To e- or Not to e-, that is the Problem
All technology leads to education- one obvious example is the e-Learning Week in Korea, which takes place this year from September 16-18. So, which will be the last parent standing to buy a collegiate dictionary for their children? Early adopting parents are already establishing a ubiquitous learning infrastructure for their future babies, complete with smart phones, IPTV, and DMB. The 3D digital textbook is is in development, along with e-learning applications for smart phones. Convergence of IT and education, is this really for, of, and by the students?
E-Government initiative in America
The countries who are at the forefront of e-Learning are found to be the frontrunners of the Open Government movement. The inauguration of Barack Obama essentially began to usher in a new era of open and accountable E-government. On his first day in office, Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government with promises of establishing a system of "transparency, public participation, and collaboration."
Since the new era has begun, the Obama administration has directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue an Open Government Directive, establishing several important government flagship initiatives. The Department of Defense implemented Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, a groundbreaking electronic health data sharing solution. Such a standardized exchange of information strives to support America's service members and veterans of the armed forces. The wave of the Open Government Directive also hit the Department of Education. ED Data Express has been newly designed to improve the public's ability to access and explore high value state-level data collected by the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).
Wave of e-Government and e-Education in South Korea
South Korea has been ranked number one with an E-government development index of 0.8785 in 2010. Adhering to principles of efficiency and transparency of public participation, the Korean government has a firmly established standardized business system. This system includes the Hometax system, which allows the public to access information on tax activities such as filing, billing, and payment. Maeng, Hyung Kyu, the Minister of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS) said recently, "The Ministry aims to devise the right tools and policy approaches to build a performance-oriented government system to keep pace with the rapidly changing administrative environment."
South Korea is at the forefront of e-Learning Government, as well. In 2001 for instance, the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MOEHRD) passed the 'Cyber University Foundation Law.' By 2004 some seventeen Cyber universities were up and running. By 2006 over half of all four year colleges and universities, particularly those with 10,000+ student enrollments were offering e-learning courses.
Electronically supported learning comes in many forms. A wide variety of educators and schools use a broad range of tools to enhance the classroom experience and education as a whole. Here, this reporter will introduce three programs in which are widely used in educational institutions around the globe.
Wikispaces: A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages, enabling anyone to contribute or modify content on the Internet. In other words, a wiki is a virtual content management program where anyone accessing the content can upload and exchange a range of documents, files and videos. Adam Frey, one of the founders of Wikispaces (a type of Wiki platform) highlights the educational value of Wikispaces, "It's great for schools obviously as there are endless groups in school, classrooms, clubs, study teams, faculty groups, etc who need simple ways to work together. Anyone in the organization can use Wikisapces to do their work in a connected way.
Edline: Edline, a Learning Management System (LMS) is used in all 50 U.S. states and in over 70 countries globally. Its purpose? It's pretty straightforward: instructors can upload tests, projects, assignment, class syllabus, and progress reports. Edline is an important tool in promoting parental involvement, supporting teachers, and engaging the learning community.
Blackboard Learning System: Blackboard is a virtual learning environment. Its purposes are to add online elements to courses traditionally taught in a traditional classroom setting and to develop completely online courses. It has become a helpful tool in delivering learning content, engaging learners, and measuring their performance. (Grade Quick included)
To e- or not to e-
Despite the rapidly developing technology in the arena of E-Learning, prestigious schools in America continue to hold traditional learning methods in high regard. For these schools, traditional methods of education are believed to be a better way to promote the true meaning of "open education" where the atmosphere encourages the students to "interact" with the teachers. The Taft School, a leading national coeducational boarding school in Watertown, Connecticut has not adapted any of the e-learning systems described above. Mr. Macmullen, the headmaster of Taft stated, "Schools just cannot assume the benefits of technology. The application of technology, at all costs, must accelerate learning. Schools must use technology in a visionary and strategic approach to school campus." Macmullen further states, "At an institution like Taft, one is given a certain amount of independence. There is no need for programs such as Edline, because it should be left as the students' responsibility to actively ask teachers to evaluate their performance."
There are, of course, fervent advocates of technologically-based learning in classrooms. Most notable is the Korea International School, a co-educational international school located in Gyeonggi Province. KIS has already implemented a one-to-one laptop program, which "represents the ultimate in technology infusion." The school sees the "introduction of [such] program as a paradigm shift in how instruction is delivered." Not surprisingly, KIS makes full use of Edline and arranges frequent parent-teacher conferences in virtual space based on daily reports of students' performance on homework assignments, projects, tests, and grades.
Learning Management System, however, is placing a greater responsibility on the teachers to serve the students as, in effect, a perfect "secretary". The thinking is that future generation students won't be responsible for keeping a record of assignments in a homework log because they will be typed neatly for them on Wikispaces. Parents won't ever have to ask their children about the current status of their grades because they will be able to log onto Edline and check for themselves when ever they like. With a smart phone, parents can immediately send an e mail or text message to their child's teacher at the moment when a question arises. Therefore, ubiquitous education cannot be achieved without ubiquitous teachers. So to what degree should a government consider development of e-Education?
Students in Wonderland
Having a 3D image of an oak tree on page 3 of a digital biology textbook, would this be a distraction or a great visual aid for students?Performing a virtual dissection on a pig through simulation software, would this eco-friendly, not to mention animal-friendly, solution be better for students in terms of education itself? Many wondering voices of parents have been shared at the site of e-Learning Week. As opposed to applying advanced technology to educational fields, government should set a clear purpose for e-Learning. As the ultimate goal of e-Government is to encourage citizen participation in problem solving, the question of to what extent are we going to allow the merge of technology in education must be examined, in order to establish effective guidelines.