The cell phone internet access is a reality of our digital culture and is now a common sight in Brazilian schools too. The sixth TIC Educação (ICT Education survey, click to download the presentation), undertaken by Cetic.br (the Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil, or the Brazilian Internet Management Commission), found that over a third of teachers (39%) said they used such devices in activities with their students. A total of 36% of such teachers were from public schools while 46% were from private schools.
All private schools and 93% of public schools in urban areas in Brazil have access to the internet. Despite this high level of connectivity, the use of the network in the classroom is available in only 43% of public schools and 72% of private schools.
“The use of the internet in schools is still highly concentrated in areas where there are no students. The directors’ offices or staff room, for example,” says Cetic.br manager Alexandre Barbosa.
Barbosa also explains that a limiting factor is broadband capacity in schools, which has not advanced over the last twelve months. A total of 45% of public schools say they have speeds of only up to 2 Mbps (Megabits per second).
“The infrastructure also limits practical use. With broadband speed like this it’s impossible to carry out activities using a large number of mobile devices.”
Although Wi-Fi connectivity, which is directly linked to the use of mobile devices, has increased in public and private schools, another of key finding of the study is that in most institutions, the use of mobile internet is blocked to students.
“The big question is: how do we use the internet for teaching purposes? Principals don’t want the students to have access to the internet during class, arguing that it takes their attention away from the teacher, but this ends up restricting the innovative use of these devices,” says Barbosa.
The data illustrates another challenge: teacher training. The study found that 73% of teachers used computers and the internet in at least one activity with their students (70% of teachers in public schools and 84% in private schools). The activities most cited by teachers were: asking students to produce work on specific themes (59%), carry out group work (54%), give exposition-based classes (52%) and ask students to do exercises (50%).
The number of activities that use the internet is still very low. One hypothesis for this is the lack of skills and proper training among teachers
“The data doesn’t say how often these activities are carried out. But even so, it’s something public policy needs to reflect on: the number of activities that use the internet is still very low. One hypothesis for this is the lack of skills and proper training among teachers. It’s important to use technologies that incentivize the participation of students”.
Only 39% of professors said they had studied a specific module relating to the use of technology in teaching activities during their degree course. This number rose to 54%, however, among interviewees aged under 30.
The survey makes another key point: the necessity of investing in collaborative networks of educators. In the study, 70% of teachers said they learned to use computers and the internet through informal contact with other teachers and 44% through a group of teachers at the school itself.
“The teacher seeks out information on how to use the internet in teaching from other teachers and even from students. We noted that, due to the improved infrastructure in private schools, all the teachers had the same attitude towards and interest in the use of technology.”
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Staying safe on the internet
Responsible use of the internet is one of the key subjects in digital culture today. Despite this, the Cetic.br survey shows that only 20% of private schools and 51% of private schools provided some kind of course or lecture on this subject in 2015.
The study also found that the Civil Internet Framework, the law that regulates the use of the internet in Brazil, is not widely known among education managers. Only 14% of public schools and 19% of private schools were aware of the subject.
“In the last 15 years, public policy regarding the technological infrastructure in schools has advanced. Now, we need to invest in the scale and quality of use. Schools need to allocate space to the teaching of digital citizenship,” says Alexandre Barbosa.
The objective of the annual survey is to monitor the use and appropriation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by those acting in the education system, in public and private schools in primary and secondary education, in urban areas, with emphasis on teaching activities, learning and school management. Data collection was carried out between September and December 2015, based on interviews with 898 directors, 861 pedagogical coordinators, 1,631 teachers and 9,213 students.