The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Initial Views and Suggestions on Future Information Technology Development in Education in HKSAR

1. Introduction

The policy address of the Chief Executive sets out a very sound and concrete direction for the future development of information technology in HKSAR. The Hong Kong Institute of Education, as the largest teacher education programme provider in the territory, is committed to support the Government in achieving the vision of strengthening Information Technology (IT) Education. This paper attempts to outline the initial views of the Institute on the possible strategies to be taken for an effective and systematic advancement of IT education.

2. IT Education in the 21st Century

Stepping into the information age in 21st Century, the HKSAR will be facing waves of mega-trends in its social, economic, cultural, technological and educational environments like other regions/countries world-wide. In order to prepare our society to meet the challenges ahead, the Chief Executive has advocated top priority to tapping the advantages of IT. Among the many moves the Government will take, the investment on IT education is perhaps the most mandatory and crucial strategy. However, before investing a huge amount of resource on IT education, we need to have a very clear picture of what we expect from graduates at different stages schooling in terms of IT so that our next generation will have the confidence and capacity in meeting the challenges ahead. In doing so, we must be able to build the link between our expectations and the forecasted challenges in the changing environments. This logically calls for a systematic and strategic effort in setting goals for IT in Education in the 21st Century.

3. Setting Goals for IT in Education

In order to be effective in launching IT education initiatives in this changing environment, resources should be utilized in a focused and strategic way. To achieve this, the HKSAR should have a clear view of the expected student learning targets in IT at different stages of schooling in the changing environment of the 21st Century. Without this vision of students' learning targets in IT, new initiatives may suffer from inefficient and ineffective uses of resource. Thus, the first step is to develop through research, sets of student learning targets in IT in different stages of schooling that are appropriate to the HKSAR context in the 21st century. The developed student learning targets in IT will cast a sharp and clear direction for subsequent curriculum development at all levels of schooling, including teacher and tertiary education. Definitely, these sets of learning targets will also provide a direction for using IT in learning, as well as helping to achieve the Chief Executive's vision to have 25% of the curriculum supported through IT in the coming five years.

4. Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards (TITCS)

4.1 Another crucial factor that determines the effectiveness of launching IT in education initiative is the quality of teachers. A significant move to strengthen IT education is to prepare teachers to meet the challenges in a focused and strategic way. To achieve this, the HKSAR should develop by research a set of Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards (TITCS) for pre-service and serving teachers. The said TITCS should be treated as the minimal standards which when attained by teachers will facilitate them to help students achieving the sets of learning targets in IT mentioned in para. (3) above.

4.2 With the setting up of appropriate TITCS for teachers, all new teachers should demonstrate mastery of the standards prior to joining the teaching profession. The Government should also determine a grace period (say within 5 years) and corresponding incentives to facilitate serving teachers to attain the required standards.

4.3 The establishment of TITCS should be set as a top priority. These standards should guide all teacher training programmes in IT. In this way, all related training will then be focused and serving teachers will also have a clear picture of what is expected of them. Thus, the level of anxiety, uncertainty and resistance could be minimized.

4.4 Training in IT for serving teachers will be very problematic and inefficient if all the training programmes are expected to be mounted by tertiary institutes. There are two reasons. First, there is a huge number of teachers waiting to be trained; and for any effective training in IT, hands-on experiences are essential. With these constraints, massive training will not be possible within a short time frame. In addition, the development of IT is extremely fast, and all trained teachers will definitely need refresher training in a considerable short period of time, say 2-3 years. This further imposes a requirement of a relative short retraining cycle. To tackle this, it is recommended that tertiary institutes should focus on the training of trainers and IT coordinators in schools. The Government should encourage trainers to mount training programmes at the school-based level guided by the TITCS; and honorarium/salary should be paid to the trainers even if they are one of the teachers in the school. In this way, IT training for teachers could be done in a tailor-made mode making use of the available IT expertise in individual schools. Training programmes organised in this pattern will be more timely and responsive to the changing IT environment and based on the unique conditions of individual schools.

5. Establishment of the Central Office for Information Technology in Education

5.1 The recommendations set out in paras. (3) and (4) will not be effectively implemented unless we have a very strong and high powered structure to oversee the implementation and related evaluation. Currently, all initiatives related to IT in Education are taken care of by various sections of the Education Department. Experiences of school practitioners in the past indicated that this structure is far from effective and sometimes initiatives were launched in a fragmented and less coordinated manner. In view of this, it is recommended that a Central Office for Information Technology in Education be established under the following parameters:

5.2 Objectives The objectives of establishing the Office are

  1. to develop the overall strategic blueprint for implementing IT education at different stages of schooling;

  2. to oversee the implementation of IT education initiatives at different stages of schooling; and

  3. to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of IT education initiatives.

5.3 Functions Some major functions of the Office are as follows:

  1. To launch research projects related to develop a sound knowledge base for the implementation of IT education at different stages of schooling. This should include at least the development of student learning targets in IT at different stages of schooling; the development of Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards; and the infra structure of the future classroom/school in the IT age.

  2. To develop strategic plans to create an IT literate teacher population responsible for teaching and facilitating the achievement of student learning targets in IT; and to inculcate an IT culture among teachers, specifically, aiming at facilitating attitude changes and readiness in developing competence in using IT.

  3. To develop strategic plans to facilitate the development of the necessary software packages for classroom use; and to establish a software bank that holds stock of software suitable for use by different curriculum at different stages of schooling. With the establishment of this software bank, schools could then download software packages that suit their own classroom needs. This saves schools' effort in procuring software and could also maximize the utility rate of software packages.

  4. To develop strategic plans to promote the utilization or adaptation of software packages developed in the Mainland and Taiwan or Singapore, as well as exporting locally developed software to these regions for revenue re-generation.

  5. To develop strategic plans to provide technical support to schools launching IT education initiatives.

  6. To develop strategic plans to provide appropriate hardware equipment to schools.

  7. To develop strategic plans to coordinate and encourage the commercial and industrial fields to support IT education.

  8. To evaluate systematically the effectiveness of the strategic plans for the implementation of IT education. This should at least include on-going reviews of (1) student learning targets in IT at different stages of schooling; (2) the development of IT culture in school; (3) Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards; (4) training programs for serving teachers and pre-service teacher education programs; (5) the appropriateness of software and hardware; and (6) the involvement of the commercial and industrial field in supporting IT education.

5.4 Structure In order to achieve the objectives and to effectively carry the functions, the Office needs to be established under the EMB (or the Bureau coordinating Information Technology) instead of the Education Department. It is therefore recommended that a Steering Committee on IT in Education be formed within the EMB (or the Bureau coordinating Information Technology) to oversee the work of the Office.

6. Possible Contributions of the HKIEd

6.1 Responding to the call of the HKSAR, the Institute has developed new plans, based on its current emphasis on integrating IT in its wide-range of teacher education programmes, to further strengthen IT Education for all students attending both its pre-service and in-service teacher education programmes.

6.2 Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards (TITCS)

6.2.1 As the first and crucial move to strengthen IT education for preparing teachers to meet the challenges, the Institute wishes to launch pilot research projects to develop initially student learning targets in IT and Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards. The above said research projects are currently at its design stage, and it is planned to complete the projects before December 1998. The developed student learning targets in IT will further be used to inform subsequent course development in the Institute. The present conception of TITCS is that the standards will also be dependent on the duration and nature of the teacher education programmes.

6.2.2 In the near future, the Institute will build in a new requirement for all its students attending both pre-service and in-service teacher education programmes, including refreshing training courses for serving teachers, to demonstrate a certain level of Information Technology Competence Standards at graduation.

6.2.3 As a first step to the move, the Institute has already developed an initial set of TITCS for its B.Ed. (Primary) degree course which is now in the process of accreditation by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA).

6.3 New Professional Degree Courses in Information Technology

6.3.1 On top of the above mentioned Teacher Information Technology Competence Standards requirement for all its students, the Institute also plans to mount new professional degree courses to prepare teachers who will eventually take up instructional leadership roles responsible for promoting IT education in schools. Specifically, the following degree programmes will be developed:

  1. B.Ed. (Primary) degree with IT as a major or minor subject. As mentioned above, this course is in the process of accreditation. The Institute could include IT as a major/minor subject in the course as earlier as practicable after course validation by the HKCAA. It is expected that graduates taking IT as a major or minor will be able to support, promote and develop effectively the use of IT across the primary curriculum as well as preparing their pupils to achieve IT related learning targets.

  2. B.Ed. (Secondary) degree with IT as a major or minor subject. This course is currently being designed and will be available for accreditation by the HKCAA in the coming year. Apart from taking up the teaching of IT related subjects in secondary schools, graduates will also be able to support, promote and develop effectively the use of IT across the secondary curriculum.

  3. B.Sc (IT Education). The Institute has just collaborated with the HKUST in developing this degree. In this course, the HKUST will be responsible for the academic subject teaching, while the HKIEd will prepare students as professional beginning teacher in secondary schools. This move marks the beginning of joint efforts between tertiary institutes in supporting Government's policies. With the successful mounting of this degree, the present situation that around 30% of the graduates in the IT/Mathematics stream of the HKUST enter the teaching profession as untrained teachers may likely be rectified.

6.4 Dissemination of Curriculum Resources

The Institute has started to disseminate curriculum resources through the Internet. Currently, our CRUCIAL project disseminates cross curricular teaching and learning material on website for use by secondary school teachers. The Institute plans to develop further this concept by establishing another website for primary schools.

6.5 Opportunities and Facilities for Student Teachers to Develop IT Competence

The Institute's IT infra structure supports not only traditional data applications for teaching, learning and research, but also multi-media applications involving voice and video such as video on demand (VOD) and video-conferencing. It links up 3,000 nodes in all classrooms and staff offices. Because of the multi-media network support, the Institute will devote attention to developing multi-media courseware for use by around 400 lecturing staff in their teaching. Further, a wide range of self access IT facilities and self learning packages in IT are available for use by students in the Institute's computer centres and library. It is envisaged that through this exposure to the IT, students could develop IT competence at their own pace before graduation.

6.6 Establishment of a Centre for Multi-media in Education

With the present multi-media infra structure, the Institute has the capacity to establish a Centre for Multi-media in Education, subject to the availability of funds. Apart from promoting the use of IT in education, the Centre could also take up the role to design and develop multi-media courseware for use by teachers at the pre-primary, primary, and secondary levels. The objective is to provide quality and professional input to the development of multi-media courseware within and beyond the present school curriculum.

6.7 Initiating and Evaluating the Effectiveness of IT Education Initiatives

The Institute's Centre for Research and Development has the experience in launching large scale research projects in the evaluation of education initiatives, such as the evaluation of the implementation of TOC, and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the inclusive education program in ordinary school. Currently, it is working closely with the CDI of the Education Department on the evaluation of the effectiveness of Computer Assisted Programme for Primary Schools. Further, it is now organising research teams to mount pilot studies in "Students' IT Learning Targets" and "Teacher IT Competence Standards" and participate in the design of an International Research Project on the Use of Technology in K to 12. With this strength and background, the Institute believes that it could have significant contribution to assist in research for initiating and evaluating future IT education initiatives mounted by the Government.

7. Concluding Remarks

The above description outlines briefly what the Institute considers to be crucial and strategic for the effective promotion of IT in education; and what it has planned to date to support the Government in preparing both pre-service and in-service teachers to become comfortable, competent and creative users of IT in education. The Institute is committed and have the capacity to contribute in ways that support the Government in actualizing its vision to build HKSAR into an information society.

The Hong Kong Institute of Education
5 November 1997

Last Updated on 7 December 1997