The e-Learning Puzzle in Turkey: Déjà Vu?

The e-Learning Puzzle in Turkey: Déjà Vu?

Selçuk Özdemir (Gazi University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-942-7.ch010

Abstract

This chapter aims to share Turkey’s ICT integration experiences from a country-wide perspective rather than a school or classroom case. Many experiences in different countries indicate that successful ICT integration requires interlocking components, such as purchasing hardware, in-service training for principals and teachers, curriculum integration, financial resources for maintenance, technical, and pedagogical support, and an adequate amount and quality of digital learning material. Lack of one of the components may cause the failure of the whole integration process. The employment of ICT in education is a complex process comprising intricate components, much like the pieces of a puzzle. Sharing the experiences gained from national initiatives is especially important for developing countries, which should make an effort to learn from the experiences of other countries because loans granted by foreign sources make up a majority of the e-learning investment.
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Background

You can import a Ferrari into any country in the world as long as you have money; however, this purchase does not guarantee the Ferrari’s performance in that country. Simply importing a Ferrari is not enough unless you have drivers skilled in driving fast cars, high quality fuel, maintenance services, and smooth highways accessible across the country. Similarly, it has been demonstrated through a number of practices around the world that e-learning, or information and communication technologies (ICT) in education, is not just about purchasing the required hardware or supplying internet connections to schools.

Technology does not deliver educational success on its own. It only becomes of value in education if learners and teachers can adopt it to a useful end. According to an OECD report (2001), in spite of the USD 16 billion spent in 1999 in OECD countries, the expectations for ICT use in education were mostly left unfulfilled, and ICT investments made by the public sector did not result in improved performance, quality, or access to a better education. The lessons learnt from these attempts in OECD member countries led researchers to focus on the concerns over the return on ICT investment. Many experiences in different countries indicate that successful ICT integration requires interlocking components, such as purchasing hardware, in-service training for principals and teachers, curriculum integration, financial resources for maintenance, technical, and pedagogical support, and an adequate amount and quality of digital learning material. Lack of one of the components may cause the failure of the whole integration process. The employment of ICT in education is a complex process comprising intricate components, much like the pieces of a puzzle. Each piece should fit the others well in order to form an ideal picture. Otherwise:

  • Even though you buy the best hardware, if your teachers are not ready for ICT use in classroom;

  • Even though you buy the best hardware and provide in-service training to teachers on how to use ICT in education, if you do not realize ICT integration in the curriculum;

  • Even though you invest in the best hardware, provide in-service training to teachers on ICT in education, and integrate ICT into the curriculum, if you cannot reserve financial resources for maintenance;

  • Even though you buy the best hardware, provide in-service training to teachers on how to use ICT in education, integrate ICT into the curriculum, and reserve financial resources for maintenance, if you cannot supply an adequate amount and quality of digital education material and educational software, the integration of ICT in the educational process will be incomplete and will not bring about the anticipated results.

Figure 1.

The Intricate Components of ICT Integration in Education

As a developing country, e-learning efforts in Turkey remind one of déjà vu, rather than a puzzle. As a careful observer of the projects designed to integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) into the Turkish educational system, I often feel as though I come across the same problems in each ICT integration project. The Ministry of National Education (MONE) starts each project with a massive hardware purchase. Then, this hardware is distributed to schools across the country. Later, researchers from Turkish universities or MONE conduct impact research studies to evaluate the effectiveness of the investment. The reports of these research projects usually indicate more or less the same findings. Unfortunately, since 1998, the research on several education projects, including the ICT integration dimension, has reported the same problems hindering the effective and efficient use of ICT in education. Experiencing the same problems in consecutive projects indicates that policy makers and project managers of MONE execute new projects without taking lessons from the prior ones and manifests that ICT integration is not a one-off or unidirectional process.

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