Knowledge Maps: ICTs in Education

Knowledge Maps: ICTs in Education

What do we know about the effective uses of information and communication technologies in education in developing countries?

Recent work at infoDev created a series of Knowledge Maps of what is known and what isn't about ICT use in education. These knowledge maps reveal that, despite a decade of large investment in ICTs to benefit education in OECD countries, and increasing use of ICTs in education in developing countries, important gaps remain in the current knowledge base. In addition, there appears to be a dearth of useful resources attempting to translate what is known to work; and not work; in this field for policymakers and donor staff working on education issues in developing countries, especially those issues related to Education For All and other education-related Millennium Development Goals.

These “Knowledge Maps” attempt to outline where important gaps in received knowledge exist, and were utilized in the formulation of recommendations in support of a series of related research projects and workshops at infoDev. Initially a series of internal documents, expressed demand from partner organizations and various donor staff focusing on education issues resulted in infoDev deciding to publish these knowledge maps, in the hope that a wider audience may find them useful as well.

The Knowledge Map briefing sheets are meant to serve as quick snapshots of what the research literature tells us about a number of key areas of information related to ICT use in education. Taken together, they are not meant to be an exhaustive catalog of everything that is known (or is debated) about the use of ICTs in education; rather, they are an attempt to limn the general shapes of a very large body of knowledge. The knowledge mapping is meant to serve as a tool to point to key general assertions and gaps in the knowledge base of what is known about ICTs in education, especially as such knowledge may relate to the education-related MDGs. The end goal of this knowledge mapping exercise was to aid in the formulation of a number of key research questions that point to existing important gaps in the knowledge base.

THEMES

The knowledge mapping exercise investigated ten topics grouped into four major themes (Impact, Costs, Current Implementations and Planning):

 

Key Findings

Impact

  • The impact of ICT use on learning outcomes is unclear, and open to much debate.

  • There is an absence of widely accepted standard methodologies and indicators to assess impact of ICTs in education.

  • There is a disconnect between the rationales most often put forward to advance the use of ICTs in education (to introduce new teaching and learning practices and to foster 21st century thinking and learning skills) and their actual implementation (predominantly for use in computer literacy and dissemination of learning materials).

Costs

  • There is very little useful data on the cost of ICT in education initiatives, especially those attempting to assess Total Cost of Ownership, nor guidance on how to conduct cost assessments.

Current implementations of ICTs in education

  • ICTs are being widely used in education, and interest in their use appears to be growing, even in the most challenging environments in developing countries.

Policy: Lessons learned and best practices

  • There are emerging best practices and lessons learned in a number of areas, but with a few exceptions (notably on ‘schoolnet’ development and general lessons learned), they have not been widely disseminated nor packaged into formats easily accessible to policy makers in developing countries, and have not been explicitly examined in the context of the education-related MDGs.

  • While much of the rhetoric (and rationale) for using ICTs to benefit education has focused on ICTs' potential for bringing about changes in the teaching-learning paradigm, in practice, ICTs are most often used in education in LDCs to support existing teaching and learning practices with new (and, it should be noted, often quite expensive!) tools.

  • While impact on student achievement is still a matter of reasonable debate, a consensus seems to argue that the introduction and use of ICTs in education can be a useful tool to help promote and enable educational reform, and that ICTs are both important motivational tools for learning and can promote greater efficiencies in education systems and practices.

Based on the findings of this knowledge mapping process, a series of related research, outreach activities and policymaker workshops is being undertaken by infoDev.


Suggested citation:
Trucano, Michael.  2005. Knowledge Maps: ICTs in Education.  Washington, DC: infoDev / World Bank.


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