Ms Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore Opening Address - FastTrack@School Seminar, Victoria Junior College
Ms Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer
Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore
Opening Address - FastTrack@School Seminar, Victoria Junior College
Singapore, 5 September 2001
1. Good morning principals, teachers, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to welcome you today to the FastTrack@School Seminar organised for principals and teachers to share their experiences in using technology like broadband to enhance the teaching and learning process.
2. IT and the Internet is a powerful medium for education as it cuts across geographical boundaries and enables the sharing of information or even collaborative learning with overseas schools. As you know from your own experience in school, the concept of a "one-world classroom" versus a "one-room schoolhouse" has totally changed how teaching and learning is done today in our schools.
3. And now, with broadband, we hope that the full potential of collaborative and interactive learning can be realised both in school and at home.
4. This brings me to the FastTrack@School programme initiated by IDA, set up with the aim to help schools jumpstart the use of broadband for teaching and learning by accelerating and enhancing the broadband access to schools and to some homes. Our programme also encouraged the creation of useful and relevant educational content for school's curriculum to be delivered online over broadband. This was done with strong support from the Ministry of Education.
5. Today, 41 schools and 31 industry partners are on board the FastTrack@School Programme. I am encouraged by the great response from schools taking part in our programme. I would like to commend the collaborative efforts between the schools and industry partners to create the online content and applications delivered over broadband. Under the "adopt-a-school" initiatives, companies like ASKnLearn.com, Double Click and Daiichi Media have partnered a total of 18 schools between them.
6. Let me show you what some of the FastTrack Schools and industry partners have done.
7. Other than the ones I have shown, we have also invited some of the schools here today to share with you their experience in implementing some of the broadband projects in their school.
8. What are the challenges ahead? Where do we go from here? To see how Singapore compares, I read a report on the "Power of Digital Learning" released by the CEO Forum. The CEO Forum is a partnership between the business community and educators to look into integrating technology into education in America. The report highlighted the "Four Pillars" of technology needed to create a conducive environment. These are: 1) Hardware, 2) Connectivity, 3) Content and 4) Human Resources. Taken together as an educational approach, they can encourage self-direction, investigation, collaboration and problem solving.
9. What struck me about this report, in the context of the video clip you just saw, is that we are already doing virtually everything the report talked about. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of schools, including some in the pilot phase of MOE's rollout of its IT Masterplan. I have been deeply impressed with what I have seen, as many schools have experimented with varied and highly innovative teaching methods. In these schools, what struck me is the tremendous enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers, their willingness to experiment, and the leadership of the principal. I can safely say that some Singapore schools are already amongst the leading-edge experimenters of IT in education around the world.
10. One of the challenges is that the easy things, the obvious things, are done. Infrastructure has being rolled out; PCs are everywhere. Most students are IT-literate. Teachers are being trained through courses and workshops such as "Using Webquest in Teaching History" organised for history teachers to familiarise themselves with technologies they can use to teach history. Some curriculum is online and more will be. The next level is really in the realm of teaching pedagogy and is an area that the IT folks really cannot help you with. Just as the way I browse for books in a bookstore is totally different from the way I buy books online, it is intuitive to me that how people learn online must be quite different from how they learn in a classroom. You will need to review what curriculum works well online and what doesn't. Are there different ways of organising the classroom? Should class sizes be different? Does technology give you more flexibility to move towards mass customisation, just as your learning support for weaker students in Pri 1 has made a great difference. Can we use IT to promote self-directed or group learning, or even teachers learning together with their students? I remember this statement by a teacher from XinMin Secondary school where he said that "with IT, we actually learn from the children."
11. Precisely because we are already close to the leading-edge world-wide in the use of IT in schools, we cannot simply copy from the rest of the world in moving forward but will have to find our own way. In doing this, sharing experiences with other schools and other teachers who are also exploring the way forward is critically important to how we learn and improve. I regard the participants today as members of a community of practice who can benefit from the experiences and knowledge of the principals and teachers here today.
12. We would also like to encourage schools who are ready, to explore other innovative uses of technology or new technology platforms in teaching and learning. For example, using wireless or portable devices where learning can take place "anytime, anywhere". Some schools have started wiring up the schools with wireless LANs which allows students to access the Net while doing nature work in the garden or email their homework from the library to their teachers. We would be happy to discuss how we can facilitate schools which are exploring such innovative uses of technology.
13. One challenge is of course that not every teacher feels fully comfortable with using technology. As a totally non-technical person in an agency full of technology experts, I fully appreciate how many of you feel. Sometimes, we feel lost when we can't get the equipment to do what we want, and we don't know who to turn to for help. I know that some schools have a buddy system where teachers are paired together so that they can learn from each other and help one another. This has helped teachers gain confidence from trying new technologies with the support of their counterparts. I would encourage more schools to embark on self-help groups or even have "e-ambassadors" (which can be students) to help teaching staff or students tackle their problems with technology.
14. On IDA's part, we will continue to support and facilitate education service providers to collaborate together, and develop integrated broadband education content packages and solutions for the schools and learning institutions.
15. Some collaborations are already taking place. Broadband e-learning content and solutions companies like ASKnLearn.com, A-star Interactive & EDN Media Consultants have come together to form a consortium to provide integrated broadband education content and systems to schools, which they hope to subsequently offer overseas as well. Another company, Ednovation announced their partnership with Pearson Broadband, the broadband subsidiary of one of the world's largest education company, to jointly develop broadband e-learning solutions for the whole of Asia. This partnership will provide multiple sources of content to schools through a single platform, and schools will have access to a plethora of content and applications through a single point of contact. Ednovation is also collaborating with the National Institute of Education on two projects in the areas of Instructional Science and Life Sciences.
16. In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank all the principals and teachers who have taken the time to be here today especially those who will be sharing their knowledge and experience in the later sessions. I hope that you will have a fruitful and enriching session ahead.
17. Thank you very much.