INTEGRATION OF INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES IN EDUCATION:
WHERE IS NIGERIA?
Victor E. Dike
This paper revisits the recurring problems facing education and the Nigerian economy. For decades, Nigeria has been dealing with the unresolved challenges facing the education sector and the economy. The environment for teaching and learning is dismal: schools, colleges, and universities lack stable academic calendar and teaching tools. Teachers, particularly the older generation (or the so-called "digital immigrants"-Prensky, 2001) lack the technical skills and methodology to teach in the 21st century classroom. Yet they are expected to teach the younger generation of students (the "digital natives") who have grown up surrounded by information technology (Prensky, 2001). But they cannot give what they don't have. Where is Nigeria in the emerging trends of integrating instructional technologies in education? Are the educational institutions meeting the technology standards for â€˜digital education? To improve the state of education and the health of the economy the leaders must change their "Mental Models" and provide the resources to enable the educators to integrate the emerging instructional technologies into teaching and learning, without which they will be unable to produce quality graduates to compete effectively in the knowledge-based 21st century global economy.
INFORMATION AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
The new generation of students (the "digital natives") has greater appreciations of, and the use of the emerging information and instructional technologies than their older generation (their parents and the so-called "digital immigrants". Marc Prensky coined the term "digital immigrants" and "digital natives' in 2001. Since then the term has spurred tones of research and provoked changes in school curricula and pedagogical models in advanced nations. Because of the pace of the emerging technologies and the digitization of information the older generation who is teaching the new generation feels somewhat intimidated. The â€˜digital divide' between the new and old has generated a widespread debate in the global learning community. How can the older generation of teachers teach the new generation of students whose lives appear to be hooked up in use of the â€˜increasing prevalence of technology'?
The older generation of teachers often perceives the emerging technologies and the associated social media (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, E-mail, YouTube, blogs or weblog, iPods, cellphone, wiki, et cetera) as a nuisance. Granted that there are some misgivings about the implications of the emerging technologies on education: it is perceived in some quarters as "a disruptive innovation-and an expensive one" (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2008, p.5). This group contends that without â€˜wise' use of the technologies, and without hiring "Geeks" or "knowledge workers who specialize in the creation, maintenance, or support of high technology" are employed to properly maintain the infrastructure (Glen, 2008, p.244-254) to keep them) without which the money spent on them would be a colossal waste.
Prensky (2001) reports that "Today's students-K through collegeâ€¦have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video-games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age" (p. 1). But everything about the emerging technologies is not rosy: as noted, some of the technology-related activities are disruptive and often distract students from their class activities or school works. For instance, with increasing in â€˜online education' some students will spend more hours than necessary in "Googlization of learning" (Bonk, 2009, p. 86).
However, the benefits of the emerging technologies appear to outweigh the negatives. Some â€˜studies show that â€˜blogs promote student collaboration and reflection' (Baggaley, 2003; Martindale and Wiley, 2005; Oravec, 2003). Others have identified the usefulness of â€˜wikis for online student collaboration' (Lamb, 2004) and the benefits of â€˜podcasting' in teaching (Sloan, 2005). The emerging technologies and the associated social media have, however, been an integral part of teaching and learning. And the trend is becoming more complex by the day, as they are fast rendering obsolete the previous ways of teaching and learning. As Wedemeyer (1981) has noted, "Computer-assisted learning" has "extended the time-space dimensions of learning" and enhanced creativity in education (as cited in Bonk, 2009, p.10).
Creativity seems to go with motivation and job satisfaction. As Adams (2001) has noted, "The combination of motivation and conscious intervention based on increased awareness and knowledge of the problem-solving process is the standard formula for increasing creativity" (p. ix). In today's crisis-ridden global economy creativity is very important because the more creative a nation is, the greater the share of the global market.
The Internet has knocked down national boundaries, flattened the world, and democratized education. Information is now available 24/7 to anyone who has access to the infrastructure. And Thomas Friedman would say, The World is Flat (April 2005). The new technologies enable teachers to communicate with their students and parents faster, and upload their courses, curricula, and lesson plans online for easy assessment or for â€˜free access' (Bonk, 2009, pp.45-54).
CHALLENGES FACING EDUCATION AND THE ECONOMY
Many things are not right with education in Nigeria. The educational institutions (from elementary to tertiary levels) are facing enormous challenges despite the abundant human and material resources in the country. As noted, serious nations are investing in new technologies that are changing the modes operandi in educational institutions and business organizations. The leaders and managers of various institutions are constantly restructuring and reforming the system to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy (Bonk, 2009; Kennedy, et al., 2007; Kurzweil, 2005). Where is Nigeria?
Because of inadequate funding and corruption Nigeria's schools are lacking modern educational technologies to improve teaching and learning. Funds allocated to procure the necessary technologies for teaching and learning and thus improve the environment and motivate teachers/students often disappear into the thin air. Thus teachers are stuck with the old "stand-and -deliver" method of teaching and learning in which students would sit in their seats and passively take notes from the teacher. There is little or no practical application of what is being taught in class in the real world; and more often than not, the courses they being offer do not add value to the national economy.
The leaders talk volume without constructive actions. As a result, Nigeria is stuck with the 20th century technology while the world is using the 21st century educational technologies. Other problems facing Nigeria's education include shortage of experienced teachers and large class sizes. Reportedly, many teachers are leaving the profession because of lack of motivation, et cetera. The consequences are poor quality of graduates, lack of employability skills, and rising graduate unemployment, crime and corruption with impunity.
In some schools parents trying to secure admission for their children after they have secured the adequate scores in the pre-admission Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination are required to cough out a huge sum of money as bribe (The Daily Sun, 2011, September 5). All these are recurrent issues that the leaders have turned blind eyes on. Are the leaders ignorant of the fact that these challenges are hampering the improvement of the quality education? Schools lack the funds to procure modern teaching and learning technologies to provide the students with the pertinent skills knowledge to contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of nation as well as to compete effectively in the 21st century global market place.
Since nothing is working in Nigeria as they should work many people in the education sector are frustrated. This writer had an emotion-laden conversation with a retired Nigerian Professor1 who visited the United States recently, which gave him a feeling of the deteriorating state of Nigeria's educational system. The erudite Professor did not want to wash the nation's dirty linen in public, but when the conversation heated up he let go. However, he laughed and demanded to ascertain what I wanted to know about the broken Nigeria's education. Perhaps when I paused he discovered that I wanted a â€˜no-hold-bar' conversation. He then scratched his head and said, "The system is broken, the place is rotten, it is a mess and nobody cares." In frustration, he continued, "The leaders are just blowing â€˜hot air', always deceiving the world that they are making some progress. But the reality is that the society is far behind in every aspect in the â€˜digital-age' of education: no books; no laboratory kits; no academic journals (not even local newspapers for students and teachers)". And there is no functional Internet to access the digital materials in the â€˜cloud'.
The worst part of the ugly situation, according to him, is that "electricity and water supply are erratic, and sanitary condition is terrible". With deep pain and anger in his voice, he noted that there is virtually â€˜no public toilet/restroom' in most, if not in all the schools he has visited. As a result, everyone, including the "ladies urinate in the open at the glaring of the public" and nobody blinks. When I demanded an explanation as to the reason those basic facilities are not provided, he simply said: "That is the way it is". "Nobody is responsible for anything." "They always complain that there no money to fix the broken system, yet they collect their fat salaries and various benefits to send their children abroad to acquire education." The rot in education is affecting the health of economy and national development; the growing youth unemployment with the associated high crime rate is mind boggling. However, only the poor suffer in Nigeria.
The disgusted Professor changed the topic to politics which, according to him, is the root cause of the malaise in the polity. Most, if not all, of the so-called "lawmakers" ("lawbreakers"?) at Abuja and the State capitals are just there "to stuff their purses", and not to work for "common good". He said (as this writer already knows) that the so-called "Senators and House of Representatives are the highest paid in the world". Yet nobody can put a finger on the laws they have made to enable the society function as it should. But in a well-managed economy, a person's income is determined by his/her productivity, all things being equal. In a true participatory democracy the unproductive Representatives are either recalled or voted out in subsequent elections.
But this is not possible in Nigeria because votes do not matter! The "rogues/criminals" (those who are known to have forged their academic credentials) are at the National Assembly as "lawmakers". He crowned our conversation by repeating a question reportedly asked many years ago by one of his friends - an erudite former Vice-chancellor of one of the â€˜good-old universities' in Nigeria: The erudite former Vice-chancellor who was also frustrated with the rot in the system told those who were pestering him over the poor state of education in Nigeria that the situation is hopeless because those who make education policies do not know any better. He intoned, "Do you expect this group [the Assembly members, policymakers and the teachers] who have not gone beyond â€˜Opi junction' to fix the rot in education?" He stressed, "They have not seen anything better -they have spent all their lives here [in Nigeria from elementary school through the university]. "Thus cannot give what don't have"!
Developed nations are creative and innovative because they are investing copiously in education. With the integration of modern technology in their daily lives, they constantly changing their methods of operation, and thus create environments that encourage creativity. But Nigeria's harsh or unfriendly environment hampers creativity.
THE WAY FORWARD
For good or bad the emerging technologies will continue to influence the way educational materials are delivered, the way businesses are conducted, and the way people interact with one another. Thus any nation (educational institution) that wants to make an imprint on education and on the global economy must embrace the emerging technologies and employ genuine and committed leaders to manager the affairs of the nation. For the rot in education to be tackled Nigeria's leaders must change their "Mental Models" and work for "common good." The state of education in every society determines the health of the economy and the pace of national development. Nigeria cannot progress without revamping the state of education by equipping the schools with modern teaching and learning technologies, and employing and motivating experienced teachers to effectively perform their duties and thus give students the skills and knowledge they need to compete effectively in 21st century knowledge-based the global labor market.
The role of modern technologies in the economic health of societies today and in future cannot be wished away. Modern â€˜technology has played an important part' and will continue â€˜to play an important role in the development and expansion of education' (Bonk, 2009) and the pace of national development. Constant interaction with instructional technologies will broaden the scope and understanding of Nigeria's teachers and students on the impact of technology in education and national development.
The World Is Open (Bonk, 2009) and Nigeria should take advantage of that by integrating cutting edge technologies and the associated social media in teaching and learning. The society should devote time and money to train the old generation of teachers to enable them to meet the technological needs of 21st century economy and specific interests' of the "digital natives". The emerging technologies can expand educational opportunities to the older generation that otherwise would have been caught off from the traditional educational system, if and when some courses are offered in the â€˜cloud'. In this â€˜digital age', no individual, organization, and society can function effectively without integrating information technology into their daily activities or operations.
As noted, computers and the Internet are not a substitute to well-trained and well-motivated teachers, because without employing teachers knowledgeable in use of the emerging technologies in teaching and learning. And "Geeks" (Glen, 2008) must be hired to keep them running, without which their benefits on education would not be appreciated. The classrooms of the future and our social lives will continue to revolve around the emerging technologies. As a result, everyone (young and old) must become â€˜technologically literate' to a certain degree to be able function in this â€˜digital era'. Therefore, to thrive in the highly competitive global economy, the schools, colleges, and universities in Nigeria must invest copiously in educational technologies and fully integrate them into teaching and learning. This will enable the teachers and students to collaborate with their peers in other parts of the globe. Without investing bountifully in the technologies that can add values to the economy, Nigeria will continue to fall behind economically, socially and politically.
1. Conversation with Professor Enwere Dike, at Elk Grove, California in August 2011. This writer is grateful to him for cracking the window on the recurrent problems facing education in Nigeria.
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