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Rated: E · Essay · Educational · #1294696
History and advances of ed. technology. Pros and cons of social networking sites.
Educational Technology of the Past and Present
Eric Fogle
Technology, Society, and Education
Summer 2007

The concept of educational technology began in the form of instructional media at the turn of the 20th century.  Film, radio, television, and computers all played an important role in improving the technological tools available for educators.  Current developments include using portable devices and the Internet.  Classrooms are now able to collaborate globally with other students and organizations.  Educational technology can also be used to assist students with disabilities.  Along with advances in technology comes the need for school administrators, educators, and parents to be aware of the potential dangers associated with students using the Internet and take precautionary measures to avoid mental or physical harm.

Educational Technology of the Past and Present
         Educational technology has always been an important part of the learning environment.  Pictures, film, radio, and television were some of the earliest forms.  With the advent of the microcomputer, a new era of educational technology began to unfold.  The expanded use of the Internet now provides additional opportunities for creative learning materials and environments.  Educational technology has provided educators with an endless possibility of tools that they can use to enhance their teaching.
History of Educational Technology
In Robert Reiser’s article “A History of Instructional Design and Technology:
Part I: A History of Instructional Media,” he states that the field of educational technology “encompasses the analysis of learning and performance problems, and the design, development, implementation, evaluation and management of instructional and non-instructional processes and resources intended to improve learning and performance in a variety of settings, particularly educational institutions and the workplace” (p. 53).  Furthermore, Reiser (2001a) states that the resources used during the processes are what he refers to as instructional media, which are the physical items used for instruction, excluding the instructor, chalkboard, and textbook. 
The concept of using instructional media began in St. Louis in 1905 with the creation of portable school museums.  These museums consisted of instructional materials such as stereographs (three-dimensional photographs), slides, films, study prints, and charts.  Many of the materials used in the museum were viewed as supplementary materials, with textbooks still considered the primary source for students.  During the second half of the 19th century, motion pictures offered a potentially valuable form of instructional media.  Thomas Edison envisioned that the motion picture would transform the educational system.  In 1932, the Department of Visual Development was formed to lead the development of audio and visual instructional media (Reiser, 2001a).
World War II can be considered as the historical event that triggered a concentrated effort to improve the instructional methods and develop effective instructional media.  At the onset of World War II, the United States Air Force faced the dilemma of an unacceptably high number of individuals failing flight school.  Psychologists were employed to conduct research and create new instructional materials (Reiser, 2001b).  The materials included at least 400 training films and 600 filmstrips.  The films reduced the amount of time required to train individuals without diminished effectiveness.  Other devices included overhead and slide projectors, audio equipment, and training simulators.  The evident success of the instructional methods and media used for the war sparked a concentrated effort in developing applications for schools.  Researchers conducted studies to identify the characteristics of audiovisual media that facilitated learning (Reiser, 2001a).
The increased use of television led to an interest in using audiovisual media as a mode of delivering instruction.  In 1952, the Federal Communications Commission allocated 242 channels to be used for educational purposes.  This led to a rapid increase in public television stations, with over 50 stations by 1960.  During the 1960’s, the Ford Foundation spent more than $170 million on developing educational television programs.  One of the projects included closed-circuit television to deliver instruction.  The project was implemented throughout a public school district in Maryland, a junior college in Chicago, and at Pennsylvania State University.  Also included was the Midwest Program on Airborne Instruction that transmitted instruction from an airplane to schools in six states simultaneously.  However, there was weak interest in many of the programs due to the mediocre quality of instruction.  Many school districts halted the programs because of insufficient external funding sources.  In addition, teachers were resistant to using televised instruction and felt that it did not adequately provide the resources and conditions required for students to learn (Reiser, 2001a).
The impetus for the next major change in education occurred due to the creation of computers, which shifted the focus from instructional media to instructional technology.  Microcomputers became available to the public in the early 1980s.  By January 1983, forty percent of all elementary schools and seventy-five percent of all secondary schools were using computers for instructional purposes.  Computers appealed to educators because they were relatively inexpensive, compact enough to fit on a desktop, and could perform a variety of functions that were once limited to much larger computers.  Despite the initial belief that computers were going to radically alter the educational system, they failed to make a significant impact up through the mid-1990s.  Although the student to computer ratio was nine to one in 1995, surveys suggested that very few teachers were using computers for instructional purposes.  Teachers were primarily using them for drill and practice at the elementary level and for teaching computer-related skills at the secondary level (Reiser, 2001a).
Present Uses of Technology in Schools
Educational technology has expanded immensely within the past decade.  Educators are now utilizing technology as a tool to enhance their instruction and promote collaboration.  The current options available to educators appear to be limited only by their creativity.  Schools continue to develop new and innovative ways to use educational technology to enhance the learning environment and instructional methods.
Instructors have discovered ways to use Apple iPods as instructional tools.  Individuals are able to attach a microphone to an iPod, record their voices, use software to edit the content, and then broadcast the audio file, or podcast, over the Internet using a web page interface.  This can allow teachers to provide lessons and additional materials to students via the Internet, which is beneficial when the students are unable to attend class.  Students have also begun creating their own podcasts to enhance projects.  Studies have shown that multimedia projects increase student motivation, integrate multiple skills, require students to analyze sources, and invoke higher-level problem solving skills (Oblinger, 2005). 
In 2004, José Martí Middle School in Union City, New Jersey, began using iPods to help bilingual students improve their proficiency in English.  The students utilized the audio playback feature to listen to audio books and song lyrics to learn proper grammar.  In addition, a voice recorder was attached to the students’ iPod, which they used to help improve their speaking ability.  After the first year, half of the students using iPods as an instructional tool became proficient in English and were exited from the bilingual program.  Those students were able to enroll in regular classes receiving instruction in English.  The use of iPods in the district has expanded to teach special needs students and to help students review for the state proficiency assessment by listening to podcasts (THE innovators, 2006).
Some schools are using technology to prepare their students for recent changes in global networking.  Dunbar High School in Florida offers a program that allows students to earn up to thirteen different information technology (IT) certifications.  Fifty-nine students became certified last year.  Their classroom contains current technology such as liquid crystal display (LCD) projectors and flat-screen monitors, Smart Technologies Smart Boards, high-end computers with removable hard drives, and state-of-the-art servers (THE innovators, 2006).
New forms of online collaboration are being utilized in schools.  Students can now use tools available on the Internet to network with other individuals on any given topic.  One option is to create a Blog, which is a personal online journal that allows viewers to post comments.  This provides a great way for a group of individuals to brainstorm and share ideas.  Wikis, which earned its name from the website Wikipedia, can be used to research, create, and expand topics of interest.  They are a web page that contains a collaborative essay on a given subject that allows any user to review and edit the content (Bolan, Canada, & Cullin, 2007). 
Teachers are now taking advantage of high speed Internet to connect with classrooms and organizations throughout the world.  Cambridge-Isanti High School in Minnesota purchased several videoconferencing cameras to create a cooperative educational experience with Taikyu High School in Wakayama, Japan.  The classes meet regularly to discuss current world events and cultural differences.  The high school also had the opportunity to watch a physician in Rhode Island perform open-heart surgery.  The students were able to ask the surgeon questions before, during, and after the operation.  Furthermore, they used the videoconferencing technology to have live discussions with local troops in Afghanistan, the Buffalo Zoo in New York, the Oceanic Institute in San Diego, and with individuals living in a remote village in Norvik, Alaska (THE Innovators, 2006).   
Educational technology can also be used to assist students with disabilities by helping them perform specific tasks and become more independent.  Technology that is used for this purpose is referred to as assistive technology (AT).  Two major forms of assistive technology include adaptive input devices and specialized software.
Adaptive input devices allow the student to use alternative methods of inputting information into a computer.  Keyboards can be customized for students by using special overlays, reducing visual clutter, using individual keys for high frequency words, and reducing the overall size to decrease the distance that fingers travel between keystrokes.  On-screen keyboards can be used to work in conjunction with software for specific tasks or applications.  Trackballs and large push buttons are available for students with limited or no ability to move their hands or fingers.  Speech input software provides a substitute for keyboards altogether by allowing students to input information and commands using their voices (Merbler, Hadadian, & Ulman, 1999).
Many current computer applications have built-in features that provide tools for disabled students.  Word processors can check a students spelling as they type, which helps to reduce a learning disabled students’ frustration when working on a written assignment.  Word prediction software allows students with physical or learning disabilities to work much more efficiently.  Once a student begins typing a letter, the software generates a list of potential words that can be used based upon the initial letters that were provided.  The software is very similar to the technology that can be used to enter text on cellular phones.  Instead of having to type in each individual character of a word, the student can simply select the word they were intending to use (Merbler et al., 1999).
Technology and Society
         The rapid developments in technology have not only impacted education, but society as well.  The emerging forms of self-expression and networking available on the Internet have allowed individuals to connect to others worldwide.  The concept of society has begun expand globally, rather than remaining confined to a neighborhood or city.  This can provide lead to several positive social and educational benefits, but also possesses the potential for mental or physical harm.
         Numerous teenagers have developed a strong interest in social networking websites.  Although many different sites of this nature exist, the most popular is a site called MySpace.  The site has over 50 million members and allows users to create a free account by completing a simple registration process (NBC, 2007).  The site requires that uses are at least 14 years of age, but anyone can bypass the minimum requirement by stating that they are older.  Registered users can create customized web pages where they can post personal information, such as their hobbies, likes and dislikes, name, age, gender, and the city where they currently live.  Once their personal profile is finished, anyone with Internet access can view the information and post comments on the page.  MySpace users have the option of selecting who has permission to view their information, but the majority of individuals have the feature disabled.  Most individuals are initially drawn to the site because of the ability to socialize with a wide range of individuals who share similar interests (Rosenberg, 2006). 
Networking sites like MySpace can provide students with the opportunity to improve their writing and socialization skills.  Students will have the opportunity to practice their spelling, grammar, and keyboarding skills when they create or edit their personal profile.  Individuals who are typically withdrawn in public settings can have the opportunity to interact with others through their MySpace page without feeling intimidated.  Parents can create their own page and use it to interact with their children.  This can provide parents with a unique insight into their child’s friends and interests, which can lead to developing a stronger bond with their son or daughter (Windom, 2007).
Although there can be many positive benefits associated with using social networking sites, there are also several inherent dangers.  Schools have reported cases of students fraudulently creating spaces that contain slanderous information about schools, teachers, or other students.  Once the information is posted, it is difficult to have it removed from the website (Rosenberg, 2006).  As a result, many districts have begun to prevent students from accessing MySpace.  Congress has even considered creating legislation to ban students from using the site while at school.  Companies have started offering web-filtering software to many school districts.  The companies are able to block access to specific sites or ones that contain information on an inappropriate topic.  In addition, they can also monitor Internet traffic and report what sites are being accessed most frequently.  The software can be installed on student issued computers to prevent access while at home (Pennel, 2006).
         Of greater concern is the potential danger for children and teenagers to become victims of sexual predators.  It is estimated that 30 million children in the United States access the Internet and that 1 in 5 have received an unwanted sexual solicitation (MSNBC, 2006).  The innocent nature of networking sites can lull users into a false sense of security and place them in a dangerous situation where they are communicating with a child or teenage predator (Rosenberg, 2006).  Children and teenagers typically provide personal information without realizing the potential consequences.  It is not uncommon for them to list their names, addresses, cell phone numbers, or after-school schedules.    As a result, social networking sites can serve as a “catalog” for pedophiles.  Even if users don’t list personal information on the site, they typically provide enough details for predators to persuade potential victims into providing more details about where they live.  There have already been several reported cases of individuals being sexually assaulted or murdered by someone met through MySpace (NBC, 2007).  According to police in League City, Texas, a 38-year old male had intercourse with a 14-year old female that he met on the MySpace site.  In New Jersey, a 14-year old female was murdered just after telling her friends about meeting a 20-year old male on the site (CBS, 2007).
         The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides several suggestions for parents to help prevent their children from becoming the victim of a sexual predator.  They recommend that parents first educate themselves about what sites and activities are currently available on the Internet.  Next, parents should discuss with their child the potential dangers involved with using the Internet and social networking sites.  Furthermore, the center recommends that families place home computers in a common room where children can be supervised and held to specific guidelines (MSNBC, 2007).
Tools to Enhance Education and Social Interaction
         Initial research in the field of educational technology and instructional media was conducted with the idea of replacing current instructional approaches in schools.  However, as new and innovative devices and tools were created, it became more apparent that the purpose of technology would be to enhance an educator’s ability to teach students.  Recent advances in the field of educational technology have provided teachers with new tools that can be used to enrich the classroom environment and increase the quality of education for all students.  When used effectively, these tools can help increase students’ proficiency in English, prepare them for worldwide global networking, allow them to collaborate with other schools and organizations, or help students with disabilities learn more efficiently.
In additional to advancements in educational technology, there have been new developments in social networking.  Online sites allow users to communicate with other individuals worldwide who share similar interests, which can be especially beneficial for individuals who are typically introverted.  Furthermore, by creating personal pages, users will also will be practicing valuable writing and computer skills.  However, along with advances in social networking comes the need to teach students to use it wisely and responsibly.  Parents and teachers must inform their children and students of the inherent dangers.
Technology will continue to provide the opportunity to enhance educational curriculum and instruction.  As with all forms of instructional technology, educators must continue to evaluate how they can be used most effectively to improve student learning.  Parents must continually monitor and analyzing advances in technology and online sites.  Through a combined effort to remain informed of recent improvements in technology, teachers and parent can ensure that students will be able to capitalize on the potential positive benefits that technology has to offer.


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