Today’s world is shaped by availability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Because global economy is powered by technology, fueled by information and driven by knowledge. This rapid change demands a dynamic renovation in the sector of education. ICTs can empower teachers and students, promote change and foster the development of ‘21st century skills’. With the improvement of technology the whole world is now connected with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which has brought a significant change in the way the world operates and communicates. Bangladesh is not lagged behind of this step. The broad objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness of next generation technologies in the education sector of Bangladesh. The study initially focused on introducing KITE’s Dynamic Character Recognition Technology (DCRT), Pen Tablet device and multimedia CD on math for pre-primary education. It is seen that students were extremely excited with their new learning system using innovative technology. They received multimedia content as a very useful assistant to them. Especially the animated picture and the movement of the characters made them spell bound. They spend much more time with the practice session using pen tablet device. Parents of the students’ response were very positive for using this new teaching-learning method. They anticipate that it would be an enormous support in learning and teaching math for four to six years school going children. Teachers of the school are very much enthusiastic using next generation technologies and the multimedia content.
Keywords: ICT, next generation technology, e-learning, education, knowledge based society.
1.1. Importance and contextual relevance of e-Learning
Today, e-Learning has become the key to a profound revolution in learning. This is because e-Learning can offer what is possibly the most flexible and effective learning approach. With e-Learning, students can study at their own pace, anytime and anywhere. e-Learning enhances student’s learning experience by allowing a better interactive communication with instructors. This is enabled by providing a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities administered through a well-designed e-Learning environment. High-quality learning content, presented with good teaching methodologies, and instructional models can render a positive impact on the student’s learning outcome.
Generally e-Learning is seen as offering solutions to several challenges currently facing in education sector. e-Learning can improve the quality of learning by:
• providing access to a range of resources and materials which may not otherwise be available or accessible, for example graphics, sound, animation, multimedia
• giving control to students over when and where they study
• allowing students to study at their own pace
• providing a student centred learning environment which can be tailored to meet the learning needs of individual students
• providing attractive multimedia learning without any tutor
• making it easier to amend and update materials
• creating an environment that promotes an active approach to learning
• reducing learning time
• releasing time for more active, engaging and interactive forms of teaching
• supporting increased communications between staff and students, and amongst students
• providing frequent and timely individual feedback, for example through computer assisted assessment, and positive reinforcement
• motivating students through appropriate use of interactive courseware
• supporting and encouraging collaborative learning
• supporting economic reuse of high quality, expensive resources
• encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Today’s world is shaped by availability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).Because global economy is powered by technology, fueled by information and driven by knowledge. This rapid change demands a dynamic renovation in the sector of education. ICTs can empower teachers and students, promote change and foster the development of ‘21st century skills’. With the improvement of technology the whole world is now connected with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which has brought a significant change in the way the world operates and communicates. With its promising benefits, e-Learning has now enjoyed widespread adoption in pre-primary, primary, secondary as well as higher secondary education. In order to keep pace with the rest of the world almost all developing countries are thinking to adopt e-Learning. Bangladesh is not lagged behind of this step.
1.2. e-Learning system in Bangladesh with next generation technologies
KITE Technology Group (KITE), Japan is currently working on development of next generation technologies and aiming to utilize them in applications in the field of education. D.Net (Development Research Network), one of the prominent research institutes in Bangladesh, is introducing these new technologies for the underprivileged pre-primary school children of Bangladesh. D.Net initiated to accomplish a research to assess the effectiveness of Dynamic Character Recognition Technology (DCRT), Pen Tablet Device as well as Multimedia Content on math for pre-school children.
1.2.1. Dynamic Character Recognition Technology (DCRT)
KITE developed an innovative Character Recognition Technology with its long experience in the field of vision recognition technology and continuous effort for break through ideas. It is a perfect fit for educational applications as it has high recognition ability combined with ability to evaluate the shape. KITE’s technology has already been deployed commercially by various educational applications in Japan. Application developed by KITE for teachers has been adopted by all primary schools and junior high schools in City of Saitama, Japan in February 2010.
1.2.2. Pen Tablet Device
1.3. Literature review
From the very beginning era of ICT integration in education sector to till now, different initiatives have been taken by different countries through different projects. Ministry of Education of Malaysia has a private TV Channel and this channel is used only for teaching learning method. Various educational programmes are broadcasted from this channel regularly. Recently China started English learning through mobile phone so that any learner can download his/ her important lesson/s. India unlocked a very new system, ‘Interactive Radio Learning’ for students’ learning and teachers’ training in order to make learning cost and time effective. In this system, there is an interactive radio in the class; and an instructor or specialist in the studio who guide the teacher in the class. According to the instruction of the specialist, the teacher conducted the lesson to students. This teaching method is very much effective in India (Mahmud, 2009).
The Afghans Next Generation e-Learning (ANGeL) platform is a resource available to all higher education institutions in Afghanistan. The platform is powered by Chisimba, also known as knowledge environment for learning, developed under the leadership of the University of Western Cape in South Africa. The USAID-funded Afghan e-Quality Alliances uses blended e-learning or blended e-education interchangeably, defined as: effective teaching and learning where students learn from traditional face to face interaction, as well as global engagement; both physical and digital content are used.
The blended e-education or e-learning definition assumes:
• a teaching and learning pedagogy that involves presentation, practice, assessment, and review
• a mix of learning tasks and activities
• a mix of content delivered by a mix of technologies CDs, cell phones, the computer, and the Internet
• a mix of lecturers, tutors, facilitators, course coordinators or other students (Afghans Next Generation e-Learning, 2009).
The Tata Computer Based Functional Literacy Programme (CBFL) in India uses a mixed method, including computer software, animated graphic, multimedia presentations and flashcards to teach literacy skills. (UNESCO, 2006). Tata Teleservices are offering mobile education for rural communities and physically challenged people. Under this model the mobile phone is used as a device which allows the user to access to voice, text messaging and educational content and takes mock tests on the move no matter where the person is (Tata, 2009).
Bangladesh is also initiating to step toward the same path with vision of integrating ICT into its education system. Government of Bangladesh initiated a pilot study of e-Learning of Math in Secondary Schools in Gazipur and Comilla from 2009 with the support of BRAC under TQI-SEP (Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project). Ministry of Education formally inaugurated Mobile ICT Lab of TQI-SEP on 23rd February, 2010 in order to provide e-Learning for the underprivileged secondary students of rural Bangladesh. A total number 17 Mobile ICT Labs in 17 Cars (14 Microbuses & 3 Four Wheel Drive Pickups for hill tracks, haor areas and remote areas) will move all over the country to introduce e-Learning system with the teachers and students of one thousand schools by December, 2010. Each lab contains five laptops, five wireless internet modems, two digital cameras, multimedia projector, webcam, printer, pen drive, interactive board, e-Learning CD, speaker, generator etc. This initiative will ensure primary ICT knowledge as well as ICT based education for the students and also enhance the teaching capacity of the teachers. (The Daily Samakal, 2010).
Alongside of Government initiative, some non-government initiatives are also mentionable. Among those schemes one is CTEE (Computer Teaches Everyday English) project initiated by D.Net (Development Research Network) with the financial support of VAB (Volunteer Association for Bangladesh), New Jersey, USA, to assess the effect of e-Learning of English on secondary school children. In order to assess the effectiveness of the developed English learning CD, 10 schools were taken. In each of 10 schools two groups (Control Group and Experimental Group) of students (with a size of 10 for each group) were taken. They were similar based on their results in the immediately past final examinations. Thus, total 200 students were selected for experimentation. The result of showed that the students were extremely excited with their new learning system. They received the multimedia content as a very useful assistant to them. Especially the animated picture and the movement of the characters made them spell bound. They spend much more time with exercise as the exercise has been designed as different famous games, like Cricket, Carom Board, Football and so on (Alnoor, 2009).
1.4. Objective of the study
The broad objective of the study is to assess the effectiveness of next generation technologies in the education sector of Bangladesh. The specific objectives of the study are:
1. To support children, especially in rural areas in Bangladesh, by providing them sufficient educational materials and easy access to them through Information Technologies.
2. Provide self-learning e-Learning system using next generation technologies for easy use and effective learning.
3. Provide system for the teachers to enhance their teaching method and for them to assist students with various data collected by above mentioned contents.
4. Provide a platform for the educational contents developers for easy and costless development.
1.5. Rationale of the study
The education sector of Bangladesh has been suffering from many deficiencies including quality teachers, quality content and quality environment. This condition is very worse in rural areas due to skilled teachers, proper teaching-learning materials and so on. So, most of the students are used to get by heart the lessons rather than proper understanding. Interactive as well as Learner friendly learning is needed to get rid of from this tendency so that quality education will be ensured.
e-Learning system has been developed in past few decades, but still not reached to the point where it is user friendly nor efficient enough for the children to learn easily and motivate for continuous study. However, it has not shown relevant impact due to following reasons:
(a) PC is not easy to use without IT literacy
(b) Keyboard and Mouse is not suitable for infants to use
(c) Limitation on developing educational contents only using click, draw and type
Next Generation e-Learning system has to work in a way that any child can learn through computer without computer literacy; easy enough for low grades students. Here computer works for the child, not the other way. The vision of this study is to build a new platform for the students, teachers, parents and educators in order to realize the e-Learning solutions in Bangladesh with various new technologies. This system is user friendly, cost efficient and easy for developing new educational contents. The system has initially focused on introducing KITE’s DCRT and Pen Tablet device with a multimedia CD in the pre-primary education of Bangladesh.
At present great challenge faced by Bangladesh is to create a ‘Knowledge based Society’ and ensure that their citizens are equipped with knowledge and skill of Information & Communication Technology (ICT). There is potential that using ICT in the education sector, the costs can be brought down. It also improves the quality of education and imparts uniformity. If the country wants to enhance the concern over the significance and excellence of education then it is essential to expand learner friendly e-Learning opportunities to all, including most vulnerable groups, like low income and less skilled people, girls and women as well as children out of schools.
2.1. Study site
Surovi, a school of underprivileged children were selected for the study. Mainly the underprivileged and working children of our society, i.e. domestic servants, pebble breakers, rag pickers, street children and destitute boys & girls learn at this school. The selection of Surovi School for the pilot study is purposive. Besides, these attributes may be any combination of the following:
* The school has a well decorated computer lab with six computers
* Geographical location for ease of detailed monitoring
* School management’s interest for implementing the pilot study
* Math teacher’ s enthusiasm for using multimedia content with new & innovative technology in the classroom
* Students interest with new & innovative technology for their learning purpose.
The study team comes to the point of producing a basic outline/ framework for a CD based multimedia math learning. The approaches towards development the CD based contents are:
|1||Pick the name from available characters of pre-primary math books that are generally follow in the classroom||The potential learners will find their known characters and feel free to relate them. It will increase the learners’ analytical ability.|
|2||Use of known fruits, flowers, birds and things that are very familiar to children||The potential group of learners can relate these things with those which they see regularly in front of their eyes. It will increase the learners’ interest.|
|3||Develop the content with daily life related stories of a child||The learners will be introduced with the stories, and will try to relate the stories with their own life, which will enhance their learning process.|
|4||Use of practice session in every lessons||The young learners will get chance to do practice after completing a lesson|
|5||Use of animation in the CD||The learners will feel much amusement with the colorful moving characters which would enhance their attention.|
|6||Use of pen tablet device||The potential learners will write in the wacom board, which is attached with a computer, and the computer will show the writing/s. It will remove the computer and technology phobia of young learners.|
|7||Use of handwriting character recognition technology||The potential learner groups will write the number/s in the wacom board using the pen and the handwriting character recognition technology will say whether the number is write or wrong. It works as feedback, and increases the learning process of a child.|
The math content is developed based on the book/s for pre-school children. The concentration has been given to develop the story of each lesson picked from the real life of underprivileged rural learners as well as Bangalee culture. The endeavor has been given to relate the students with their recognized surroundings while learning. In order to educate the number to the learners, very well known local fruits, flowers, birds and things have been incorporated in the CD. To avoid the monotony of the exercise, practice session has been used in every lesson. If the students write in the wacom board using a specific pen, the computer monitor will show the writing/s. Dynamic Character Recognition Technology (DCRT) also says whether the number is write or wrong. If right, the student can go forward, and if wrong, the student may get chance to write it appropriately until s/he is right. It seems very interesting and enjoyable for the learners. In order to catch attention of the young learners, the whole CD has been developed on animated format where the movements of all the characters become the point of their interest.
2.2.2. The math CD framework
• Number of leassons-8
• Duration of each lesson-30 minutes
184.108.40.206. Content in the Multimedia CD
• Lesson 1: Concept of Number
• Lesson 2: How to Write
• Lesson 3: Counting
• Lesson 4: Small/ Big
• Lesson 5: Addition
• Lesson 6: Deduction
• Lesson 7: Multiplification
• Lesson 8: Deviation
220.127.116.11. Teachers’ training on Multimedia CD and New Technology
After the development of the content, D.Net arranged a daylong teachers’ training on 15th January, 2010 at Surovi School where five teachers were joined. The surovi school was selected from the existing CLCs of D.Net. During the training, first of all the teachers were obtained a good idea on the use of Multimedia CD, DCRT as well as Wacom Pen Tablet with the assist of a computer in the classroom. Then the teachers gave their comments and suggestions about the content, which has been incorporated in the multimedia CD.
2.3. Assessing the outcomes
For assessing the effectiveness of DCRT, Pen Tablet Device as well as developed math learning CD, Surovi school of Dhanmondi, Dhaka was selected. Two groups of students of pre-primary class were selected with similar mix of students. They have been selected by their math teacher based on their performance in the classroom. Thus total numbers of twelve students (six students per group) were selected for the experimentation. Group-1 was the ‘Control Group’ and Group-2 was the ‘Experimental Group’. In both groups, two students taken from ‘excellent’, two from ‘good’ and two taken from ‘unsatisfactory’ category. In Control Group, the students are-Hasan Bhuiyan, Md. Motaleb (excellent); Shipon Mia, Md. Yasin (good); Fahima Akter, Reshma Akter (unsatisfactory) and in Experimental Group, the students’ are-Shakil Mia, Pakhi Akter (excellent); Akash Matubbar, Md. Kalam (good); Ramzan Ali, Ashiqul Islam (unsatisfactory). Here, excellent equals to 85-100, very good equals to 70-85, good equals to 55-70, and unsatisfactory equals to 40-55. Students of experimental group attended their math classes in the computer lab from January, 2010 for three months; where as the students of control group attended the regular classes. Each student of experimental group used multimedia CD and wacom pen tablet with the assist of a separate computer in the classroom, but the control didn’t get these opportunities. But both groups belong to same age and socio-economic condition, and their math teacher was also same.
From January to March, 2010 the students of experimental group attended their math classes in the computer lab. There were six computers and six wacom pen tablets in the lab; and these six students used the multimedia CDs and wacom pen tablet with the assist of computer in the classroom. They used wacom pen tablet for writing in lieu of Chalk and slate. But their other six friends, who were in control group, didn’t get the opportunity of using this modern technology and multimedia math CD, they only attended regular classes. After three months, when courses for first term examination completed, both groups of students sat for the first term examination with same questionnaires.
Result of first term examination shows that In Control Group, only a student (Fahima Akter) came in ‘very good’ from ‘unsatisfactory’ category; the position of other five students are same to their previous position. In Experimental Group, three students (Md. Shakil Mia, Pakhi Akter and Md. Akash Matubbar) came in the ‘excellent’ category which was two before testing. One student (Md. Kalam) came in ‘very good’ from ‘good’ category. Actually ‘very good’ category was nil before teasting. Two students (Md. Ramzan Ali and Md. Ashiqul Islam) came in ‘good’ from ‘unsatisfactory’ category.
Figure 03: Position of Experimental Group Students in the Class (before and after testing)
It is seen that students of experimental group were extremely excited with their new learning system using innovative technology. They received multimedia content as a very useful assistant to them. Especially the animated picture and the movement of the characters made them spell bound. They spend much more time with the practice session using wacom pen tablet. The results showed the impact of next generation technologies as well as multimedia based learning was significant. Parents of the students’ response were very positive for using this new teaching-learning method. They anticipate that it would be an enormous support in learning and teaching math for four to six years school going children. Students really enjoyed the new method of learning. Teachers of the school are very much enthusiastic using next generation technologies and multimedia content on math. According to them, in the first time learners feel phobia to computers, then they touch it, use mouse and key board, then write on wacom board using the specific pen in lieu of slate and chalk. The situation has been changed day by day. So, it should be obvious that in this era of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), e-learning system with next generation technologies should be spread over among the young learners, who are the future helmsman of the country, in order to make their learning process more effective.
4. LESSONS LEARNED
It’s true that no new invention can run only through smooth way; with each new innovation some new challenges come as well. While testing the multimedia content, handwriting character recognition technology and pen tablet device, the research team recognized the following inadequacy:
• Most of the students of Surovi School are poor and several of them even didn’t see the computer at all, let alone the use of computer. Their parents have no ability to effort computer and pen tablet device for their child as well. So, it may become bit hinderers for the learners to get 100% advantages from this process.
• Few teachers opposed that a computer cannot be a substitute of a teacher. In the first time, they could not set mind with this new method. But gradually it was clear to them that computer or multimedia is not a teacher itself, it’s actually a method where teachers will just take the help of computer during conducting class in order to make the class more interactive and lively.
• Availability of electricity is intermittent across the country and the poor students are a severe victim in this case. Unless make sure the availability of electricity during the class hour the learning process would be slower.
• It would be better if the school authority or KITE & D.Net could arrange a projector for the classroom so that the students could enjoy the learning with big screen.
It is true that due to lack of electricity, adequate resources there are some obstruct to run the pilot study smoothly, but it is not impossible to run at all. By taking the initiative of solar system electricity problem can be solved, what in fact is doing in many countries of the world. D.Net has started the research using its own wherewithal and some technological supports from KITE Technology Group, Japan. But it is however a starting. With proper resources and monitoring system it is possible to reduce the digital divide and gear up for the quality education of the country. If ICTs can be applied appropriately then it can expand of access to education, strengthen the relationship of education to the digital workplace as well as enhance educational quality by making an interactive process. At the same time it is also true that an effective integration of ICTs into education is a complex process, as it not only the involvement of technology, but also curriculum, pedagogy, institutional readiness, teachers’ expertise and financing as well. So, proper policies should be developed and applied by the policymakers in order to ensure quality education.
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Writer: Assistant Director, D.Net (Development Research Network); M.Phil Researcher, e-Learning, University of Dhaka. Email: [email protected]