Senior Advisor, Information Technology Policy
Nordic Council of Ministers
initial question, but often forgotten, is why one at all should make any special
effort? The question is especially relevant in the ICT sector since change
is rapid and often fundamental, and because governments, universities and the
like are big and slow bureaucratic machines. But what is it that is changing?
and its consequences in relation to education
is increasingly becoming a main resource in modern civilisation, and the "knowledge
society" is seen to substitute the "industrial society". Being able to understand
global developments as well as "supply-demand-chains" in society is now not
so much about raw material or industrial production as it is about possessing
knowledge. For a nation as well as an individual it is of paramount importance
to have "something that is needed", since the demand for what one has to offer,
directly determines national as well as individual wealth and social positioning.
and its consequences in relation to ICT
developments in the supply-demand-chains of the knowledge society point in
the direction of ICT, biochemistry, genetic engineering, environmental protection
engineering etc. The importance of ICT for a nation (and thus for an individual)
is linked to the nations competitiveness, which is linked to its competence
base and wage levels.
countries have a high competence base but also very high wage levels. Thus
Nordic countries are forced to focus on competence areas where the demand
is willing to pay the high wage costs - such as in the ICT sector.
countries also have a high competence base. However, as opposed to the Nordic
countries, they have low wage levels, making them extraordinarily competitive
in the ICT field. Consequently, it makes good sense for the Baltic countries
to invest heavily in the ICT sector and thus in ICT education.
a responsible government must plan for long term developments in knowledge
society needs, which includes more then ICT, i.e. social and humanistic aspects
as well as the more creative aspects of knowledge society.
in three dimensions
efforts must be at the correct level, in the right sector with the right focus.
analysis" - dimension:
of labour between the actor levels (intergovernmental, governmental, local
governmental, school, pupil/teacher) is significant to an extent that it must
be explicitly defined. Efforts should be on "a need to do"-basis, starting
at the top level and only moving down if there is a need to do so.
must be aimed at the right sector reflecting political priority, national
needs and cultural strengths. I.e. to identify the "weak spots" within the
sectors of governance (finance policy, infrastructure policy, education policy
- e.g. teacher competence, curriculum etc.) and to know who is responsible
for what. This can also be expressed as "the right faculty focus" (natural
science, social science or the humanities).
methodology and ICT:
between focus must also include an understanding of pedagogical methodology
and ICT as an inseparable whole.
In the following
focus will be on the first dimension - the levels.
obviously have the pupil and teacher as their ultimate target. Thus, the role
and intellectual, cultural and economic background as well as interests of this
group are vital.
and efforts at
the pupil/teacher level:
by and large, see the development. However, they only in a marginal way peruse
a personal competence upgrading - unless "pushed". Some teachers are even
resisting or turn the blind eye to the development. Pupils, on the other hand,
seem to like ICT and are fast to pick up the new trends.
spend a lot of their spear time using computers at home, in Internet cafés
or at libraries etc. Time spent is, not surprisingly, not so much on "spreadsheets",
"word processors" etc. but on computer "smart-games", "chat" and "Internet
surfing" etc., giving other ICT competencies - namely the general feeling
of the ICT-environment (interface concepts etc.).
pupils, parents and teacher:
and parents must understand and agree on a need to do an effort due to societal
change and consequences for individual social positioning as well as national
children can not be excepted to understand. However they can be forced, lured
or aroused (e.g. by "smart games", new possibilities) with various means,
based on the understanding and means of parents and teachers. Arousing interests
is obviously better then the use of force.
approach the knowledge society in extremely varied ways ranging from no action,
over the "misunderstood" to pursuing the "global elite".
and efforts at the school level:
beginning to see more and more interesting initiatives from individual teachers
and school principles which come from enthusiasm and the willingness to spend
a lot of time and effort, but which do not (at least initially) cost a lot
observations include the evidently slow moving universities as well as central
government administrations in contrast to the inventiveness of approaches
within the pool of schools. Examples include:
- ICT evening causes at
school (for profit).
- Class competitions in
the use of ICT
- Pupil tasks using
global group work with partner schools via the Internet.
- Free Internet cafés
- Free or cheap ICT evening
clubs at school ("smart-games"; subject focus using ICT etc)
- Just facilitate! Have
computers and Internet connections and let them be used - even
on a 24 hour bases - for whatever purpose the user deems worthwhile
(even chat and games).
On the other
Approaches must include
pedagogical subject software based on a curriculum, which in
turn is based on an "understanding of the needs".
Approaches should be
relative depending on external parameters (pupil/teacher background
e.g. urban/rural; old/young; rich/poor; social stress etc.).
Understand the limits
and roles: Often, it is the pupils that can teach ICT to the teachers
- and not opposite. However, pupils can not put ICT into a social context.
The ability to use ICT is not the same as understanding the "empowerment"
that lies in it.
Employ the right teachers
(competent and wise) even if it means that some teachers get paid much more
then others or get more "privileges".
Make sure to have basic
technical competence on the school. E.g. a small group of staff or bright
Have access to expert
technical competence when the system brakes down. E.g. an extra-job for
a parent or a regular service contract with a local company or - even better
- ask local government to assist.
Have an on school "ICT-
strategy group" consisting of competent teachers, parents and pupils
and - if need be - an external local company.
in the Nordic countries control some 50-60 percent of all national funds and
are formally responsible for the running of schools. Thus, local governments
are free to pursuer independent priorities when distributing fund. Furthermore,
though local governments must follow national legislation they do have a lot
of freedom to take extra initiatives.
and efforts at the local governmental level:
Curriculum from first
Text processing in "Danish class"
E-mail and Internet
Ethics in use of ICT
Families with school children
get (borrow) a computer for home. These include software and Internet accesses.
"Top-end" schools have
the following hardware (200-300 children): Three computer rooms each with
some 6-12 computers; One computer room has in addition 1 scanner, 1 digital
camera, 1 video grabber card (for TV and video manipulation); each classroom
has 2 computers.
All teacher are offered
one computer with Internet access for there home if (and only if) they promise
to try to pass the Teacher's ICT certificate test within two years (otherwise
they lose the computer). Almost all teachers are trying or have already passed
Local government sets
up school ICT-councils of teachers, parents, school board members and the
school headmaster for every school. Every year they work out a School ICT-strategy.
ICT skills are considered
a "social must" like the ability to read and write.
Facilitate: Build infrastructure
(connect schools to Internet). Subsidise or even force acquisition of equipment.
Train (motivated) teachers:
Finance curses, "clubs" and scholarships.
Co-operate locally, nationally
Provide technical support
enabling schools to participate with minimal technical expertise.
In the light
of the obvious need for action in respect to the lack of ICT competent teachers
as well as ICT qualified school graduates, Nordic governments have made an array
of efforts the last ten years - some more successful then others. Efforts are
now part of National Programmes or Strategies and the like.
and efforts at the governmental level:
education programmes are targeted at many actors but mainly local government
and schools. Government programmes - by and large - always include:
for schools and telecommunications monopoly control (Almost a fulfilled
Development of "schoolnets"
(Though this is outdated now).
for designing policy and projects. Besides representatives of the Ministry
of Education, delegations typically include members from the partners that
are needed for successful implementation, including the national agency for
education, the local authorities and various foundations and organisations
(e.g. teacher groups and trade unions).
Efforts to enhance
teachers' skills and induce them to use computers as tool (the big thing
education of teachers. Most Nordic countries have a Teacher's ICT certificate
that is issued to teachers who pass a set tests including (Denmark centralised
>< Norway decentralised):
E-mail accounts for all
pupils and teachers and more (soft infrastructure; portals;
ICT for pupils with functional
Prizes for excellent pedagogical
inputs using ICT.
Filtered Internet connection.
These efforts are (mostly) abandoned but still "a problem".
to computers, Internet, e-mail and co-operation via the Internet.
in the writing process and work with texts and layout in teaching.
- Searching for
information on the Internet and evaluating what one finds.
- Work with spreadsheets,
and ideas about how one can use them for teaching in many subjects.
- How to make a good and
easily readable layout using pictures and illustrations.
- Layout and multimedia
presentations and making your own homepage.
- Databases in
education - including Internet databases and PC-databases.
- School development
and ICT integration.
Most national strategies
are ambitious but bureaucratic and slow, or even naive and ineffective - but
try anyway! (Trial and error...).
Have an international
strategy: Co-operate, find partners. Think of "who" and "how" to co-operate?
(more) infrastructure, subsidise acquisition of ICT equipment and connectivity
(for schools and pupils at home).
Watch the telecommunications
markets: Government nets >< Commercial nets (more monopoly control).
Establish "bulk buying"
Do not enforce
"standards" - users know best.
Continue, and continue
to train teachers (constantly rethink the approach: centralised, decentralised,
privet marked etc.). (I.e. http://www.skole-it.dk/).
Establish ICT in pedagogical
universities and ICT-universities in the "non-hard-core" areas
i.e. pedagogical innovation; arts; design; business (i.e.
and development. I.e. Digital teaching material and new education.
Build special information
"portals": Links, publications, literature, debate forums etc. However:
content before form: Pedagogical, intellectual but also "entertainment"
(news; smart games. etc.). Something to come for!
countries have via the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM)
15 years of
experience in ICT co-operation, beginning with infrastructure and now being
at the point of trying to put in to operation a Nordic Council of Information
. Here, the Nordic ministers responsible for ICT will two to four
times per year exchange experience and discuses possible joint efforts. Between
meetings the Nordic Council of Ministers Secretariat (i.e. I) will pursue the
implementation of decisions.
and efforts at the intergovernmental level:
Nordic ICT co-operation
began in 1985 with the NORDUnet-project, which is an ICT infrastructure
system connecting all Nordic universities (in Denmark also schools) and central
governmental organisations in one network - thus providing some of the worlds
best Internet connectivity at US$ 39 per year per user.
In 1993 the NCM stated
the Odin-project, which at the time connected Nordic schools and offered
an array of information of mutual interest for schools, teacher and pupils.
Now, it is merely a "subject portal".
Since 1996 the Nordic
Ministers of Education and Research have had a special advisory body consisting
of senior civil servants with high ICT competence - the ICT policy group.
The group is commissioned to suggest joint Nordic ICT policy initiatives as
well as to design tangible ICT development projects. Current and future areas
of focus include:
IDUN2 is a continuation
of IDUN, which was a development project focused on the general utilisation
of ICT in education, research and development. IDUN2 has concentrated this
effort on developing the Nordic educators' co-operation network as well as
developing tangible ICT tools for teaching on all levels - pre-higher education,
higher education and research as well as liberal adult education.
The BaltNet project
aimed at aiding the Baltic countries in entering the knowledge society age:
BaltNet was a project along similar lines as NORDUnet and IDUN2. The project
has moved from supporting ICT infrastructure development to teacher training
within the field of ICT.
Many more ICT-projects
in other non-educational fields.
- Developing indicator
for measuring ICT development.
- Tomorrows university
(virtual universities, pedagogical development etc.)
- Consequences of the
ICT developments for modern research.
- Making "knowledge" an
export item in the arising global educational marketplace.
Nordic intergovernmental co-operation.
- and mute the fight over control of ICT policy ("meet the challenges and
fix the problems"):
Co-operation must see
the "big picture":
Overcome the governmental
ministerial "turf battles".
perspectives and Nordic culture
infrastructure & monopoly control
understanding of ICT
education & virtual universities
for us might not work for you. Be aware of the underlying set of values, historical
and economic context, and "tradition" (Nordic cultural heritage, e.g. "N.
F. S. Grundvig").
It is not the pupils isolated
abstract knowledge that is interesting, but the pupil's ability to verbalise
and independently reflect on the knowledge in a social context.
The pupil's ability
to find and use information is more interesting then his/her pool of
Social interaction (teamwork)
in the acquiring and interpreting of ICT-knowledge is paramount to one-way
knowledge programming of the pupils.
The ability to combine
artistic and creative thinking with technology is better then the ability
to send a man to Mars.
ICT moves too fast to
allow society to wait for the dinosaurs of central government and universities
to get going... Identify and focus on the small success story, and then stimulate
them further and copy them.
Facilitate as opposed
to push and control.
Let free the creativity,
and advertise the possibilities.
Do it "small",
stimulate the competent and forget the "dinosaurs".
Debate status and
technologies" and new approaches.
your children to speak English, play with ICT and play the trumpet and, in the
process don't wait for the dinosaurs...
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