Information and communication technologies—ICT—have changed the way we relate to others and revolutionized many fields of human endeavor. Physical presence is no longer a prerequisite for being in contact with people or suppliers of information relevant to personal or professional activities. By using ICT the interaction that is required to perform individual and group initiatives can be achieved at reasonable prices and with increasing effectiveness. Moreover, businesses are not the same since computers and digital networks are now used to add value to products and services. Hence, information systems and technologies can create a difference in customer service and resource management of an organization (Galvis, 1997).
Like all sectors of human activity, education has at its disposal multiple technological opportunities to support the achievement of its mission. Information and Communication Technologies for Education—ICTE—have permeated the management of educational institutions. Information systems—accounting, finance, library and student registration—are increasingly more effective and provide better administrative service to the recipients. In spite of the growing investments made by ministries and secretaries of education and parental associations to provide equipment to educational institutions at all levels and in all sectors, ICTE have had a smaller impact on the activities inherent to student development and the establishment and consolidation of learning communities. At this juncture, the following comment, from Seymour Papert (1996), resonates: It is easy to understand how someone from this era might be in a classroom of our time and appear to feel very comfortable since the teaching environment has remained the same—centered on the professor and using the blackboard. By contrast, if one were to face a different environment—for example a hospital—one would not recognize it because technology has radically changed the processes
In education there are many opportunities to reengineer educational processes with technology support. Nevertheless, when we integrate ICTE just to mediate processes (e.g., use of LMS—Learning Management Systems—to distribute and collect course related digital information) we will most likely continue doing more of the same; there may be increases in efficiency but not necessarily in efficacy. When we rethink what we are doing and use ICTE to make viable some of our educational dreams (e.g., fostering active learning via interaction, exploration, collaboration) we will most likely add value to education at costs that merit the investment. With ICTE we can do business as usual with new tools, or we can choose to rethink what is to be done and how we will do it, given the array of digital resources available. (Galvis, 1998a, 1998b).
Just having computer equipment and communication networks in educational institutions will not make a difference in learning outcomes; it is what is done with them and how it is done that matters. The use of ICTE in fundamental processes adds value to the mission of each institution.