Technology in education is a versatile resource because it is suited to many different teaching and learning styles. Administrative tasks are also easier to handle with different computer programs. The future of technology is promising because of the fast pace of technology innovations. Taking advantage of the emerging technology is beneficial to schools, but it is a huge investment. If the schools are able to find a way to get these resources, they will be able to use them to support learning for standardized tests and give students unique project- based learning experiences. Technology is developing at a fast rate and the schools need to keep up with this trend so that the students are ready to use the technology when they leave school.
The Influence of Technology on Education and Learning Styles
In the article “The Hegemonist Behaviorist Cycle, “technologies are regarded very much as a means to serve specific ends”. (Dakers, 2005). Different computer programs work well with different learning situations. Technology does not replace quality teaching, but when used effectively can enhance the learning of the students. Roxana Moreno (2006), in her article “Learning in High-Tech and Multimedia Environments” discusses two ways that technology is used in cognitive learning. In media- affects- learning, the technology enhances what the student is learning. In method- affects- learning, the technology does not enhance the learning. In these activities, the technology is not essential to the learning process.
Behaviorist learning vs. Constructivist learning
There are many approaches to teaching that yield different results for different students. The behaviorist approach has been used for a long time in schools and is the approach used most frequently. While the constructivist approach is not a new concept, it is not a learning approach that is widely used in schools. The differences between behaviorist learning and constructivist learning are distinct.
In the behaviorist approach, the teacher controls the learning. The teacher posses all the knowledge and passes on that knowledge to the students, who are passive learners. In the constructivist approach, the students control the learning. The teacher does not step aside and let the students roam free, however. The teacher guides the students in their learning as the students discover knowledge and put it together for understanding. Donald Hackmann (2004) suggests that teachers “become learning facilitators- acting as a guide on the side [italics added] instead of a sage on the stage [italics added].” (Hackmann, p. 698). To do this, students need to be more engaged in the learning process.
The student in the behaviorist approach works on the assignment individually. The work in these classrooms focuses on facts and small chunks of information. This approach of presenting material in small portions supports cognitive learning theories that indicate that only a few things can be processed at one time in working memory. The class work and homework tends to be drill and practice of the material. In the constructivist approach, students are putting together information to see the big picture. The students work together to put together this information, and every group approaches the learning differently. Individual work focuses on regurgitation of information; group work focuses on the process of creating the end product.
Most classrooms approach learning in a behaviorist format for many reasons. One major factor in today’s classrooms is standardized tests. The schools are given a list of standards that must be met every year in order to prepare students for their standardized test at the end of the school year. The list of standards is overwhelming for each content area. By lecturing and presenting the content in small pieces, the teacher has more control of the learning. This approach of direct instruction is desirable to the teacher because they face negative consequences if their students do not demonstrate competency on the test. If a teacher chooses to have students learn by discovery, they cannot always ensure that every standard has been covered because different students will learn different things in group work.
Standardized tests are done individually; students do not get to collaborate on the answers. Since these tests are very important to the success of the school, it is imperative that the teachers cover all of the content by the time the test comes. The teacher must also teach the students how to effectively take a test so that they are comfortable with the testing process. Schools are not preparing the students for working in the real world when they teach to the test. In the real world, workers are not given standardized tests. They work together to create knowledge and products. Teachers do the same thing; they work together to create the curriculum based on the requirements handed down by the government and state department of education. When teachers do not allow students to participate in group learning, they prevent the students from learning the process of how to construct knowledge.
Behaviorism with technology
The behaviorist approach to teaching is effectively enhanced with the use of technology. There are many programs that teachers can have students use that walks the student through the lesson they recently covered in class. Assessment programs on the computer are also very useful because the program gives the student immediate feedback. The teacher does not have to grade the test because the computer program does it for them, so this allows the teacher to focus more time on other activities. If a student is struggling with some simple concepts, they can go to a computer and work on those skills while the rest of the class is working on another assignment.
A behaviorist approach is also effective when initially teaching students how to use different computer programs. For computer programs to be effective in project- based learning, the students need to know how to use the programs. Going through those programs step by step helps the student understand the basic uses of the program, and as they use the program, they will discover other aspects of the program, such as shortcut keys. Once they know how to use the program, they can focus on the objectives of the larger projects.
From a behaviorist teaching perspective, feedback is enhanced with technology programs because students receive feedback quicker- sometimes right away. By receiving feedback faster, students are able to reevaluate what they learned and figure out why they did not understand some of the questions. Assessment is a great tool to find out what the students know so that the teacher can re- teach anything that the students did not learn. Unfortunately, most of our assessments are designed to show what the kids know and are not used as a teaching opportunity. Computer programs that give the immediate feedback help the students know when they are wrong sooner, which reduces the chance of learning the concept wrong. Once students have learned something wrong, it takes a lot of time to reverse that learning.
Direct instruction is a teaching approach used by many teachers. Direct instruction involves modeling the information to be learned, guiding the student in learning that information, and providing feedback as they learn. The teacher leads the learning process, but the students are engaged in the learning process instead of just listening to a lecture. This approach is a commonly used approach in distance learning, which continues to grow in popularity with individuals who seek an education that is flexible with their work or home schedules. With the different web- based instruction programs used for online classes, the instructor can set up the learning to be led by the computer, teacher, or both. Assessments on programs like Vista or WebCT can be set up so that they are graded instantly, benefiting both the student and the instructor. In these online learning environments, the instructor is also able to offer feedback to the students at a time that is convenient to them as well. Instructors in the online learning environments do not use this approach exclusively, but it is useful to teach the basic information for the group projects that many online instructors use.
Constructivism with technology
Thomas Sherman (2005) identifies various learning characteristics that support constructivism. Learner- centered activities give students the ability to construct the knowledge for themselves in a way that they understand it. Computer programs can be used to help them illustrate their knowledge. Allowing students to share with each other their learning experiences is also a great tool because they will be able to bridge other connections for each other. Using online discussion boards is a great way to do this. The teacher can see the interaction between the students, guide them in discussions with different questions, and look for concepts that the students are not grasping.
“Lack of interest is generally the number one reason that students give for not learning to mastery.” (Sherman, 11) When the content is interesting, students are more engaged in the learning process. One way to do this is to tie in their current beliefs to the lesson. Various computer programs are available that allow students to manipulate and test the knowledge they are encountering. The computer programs themselves can also be very interesting due to how they engage the student.
In the classroom, it is often difficult to give the students opportunities to learn in a real life situation. Learning the formulas in geometry is not useful if the student does not know how to apply them. Giving students the opportunity to use computer programs as they are used in real life is a great experience for students because they become better prepared for the real world by learning how to apply knowledge. The students will have prior experience with computer programs as well, which will be crucial as they enter the workforce.
When students enter the workforce, they will be going into an environment where they will be working with colleagues daily towards the goal of their company. Our schools do not prepare our students for this with all of the standardized tests, since those tests are done individually. The schools need to give these students the skills to know how to work with other students. Online collaboration is a great way to give students this learning opportunity. Students also are able to collaborate with students at different schools, in different states, and even in different countries. Not only will students learn the content in this learning community, they will get to know students in other areas of the world as well. Since there are more online courses offered as the years pass, giving the students the experience while they are younger is a great opportunity for students to discover whether they would be successful in an online learning class.
Since there are so many standards to cover in a short period of time, efficiency is crucial in the activities that students engage in. Different computer programs allow students to analyze the data faster by doing some of the work for them that is not directly linked to the learning objective. One example would be using Excel to evaluate data. When programmed right, the Excel program will compute the numbers for the student, allowing them to evaluate the data sooner. The students can also use the program to change the variables so they can see how outcomes would be changed.
Technology that benefits the teacher
By using different technologies in the classroom, the job of the teacher is also made easier, which allows them to work with the students more. There are also various programs that do a lot of the administrative work for the teacher. The Paradise Valley Unified School District, for example, issues every teacher a Macintosh I-Book to be used for administrative tasks, and can also be used for student activities with a separate student logon. The computers are also wireless capable, allowing for internet access and wireless printer capabilities. All schools have online grading; the middle & high schools also have online attendance programs. Many schools have wireless laptop carts that can go between classrooms, allowing students to use computers frequently. Unfortunately, most school districts are not able to provide these resources at their schools.
What limits schools from using technology effectively?
The ability to allow students to use computers in the learning process is limited by many factors. The Snapshot Survey done by Norris, Sullivan, Poirot, and Soloway (2003) was done to determine how much teachers were using technology in their classrooms and what influenced their frequency of technology use. The research showed that students are not using technology for significant periods of time in the classroom. Fourteen percent of teachers are not using technology with their students at all, and only eighteen percent of teachers are using technology with their students for more than forty five minutes a week. The majority of the teachers used technology with their students for an average of fifteen minutes a week. Access to computers and the internet were the reason for not having students use technology in the classroom.
Technology is not cheap, and the initial investment is not enough. Technology must constantly be upgraded to keep up with the changes. At the 84th Arizona Town Hall Meeting, one of the goals in the Arizona Technology Plan was to have technology fully implemented into the curriculum by December of 2006. That date has passed and there are schools that have not been able to achieve this goal because the school districts do not have the financial resources to get enough computers.
Where do we go from here?
The incorporation of technology in classrooms is not an easy task. Work needs to be done to determine how to effectively incorporate the technology so that students learn the content they need to learn and learn how to use the technology at the same time. Keeping up with changes is a daunting task as well. Planning of curriculum goes through a similar process; as soon as a group of teachers feel they have created a strong curriculum, they often have to change it for various outside reasons, like standardized testing. As soon as a group of teachers create an effective way of incorporating technology in their curriculum, new technology becomes available or the technology they are using becomes outdated.
At the 84th Arizona Town Hall, a plan was created with the goal of helping students be able to use technology effectively after graduation. In addition to setting a goal for full integration, goals set also included professional development for teachers, resources and staffing for the schools, and creating a plan for funding. The plan also set goals for collaboration and evaluation of technology resources. The target grade level for students to be technically literate was set at eighth grade. Lack of financial resources is a major hurdle that school districts need to overcome so that they can provide adequate opportunities for students to prepare for the world of technology.
The trend of using technology in schools is something schools need to be able to embrace in order to prepare students for life after school. Technology is also part of our culture- students will not just be using technology in their careers. The internet provides a great opportunity to find and share information with others in ways not possible before the internet came into existence. Individuals can obtain information from places around the world and collaborate with people around the world. Stephen Kerr (2005) discusses the use of technology in classrooms based on a cultural model. The way technology is used will partly be influenced by how it is used in classrooms. “If technology helps us work, entertains us, is increasingly tied into the parameters of our existence generally, then why not invite it into the institutions of education, the places where culture itself is both sustained and revised?” (p. 1007)
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Hackmann, D. (2004). Constructivism and block scheduling: Making the connection. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(9), 697-702.
Kerr, S. (2005). Why we all want it to work: Towards a culturally based model for technology and educational change. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(6), 1005-1016.
Montes, L., & Blocher, M. (2004). Education technology for the twenty- first century: Integration, innovation, and learning. In Joan Hadden, & Steffany Kroeger (Eds.), Pre K-12 education: Choices for Arizona's future (84th ed., pp. 117) Arizona Town Hall.
Moreno, R. (2006). Learning in high- tech and multimedia environments. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 63-67.
Norris, C., Sullivan, T., Poirot, J., & Soloway, E. (2003). No access, no use, no impact: Snapshot surveys o educational technology in K-12. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 36(1), 15-27.
Sherman, T., & Kurshan, B. (2005). Constructing learning: Using technology to support teaching for understanding. Learning and Leading with Technology, 32(5), 10-13, 39.