IMPROVING COMPUTER LITERACY
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
July 27 - Aug 02, 2009
Lately services sector has emerged as the fastest growing segment of the economy. Achieving this would have not been possible without deployment of latest telecommunication technology, computer hardware, and software. However, human element continues to play the most dominant role. No technology can be exploited without having qualified, skilled and hardworking human beings.
Some of the critics term 200 million population of Pakistan a curse but it is in fact the one of the biggest resources. On one hand, they provide a huge market for any thing being produced locally and on the other hand, educated and hardworking work force can be utilized in undertaking any value addition activity.
Some of the previous governments were fascinated and went for establishing industries based on high technology. The outcome was growing unemployment because these industries could employ a limited number of people. One such example was establishment of spinning units. The successive governments encouraged establishing spinning mill having 14,500 spindles costing about half a billion rupee. This policy was aimed at earning dollars through export of yarn. However, the policy planners never realized that by exporting yarn Pakistan was creating competitors in the value added markets. This resulted in complete ignoring of the made-up sector. As against this, textile exports of Bangladesh have thrived because they went for value addition, production and export of made ups.
Comparing software export of Pakistan and India reveals some interesting facts. Pakistani software exporters could be counted on the fingers of two hands and the export proceeds is still less than US$100 million, whereas India earns billions of dollars from export of software. India has thrived mainly because it used its enormous human resource in data entry, because the hourly wage in India is a fraction of the remuneration paid in the developed countries.
One of the reasons for dismal software export is absence of a comprehensive and elaborate plan. Sporadic but highly uncoordinated efforts by a few entrepreneurs have created a few success stories. However, Pakistan has not been able to get recognition in the global markets. It is true that a few teenagers have created record by obtaining certifications from global leaders like Microsoft and some of the leading software developers having technology incubators in Pakistan.
In fact, lack of understanding of the difference between the operators and software developers has created most of the confusion. Most of the educational institutions said to be imparting IT education are producing 'dignified operators'. However, use of obsolete technology (both hardware and software) during training produces low-level operators.
Intel Pakistan Corporation and Ministry of Education (MoE) lately announced an 'ICT for Education' initiative intended to support the country's goal to help its citizens to become more competitive in today's knowledge-based global economy.
The story started with signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) leading to Intel committing to donate thousands of computers to government schools across Pakistan over a span in a continued effort to enhance lives and bridge the digital divide by providing uncompromised access to technology.
Earlier, Intel Pakistan had donated hundred of computers to government schools. "We are pleased to be working with Intel on this initiative, particularly since it is an important step towards long-term goal of realizing the e-Learning model where each teacher and student has a computer as the optimal model for integrating technology in the curriculum of basic education," said Jahangir Bashar, Secretary, Ministry of Education at that time.
Intel Pakistan World Ahead Manager Naila Kassim said, "People in the developing world face many unique challenges, including having limited access to technology. The program is Intel's unique mission to provide greater access to opportunities for the world's underserved by expanding access to fully-featured yet affordable PCs that are tailored to meet real people's needs."
In the classroom, teachers always have looked to technology to help children learn; to help them grasp information and make it their own. Slates and chalk, pens and pencils, notebooks, and textbooks, pictures, paintings, drawings, maps, audio-visual aids (AVAs), today we have computers. Computers are particularly rich AVAs because they combine multimedia with programmability. They can be programmed to offer a learning environment that can be individualized -- customized if you will -- to meet individual learner needs.
According to some experts, technology alone does not help children learn, however. What makes the difference is how the technology is used; how it is incorporated into lessons to provide effective learning experiences. The teacher, like the parent, is a critical component of a child's learning process. Children are perfectly capable of learning on their own, but they naturally learn better with help from other people and from the objects, they find in the world around them.
Technology, to be effective in helping children learn, has to be integrated into lesson planning with the objective of promoting spontaneous learning -- inherent, inevitable learning. Spontaneous learning is learning that happens as a direct result of a child's interaction both with learning objects and with other people in the 'prepared environment'.
It is not simply a matter of having technology in the classroom. Both teachers and students (but especially teachers) have to know how to seamlessly integrate technology into teaching and learning. As Eleanor Doan put it so well, "Good tools do not make a good teacher, but a good teacher makes good use of tools". Therefore, a pre-requisite for seamless integration of technology in the classroom is well-trained teachers who are committed to taking advantage of technology, and who understand how to use technology to improve the quality and effectiveness of education.
One also needs to understand what does that imply with regard to instructional technology in general, and with regard to computer-based instructional technology in particular. It means that there is no point to introducing technology into a classroom unless it is carefully and specifically designed to promote learning in ways that are more effective than if technology was not used.