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ICT Transforming Education: The 4th Revolution of Knowledge Dissemination?

How can words describe the buzz and energy generated by 250 people all excited to discuss how information and communication technology (ICT) can transform education?

The unexpected cold and wet weather that shrouded the city did not dampen the enthusiastic and collegial gathering of ministers, policymakers, educators, teachers, researchers, representatives of international organizations and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector from over 20 countries at the 13th UNESCO-APEID International Conference in Hangzhou, China, on 15-17 November 2009.

The participants were challenged to debate the theme of the Conference, ICT transforming education, during the three-day event, organized to:

  • develop understanding of the role of ICT in management, teaching and learning practices
  • enhance capacity to develop policies and use ICT to improve the quality of and access to education
  • showcase and promote ICT in education innovations
  • engage in collaborative ICT in education programmes and networking

The premise of the theme begged many questions as raised by Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO, in his welcome speech: What does the abundance of tools, technologies and know-how mean to education, society and individuals? How do policy makers and educators make their decisions about the type of technology they should invest in? How can we overcome the disparities and bridge the gap? Do we have well-planned training programmes in place to ensure that our teachers have the capacity to maximize the use of ICT in and outside their classrooms? Have we integrated ICT appropriately and sufficiently into education? How can we use these tools and technologies to really transform education?

Speakers and paper presenters attempted to answer these questions by sharing their expertise and experience on formulating appropriate policies, building the capacity of teachers to use ICT more effectively, integrating ICT in teaching and learning with curriculum and pedagogical innovations in all levels of education, harnessing ICT for non-formal education and lifelong learning, and devising monitoring mechanisms and indicators to measure the impact.

By no means is the Conference claiming to have solved all the problems. In fact, in her concluding remarks, Dr. Molly Lee, Coordinator of APEID, noted that the Conference might have raised more questions than answers, but asking the right questions rather than looking for the right answers is equally necessary in our pursuit for a better and deeper understanding of the role ICT in education. The key message from the Conference is that a lot has been done in using ICT to transform education, but more work still needs to be done as participants return to their respective countries.

The world has seen three revolutions in the dissemination of knowledge. The first came with the invention of the written language. The second occurred through the development of moveable type and books. The third revolution became evident with the advent of ICT. The forth revolution may be well in sight particularly if such exchanges of experiences are used to help countries with development challenges learn from others’ past mistakes and leapfrog the various stages of development with the help of ICT to transform education.

For more information, contact Papers and presentations of the Conference are available at