Preparing teachers to judiciously use technologies for teaching and learning is the aim of the Next Generation of Teachers (NET) Project, which is designed to assist teacher education institutions in the Asia-Pacific region. It is one of UNESCO’s most recent initiatives for the professional development of teachers that the Organization as supported for 60 years.
According to Sheldon Shaeffer, Director of the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, by 2008, all regional Member States will be in a position to offer teachers an education on how and when to best use technologies for teaching and learning, through training which is integrated in all national pre-service teacher training institutions in the Asia-Pacific region. “Learners will directly benefit from this new generation of well educated teachers, who will be empowered to use technologies and to facilitate the learners’ active participation in learning, and in the knowledge societies and economies", Shaeffer says.
Key players in the Asia-Pacific ICT in Education field, including EDUCOMP Datamatics Ltd, CISCO, Intel, Internexia and Microsoft have applauded this initiative, and have participated in workshops to further develop the concept and to discuss means of supporting this endeavour.
Microsoft was the first key player to pledge a support going beyond the sharing of materials and know-how: Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) programme has made a generous commitment to financially contribute to the success of this initiative.
Where useful, NET will link to and build on the achievements made and networks created in the conceptual phase and in other projects. The intention is to make this a “growing partnership” which includes all key organizations that are active in the field of professional development of teachers and that are concerned with ICT integration in teacher training.
The NET Project has four main objectives, namely to:
# Assess and meet the needs of the teacher education institutions (TEIs) in terms of technology integration;
# Create a network of TEIs;
# Receive, adapt and/or develop the materials needed: an assessment tool, curriculum framework, start-up kit, and training modules meeting the diverse needs of future teachers in the ASP region;
# Document and consolidate lessons learned to be used as feedback for policymaking and recommendations for institutional change in TEIs.
The NET Project will have five types of beneficiaries and partners, as follows:
# Pupils who will benefit from the improved skills of teachers who facilitate students’ learning and prepare them for knowledge societies and economies;
# Future teachers (those enrolled in the TEIs), who are the direct beneficiaries of the project since they are the targeted participants of the training modules to help integrate ICT in teaching;
# Participating TEIs (including the teacher trainers – a priority group – the administrators of the institutions and their selected faculty), who are also direct beneficiaries as the project will deal with countries and institutions that will collaborate and implement the training modules in their teacher education courses. The selection of the countries and TEIs will be based on an agreed set of criteria (willingness to integrate ICT in teacher education courses, institutional leadership etc.). The exact number of targeted TEI will only be decided after the detailed needs assessment, after the fine-tuning of the strategies;
# Policymakers and other TEI administrators, who will be the target audience when the lessons learned are documented and disseminated;
# National Governments who will be beneficiaries and partners in this project. This initiative will assist governments in their objectives of capacity building as they reform and re-align their national education systems, and in their drive to improve the quality of curriculum practices;