In terms of utilization as just an instructional delivery medium, technology has transformed to become an integral part of the learning environment. Technology is being used to provide simulations and real world experiences that aid in developing cognitive thinking and extended learning. As a productivity tool technology is being used through application software like word processors, spreadsheet and database to manage information solve problems and produce refined products. Alternatively, technology in a school-based environment is used to provide a wealth of information through the internet and other related technologies (University of Oulu). While new technologies have emerged, educators have been implored to find meaningful ways to incorporate these technologies into the classroom. Educators should look at new technologies like digital games and social networking not just as business and industry, but tools that can be applied in learning. Digital gaming, simulation and social networking provide us with new ways to convey concepts that would otherwise not be possible. Gaming is already a widespread activity with an average eighth-grade American boy spending 23 hours a week playing games. Most video games are structured in a manner that they are characterized by rules, goals and objectives. There is also the expected outcome and feedback, conflicts, interactions and representation of the story while playing the game (Eric, Scot and Groff). Hence, digital games being purposeful, goal-oriented, rule-based activity that player perceive as fun, is easy to use for learning since students are already familiar with interfaces and language of interacting and using them. Digital games aid in building skills that are highly sought after in a workplace environment; for example, skills in attracting, evaluating and recruiting new members, orchestrating group strategy and managing disputes. Researchers such as Patricia Marks Greenfield also argues that habitual playing of video games results in development of new cognitive abilities such as ability to process information very quickly and in parallel.
Simulations are analogies of real world situation. One aspect that differentiates simulation from gaming is the lack of “win state” that exists in gaming. One very effective simulation is the “SIMCITY”, where the key objective is to design and build a thriving sustainable city. The players in this virtual environment have to designate which lands is residential, industrial and for social amenities, and have to contend with challenges of pollution, public transportation, crime and waste management as the mayor of their city. Simulations have many of the skills benefits as those earlier discussed on digital gaming. Simulations also need teacher guidance to be effective in knowledge delivery and learning which if effective, deliver learning that is authentic models of real world scenarios. A critical aspect of simulation is that it bridges the gap between the classroom and real world. The significance of well designed simulations is that through technology it makes a world that is more comprehensible and engaging to the student. It allows students to transfer learning from simulated experiences to future learning and experiences.
Social networking effectiveness should not be ignored given the number of subscribed users. Social networking allows users to blog, post videos, post photos, chat and connect with their peers through private groups and peers. Among the highest number of users of social networking sites and applications are the teen aged 9 to 17 years of age (Richard and Boris). However, culturally popular sites like facebook and twitter have been highly criticized by school over concerns that students might misuse them during instructional time. a solution to this has been found in creating alternative sites that provide teachers with opportunities to host classroom online communities, for example think.com. Among the key characteristics of social networking sites is a user having their own profile which enable them connect with other users also profiled on the site. This tool can be used by teacher to connect students who have similar experiences of different ones (Richard and Boris). Through this social skills are developed as a result of collaborative networking. This avenue enables students to acquire critical analysis skills, research skills and technical skills initially taught in a traditional classroom. Social networking also helps the student to perfect their talent by joining special skill group that enable them to exchange knowledge among group members.
Though there is an overriding opinion that technology should help improve pedagogy in schools, questions about access and equity still keep arising (Richard and Boris). Most of the developed worlds that include North America, Europe and parts of Asia have increased availability and use of computers in their schools. However, in Africa and greater Latin America, access to ICT equipment is very limited. Most students currently have access to a computer and internet access brought about by the rapid growth of school technology infrastructure. This like already mentioned does not lead to effective learning. Technology and educational expert believe that to increase capacity for learning, the technology skills of teachers and administrators must be improved. However, since the popularization of desktop computing in the 1980s, educators have realized how quickly computers (hardware and software) become outdated hence the need for constant retraining of the deliverers. The concept retraining has made educators point to that trend in their argument against the use of computers in teaching and learning. While there may be increased access to computers and ICT equipments in schools, they might not use them in the best way to enhance learning. Effective learning is determined by the level of planning, preparation and setting standards of evaluation on the effectiveness of the technology on teaching and learning (Eric, Scot and Groff). It is also challenging to conclude whether improvement in students’ achievement is due to technology or other factors that influence teaching and learning, for example teacher preparation and experience, student background, instructional method and curriculum content. Research reviews have shown that use of computers improves student learning in the traditional curriculum when successfully combined with traditional instruction.
Another very significant hindrance to effective implementation of ICT technology in teaching and learning is the limited and/or unequal access to the internet and computers. Though available, only a very limited number of education institutions can guarantee that all students have adequate and equal access to the internet at all times needed to accomplish school tasks like assignment. This kind of infrastructure requires considerable resources for hardware, software and network connectivity.
Communities over generation are also not very willing to take up new educational innovations. Most parents and taxpayers are of the opinion that if the current system worked for them, there is no need to substitute something radically different unless there is a proven superiority of the new methods to the traditional ones (International Forum of Educational Technology & Society). Of concern to education stakeholder is whether the adaptation of new technology in education will inequality in the society. Students might have ample access to technology in school but the learners differ immensely in the amount and sophistication of information devices they can access at home. From historical point of view, innovative information technologies widen inequalities within civilization because access is limited to a few who can afford the expense to acquire these equipments.
Evaluating the effectiveness of technology in education is a complex issue. Aspects beneficial to education due to the incorporation of technology in teaching and learning faces many challenges for those tasked with responsibilities of determining which type of educational technologies to use with students. The high number of software and internet resources available for use is overwhelming for the teacher already short of resources and time. Again, most of online educational material meant for children given fancy packaging but lacking in beneficial content. Most websites designed for students’ learning have advertisement merged with the content.
We finally conclude that if strategically deployed, Information and communication Technology hold great promise in helping bring quality learning in both the developed and developing nations. In implementing this strategy, developing nations need not emulate the methods of integration used in wealthier developed nations. Mobile phones and other forms of technology are indeed being used creatively in way never before envisioned in Europe or North America.
Bull, G. L. “Advances in Computers.” Technology and Schools (1997): 321-356.
Eric, Klopfer, et al. “Using Technology of Today,in the Classroom Today.” The Education Arcade. Massachusetts: Creative commons, 2009.
International Forum of Educational Technology & Society. “A Theory for eLearning.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society (2003): 1-76.
Richard, J. Noeth and B. Volkov Boris. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Technology in Our Schools. PHD Thesi. Iowa: ACT, Inc., 2004.
Ross, M. Steven, R. Gary Morrison and L. Deborah Lowther. “Educational Technology Research Past and Present: Balancing Rigor and Relevance to Impact School Learning.” CONTEMPORARY EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY (2010): 17-35.
Schacter, J. The Impact of Education technology on Student Achievement. Santa Monica: The Milken Family Foundation, 1999.
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