08 Feb 2019

THE VALUE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY

The impact of technology on education delivery remains sub-optimal, because we may overestimate the digital skills of both teachers and students, because of naive policy design and implementation strategies, because of a poor understanding of pedagogy, or because of the generally poor quality of educational software. Results suggest that the connections among students, computers and learning are neither simple nor hard-wired; and the real contributions ICT can make to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realized and exploited.

Access to technology has been a sore spot since its introduction to education. It was deemed to be the detrimental factor that would deepen the divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged. At first access was defined as “having a chance to use the devices,” later it became clear that access to the Internet is as important as the device itself.5 Practice shows that even when students have access to the devices and the Internet but they lack technological knowledge and support, they will not benefit much from technology. What is more, if students know how to use the device but no quality content has been uploaded onto it, then learning might deteriorate into mindless clicking.

Some children growing up in stimuli-rich environments where education is highly appreciated and well-scaffold will be able to properly interact with technology even when they are given access to it at a later age. In contrast, when children with limited cultural capital and disadvantaged social background receive access to technology, they rarely use it for developmental purposes. In this respect technology may be seen as not beneficial at all. In such cases, it becomes even more important to teach kids how to interact with technology in the way that will benefit them instead of taking away their valuable developmental time.

Disseminating the benefits of digital education requires involving teachers on several levels. Teachers should be supported in four areas:

  • technology (how to use computers, whiteboards, software etc.),
  • pedagogy (how to use technology for didactic purposes),
  • organization (who to contact when difficulties arise),
  • lesson plans (lesson scenarios and materials to use in class).

 All these aspects can be tackled during teacher training sessions and with the help of school IT administrators but also through practical application – by simply following ready-made lesson plans with guidelines, tips and tricks. Numerous studies on teachers’ needs and the reports of publishers introducing digital products all conclude that without training and support for teachers there is no chance of success.

Computer-based instructional technology has been researched for decades. Scientists have evaluated students’ performance, and built cognitive models that would facilitate individual problem-solving approach, step-by-step assistance, guidance, and feedback with context-specific advice. Digital tools provide new modes of expression, many of them reserved. So far for professionals, like photography, video-taking, voice recording, etc. These modes of expression can not only spark interest among students and engage them in the learning process, but they may become the means of elaboration that can strengthen knowledge assimilation and construction.

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