Teaching and LearningThere is no escaping the fact that Information Technology is having a massive effect on education, in the classroom, outside the classroom, independent learning, distance learning (telelearning), the delivery of educational content via different technological means... As the cost of technology becomes lower and lower, it makes it a more viable option for schools to help prepare students for the modern world!
VLEVirtual Learning Environments - These can be used to offer courses via telelearning where students cannot physically attend classes for any reason. This is also known as distance learning. This method which allows students to learn at their own pace, is known as asynchronous learning.
The combination of telelearning with traditional classroom methods is known as Blended Learning.
The advantages of VLEs are that more students can be reached, and less teachers per students, so costs can be reduced. VLEs do not require web development experience to manage so more time can be spent on course content. Students who might not usually be able to access school, can still pursue their learning. Travel costs are reduced as learning can take place anywhere, and students can learn at their own pace, whenever they want to. Moodle is an open source VLE which is free for all!
Disadvantages of VLEs include the loss of the 'human touch', of having a face to face interaction with a teacher to clarify understanding and ask questions beyond content in the syllabus. Some distance learning would require coordination between time zones. For some interactions on VLEs, specific hardware would be required such as web cams or high speed internet connectivity.
Online ResourcesThe World Wide Web is an excellent resource for students and teachers to further their knowledge and share resources with others. Initially, encyclopaedias were made available online with additional rich media content such as videos, and now text books and other paper based resources have been converted to digital and made available over the Internet.
Web 2.0 + Web 3.0Web 1.0 was the 'read' web, where users could access web pages to read content.
Web 2.0 is also known as the 'read/write' web where users can read content as well as posting their own content online. From audio clips to video clips on YouTube, to blogs and user generated wikis, students and teachers can interact a lot more in the online world. There is some controversy around who verifies the content, and who stops people uploading inappropriate content, but ultimately Web 2.0 has been a positive addition to the Internet.
Web 3.0 which is also known as the Semantic Web will make everything online much more searchable and accessible. Sir Tim Berners-Lee says,
"I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A "Semantic Web", which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The "intelligent agents" people have touted for ages will finally materialize."
PodcastsPodcasts were made famous by Apple when they allowed users to serialise their content using RSS feeds for people to download to their devices to listen later. They are cheap, easily accessible, and are not restricted to one field in particular. One popular format of podcast is to help people learn new languages.
GamesGames combined with educational goals are sometimes referred to as edutainment. Examples include Code Academy, which 'gamifies' the progress of the student with rewards and badges along the way, and the popular handheld gaming device the Nintendo DS which released titles such as 'Brain Training' to help people learn whilst still having fun!
High Tech cheatingMany schools are now banning mobile phones and other devices with cellular connectivity, because they have been involved in cheating. Students in exams with Internet access to check their answers could be a big problem. As well as examinations, schools have had to take note of plagiarism in assignments; taking text straight from the web and trying to pass it as their own work, or even using the ideas of others posted online without properly citing the work. Websites such as turnitin.com have helped alleviate this problem slightly but it is still very much an issue. Check out the section in the Internal Assessment page for advice on citing properly.
HardwareThe affordability of technology has improved the presence of IT in education over the past 20 years. Many schools now have classrooms equipped with Interactive Whiteboards which is essentially a large touch screen that projects the computer screen so that students and teachers can interact together by touching the board with hands, or with special pens. Images and content produced on the board can also be exported as images and shared with students or just logged for reference later on! The downside of interactive whiteboards is that only 1 or 2 students at a time can use them, and as such the other students in the class become spectators and less engaged/bored in the class.
LaptopsLaptops have become more affordable and full featured with the ability to connect wirelessly to school networks to access resources and battery life that could span an entire school day on a single charge. Many students choose to bring their own laptop with files stored locally, but this raises security concerns over laptop thefts, damages and responsibility for such falling on the schools. The cost of repairing a laptop is also more than a desktop as they now often rely on the manufacturer performing the fixes rather than the consumer being able to do it themselves. Another issue with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is that some students may not be able to afford a high quality device to work on, putting them at a disadvantage.
Some schools now have a laptop programme in which the school loans the student a laptop with pre-installed software and login credentials to use during school and for homework. This has many obvious benefits, but ultimately costs schools and/or governments millions of dollars.
ImpactsThe main impacts of technology on education are that schools have come under increasing pressure to stay up-to-date with hardware and software currently out there in industry. Initial setup costs are usually very high and then the cost of maintaining hardware can become overwhelming, particularly for smaller institutions.
The other side of the argument is that technology has improved student motivation and participation. Younger students who are just learning simple skills such as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are less affected, but students who need access to a wider range of information and resources have benefitted the most!