Speeches

Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, at the International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology (iCTLT) on Thursday, 4 March 2010, at 9.00am at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Director-General of Education, Ms Ho Peng,

CEO ISTE, Dr Don Knezek,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

I am very pleased to join all of you this morning at the second International Conference for Teaching and Learning with Technology, jointly organised by the Ministry of Education and the International Society for Technology in Education (or in short, ISTE).

The advancement of information and communication technology (ICT) has accentuated international connectivity and accelerated the pace of globalisation. Technological evolution has a profound and continual impact on the way we live, work and play. Take the mobile phone as a case in point. Its advent was a mere 15–20 years ago. Today, it is ubiquitous, and seemingly indispensable to our daily life. The device you hold in your hand could have been designed in Europe, manufactured in China, and distributed through Singapore. Technology is the crucial enabler that made this device, and its cross border production, possible.

In Singapore, we have used technology as a key lever to enhance our role in the international economic value–chain. The latest report by the World Economic Forum ranked Singapore as the most ‘network ready’ country in Asia, and also as the most open economy for international trade and investment in the world. To maintain our value proposition as a compelling business centre for international corporations, our hardware and infrastructure must be complemented by a 21st century workforce that is ready for the challenges and opportunities of this globalised environment. In this respect, the continual development of our students in the use of ICT for learning is a significant endeavour.

From the first ICT Masterplan to the current third Masterplan, Singapore has laid sound education structures to equip our students with the skills and attributes needed to enhance our position in the 21st century.

The first ICT Masterplan laid the foundation for ICT use in education, and the second Masterplan paved the way for innovative use of ICT in schools. We established structures to push the limits of ICT use in order to transform the learning environment. It is an arduous journey that requires perseverance. But, we are heartened by the encouraging signs of the innovative use of ICT emerging from our schools, at the end of ICT Masterplan 2. For example, Teck Whye Primary students demonstrated understanding of the concepts of reflection and angles through the creation of 3D animation; and Ngee Ann Secondary School students learned the laws of physics through instant messaging a virtual Einstein.

As we move onto the third Masterplan, we see ourselves further strengthening ICT-enabled learning and teaching innovations, enhancing collaboration within the teaching fraternity, and scaling good ICT learning and teaching practices across the system.

Let me elaborate.

Masterplan 3

The vision of the third ICT Masterplan, “Harnessing ICT, Transforming Learners”, is aligned to our nation’s curriculum for 2015, or C2015 (read as C–twenty fifteen). C2015 articulates the imperative to provide a timely and targeted education to prepare our students for the 21st century workplace.

Broadly, the ICT Masterplan 3 identifies 2 key student focused outcomes:

First, students will develop self–directed and collaborative skills which are necessary for the 21st century. Over the next five years, schools will, in a progressive manner, devote at least 20% of curriculum to using ICT to support self–directed and collaborative learning. This target is achievable and some schools are already making good headway in this regard.

Second, students will be discerning and responsible users of ICT. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter - many of our students are already active members of the read–write–web. Others may have even led guilds in massive multiplayer online role–playing games (MMORPGs). More intensive engagement in such environments are increasingly exposing students to the perils of cyberspace. Some are so immersed in cyberspace that they lose track, and even control, of the time spent online. This can adversely affect their behaviour and there are already instances of students falling prey to cyber abuse.

It is therefore critical for MOE to put in place cyber wellness programmes, to educate our students of the potential dangers that lurk in cyberspace, and to be responsible users of ICT. One key support structure is the provision of a trained teacher in every school to initiate and implement cyber wellness programmes. In addition, last year, MOE introduced a cyber wellness student ambassador programme to promote cyber wellness among their peers. This programme has spawned interesting school initiatives. For instance, some student ambassadors have created short video clips offering cyber wellness tips and even uploaded these clips onto YouTube to share with their friends.

By the end of this year, we would have trained cyber wellness student ambassadors in 50% of our schools and, by 2013, we will have such student ambassadors in every school.

The cyber wellness efforts in school must be supported by parents. Parents play a crucial role in managing their children’s behaviour in cyber space. Many schools hold talks for / with parents to discuss the importance of online safety for their children, and to give tips on how to monitor their children’s computer use at home. Only when parents and schools work hand in hand, can we ensure that our students adopt the right values and attitude when using technology.

How can the ICT Masterplan 3 bring us closer to achieving these student outcomes?

Strengthen Innovations

First, structures to strengthen innovations. In the ICT Masterplan 3, while schools continue to be the main driver of ICT innovations, MOE will work alongside them to develop and prototype lesson packages based on current effective ICT practices in schools.

In addition, MOE will link schools with institutes of higher learning and industry partners to test–bed emerging technologies for learning, and put proven pedagogies into practice. For example, Ai Tong School developed their pedagogies in using e–portfolios for assessment with researchers from the National Institute of Education. They have shared their experience and many schools have since adopted a similar approach for assessment.

FutureSchools serve as beacons for the education landscape to explore pedagogical possibilities for the near future. MOE will continue to support these schools in experimenting with educational technologies that have the potential to change the paradigm of learning. For example, students in Hwa Chong Institution can expect to have more than 1000 local and foreign mentors guiding them on real world projects through a virtual academy.

Enhance Collaboration

Next, structures to foster sharing and collaboration among teachers. Over the years, we have seen more teachers becoming skilful in harnessing ICT in creative ways to impact learning. For example, 2009 MOE–Microsoft Professional Development Award (MMPDA) winner, Mr Mohammad Nizam Bin Abdul Kadir, of Canberra Secondary School, used a range of ICT tools to get his students to think about, explore, share and learn the effects of different exercises on the human body. Using dataloggers to measure oxygen content, spreadsheets to analyse the relationship between heart rate and oxygen content, and blogs to share their findings, students leveraged on ICT to support their inquiry and learning process. Providing platforms for teachers like Nizam to share and propagate their good ideas, will shorten the learning curve of others.

Just as essential is the need to promote collaboration among teachers to discuss and construct new lesson ideas, or even to improve existing practices. Leveraging on the web, we are encouraging teachers to work together and engage in professional exchanges. Our recently launched MOE portal called edu.MALL 2.0 offers an array of online tools such as blogs, discussion forums and wikis for teachers. The newly introduced email and collaboration system for all teachers, called iCON, also serves to encourage regular discussion, debates and sharing of teaching resources.

Today marks the launch of a new online platform ICT Connection which harvests the best examples of ICT use in schools. These exemplars, which come in different forms such as video clips, lesson resources and articles, will serve to inspire and engage teachers in constant dialogue on the effective integration of ICT.

System–wide Transformation

Third, structures to see through system–wide scaling up of good ICT learning and teaching practices. Currently, we have a concerted effort to infuse ICT seamlessly into the curriculum. ICT–enriched learning experiences are progressively and explicitly being embedded in our syllabus. For example, the use of spreadsheets, graphing and geometrical construction tools to analyse data and study graphs, is now an essential part of mathematics teaching and learning. The use of different digital media for analysis or construction of historical accounts has also been embedded in the history syllabus.

As we make changes to the way we teach, we are also stepping up our efforts to change the way we assess learning. We are piloting the use of an e–assessment portal called “We–Learn” for Lower Secondary English Language. Teachers can generate quizzes and games with the suite of tools available in the portal to assess listening and reading skills.

At the global level, Singapore is one of the six Founder Country members of an international assessment project named Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (or in short, ATC21S). Over the next two years, we will explore, develop and conduct trials of new assessment approaches which are applicable to 21st century skills.

To support this system–wide infusion of ICT into the curriculum and assessment, we are developing a corps of expert practitioners called ICT mentors to systemically level up the capacity of teachers so that quality ICT–enabled lessons will be pervasive in our schools. These ICT mentors will champion and mentor teachers on the effective use of ICT for learning and teaching in their respective disciplines. All the ICT mentors will undergo a rigorous training programme to develop their ICT–related pedagogies and coaching competencies. By 2013, we expect to have an average of 4 trained ICT mentors in every school.

Finally, all schools will have the ICT infrastructure to support system–wide transformation for next generation learning. One improvement schools can look forward to is better internet connectivity. The bandwidth in our schools has recently been upgraded from 5 Mb to 20 Mb. We look forward to the Next Generation Broadband Network (NGBN) which will provide wireless internet access and ultra–high speed connectivity.

By the end of the third ICT Masterplan, we expect to see the pervasive use of ICT for anytime, anywhere learning, thereby engendering a further transformation of the learning environment and more ICT–enriched learning experiences for our students.

Conclusion

ICT devices are becoming more sophisticated and personalised, opening up new possibilities to create, collaborate and share. As teachers, you will need to continuously update and upgrade your pedagogical skill sets to effectively leverage upon ICT to impact learning.

As we move forward, let us make a concerted effort to collaborate, share and synergise. To our local educators, we look forward to your inspiring endeavours in harnessing ICT for teaching / learning, and extending the impact of your work through ICT Connection. To our foreign educators, we look forward to more opportunities to engage in professional exchanges with you. And to our partners in education, we look forward to more collaborative opportunities as we bring about a further transformation to our education landscape under ICT Masterplan 3.

On this note, I wish you all a productive conference and all the best, as you Innovate, Collaborate and Transform.