As Singapore transforms into a Smart Nation and prepares its current and future workforce for the digital economy, can ICT (information and communications technology) be an enabler to achieve quality learning outcomes and make education work efficiently and effectively for the needs of the 21st Century?
On 4 May 2017, Mr Adrian Lim, Director (Education) at Info-Communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), shared information on the innovations IMDA has introduced in K-12 education and the Continuing Education Training (CET) space, and discussed how technology can keep students competitive in a digital and global economy.
Mr Lim began by showing how IMDA is aligning itself with the country’s Smart Nation vision by exposing young students to technology and integrating it to their learning. It goes beyond merely handing out technology gadgets to school children. IMDA’s PlayMaker programme encourages creativity and imagination without relying on electronic screen interaction. For example, technology-enabled toys such as circuit stickers, BeeBot, KIBO and littleBits introduce young children to sequencing, logical thinking and problem-solving. He highlighted how such gadgets are age-and-developmentally appropriate and can appeal to both the technologically and artistically inclined.
He emphasised that children need to be inspired, and those in the early years of their development would benefit a lot from learning through playing. He then showed examples of robots used in early childhood education to facilitate collaborative play and interactive storytelling.
He showed programmes for older children including Lab on Wheels which aims to seed students’ interest and excite them to study technology via experiential and engaging technology featured on the bus. Some of the activities include coding a game, programming a robot, learning about electronics and 3D design & modelling.
He also showed other innovative projects such as Internet of Things @ Schools. This gives students access to real-time data such as temperature and carbon dioxide concentration of their immediate environment. Having such timely and rich information encourages students to have an interest in their environment.
Mr Lim then brought up the 2015 study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) which found that education systems which have invested heavily in ICT have seen “no noticeable improvement” in PISA test results for reading, mathematics or science. He also shared other OECD data highlighting the need for teachers to have the time and space to use ICT effectively in teaching and learning. He referred to an article published on 4 April 2016, showing how OECD had later acknowledged the need for school systems to invest in education technology to make learning more engaging.
Since the economy in future will increasingly be defined by innovations and disruptions, students will need to pick up more complex skills to prepare for jobs that do not exist today. In order for students to keep up with the innovation trend, Mr Lim argues that there needs to be a change in educators’ and parents’ mindset so that students are given sufficient room to problem-solve and “get stuck” and subsequently learn to innovate their way out. However, an over-emphasis on assessment would not be helpful to foster an innovative and fail forward mind-set needed for the digital economy.
The session ended with Mr Lim addressing the audience’s questions, which included topics such as infusing creativity in teaching without sacrificing assessment results, scaling innovative ICT programmes, and providing all members of the community with access to ICT learning.