Computer Technology in Education
As the times change, so must an educator’s style of teaching. Computer technology can play a large role in this change. There are many reasons and ways schools can introduce this technology into their curriculum. There will be three of these reasons and ways discussed in the following pages.
In today’s society, many people believe it is time for school reform. The problem is employers are concerned that high school graduates do not have the necessary skills to be successful at a job when they graduate. Some researchers say that these reform efforts need to focus on the root causes of school problems (International). According to a California study by Paplin and Weeres in 1992, students and teachers saw little meaning in what they were asked to study. Students also wanted more activities and more opportunities to share ideas with classmates. This is not to say the basic skills are not important, but schools are not venturing much beyond the basic skills in providing a school-to-work transition. Before graduates can begin working they need to master foundation skills and competences. The three foundation skills are basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities. The competencies describe what people actually do at work and they include: resources, interpersonal skills, information skills, system skills, and technology utilization skills. Using these thinking skills is the alternative practice to the traditional rote memorization practice. This is the basic thought of the Constructivism theory. It basically says that, a teacher will encourage interaction between students’ existing knowledge and new experiences. There are several different instructional practices associated with this theory and technologies can provide the vehicle for accomplishing them. They allow the leaner to use it for representation and expression of what they know. Learners of any age or culture can use the tools for analyzing the world, accessing information, and interpreting and organizing personal knowledge. With an increased emphasis on more teacher discretion over teaching and learning, constructivism in the classroom has a potential to increase. The basic relationship between teacher and students is changing because technology gives learners control over their own learning, which are the primary tenets of constructivism. The use of technology can have a great effect of schools. It enables every student to gain control of there own learning (International).
Technology can also be integrated into the class through the use of software. Selecting the software is one of the most important components of success when using it for instruction. One has to take the needs and characteristics of each learner into consideration. There are hundreds of types of software available. The teachers who will be using it with the assistance from the technology coordinator should make the selection decisions about software. There are factors, which need to be addressed when selecting software. They are content, instruction, student-relevance, operation, design, and package components. The area of content says that the objectives should be clearly stated. It should have a purpose for the students and teachers. Moreover, the content has to be accurate and lessons and instructions should be sequenced in a logical and clear manner. Instruction is the next area. Software needs to follow educational techniques and principles. Some of these are practice with feedback for the skills being taught, maintaining interest for the learner, and effective feedback for both correct and incorrect responses. Students should be able to set their own pace to work, repeat material, to venture through lessons, and to try additional problems. Finally performance summaries are a plus to have for both the student and the teacher. Software also needs to relate the
Life of the learner and include examples that are relevant to the learner. It should be multiculturally based. Prerequisite skills and learner characteristics should be clearly indicated. Also, text and audio should be presented at a reading level appropriate for each user. The operation of each software program is imperative. Some software is not easy to use. It should have on screen instructions that are simple, clear, and concise. Provided on the screen, should be all the information that the student will need to operate the software. Before allowing students to begin a software program they should have some basic computer skills. The design of the software is also important. It may contain material or effects that are not necessary for learning. Color, graphics, animation and sound should maintain students’ interest without being distracting. The presentation of the text should be clear and commands need to be visible without the student needing to find them. A hidden factor that many administrators do not think about is package components. These include lesson plans, grouping arrangements, student workbooks, interesting follow-up activities, and projects that may add to the value of the computer-based learning package. Even if none of these are offered, the software should be easy to integrate into the curriculum. When the appropriate software has been found, it may be ordered. It can then be installed by the technology coordinator (Integrating).
There are many ways technology can be used in education. One that is gaining interest is the electronic school or virtual schooling. Many students are going to cyberspace for their education. These schools allow a world where there is flexibility, focus, and success. More than fifty charter and public school online programs are running in at least thirty states, and this demand is growing. Student’s turn to virtual schooling for many reasons. However, they all want or need something that is not offered or available in the traditional school. For example, students in rural communities can take classes such as Latin or AP calculus that their schools are too small or too poor to offer. Sick or hospitalized students can finish their class work without falling behind. Even gifted students, students who have problems in the regular classroom, and students traveling with their parents can use this alternative method of education. Since the accessibility of the Internet, online learning has made leaps and bounds into the educational landscape.
The online pioneers of online schools are The Virtual High School and the Florida Online High School in Orlando, Florida. Both were founded in 1996 and serve as models for other online education ventures. The Florida school was first created as a pilot project but is not paid for by the state. It offered 64 courses this fall and has about 2,500 students. The Virtual School offers 155 course sections and has about 2,800 students from high schools all over the country. Neither school offers a diploma. However, two other online schools do. These are Choice 2000 Charter School in Perris, California and the Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School in Basehor, Kansas. Choice 2000 offers synchronous classes. The teacher and the students are online together at the same time each day. This fall the school enrolled 350 students, with no more that 15 students in a class. Basehor-Linwood was created to specifically attract home-school children. It offers courses for students in first through twelfth grade and grants diplomas through the state of Kansas. They designed their courses for parents to access and teach to their children.
Virtual schooling is not for all children. Most online educators agree that students must possess motivation and self-discipline, and they must be able to read and write proficiently. Those students with a strong need for socialization should never take more than one or two online courses. Even the most motivated and self-disciplined students need a parent watching over them. Online schools often allow parents to log in and see their children’s grades, homework assignments, and attendance. It requires diligence on the part of the parents (Online).
The use of technology will have a profound effect on school. It challenges the relationship between students and teachers, because technology enables learners to gain control of their own learning. The new technology provides access to information that was once under the control of teachers.
With today’s technological society, our educational system needs to adapt. There are so many ways students of all ages, race, and gender could benefit. Schools need to incorporate technology into their curriculum. However, they themselves need to be educated on the appropriate technology before trying to buy it or use it in their school. School Boards and schools themselves need to open their minds to our world. We have changed into a computerized society. We should let this work to our advantage by allowing the children of tomorrow to work with every resource possible. Each child learns different and for one child software programs may be his/her ticket to understanding.
Rakes, Glenda C., Beverly F. Flowers, Holly B. Casey, and Ronnie Santana. "An Analysis of Instructional Technology Use and Constructivist Behaviors in K-12 Teachers." International Journal of Educational Technology. Dec. 1999.
"Integrating Technology in the Classroom." Considerations. Department of Mathematics, Purdue University. 1999.
Vail, Kathleen. "Online Learning Grows Up." Electronic School.com. Sep. 2001.