Facilitating Learning by Going Online: Modernising Islamic Teaching and Learning in Indonesia

Facilitating Learning by Going Online: Modernising Islamic Teaching and Learning in Indonesia

Siew Mee Barton
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3649-1.ch005
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This chapter examines the impact of eLearning and Web 2.0 social media in a socially conservative environment in Indonesia that has nevertheless proven surprisingly adroit at change management. Web 2.0 social media has proven enormously popular in Indonesia but traditional Islamic schools (which are known in Java as pesantren but elsewhere in the Muslim world as madrasah) the focus of this study is often unable to access Web 2.0 or the Internet in general. Progressive non-national government organizations (NGOs) seek to remedy this situation by providing satellite broadband links to remote schools and this chapter examines one particular project. Despite the impoverished and conservative nature of their community, the leaders of this school have led their students in a surprisingly enthusiastic reception of eLearning technology, recognizing its great capacity to produce and enhance social networks and provide new opportunities for learning. Particular attention in this case study is given to factors relating to social capital, attitudes, and patterns of behavior in leadership and change management. A case study approach was chosen to enable a richer and more finely-grained analysis of the issues. The case study is based on semi-structured interviews and observations conducted over several years. This research shows that whilst the adoption and uptake of eLearning with emerging technologies is strongly shaped by cultural and social factors, it plays out in very different ways than might first have been expected.
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Introduction: E-Pesantren

Muslims have creatively applied Internet technologies in the interests of furthering understanding of their religion. It is only natural for a net-literate generation to seek out specific truths and affiliations online, especially when the information cannot be accessed in a local mosque or community context. Cooke and Lawrence (2005, p. 13) reflect Dawson’s point in a discussion on religion and the Internet: ‘the Internet is used most often to expand people’s social horizons and involvement. Thus far, however, pesantren have mainly been using the Internet for the purposes of religious teaching. A recent initiative by the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP) and the Ford Foundation, is aimed more at bringing general education to pesantren via the Internet. Started in 2007, a program called the Open, Distance and eLearning (ODeL) Program for pesantren, plans on giving pesantren students the equivalent of a high school education, which in Indonesia is split into two levels of lower middle school (Years 7–9), and higher middle school (Years 10–12).

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