Research paper created for Technology, Society and Education course.
|Running Head: TECHNOLOGICAL IMPACT ON EDUCATION AND SOCIETY|
Technological Impact on Education and Society
Northern Arizona University
Technology has had an impact on both instruction and learning in classrooms from Pre-K to university level. This paper researches the impact of technology on the classroom and social interactions classrooms. It also reviews the history of technological usage in classrooms and various impacts such as teacher preparation and the ability to create meaningful lessons utilizing technology. If technology is “used as a catalyst for social interaction and conversations related to children’s work” (Van Scoter, Ellis, Railsback, 2001, p.9) then technology becomes a vital tool with positive impact for both the instructor and the student. Time is also spent discussing the positive and negative aspects of the growing number of online social relationships that students are building. In conclusion, technology is found to be most powerful when combined with a well trained and technologically literate instructor able to facilitate learning.
The use of technology in schools today has impacted both students and teachers on many levels and will continue to impact the future of education and society. The manner in which teachers apply the technologies available to them varies based on teacher comfort levels and training with technology. The impact on curriculum will also fluctuate based upon the teachers’ personal beliefs and approaches to instruction. If a teacher is willing to modify his or her role in the classroom from teacher centered to student centered; then technology will play an active and not a passive role to aid student learning. One should not only look to the past but also examine the current methods of education involving technology and then look to what can society and technology offer to one another.
Does technology have a valuable role in information acquisition or is it merely another gimmick used to capture an audience? Are teachers creating wider learning communities and support systems by going online? Where do people go from here? What is being witnessed in society? While one can not claim to have the answers to these questions, it is at least possible to try to provide the information in a way to stimulate further reading and perhaps find answers of one’s own.
Foundations of Educational Technology
Technology is not new to the classroom as many would have the public believe. It has been made available and in use in education since the ancient times. In fact the word technology is defined as the relationship of society and its tools.
Technology has most often been used as an instructional aid – abacuses, parchment, printed books, overhead projects, televisions, radios, record players, calculators, and movie screens to name a few have been utilized over the years. There are some educators who are looking to how the past incorporated new technologies into education and they are learning from it, expanding on ideas and learning from mistakes. This is a phenomenon not only impacting American schools but schools around the world - technology has had an impact internationally. In a journal article written by Robin Moss for Learning, Media and Technology it is stated,
“The era of 40 years ago in which educational television emerged as a powerful new
weapon to ‘transform’ UK education at all levels has parallels to the current one. In
the 1960s, a reforming Labour administration, confident and ambitious, was keen to
expand higher education and improve school standards by investing in new technology.
The rhetoric of the 1990s’ drive to transform education through information and
communications technology (ICT) echoes the oratory of that earlier era” (pg. 68).
Educational technology is something that is difficult to categorize as many began referring to educational technology after World War I due to the increased use of audio-visual elements (Luppicini, 2005). In today’s interpretation many equate educational technology with computers, the internet and digital media formats. Computers started to play a more important role in classrooms with the addition of the smaller personal computers such as the Apple IIE computer in the mid 1980s. It was with these smaller personal computers that schools first started to create computer labs. Many schools however still lack the proper funding for computer labs and those computers that they do have are available for specific classes such as business applications and/or keyboarding only.
Personal computers took on a different meaning once people were able to link to a wider network via the internet. This opened a world up until this point that was held compartmentalized – this is no longer the case. In the book written by Thomas L. Friedman one can go so far as to now say that the “World is Flat”.
This flattening of the world via technology is critical for all to understand; especially those who are looking to the economic future of the country. In an article by Gilbert Valdez entitled Technology: A Catalyst for Teaching and Learning in the Classroom he states,
The Internet is becoming an increasingly vital tool in our information society. More Americans are going online to conduct such day-to-day activities as education, business transactions, personal correspondence, research and information-gathering, and job searches. Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical to economic and educational advancement and community participation. 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 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, & National Telecommunications and Information Administration (2000, p. xv).
Current Technology in Classrooms
The use of technology in today’s classrooms can assist both the teachers and the students not only with the task present for the lesson and unit being covered but it also “prepares learners to live responsibly in a democratic, technically-driven society” (Raley, 2006, Use of Technology section, bullet 1). By pairing technology in an appropriate manner it also “helps learners acquire knowledge, skills, communicate and manage information, and improve problem-solving, creative expression, research, design, and product development” (Raley, 2006, Use of Technology section, bullet 2).
Today the technology available to some students and schools range from handheld computers and graphing calculators to iPods used in language labs and software such as Inspiration on school laptops serviced by wireless networks. These have brought to the forefront an entirely new problem of school funding and requirements for at home technological resources. No school can expect their students to complete an assignment utilizing specific software if those students do not have the technology available to them at home. The essential question is how are teachers being prepared to assist students with the use of technology? Are school districts and institutions of higher learning offering professional development that is focusing on these problems? One of the ways teachers are helping themselves is by forming online communities, chat rooms and support groups via the internet. They are communicating inter and intra district. They are collaborating and swapping lesson plans. This is especially important for the teachers who are in small communities or geographically isolated from many of their counter parts (Parr and Ward, 2006).
A benefit of current technology is that it allows for smaller school districts to find ways to offer students exposure to the world around them without having to worry about the expense and liability of traditional field trips. Take for example the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips that are now available to schools. The school pays a one time fee for the school to have access to password protected materials and videos. Teachers can “take” their students to Williamsburg complete with their own personal historian and tour guide available to them. The students have materials available to them for reinforcement of the lesson and web adventures. The teachers have access to library links, a bibliography for further readings, lesson plans and copies of primary source documents. All of this without having to leave the comfort and safety of their home campus!
In its current form the impact on education is apparent by the many communication styles available for both students and teachers. Many universities whether the class is a traditional or online course offer discussion boards and blogs. The reality is that the generation of today’s students are multimedia based, they were born and raised with the internet; to these students the internet and technologies make up their understanding of the world around them. According to Gonick (2006), “the students already get it. The point is to help higher education institutions get it in a meaningful way.” In an abstract from an article written by Sandra Jones in Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education she states “[technology] can be used to augment the authenticity of the learning experience in student-centered learning environments. It argues that technology provides the opportunity to embed students in learning activity bridging the gap between the “real world” and “the classroom” (Herrington, Herrington, 2005, chapter XIII, p. 172). This would be in complete agreement with those who argue for classroom environment that is student centered rather than teacher centered. This would take a huge shift in how education is perceived. It would also require others to look at the impact technology currently has on the societal structure of people.
Technology and Society
On any given evening in a typical suburban household what once was the scene of a teenager on the telephone has now been replaced with that same teenager logged onto the computer. There are usually several instant messenger windows popped up with a variety of conversations going on with different people. No longer is the teenager held to only focusing on one conversation at a time. One has to question – are there really any meaningful conversations occurring during this time? The widespread availability of instant messaging, chat rooms and blogs have added a new dimension to social relations and personal interactions. There is now a degree of separation that adds anonymity and security to many teens.
Why is this anonymity appealing? How are the online relationships formed? Many find the security of the anonymity or the veil of the internet safe. It does not leave a person exposed to scrutiny unless they elect to expose themselves. For many young adults this is the major plus. They do not feel as if they are being judged if they can not see the eyes of the person on the other side.
There are many positives to the online relationships available to people via internet sites like MySpace and FaceBook. Many online social relationship sites allow the user to search based upon geographical location, common interests, schools, etc. This means that a young adult is no longer tied to only interacting with people from their neighborhood or campus. If they find someone with common interests but who live in another portion of the state, country or world they are able to interact and share. It is another example of the flat world concept as proposed by Friedman. Collaboration becomes an important key – take for example a high school student in Glendale, Arizona. This young man is the president of his high school young democrats club; he now no longer draws upon ideas from his club on his campus but also has the resources available to him via MySpace. He is able to connect with other young democrats and collaborate. Another positive attribute is that personal expression can be taken to a new level with blogs, personal websites, online photo albums and even adding a song to the personal page expressing the emotion of the user.
However, the same anonymity that helps many young people feel secure also makes them vulnerable to online predators looking to take advantage of these people. There is the risk of addiction to the technology. Young adults tend to feel as if no one physically nearby can understand what is going on and that they are only truly understood by the person on the other side of the internet connection. This has led to some instances of people running away in order to try and connect in person. Ironically, there is currently a posting on the internet site www.youtube.com warning against the overuse and addiction to MySpace (Mendelson, 2006).
Where can technology go from here in an educational setting? As the Memphis City schools have done districts have implemented programs where technology coaches encourage principals and facilitators to make use of tools and they provide peer training (Parrish, Holcomb, Eller, 2006). One of the obstacles, besides funding for schools, is the lack of training in a comfortable environment for instructors. Teachers are more likely to utilize tools that will assist students if they themselves are first comfortable with the skills needed. Schools and their school districts would benefit from a program that assesses their teachers’ use of technology and readiness for use of technology, as well as their ability to utilize technology in an engaging and meaningful way for the students. One such example is the Teacher Education and Technology Planning Guide created by Learning Point Associates in November of 2004. It looks at eight key categories for the implementation of technology by pre-service teachers and colleges of education (Fulton, Glenn, Valdez, 2004).
The need for learning communities to exist within the use of technology is vital. The students and the instructors must be able to function in a student centered / constructivist environment. It is via the interactive learning that technology in the classroom can contribute the most; however, instructors must be mindful of the critics who say the use of technology in this form will create social isolation. If one looks closely it is quite obvious that the exact opposite occurs; by including technology a whole vast world is laid in front of the student and a different social structure emerges.
In summary does technology have a valuable role in information acquisition or is it merely another gimmick used to capture an audience? Yes, it does have an important role for the new generation of students but if the teachers are not adequately prepared it has the potential to be just another gimmick. It is an asset if teachers are prepared and skilled in ways to utilize technology in an engaging and meaningful way. Can true understanding occur? Undoubtedly, yes it can lead to meaning learning experiences if the technology is used in a classroom that allows for the students to explore with guidance from their instructor. Where do we go from here? The sky is truly the limit and the only boundaries that apply are those that are in place in order to keep students safe. Technology in the classroom utilized by the instructor “develops technology literate learners when they apply technology across curricular areas throughout the life-long learning process” (Raley, 2006, Use of Technology section, bullet 3). As eloquently stated,
Just as pencils do not replace crayons but rather provide additional means of expression, computers, or cameras or any other form of technology, do not replace other tools but add to the array of tools available to children to explore, create and communicate (Van Scoter, Ellis, Railsback, 2001, p.25).
The impact is that a teacher must learn to see themselves less as a person standing at a podium and more as a facilitator for self exploration with technology as a valuable tool by their side.
Friedman, T. L. (2006). The World Is Flat (Second Ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Fulton, K., Glenn, A., & Valdez, G. (2004). Teacher education and technology planning guide (Government No. 1). Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. (Planning Guide) Retrieved September 23, 2006, from http://www.learningpt.org/pdfs/tech/guide.pdf
Gonick, L. S. (2006). New media and learning in the 21st century. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(1), 68-69.
Herrington, T., Herrington, J., & Netlibrary, I. (2005). Authentic learning environments in higher education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub.
Historical perspectives on the book and information technology.http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/papers/crane.html
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Parrish, J., Holcomb, S., & Eller, L. (2006). In Parrish J., Holcomb S. and Eller L. (Eds.), Welcome back to school [Instructional technology Podcast] (1st ed.). Memphis:
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Roush, N. M. (2004). Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 16(4), 29-32.
U.S. Department of Commerce. (2000). Falling through the net: Toward digital inclusion (Government No. 4). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. (Falling Through the Net)
Valdez, G. (2005). Technology: A catalyst for teaching and learning in the classroom. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te600.htm
Van Scoter, J., Ellis, D., & Railsback, J. (2001). Technology in early education: Finding the balance. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, June