Creating and using ICT-based learning resources in multigrade education


Using ICT in the rural schools:
Some examples of developing learning resources

ICT-based educational resources in multigrade schools should help students to work with other students with different ability levels, and learn from older students. The development of resources and the organization of learning activities involving ICT, pursue this general aim.
On the other hand, the specific needs and, some times, ICT limitations, of both the rural schools and teachers’ competencies, demand new approaches for classroom organization and new teacher’s roles.

Both specificities should be seen also as new opportunities for the multigrade classrooms, as we will see below. The following sections show specific examples on how Spanish rural schools are dealing with the needs of supporting teachers in organizing ICT-based projects. Specifically, we review practical examples of developing ICT-based projects, classified in five different models. But, first, we must briefly see the profile of the two key participants in the educational use of ICTs in multigrade schools: the ICT teachers and the students.

Some models of using ICT learning resources in the rural school.


While the extent to which this so-called ‘digital revolution’ in fact constitutes a distinct break with the past or the emergence of a new era remains contested (Webster, 2002), and the implications of these new resources for social well-being remain unclear (Feenberg, 1998), what is evident is that the presence of ICT tools provides both a new arena of opportunity and a new set of challenges for educational systems, for curricula and for teachers across Europe, including the rural school.

Beyond these statements, we claim that multigrade schools participate also of these opportunities, are able to evolve and adapt to the new era, and, moreover, other non-rural schools can learn from them. In fact, the multigrade school is a model which could be followed by regular urban schools; the educational approach of the multigrade school definitely implies a constant adaptation to the environment, but also, to the children’s learning and maturation needs. The multigrade teachers’ collaborative work, the organization and management of the grouping of schools are ways to optimize the schools’ human, material and economic resources, which can be adapted by regular schools.
In the learning processes, ICT resources are of key importance in the progression of pedagogic renewal attained by the school system, so as by the multigrade schools in recent years. ICT resources allow the multigrade teacher to heighten respect for diversity, so important in the multigrade classroom. Moreover, as we have exposed, the ICT resources allow for breaking the barriers and the endemic isolation of the multigrade school while they contribute to strengthening local traditions and specificities; that is to say, ICTs allow rural students to access the globalized world without losing their roots.

In this scenario, the creation of learning resources is a process involving teachers, traveling ICT coordinators, and students. The creation of educational ICT-based materials cannot be left (only) in the hands of multimedia designers and programmers that do not necessarily have a suitable concept of the children’s learning processes. The rural school shows us that this task can also be accomplished by the school itself, which is indeed completely conscious of the education-learning processes; it can be achieved not only by the teachers, pedagogues and ICT teachers, but also by the students themselves as a part of their school task or in their role of peer-tutor.

The local rural community inspires and many times uses the resources created by the multigrade schools, which, in turn, are integrated into the curriculum. The multigrade school contextualization frames us in the historical, social, cultural and linguistic reality of the environment and allows us to incorporate it into the school curriculum. It is a matter of having at our disposal enough competences to be able to apprehend the local knowledge, to value and respect the school’s physical and social environment, and to encourage the participation of local people in the curricular project accomplishment and/or revision, without neglecting the educational system’s goals and policies. It is a matter of encouraging a “natural meeting between the school and the rural children’s life”.