Education authorities, in many countries, carry out efforts to introduce education technology to schools. The main objective is to provide improved learning experiences to develop information skills needed to meet the future demands of rapidly progressing technology use in the work markets. In addition, education technology would update administrative processes and assist teachers in performing their work. This process is complex and daring; therefore, this work aims to provide a brief, yet comprehensive review of the benefits and challenges of introducing education technology to schools.
The purpose of instructional technology is to improve the value, efficacy, and success of learning in educational environments, irrespective of the characteristics and make-up of what is the subject of learning.
Integration of instructional technology in education
Integration of technology in education includes the regular methodical use of behavioral and physical sciences ideas into a frame of strategies and techniques to solve instructional problems and improve education quality. The currently existing public view encompasses instructional technology as equivalent to computer technology. However, integrating technology into education is not about technology by itself, it is about what and how instructional practices are carried on where technology is just a tool (Earle, 2002).
The recent consensus that Information and Communication Technology Literacy (ICT Literacy) portrays the students need to learn critical thinking, information analysis, work with others, and perform problem-solving. Technology contributes to understanding these learning abilities (Honey and Culp, 2005). Honey and Culp (2005) suggested that students benefit from technology integration in education in six areas. Developing effective communication, proper analysis and interpretation of data, understanding computational modeling, learning to manage and rank tasks in order of importance, take on problem-solving, and ensure safety and security, would lead to success in a workplace.
Principles of technology integration in the education settings
Identifying integration standards is important to assess technology integration since they represent references for measurement and assessment. The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory suggested the following standards for a successful technology integration process. It should correlate to students learning, there should be hands-on use of technology, and it should provide variable learning experiences.
Besides, there should be education curriculum-specific applications, it should be involving, typical of, or belonging to a college or university, and it should allow teachers active participation. Also, there should be technical support and administrative support with satisfactory and continuous funding (Institute of Education Sciences, 2005). The International Society for Technology in Education recognized the following standards and performance indicators for teachers (Institute of Education Sciences, 2005):
- Foundations (Essential preparation): They include a fundamental computer (technology) understanding and application knowledge, and the ability to apply technology in instruction.
- Ability to teach ethical, social, and human issues, guide students for information access, problem-solving, use of productivity tools, and research.
- Professional preparation of teachers, which includes teaching methods, software and hardware selection, assessment, and maintenance.
The main purpose of introducing technology in the classroom environment is to present new ways of learning to students. Integrating technology into the education curriculum means transferring technology into a tool that augments student learning in a subject or a multidisciplinary environment. The technology introduced should be easy to get to and become an essential part of how work runs in the classroom.
A sign of integrating technology into the curriculum is including technology expertise into the student standards. The National Education Technology Standards recognized six types of technology foundation standards for students. These are basic operations and concepts, social, ethical, and human issues, technology productivity tools, technology communication tools, technology research tools, and technology problem solving and decision-making tools (Institute of Education Sciences, 2005).
There are two interests when considering the integration of technology in education and student assessment. The first is to know if student assessment gauges technology use whether direct (use of calculator in math tests), or indirect (student presentation of work using a computer graphic program). The second is to know the extent of technology tools use in carrying out students’ assessments (Institute of Education Sciences, 2005).
A guide to the selection of software and other technological materials
Three principles guide education processes. These are: there should be active contribution of students, who should learn in various ways ad at different paces, and the idea of learning is it is both an individual and a social process. Based on these principles, learning information that helps student learning whether represented, made accessible, or stored in various media or formats (learning resources) used in schools should support the learning outcomes of the curriculum.
Learning resources should also be suitable to age and development, support integration with other curriculums allows hands-on activities, deal with learning styles and all students’ needs, and assists both specialist and nonspecialist teachers. Technological materials should provide evaluation and assessment schemes, should improve personal and academic thinking development, and encourage students to probe careers and post-high school education. Finally, these materials should have educational and technical design reliability (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2002).
Issues of digital equity and ethics
Digital equity means having equal prospects and access to digital services, tools, and resources that help increasing digital know-how, experiences, and abilities. Thus, digital equity is the impartial distribution of technological facilities based on student needs. The essential aspects of digital equity are professional development, leadership and support, infrastructure, and teaching and learning.
There are five strategies to achieve digital equity: recognition of the important role student culture plays in their educational experience, correction of notions and ideas about the role of technology in education. The third is to understand the connection between technology and classroom practice, the fourth, is to create equal chances for technology access to all students within and outside the learning environment. Finally, is to try to find funds for technology integration despite challenges (Davis and others, 2007).
The ethical issue of information technology (IT) differs from the general ethical issue because there is less personal contact, the speed of information transfer, being more fragile than paper form, and can be easily changed. This makes ethical issues particular to technology integration a dilemma of plagiarism, copyright, piracy, hacking, computer crime, writing and spreading viruses and spyware programs, physical work environment, and health issues (Himma and Tavani, 2008)
Using digital technology with special needs students
Students with disabilities that prevent them from taking part in normal classroom activities can benefit from technology integration (especially computer-based). Technology integration provides a wider range of learning activities for them to engage in, it fulfills their needs. With adaptive technology, a student with severe disabilities can turn to active learners with their normal colleagues in the classroom (Hasselbring and Glaser, 2000).
There is no ready-made plan to set up the integration of technology in various learning environments. Tailoring a plan for a particular environment depends largely on the choices made about the hardware, software, educational applications, practice products, and the network selected. Implementation of technology integration is one wedge in the process chain of the project which includes assessing, acquiring, organizing, securing, and management.
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2002). Evaluating, Selecting and Managing Learning Resources: A guide. Province of British Columbia: Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data.
Davis, T., Fuller, M., Jackson, S., Pittman, J., & Sweet, J. (2007). A National Consideration of Digital Equity. Washington, D.C.: International Society for technology in Education.
Earle R S (2002). The Integration of Instructional Technology into Public Education: Promises and Challenges. Education Technology, 42 (1), 5-13.
Hasselbring T S. and Glaser C H W (2000). Use of Computer Technology to Help Students with Special Needs. The Future of Children and Computer Technology, 10(2), 102-122.
Himma K E and Tavani H T (Editors) (2008). The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Honey M and Culp K M (2005). Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement. North Central Educational Laboratory. Web.
Institute of Education Sciences (ies) – National Center for Education Statistics – US Department of Education (2005). Forum Unified Technology suite. Part 8: Integrating Your Technology. Web.