What guidance is there for countries across Africa that are 'computerizing' their schools (or planning to do so) to help ensure that teachers know how to use ICTs productively?
To help provide some answers to this and related questions, the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) recently released its ICT-enhanced teacher standards for Africa  (ICTeTSA), the result of a multi-study and consultation process with 29 countries across the continent. By releasing this document, UNESCO-IICBA doesn't meant to advocate that developing ICT-related competencies and skills be the highest priority for African teachers -- there are certainly many other more pressing and immediate concerns with the teacher corps in many African countries. It does, however, note that a teacher education and development program will not be complete if it does not address the use of ICTs by teachers, now and in the future. Across Africa, teachers are core to the educational process, and ICTs are become more and more relevant in many educational contexts.
As IICBA states:
Good teaching is probably the most critical part of a solid education. The critical importance of teaching is also acknowledged by educators, practitioners, ministers of education, teacher unions, and society at large. The ways teachers are recruited, trained and deployed across schools play a key role in learning outcomes and in reducing inequalities. A high quality teacher education is of critical importance for the quality and relevance of education at all levels, and to the high status of the teaching profession itself. For quality teaching to materialize in the 21st century, we in UNESCO-IICBA believe that there is a need for teacher education programs to work towards high standards in terms of the pedagogical integration of ICTs.
UNESCO isn't the only group working across Africa in this area, but its global ICT teacher competency framework and standards have provided the general direction for many related activities. The World Bank, for example, has supported training for teachers  in countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria and The Gambia based on the UNESCO framework, and groups such as GeSCI have explored how the high level UNESCO framework can be contextualized for use in places like Nigeria  [pdf], just one of numerous activities it has sponsored looking at the use of ICTs in teaching and learning in Africa  [pdf] more generally.
The ICT-enhanced teacher standards for Africa released by UNESCO-IICBA, which are an attempt to help contextualize the broader UNESCO framework and standards based on specific needs and contexts expressed by education policymakers from across Africa, are organized around six broad 'standards' or domains meant to help develop related skills in teachers as they:
(i) Engage in Instructional Design Processes
(ii) Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning, Innovation and Creativity
(iii) Create and Manage Effective Learning Environments
(iv) Engage in Assessment and Communication of Student Learning
(v) Engage in Professional Development and Model Ethical Responsibilities
(vi) Understand Subject Matter for Use in Teaching
This publication was preceded by a related paper from UNESCO-IICBA, ICT-enhanced Teacher Development Mode  [pdf] and was informed by a related needs assessment that looked particular at teacher training institutes  and eight key recommendations that emerged from a five-year project under the Pan-African Observatory :
- Develop a national policy for the pedagogical integration of ICT.
- Develop a national policy for teacher training in the pedagogical integration of ICT.
- Provide ongoing training for school staff.
- Develop technopedagogical resource banks for different education levels.
- Set up incentive plans for teachers and students to use ICT.
- Set up spaces for collaborative dialogue (e.g., forums, annual conferences) on the pedagogical integration of ICT.
- Identify the academic competencies to which ICT can be applied for teaching and learning.
- Establish public–private partnerships
("Resource mobilization" is cited in this context.)
No doubt some people will question some of these recommendations, and may take issue with the some of the specific components of the new UNESCO-IICBA standards that were developed as a result. Fair enough: Related debate is expected, and even encouraged. Rather than offer a 'last word' in these areas, it is hoped that the articulation and publication of these standards will represent a common starting point for further dialogue and activity in this area. Coming as a result of such a lengthy process of inquiry, reflection and consultation, and just as a few countries are in the early stages of discussion and implementation of some sizable educational technology programs that have large hardware components, it is hoped that focused attention and guidance to the related professional development needs of teachers may help some African countries avoid having to learn for themselves some of the (expensive) related lessons learned by countries in other parts of the world.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program in Peru, which has helped distribute almost a million laptops to students in rural schools in Peru over the past few years, has been the subject of much international attention since the publication  of an evaluation  earlier this year by the Inter-american Development Bank (a recent post  on the independent OLPCnews.com web site carries links to many good related articles, discussions and comments). The new head of that project within the Peruvian Ministry of education was recently quoted  as saying, "In essence, what we did was deliver the computers without preparing the teachers." Let's hope that countries in Africa don't have to learn that same lesson the hard way.
Related items that might be of interest:
Teacher professional development related to the use of ICTs was a theme of the education section of the World Bank's recent eTransform Africa  paper.
It can sometimes be difficult to navigate the main UNESCO web site and find all of the key documents related to its ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. Here's a good place to start  (and have a look at this document  [pdf]). UNESCO is current on version 2.0 of this work; you may also be interested in the first version of its ICT competency standards for teachers, especially the original policy framework , implementation guidelines , and competency standards modules .
The World Bank's SABER-Teachers  project documents teacher policies for public schools in developed and developing countries in order to inform policy choices and promote policy dialogue, globally.
note: The image used at the top of this blog post of an Acacia tree at sunrise in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park ("is this the dawn of a new era?") comes via Wikimedia Commons  courtesy of Daniel Zaas, who has released it into the public domain.