problems in our schools and that the true benefits of Internet as an educational tool has become clear.
- General information about the Swedish school system, The National Agency for Education, http://www.skolverket.se/b/faktablad/english/bbc1_b.html
- The 1994 Curriculum for the Non-compulsory School System, http://www.skolverket.se/pdf/lpfe.pdf
- Schools and Computers 1999 - a quantitative picture, The National Agency for Education, http://www.skolverket.se/c/it/skol_dator99/cbcc1.html
- Information technology in the schools, The National Agency for Education, http://www.skolverket.se/c/it/cbcb1.html
- IT in School, http://www.itis.gov.se/english/index.html
- The Foundation for Knowledge and Competence, http://www.kks.se
- The IT Commission, http://www.itkommissionen.se
- The Swedish University Network (SUNET), http://www.sunet.se
- The National Agency for Education, http://www.skolverket.se
- The Swedish Schoolnet, http://www.skolverket.se/skolnet
- The Swedish Schoolnet, Dictionaries, http://www.nada.kth.se/skolverket/lexin-en.html
- The Swedish Schoolnet, The Multimedia Bureau, http://www.multimedia.skolverket.se/
- The Swedish Schoolnet, School Addresses, http://www.skolverket.se/skolnet/english/skoladresser/index.html
- The Swedish Schoolnet, The Link Larder, http://lankskafferiet.skolverket.se/
- IT in Education - The Role of Government, Johan Groth, 1998, http://www.pi.se/gogab/arkiv/rio-98.html
- Physical or virtual networks? - Connecting Swedish schools to Internet, Johan Groth, 1998, http://www.pi.se/gogab/arkiv/INET98/index.html
- ICT in Education Policy, The European Experts' Network for Educational Technology, http://www.ecmc.de/eenet
About the authorJohan Groth has a Master of Science in Engineering Physics and a Ph.D. in Mechanics from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He has, since 1994, been working with how Internet can be used as a development tool within the educational sector. He has been a senior adviser at the National Agency for Education, the Ministry for Education and Science and in the Swedish Parliament. He was part of the original group that built the Swedish Schoolnet, was a co-ordinator for Netd@ys Sweden during its first years and was involved in setting up the European Schoolnet. He is now managing director for Metamatrix Development & Consulting, a company that works with information structures and metadata. Dr Groth serves on the board of KTH Network Operation Centre and is a frequent speaker at international conferences. His most recent book is 'Internet goes to school', a description of the first years of Internet use in Swedish schools.
Senast ändrad den 21 januari 2000