Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in School Education

Public Relations Office        May 30, 2017

Shin SATO, Professor, School of Education (Educational curriculum, methods and evaluation)

Shin SATO, Professor, School of Education

“Golden Mainz.” It was there in 1450 that Johannes Gutenberg invented printing press technology, replacing the reliance on hand transcription of texts with pressing plates on which lead casting type are arranged. In 1658, Czech educator Comenius published the world’s first textbook: Obis Pictus (a kind of illustrated encyclopedia).

Printing press technology was the cutting-edge of media technology at the time, and it made it possible for textbooks to be used in education. Without a doubt, the current use of ICT in school education represents a revolution brought about by cutting-edge media, one which is on par with that caused by the printing press.

Certainly, when I was a child in the 1970s, my teachers were using technology like OHP and video. However, in the 1980s computers were introduced, followed by the Internet in the 1990s, followed by digital blackboards in the early 2000s, followed by tablet computers in the 2010s. One after another these technologies were introduced, bringing school education in Japan to where it is today. Now we are looking ahead to digital textbooks, mobile devices and cloud computing technology.

In school education, generally speaking, classes are sorted by grade level; they include a teacher and children/students whose interactions are mediated through teaching materials; they impart knowledge and skills in such areas as science or the arts; and through a process of internalization of the classroom culture, they foster character development. In every class type or configuration, the teacher provides the instruction. To facilitate instruction, he or she uses tools, such as the aforementioned OHP or digital blackboard.

These days, the individual learning which the children/students undertake frequently involves the use of computers and tablet computers. Even in elementary and middle school physical educaCommunication classes, tablet computers are used to reflect personal performance and to facilitate group thinking about training methods. What is more, in community-type constructions focused on comprehensive learning, use of the Internet, mobile devices and other such technology is becoming more prevalent. This is the case, for example, in middle and high school exchange learning classes in areas which have been affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Ultimately, however, ICT is just a tool. This technology must be used appropriately in consideration of the sorts of qualities and competencies to be cultivated in children/students, who should also be taught to examine ICT morals and the relationship between people and media technology.

Jumpei TOKITO, Assistant Professor, Center for Research into and Promotion of Higher Education (Educational technology)

Jumpei TOKITO, Assistant Professor

“Use ICT to transcend borders and expand learning!” This is the one thing I want to say to readers about this topic.

As the necessity of ICT technology in educational settings becomes increasingly emphasized, the infrastructure of schools has changed dramatically. Reading the results of a survey by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology about the state of ICT usage in education in the 2013 academic year reveals remarkable progress, such as an increase of 10,360 digital blackboards from the previous year and a more than two-fold increase in the introduction of tablet computers from the previous year.

Amidst this tremendous change in educational infrastructure, however, there is one thing which has not changed. That is the mindset that says that ICT is not only to be used for gaining knowledge about computers and textbook facts. The acronym “ICT” stands for Information and Communication education Technology; naturally, therefore, it would be expected that it is used in teaching about how to use computers and how they work, as well as for computer-driven individual learning. There are also some who encourage ICT incorporation into entrance examinations. The reality of ICT in education, however, is different. Learning about computers and computer technology has traditionally been the domain of IT education, and computer-driven individual learning was long ago introduced as Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI). A “C” was added to IT education for a reason, and that was so that information and communications technology would be used as a communications tool. The hope is that learning activities which take place inside a classroom will be opened up to the wider world outside the classroom.

ICT allows a class underway somewhere in Japan to connect and engage in cultural exchange with classrooms elsewhere in Japan or overseas. Actual examples of this include, a private elementary school in Japan using a bulletin board system equipped with teleconferencing and translation capabilities to engage in exchange and learning (cultural idea exchange) with a school in Hawaii, and a public middle school using a bulletin board system to engage in cooperative learning (collaborative picture creation) with a school in Syria. These sorts of cultural exchange applications of ICT take facts which are solely for memorization into turn them into facts which are to be used, and it provides students with a motivation to learn. This was what I meant when I said “transcend borders” at the start.

Of course, there are challenges to overcome. More widespread incorporation and use of ICT increases the risk of it being used in crimes and for other immoral ends, which is why greater education about the moral and ethical use of ICT is needed. Nevertheless, as society becomes increasingly globalized and there is greater demand for interaction and exchange with other countries, I feel it is necessary that learners continue to be taught how to use ICT to intentionally cross borders and connect with other cultures.