With the huge strides made by Information Technology it has become an integral part of the modern world. It is therefore imperative that education is also influenced largely by the technology. All over the world there has been a visible trend towards introduction of online education and even the intra-facilities in many campuses are made online with the help of computer, Internet, intra-net and Local Area Networking (LAN) methods.
“Computers have become an integral part of our daily lives. Most jobs require some level of computer interaction and technological skills. Learning how to use technology at a young age can help students refine and hone skills that they will need later in life. In order to incorporate these functions into daily education, teachers may wish to direct their attention toward technology in the classroom articles.” (Source: Bob Whitehead –Keep your class skilled and tech-savvy- 2006)
1. Technology in the Classrooms
Introduction of technologies in education can inspire ideas for keeping the classroom technologically savvy. Especially information technology can be used in multiple ways like one can prepare the test lessons using the word or spreadsheets. Planning and documentation can be widely used and prepared. Power point presentations are a great way of teaching kids and grown up children through visual impacts. Even playing games on computer can considerably sharpen their skill levels and analytical powers. Technical lessons would further enable the faculties and organizers to seamlessly integrate the technical activities in the classroom making education fun and in the process generating great interest of the students towards learning. This, in comparison to the traditional classroom lecture methods has proved to be great success already in many countries. At the same time it is highly enjoyable for the teachers who get vents for the creative skills due to introduction of technologies in the classroom.
1.1 Definition of Technology
“When the word “technology” is used today, it is most often used to refer to high technology – computers, cell phones, rockets – rather than technology in general. The first technological tools were simple hand-axes made by our hominid ancestors millions of years ago. Since the formulation of the scientific method in the 15th century, technological progress has apparently been accelerating.
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1.2 Benefits and Possibilities of Technology in the Classroom
A decade ago Internet was largely limited to what could be done and how to use online facilities. No great strides had been made by it in the field of education. In sharp contrast, most of the teachers today are not only exposed to the Internet but also has access at home or school.
“In fact, a large number of schools are being retrofitted to place the internet in every classroom. Even more exciting than this is the newest technology: Wireless. A school can purchase a 'Portable Classroom'. This consists of laptops networked together, allowing students to work at their desks WITHOUT wires. If the laptops are networked to a printer, students can print from their personal computer to the classroom printer. Imagine the possibilities!” (Source: Melissa Kelly – Integrating Technology into the Classroom – 2007)
1.3 Technology used in different grade levels: Birth- Kindergarten, Elementary & Middle School, and High School.
Basically technology used in the lower rungs of educational ladders varies largely from those used in the higher educational levels. Visual images are used for students in the Kindergarten level and the method used is learning through playing games. This enhances their creative impulses to a very great extent while making learning a fun. As the student goes up the ladder reaching higher class, the technology used becomes more study centric and a bit complex as well. Contents start taking the driver’s seat in comparison to graphics and images as in case of those in kindergarten and elementary levels.
2. Technology Tools and Activities in the Classroom
Most widely used ways of integrating technology in classrooms have been research and online assessments creating a website for the purpose. In any case research is the primary reason for introduction of information technology in the field of education. School libraries often fell short of the required books and materials for carrying out project research and online sites, articles, blogs, e-books, and such other materials can immensely help the pursuit. There can be no substitute to Internet as a repository of information though the viewer has to be careful in selecting the real quality contents from the web. At the same time online assessment opens up huge possibilities through essays, debates, and panel discussions and widespread exchange of information and views online. Though at the primary school levels exchanges would be fewer, both the students and teachers can carry out the process of learning and teaching respectively very usefully online without having to physically contact each other. The best part of it is that the online class room could be far to greater in size and capabilities compared to any traditional school. Teachers on their part will have the tools available to control a far greater student strength since everything would be online, crossing all geographical barriers.
Creating a website would be the major requirements for integrating technology in the classroom. Information created by students personally through research and experiments can be published on the website. Examples would be poems or writings or even scientific projects created by the students.
2.1 Type of technological tool/activity that can be used in the classroom – description of tool/activity
Technologies for integration into the classrooms can vary from video contents, digital moviemaking, through lap top computing, handheld technologies and even audio and other equipments. (Source: Marshall – Different Types of Technology and their Educational Application s- 2002) In addition, new technologies are coming up at regular intervals.
Some of the most popular tools are widget, smart board,
‘A widget or gadget is a small program which automatically runs on the desktop every time. The widget eliminates the requirement to constantly surf the website for getting the common information, such as Gmail widget often shows the games activity icons and weather forecasting. Whenever the user will click the widget, he will be directed to that particular site.’ (Source: Jon Harwakey – Understanding the Widget Technology – 2009)
Main types of widgets relate to games, weather, news, gadgets, and informational widgets. While each of them has some relevance to integration of technology in classroom, it is the informational widgets that carry major significance in this respect. Popularity of these widgets and the scope of their application in any field are so vast that each and every company using either computer technologies or other types of modern gadgets are flocking for these widgets.
Many technologies could be expensive and introduction to classrooms could be difficult. There exists however certain technologies that are free like the “Scratch”. It can be used for both PC and MAC. A little programming tool that carries both motion and effects in little jigsaw piece controls. One can drag across and click these pieces alone or together with others. “So this isn't a toy. It teaches about sequence, structure, design and planning and it allows expression. There's nothing not to like about it...they even call the place you store bits online as "My Stuff". I love it. Every kid should have a go on this. Every school should be using it.” (Source: A Teaching Moment: Introducing Students to their Cyber-selves- using Technology in Education – Weblog- Scratch – Katie Stansburry-2010)
Another very important tool is web quest. Students can surf the web and get the desired information from all over the web with the very handy tool. It is even more useful for the teachers who can have the whole world of knowledge opened before them at a mouse click or the keystroke using the tool. One of the countries where it has been widely in use is Denmark. While the tools and incorporation of technology in classroom has been widely in vogue there in higher studies, the administrators of education in the country aim to use the technoogies in lower levels of the education from kindergarten through the high school standards widely by 2011. (Source: Judy Hobson – Danish Pupils Use Web in Exams – 2010)
A new technology introduced in the realm of education is interactive white board and smart board. Interactive white board is a device used with computer and large video display makes the surface touch sensitive. SmartBoards sold by the Smart Technologies in United States is the most well known manufacturer of the interactive white boards. In addition there are several tools that helps enhance the performance.
“IWB’s are fast becoming a popular addition to school classrooms as well as to office meeting spaces. The interactivity that an IWB provides allows teachers or professional presenters to let their audience collaborate, draw, and interact with information on the screen. Lessons and activities in a classroom setting become more engrossing for students and increase overall- retention of the lesson content. Research done by Smart as well as shows clearly those teachers that use IWB’s sees greater improvement from their students compared to classrooms that do not use IWB enriched classroom content.” (Source: Chad Criswell - What is a SmartBoard? – Smartboards in education and business increase learning – 2008)
2.2 What standards these type of tools/activity fulfill
Different technologies aim at improving different skills. For instance word processing and e-mail would promote the skills of communication while database and spreadsheets can promote organizational skills. “It is important to consider how these electronic technologies differ and what characteristics make them important as vehicles for education.” (Source: Becker- Use of Different Technologies in Classroom and Impact on Education - 1994)
Technologies available in classrooms today range from simple tool-based applications (such as word processors) to online repositories of scientific data and primary historical documents, to handheld computers, closed-circuit television channels, and finally to the two-way distance learning classrooms. Even the cell phones that many students now carry with them can be used to learn (Prensky- Technologies available for Integration in Classrooms - 2005).
2.3 How the tool/activity would be integrated into the elementary classroom setting
“How would you go about doing this? Many places offer free websites. First, you can check with your school to see if they have a website, and whether you could create a page which would be linked to that site. If that is not available, “Geocities” is just one example where you can sign up and get room to upload your information onto your own page.” (Source: Melissa Kelly – Integrating Technology into the Classroom – 2007)
Evidently the final part would be the online assessment that is comparatively newer area of exploration of integration of technology in classroom. One of the great ways of making students even more polished and refined would be interacting with them in vacations and assessing their performance online without disturbing their holidays. The other aspect is online grading instantly that spares the trouble of all those classroom exams and assessments.
It does not mean that one would be free of concerns just integrating technologies in the classroom. In fact there are multiple issues involved like the time constraints, especially for the teachers, cost and availability of adequate equipments, knowledge levels. It is important to consider problems that might arise when integrating the internet into the classroom.
Possible solutions to these problems would be creating awareness among teachers, students, parents, guardians, educational authorities, and the society at large regarding the massive benefits that could accrue with integration of technologies in the classroom. There is no haste. The process can be started slowly and then it can gather momentum with the progress of time and gathering of additional knowledge and expertise by all concerned.
If the school is not able to meet the expenses of integrating technologies in the classroom one can always resort to grants either from government or from corporate organizations. Both have multiple grants available for such advanced projects in education.
3. Technology as an aid.
3.1 How can technology aid students with disabilities, i.e., audio books and other assistive technology?
For decades special education took a backseat in American educational system. “Today, that view of special education is giving way to a broader, more philosophical approach—an approach designed to weave inclusive practices into the fabric of the whole-school environment." (Source: Mosaic- Tools for Students with Disabilities - 2000)
The shift began with the amendments in 1997 affected on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Before this many children with disabilities were excluded by the schools. “However, students with disabilities frequently experience insufficient access to and success in the general education curriculum. This is especially true for adolescent learners, even non-disabled students, who must cope with the emphasis on learning from text”. (Source: Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Kamil, 2003).
Technology has a major role to play in case of students with disabilities. “For example, printed reading materials pose substantial challenges to the learning of students with disabilities” (Source: J. Zorfass: personal communication, October 2005). Enabling a shift from printed text to electronic that can be modified, enhanced, linked , and searched with styles modifying to meet the requirements of physically impaired either by sight or any other limbs; they can be integrated with translators, illustrations, video, and audio depending on the merit of each case.
3.2 Communication /Social Cyberspace: How can the following assist and inhibit learning. i.e., Communication for teachers, students and parents; Email, facebook, twitter, myspace, chats, ATM, Yahoo Messenger, iChat and Blogs
Many educational institutions are making sending of emails and use of instant messenger prohibited acts because of possible abuses. In fact use of these tools is considered cheating as well as violation of conduct by many. However the same email and instant messenger and chat could be very effective means of imparting education. Getting instructions online and tips and valuable suggestions would be highly beneficial for the students. They can be virtually guided step by step without much ado by their mentor and teacher online. Chats could effective tools for exchange of opinion and views not only with the teachers but also with students from across the globe and knowledgeable persons who can provide very valuable feedbacks.
Social networking like facebook, myspace, and twitter could be extremely useful in getting information and feedback. They are not only meant for kids but curious parents and teachers as well. Their popularity is on the rise and in Portland metro area eight districts made the leap by signing up Twitter or Facebook. Excellent ways of reaching out to the students at a distance for announcements, imparting valuable educational information, and contact, these social networking tools can be very useful in online educational systems even for the kindergarten and elementary school levels.
Blogs on the other hand are excellent means of education and getting huge amount of information. Educative and instructive blogs are not few in numbers and the Internet is flooded with them. At the same time writing blogs can immensely enhance the knowledge and communicative skills of the students.
4. Security and Infiltration.
With the coming up computers, research scholars and educationalists have been pointing gout that success of education in schools requires its tie up with technology. Even in 1995, Glennan and Melmed had pointed out the essentiality of technology in educational reforms. Unavoidable conclusion is that successful implementation of technology and science is essential for reformative education. Of course this brings up the issues relating the security and infiltration.
While the dangers of security and infiltration will always be there in case of online education and use of computer technologies, there could be effective ways of preventing hackers and intruders from accessing the system of a particular institute or educational system. Intra-net or wide area networking and even the local area networking could be made secure using modern tools and technological inventions. Simplest methods are use of user name and passwords that are widely used. Channels can be exclusively secured and blocked for unauthorized people and access to the school site limited only to the students of the schools and their teachers and management.
“The interface between educational technology and science and mathematics instruction is integral and symbiotic. Few of the examples noted in the Glenn Commission report (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000) would be as advanced as they are without the use of technology”. (Source: Gilbert Valdez – Technology: A Catalyst for Teaching and Learning in the Classroom- 2008) Especially in the areas of mathematics and science the use of technology can considerably improve the process of understanding. It will not require any specific expertise or skill for analyzing information and data but a systematic and distinctive approach to the task is often the requirement. Younger generation are so much fascinated by technologies that they fail to understand why some people argue for use of less technologies in schools and classrooms. For them the use of Internet plays a major role in their relationships not only with friends but with the teachers and mentors as well. Not only the teens but their parents also believe that use of Internet can enhance the social life as well as academic works of the teenagers. “Now that a large number of Americans regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to these tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion by increasing the number of Americans using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal.” (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, & National Telecommunications and Information Administration - 2000)
It could be safely concluded therefore that slowly yet steadily, technology is going to embrace the classroom studies and the traditional lecture based education is speedily going obsolete. Use of technology applying mind and effectively can not only change the entire face of the educational system but also enhance the end output of creating educated people both qualitatively and quantitatively. Last but not the least it may open up avenues for those who have been kept away from getting education either due to time, or money, or some disability constraints.