Information Computer Technologies (ICT) typically follow Moore’s Law, wherein technology becomes cheaper, better and faster every 18 months. The advent of the Internet, and the accompanying technologies that have been developed over the last few decades, has completely transformed every aspect of our daily lives. Technology is omnipresent, thanks to social media, smart technology, wearable technology, cloud computing, e-learning, artificial intelligence, data mining, the Internet of Things, and so on. The world is now so connected that physical boundaries are often inconsequential. Information is available at the press of a button, global communication and collaboration is a daily occurrence, and universal connectedness is the new normal.
Naturally, many thought this technological revolution would extend to education (Blin, 2008). Yet the realm of education moves at a slower pace. Despite numerous advantages, the world of education has largely been unaffected by the technological revolution. Not to say that schools have not integrated computers- they have- but the current use of educational technology has by and large only been used to support traditional methods of teaching.
For decades, researchers have explored the potential, and current function of computers in the classroom. Current discussion about educational technology attempts to identify and overcome barriers. The discord between the current use of educational technology and its optimal applications must be addressed in a concrete fashion. This paper seeks to examine the ways in which technology can be most transformative and effective in teaching and learning, identify the gaps as to how technology is currently used in classrooms, and propose a series researched-based professional development (PD) of workshops as a solution to merging those two paths into one.
Benefits of ICT
When properly implemented, educational technology offers a wide range of benefits affecting many parties. These benefits have long been documented by academics and teachers alike. By fully exploring the benefits allotted by technology, in terms of accessibility, benefits to students and teachers, and potential as change agent, it will be easy to see why so many schools seek to integrate educational technologies.
Years ago, concerned parties recognized how inaccessible technology was: the cost alone would surely widen an already large academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor. This oft-referenced ‘digital divide’ has changed meanings over the last twenty years (Dolan, 2016) as 100% of American public schools have access to instructional computers connected to the Internet. That is to say, accessibility to computers is essentially a non-issue nowadays. Even outside of the school setting, students commonly use technology: 92% of students between 12-17 years go online daily (Lenhart, 2015). With physical accessibility no longer a key issue, it is crucial that we consider the numerous advantages of educational technology as extending to all students and teachers.
Even for classrooms having access to only one technological device, accessibility remains high. The portable nature of many technological devices (such as touch-screen tablets or laptops) means greater flexibility in use by students, teachers and schools (Catholic Education-Diocese of Parramatta, 2010). More precisely, it offers potential for individual or group use and easy redistribution of resources within a class or school.
Educational technology is also accessible to learners of all levels. A textbook, for example, is only accessible to students who can read at a predetermined level, and only offers content on one topic, as presented by one author or group of authors. The information available is limited, and dated. With access to the Internet, any ICT offers unlimited, up to date content from a variety of sources. With facilitated access and distribution of information, educational technology efficiently simplifies the teaching process (Martin, Berland, Benton, & Smith, 2013). Learners of all levels can access the information they require.
Benefits to Teachers & Students
Teaching is also positively impacted by the use of educational technology. While traditional materials intrinsically dictate a certain teaching style, the flexible nature of technology empowers teachers to use a wider array of teaching strategies (Fernández-López, Rodríguez-Fórtiz, Rodríguez-Almendros & Martínez-Segura, 2013). Educational technology also simplifies inclusive teaching, as differentiation and student assessment are made easier (Isabwe, 2012; McClanahan, Williams, Kennedy, & Tate, 2012; McKechan & Ellis, 2014; Wasniewski, 2013). The option to quickly transition to different applications increases the accessibility of educational technology, as any teacher wishing to make a cross-curricular connection may easily do so (Murphy & Williams, 2011).
Using ICTs in an educational setting has been shown to benefit student learning in a plethora of ways. Educational technology has been commended for increasing student results in standardized testing, increasing student learning and motivation (Churchill, Fox & King, 2012; Hew & Brush, 2007; Kinash, Brand, & Mathew, 2012; Rossing, Miller, Cecil, & Stamper, 2012).
The benefits of educational technology also extend to students with special needs. Specifically, tablet use has been proven to be beneficial to students with learning difficulties, as was presented in the case study by McClanahan et al. (2012), wherein a student with ADHD displayed significant increase in reading ability due to working with a tablet computer. Both reading and writing are more accessible and easier to learn when taught with educational technology (Fernández-López et al., 2013; Murray & Olsece, 2011).
Educational technology also positively impacts the development of soft skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills and character traits. In a study by Matzen and Edmunds (2007), having and using technology in the classroom was shown to increase the frequency and quality of interactions among students. Similar studies have shown that teachers who use technology have seen an increase in the number of student-teacher interactions, thus boosting communication and collaboration not only between students, but also between student and their teachers (Beebe, 2011; Geist, 2011; Henderson & Yeow, 2012; Hutchison, Beschorner, & Schmidt-Crawford, 2012).
When using technology, students have demonstrated improved organisational skills, in both their tasks and the structure of assignments (Churchill et al., 2012). Killilea (2012) found that students’ computer literacy skills were positively impacted when teachers used educational technology as meaningful tools in their teaching. Use of technology in an educational setting has also been proven to increase students’ inventive thinking (Hew & Brush, 2007).
The most powerful benefit technology can offer the institution of education is its potential to transform our field. Educational technology naturally lends itself to student-centered learning environments. By empowering students to be independent lifelong learners, giving them access to information like never before seen in the history of the world, and connecting them to the world in ways that were never possible before the advent of the Internet, educational technology could revolutionize what happens inside our classrooms. As Matzen and Edmunds (2007) claimed, technology can act as a catalyst for change.
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