Social computing for expanding information capabilities of pre-service teachers in developing countries

Malik Aleem Ahmed


Developed countries have been using Information and Communication technologies to improve their education system and delivery. They have been experimenting with the Internet and web tools and systems to improve practicum and internship opportunities and experiences for pre-service and beginning teachers. As in other sectors, developing countries have been lagging behind to capitalize the Internet and the web for improving the practicum and internship opportunities for pre-service, beginning as well as in-service teachers; although some developing countries like India (Prakash, VP. Sinha, M. 2006), Malaysia, Brazil (Isabella, R. 2006) have been using different technologies like TV, Radio, teleconferencing, Educational Videos for distance learning. This paper identifies and briefly discusses the Web 2.0 applications and systems, which can be used to improve practicum and internship experiences of pre-service and beginning teachers by expanding their information capabilities in developing countries

Pre-service and beginning teachers face different problems during practicum and internship experiences. These include but not limited to isolation, emotional problems, classroom management, discipline and lesson planning. ICTs can be used for mentoring, field placement, creating electronic communities, socio-emotional support, discussions about different issues and getting feedback (Bodzin, AM. 2000). Studies shows that pre-service teachers appreciate the use of Information and Communication Technologies e.g. in one study pre-service teachers acknowledged the fact that they had, without delay, useful advise and feedback related to the situations they encountered (e.g. see Bodzin, AM. 2000).

One of the services of the Internet, which quickly evolved and became widely acceptable in 1990s, is the World Wide Web. In the past 20 years, the web has become the most popular service of the Internet. For the last five years, the term web 2.0 has been becoming common. Web 2.0 is the popular name of a new generation of web applications, sites, and companies that emphasize openness, community, and interaction (David, 2006). Web 2.0 includes blogs, wikis, trackback, podcasting, video blogs, and different social networking tools (Alexander, 2006). Web 2.0 is also referred to as social web or social media because of its emphasis on community, social interaction and user generated content.

If used properly social web 2.0 applications, also called social computing applications, can not only help in the placement of pre-services teachers but can also help in building the online virtual community for the improvement of practicum and internship experiences in teachers education in developing countries. In this paper, I examine different social computing applications, e.g. – wikis, blogs and social networks – which can be used to improve practicum and internship programs for pre-service and beginning teachers. I discuss, using the concepts of Capability Approach (see Sen 1999), how different social computing applications can assist in improving the practicum and internship programs for pre-service and beginning teachers by expanding the information capabilities (i.e., freedom of realizing functionings of acquiring, using, and disseminating information) of the pre-service teachers.

In the Capability Approach literature (e.g. see (Sen, 1980, 1985, 1999, 2002), the term capability refers to the freedom of realizing various functionings. Functionings are things a person may value doing and being (Sen, 1999). Thus, capability means the freedom to do things and/or to be which a person values. By information capabilities, I mean the freedom of realizing functioning of; 1) acquiring, 2) using and 3) disseminating information. They are also connected with the functioning of communication and interaction. Freedom of realizing implies that certain background conditions have to be met in order realize the potential functioning into an actual one (Ahmed forthcoming).

I also indicate that the applications and systems can also be used for expanding the information capabilities of teaching institutions / universities, schools, governments, overseeing agencies and others. Direct beneficiaries of social computing initiatives in this area include practicum director, placement officer, pre-service teachers at the teaching institutions / universities; school placement officers, supervisors, cooperating teachers and students at the schools. Indirect beneficiaries include governments, overseeing agencies and other stakeholders.


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