Technology has long been a controversial issue in terms of its place in the education process. Some dub technology as a “cure-all for American education (Archer, 1998).” Opponents of this view feel technology is brain killing and will result in empty, unintelligent shells of citizens. This controversy does not simplify with the fast pace of today’s digital era. As with many things, the key to a successful modern education is a fine balance of open-minded teachers implementing technology into everyday lessons. Educational technology today makes information more accessible, learning more personal and fosters a fresh perspective teachers role in students learning process.
In the early1990’s, computers were just beginning to be commonplace in public spaces and in private homes. By 2000, students were completing regular class assignments using computer word processors, internet research and printers. Now in 2010, most schools have Internet access and computer labs comprised of roughly “one computer to every four students (Inan)”. In some cases, schools are providing laptops to every entering high school student. Wireless internet access across high school campuses is also becoming commonplace affording students the ability to work anywhere, any time.
The modern storage devices have also taken switching workstations extremely simple. At one time in the not too distant past there were thing like floppy disc, which resembled mini records if you forgot their square shape. They would bend easily and were susceptible to erasing because of a computer crash or they became too warm. Compact discs (CDs) were a nice change from those floppy discs. Still those CDs scratched easily and would not always work properly. Now there are Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drives that allow huge amounts of information to be transfer from one computer to another with ease. USB flash drives are inexpensive and can sometimes hold more information than a personal computer or laptop. On average, a USB flash drive is smaller than an adult pinkie finger.
All of these modernizations make aspects of finding information and completing class assignments easier for today’s students. All this new technology means students must be learning from a young age how to use and be familiar with computers. Students must learn the fundamentals of spelling, reading, counting and computers in order to be successful in their education and beyond (Vanderlinde,Van Braak & Hermans, 2009).
Educators can use technology in number of ways. Technology can be for instructional preparation by creating lesson plans and worksheets. It can be incorporated into the delivery of lessons be using projectors, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations or interactive white boards. In terms of as a learning tool, software programs allow students to interact with skills they have learned (Inan & Lowther, 2010). Software programs themselves can be for drills and repetition like in keyboarding classes where a student types simple sentences to learn the location of the keys on a keyboard. Some software can show simulation models that allow students to interact with variables to watch the effect those changes in variables have.
“Students are motivated when they can influence the outcome of the activity,” says Douglas Clements, an education professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “And games have the benefit of providing immediate feedback (Archer, 2000).” Teachers have used videos to enhance history, science and art lessons for decades. This era of education has the ability to use computer software that simulates weather conditions, human anatomy, building construction and more. Students aged 5 – 95 can play with these simulations by adjusting variables to see what conditions cause a hurricane, osteoporosis, bridge erosion and beyond.
A study of students in the eighth grade whose teachers used computers primarily for simulations and applications relieved interesting results. They scored two-fifths of a grade level higher than other eighth graders, on several state tests (Archer, 2000). We know play is good for pre-school children who are in need coaxing along through the learning process. We then drop the play after grade school with the expectation students will just absorb through reading and listening. The education technology available now allows all learning styles to prosper and everyone to be a doer.
“Technology certainly can be highly motivating,” says Barbara Means of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International (Archer, 2000). Schools that use technology regularly in various disciplines have better student education morale. Those schools whose teachers used technology beyond the drill and repetition methods reported better attendance by students, lowered tardiness and a slight decrease in dropouts (Selwyn & Husen, 2010)
Students and teachers build a better line of communication with the use of supplemental exercises using computer software. Students tend to spend more time in the classroom by coming in at lunchtime, during free periods or after school to practice skills. The ability to work on skills without calling on the direct one-on-one attention of an instructor appeals to many students. Teachers also benefit from having extra resources available to students other attempting to stretch themselves thin trying to give every student extra attention.
A shift in traditional learning takes place in classrooms where educators embrace technology as a tool for instructing and educating. Often teachers adopt a “more inclusive and co-operative” style that better support learning (Lewin, Somekh & Steadman,2008). Teachers and pupils become partners in the path of learning instead of formally separated into the traditional roles of teacher and student. In adopting sophisticated uses for technology in learning, it is best for a teacher to allow a student to be fully interactive. The formal role of teacher is very systematically instructional and can impede some students learning styles. When a teacher acts as a guide in the learning process, the student is able to foster his or her own confidence in the subject at hand.
Archer, J. (2000). Technology Counts. Teacher Magazine, 10(3), 18. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Inan, F., & Lowther, D. (2010). Factors affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms: a path model. Educational Technology Reasearch & Development, 58, 137-154. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Lewin, C., Somekh, B., & Steadman, S.. (2008). Embedding interactive whiteboards in teaching and learning: The process of change in pedagogic practice. Education and Information Technologies, 13, 291-303. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Selwyn, N., & Husen, O. (2010). The educational benefits of technological competence: an investigation of students’ perceptions. Evaluation & Research in Education, 23, 137-141.Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Vanderlinde, R., Van Braak, J., & Hermans, R. (2009). Educational technology on a turning point: curriculum implementation in Flanders and challenges for schools. Educational Technology Research & Development, 57, 573-584. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.