The Early Education Technology Scene in Singapore
Singapore has been at the forefront of education technology since the early 2000s when it started becoming more mainstream.
While there were other countries which had started using technology in education from the late 90s, Singapore was one of the first countries to have a government policy on E-learning.
The E-Learning Implementation Strategy was announced in 2002 and aimed to provide each school with a computer for teachers and students by 2005.
Since then, Singapore has evolved from having a computer for every teacher and student to an environment where every classroom is equipped with computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors and multimedia devices.
Introduction of Smart Boards
What is more interesting is that while other countries like China have introduced their own tablet computers, Singapore has had its own tablet since 2005 — the SMART Board.
The SMART Board features an LCD panel that can be used for presentations or interactive demonstrations. It can also be used as a whiteboard or electronic blackboard, using a special stylus pen.
As it is an interactive device, it can be used for engaging students during lessons to keep them interested in what they are learning about.
It can also be used as an educational tool like home work or quizzes where students can answer questions directly on the board using the stylus pen.
The Early Challenges
While it may seem like Singapore has always been at the forefront of education technology, there have been many challenges faced by educators who wanted to introduce new ways of teaching into schools.
For example, teachers who taught students using traditional methods were unsure why they should adopt new methods when they were already doing well with what they knew best and their methods were proven to work for them — after all, if it’s not broken why fix it?
This meant that many teachers did not want to adopt new methods even if they could potentially enhance their teaching skills as well as increase student engagement levels.
This reluctance was exacerbated by the lack of training opportunities available for teachers which meant they were unable to fully understand how best to use these technologies effectively in their teaching practice.
Students also had issues with adopting new technologies into their learning practices because these technologies often seemed intimidating due to their unfamiliarity with them; this meant that many students would avoid them or not use them fully even if they could be useful in enhancing their learning experience or developing critical thinking skills as provided by these technologies.
In addition, many students would lose interest in what they were learning because of how interactive these devices are — this means that not only do the students lose interest which could result in them falling behind in their lessons, but they also lose interest in school as a whole.
This wasa serious issue because it means that these students do not perform well academically and are more likely to drop out of school prematurely.
How were the Challenges Overcome
In an effort to overcome these challenges, ICT coordinators have set up various training programmes to help teachers to better understand how they can use technologies effectively in their teaching practice.
These programmes include training courses on using SMART Boards with students, creating digital content for use in the classroom, and even training them on how they can create their own online learning communities.
Other initiatives by ICT coordinators include the setting up of a technology assistance centre where teachers can go to ask for help on using the technologies effectively or get extra equipment like spare SMART Board pens or even laptops for their classes.
In addition, teacher resource centres have been set up to provide teachers with access to educational resources such as ebooks, PowerPoints, videos and audio recordings which they can use as teaching aids.
The curriculum for English Language Arts and Mathematics has also been updated to incorporate technology into the learning process — this ensures that teachers are trained on how best to use these tools effectively during lessons which helps them engage students more easily and make learning more meaningful.
A study by the Centre for Educational Development (CED) of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) conducted two surveys with over 1,000 secondary school teachers from Singapore’s Ministry of Education schools; this study included interviews with 21 key principals who were involved in decision making regarding technology in education; this study was done over the period between 2011–2012.
One survey focused on secondary schools while the other focused on primary schools; both surveys showed similar results so only data from the secondary school survey is included here:
The study shows that most teachers were already engaging students through technology such as interactive whiteboards and SMART Boards before taking part in any training programmes on how best to use these tools during lessons.
However many of them did not know how best to utilize these tools effectively due to inadequate training programmes; this meant that many classrooms were still largely dominated by traditional teaching methods where students would sit at desks listening passively while the teacher lectures at them.
The study also found that there was a lack of resources available specifically designed for classroom use — some classrooms used textbooks designed for print while others used textbooks designed for online use which did not necessarily translate well to the classroom setting.
This meant that students often found it difficult to read from these textbooks because they could not fit the textbook pages onto the SMART Board’s LCD panel, or they found it difficult to read the text on screen as it was too small.
This problem was exacerbated by the fact that many teachers would ask students to print out their textbooks and bring them into class which meant they had a hard time finding enough space for all their books on their desks.
Teachers also had difficulty in planning lessons for their students due to limited resources — this meant that many of them planned lessons based on what was available in their classrooms instead of coming up with creative lesson plans based on what could be done using technology.
Teachers who taught English Language Arts found it more difficult to incorporate technology into their lessons due to the nature of this subject; this is because English Language Arts can involve a wide range of skills from reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar awareness, writing and speaking.
These skills can be taught through different methods so teachers need a variety of materials from which they can draw ideas; however many teachers only have access to a limited number of resources which means that they are unable to teach effectively.
The study also found that there were several challenges faced by students when learning with technology; one issue was that some students did not have access to computers at home so they were unable to practice using educational software like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint at home.
Another issue was that some teachers did not use computers effectively during lessons — while schools have been equipped with interactive whiteboards since 2005, most classrooms are still dominated by traditional teaching methods so students have difficulty grasping new concepts presented through technology as well as being able to apply what they learnt during lessons elsewhere.
The study also found that teachers were still reluctant towards incorporating new technologies into their teaching practices even after taking training courses on how best to use these tools effectively in class — this is because many believe that interactive whiteboards are more trouble than they’re worth since students often doodle all over the screens or even play games on them.
In addition, while teachers may know how best to use interactive whiteboards effectively during lessons, there is no consistent approach in training them how best to monitor student interactions when using these boards — this means that students often don’t use them properly which affects the lesson negatively.
The study also found that there was a lack of transparency in terms of how and when ICT coordinators chose resources for schools to use; this affected teachers’ abilities to plan lessons effectively as they did not have easy access to a wide range of resources from which they could draw ideas from.
Teachers found it difficult to plan lessons for their students due to a lack of resources available in their classrooms; this meant that the source material they had at hand could not fully cater for all their students — this resulted in the same few students doing most of the work while others struggled to keep up or were left with nothing to do.
In addition, there was a lack of consistency in terms of how and when ICT coordinators updated these resources — while some teachers were being updated regularly on new updates, others were not being updated at all and had no idea what new resources were available or how best to use them during lessons.
As mentioned earlier, one reason why teachers may be reluctant towards incorporating technology into their classrooms is because they do not know how best to incorporate it into their teaching practice; this is because most teachers prefer traditional teaching methods which they are more familiar with instead of trying new ways out of fear that these methods may fail.
While there are many benefits associated with using technology in education, including increased student engagement levels and improved critical thinking skills among students as well as improved communication skills among students, some traditionalists see technology as something that will replace human interaction — while we can agree that technology can enhance human interactions in many ways, it cannot replace it completely since technology is an artificial medium that is still limited by its programming.
This means that despite its advantages over traditional teaching methods, interactive whiteboards are still just another way for teachers to teach effectively — just like any tool such as textbooks or chalkboards, interactive whiteboards do not replace effective teaching but rather complement it by providing additional opportunities for teachers and students alike.
About the Author
I am an educator have over 3 years of experience in product management, technology leadership, startups, angel investing and Edtech. I an EdTech startup Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co) to help teachers teach better and students learn better using videos and interactive activities. If you are a teacher or student, signup for free at https://cudy.co/sg/register to start teaching and learning better today.
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