How Has Technology Improved Education?

How Has Technology Improved Education?

New trends and technologies have a profound impact on how students perceive learning.  It is also changing the role of the teacher in the classroom environment in a plethora of ways.

According to an article in ComputerWorld UK, Forrester, a primary technology and market research firm said, “Globalisation and the drive to capture a larger stake in the global economy and growth in population has created the perfect storm for educational demand.” In a survey conducted by Forrester, IT decision makers in UK educational institutions spend a higher percentage of the education budget on technology in the classroom more than other industry sectors.

The survey showed that the average spend on technology in education was 5.6 percent in comparison with the total average for other industries of 4.1 percent.  For example, the percentage of technology spending in the wholesale and retail industry was only 2.8 percent.  Additionally, decisions makers for technology in education anticipated technology spend to rise in the coming year with more than 35 percent anticipating an increase by more than 5 percent.  Eleven percent of decision makers expect an increase in technology spending of more than 12 percent.

Forrester analysts said that a higher percentage of UK education budgets are being spent in the classroom to prepare students for skillsets necessary to navigate a technology driven economy.  This means more classrooms will be integrating technology to create a more interactive, unique, and collaborative learning experience.

Despite the fact that the numbers show a marked increase for technology spending in education, many wonder whether or not education has improved as a result of technology integration in the classroom.  With the current technologies already being used in our daily lives and in the classroom, there are a number of trends that have a significant impact on the way teachers deliver lessons and how students perceive learning.  Additionally, it is changing the overall learning environment as well.

What are some of the Current Technology Trends?

Although Forrester points to the fact that technology spending has increased in the UK, the current economic climate has coerced some schools to initiate budget cuts. At the same time, schools are challenged by increasing educational standards which means they must meet these requirements without spending more.

In some cases, many schools that are faced with budget cuts still invest in technology because it helps teachers and students to accomplish more in the classroom.  Technology is used as a tool for meeting core standards without the exorbitant cost of conventional classroom materials.

This is somewhat of a double edged sword and requires careful planning, especially in educational institutions that have budget limitations.  Additionally, there is an increased number of grant resources by organisations that take a sincere interest in helping schools incorporate technology into the classroom. These are resources that assist with bridging the gap that exists in some school districts that can only afford to invest a set amount of money in technology.

Another ongoing trend that is impacting education is the constant release of new technologies on the market in addition to technology advancements that are rumoured to be up and coming at a variety of trade shows and conferences.  Recent advancements in technology have provided better learning opportunities in the classroom, changed the role of the teacher, and encourage students to interact with content in new and interesting ways.  Some of the technologies include interactive whiteboards, tablet PCs, educational apps, Internet access, and more. Emerging technologies are expected to change the classroom environment and learning experience as they are released on the market in the next few years.

Today’s student is also social media focused because their daily activities often centre on social media.  Additionally, the public media outlets, Internet applications, and mobile trends all surround the social media environment with news feeds, real-time technologies, and other interactive applications.

Students are also connecting outside of the classroom setting using a wide variety of mobile devices.  For this reason, social media is gradually working its way into the classroom to be used as an effective learning tool.  No longer is it all about asking students to put their devices away when they come into the classroom since this is considered the equivalent of cutting them off from the rest of the world.

Touch technology has been in existence for some time now at public kiosks, touch screen mirrors in retail establishments, digital signage mirrors, and more.  In current trends, touch technology is being used by children as young as three years old with mobile devices that offer many preschool learning apps, games, and other tools.  This trend is driving touch and gesture technology into the classroom.

Cloud technologies are also currently being used in the classroom as a way for students to collaborate during and after school hours.  It has also changed the way teachers interact with students and how schools interact and communicate with the community.  The cloud is also fueling the digital content market for apps, textbooks, eBooks, and other educational materials.  It is also saving school districts money on conventional and costly textbooks and other traditional classroom materials.

How Has Technology Changed the Way Students Learn?

Although digital content and publications are an invaluable resource for learning, technology must reach beyond digitalisation to social connection and the Internet to realise the full advantage technology brings to education.   Studies have shown that when students are integrating technology and social media as a learning tool and as a means to communicate with others, this places them in an active role instead of a passive role of being on the receiving end of information being delivered by the teacher.

  • Technology and Social Connections: Social connections and communicating with peers and others aid in the decision making process on how to obtain, generate, and organise information.  This is because the student is actively thinking about the information, making decisions, and implementing skills in a process that typically does not occur in the traditional teacher to student classroom lesson setting.

When technology is used as a tool to assist students with performing realistic and lifelike tasks, this places the student in the position of learning how to accurately identify goals, make choices and decisions, and reflect on their progress.  For students that are visual learners this can be an invaluable experience that boost the achievement for those that have difficulty processing information in the traditional classroom lecture environment.

  • Success with Advanced Lessons: In many learning scenarios, it has also been reported that the capability of students to handle more complex assignments increased as the result of using technology as a tool for learning.  Students that found lessons requiring more advanced skills difficult were able to achieve higher standards using technology.
  • Confidence and Understanding: In regard to preparing students for the technology driven economy, technology represents the potential to assist students with improving skills using a broad range of technologies.  During the learning process, students acquire an understanding of how different technologies work in various scenarios.  They also gain more confidence toward being able to use new technologies as they are introduced.
  • Peer Interaction:  Most students naturally enjoy interacting with their peers outside the classroom. When in-classroom lessons involve technology-based projects administered to multiple groups of students, it has been found that many of the students became engaged in helping others.  Generally, lessons that involve technology include many subtasks where other students may require assistance and turn to their peers for the help they need.  Additionally, the students providing the assistance gain self-esteem and enjoyment out of helping their peers.

According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), students should be able to use technology effectively in order to work successfully in a technology driven and information rich society.  When used properly in an educational setting, technology enables students to become competent users of digital productivity tools, better decision makers and problem solvers, effective researchers and evaluators, and successful communicators and collaborators.  They also become more responsible and better informed citizens that end up making significant contributions to society.

How has Technology Changed the Role of the Teacher?

The increased use of technology in the classroom has been gradually changing the role of the teacher primarily because students are already coming to school with their own devices.  Computers and mobile technologies are the norm for this generation of students and they are accustomed to being able to access a broad range of content.

The fact that so much content is available online (both good and bad) has changed the role of the teacher to be more like a classroom guide or coach.  The abundance of content coupled with interactive technologies such as mobile devices, whiteboards, touch and gesture devices, and other tools that make learning exciting, provides students with a stronger connection to the learning material.  This means the role of the teacher is more important than it has ever been as they are there to help students reach their full potential by creating personalised learning experiences using technology.

The role of the teacher as being a guide or coach encourages students to engage in critical thinking and problem solving.  It has also enabled the teacher to reach more students with different types of learning abilities by customising lessons that address the way each individual student learns. This is very difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom learning environment.

Instruction no longer consists primarily of delivering information to students in a lecture type of setting while they sit in rows of desks listening and taking notes.  Instead, technology enables teachers to offers every student a rich, unique, collaborative, and exciting learning experience. The educational experience is no longer limited to the classroom and can be extended to the home and community as well as around the entire globe.

So, Has Technology Improved Education?

Without doubt, yes. New technology is one of the most influential forces that is changing the role of both the teacher and student. The old instructional model was based on the scarceness of information pre-technology. Teachers and textbooks were the only answer to acquiring information and delivering knowledge to a generation of students with few other ways to obtain it.

Technology is now reinventing the role of teachers both in and outside the classroom which has hinted at significantly improved schools and curriculums and better educated students.  Although technology has taken hold in many of today’s schools, the concept requires continued cultivation in order to grow and completely change the landscape for learning. Educational leaders, administrators, parents, decision makers, community members, and others must also be willing to reconsider their roles in education in order to support the teachers in delivering a learning experience that meets the needs and expectations of a new generation of students.

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