ICTs in Education Essay Sample
Information and Communication Technology has greatly transformed education in ways that students and teachers have generally come to appreciate. The impacts of using computers and computer technologies in education are apparent in the variable outcomes and depend on how teachers and students use these technologies. A wide range of computer applications and simulations for learning support have been used to augment the drill-and-practice approach that is most common in educational systems. The use of emerging concepts in information technology and digital communication is among the latest developments in learning. Most notably, the internet has grandly revolutionized education in a big way.
Distant learning has made it easy for students to access academic resources from anywhere in the world. A range of tools that include software, hardware and the internet have facilitated the use of ICTs in education. These technologies include various computer applications, online portals, wikis, blogs, hardware-based tools and many more. ICTs have essentially helped to address the problem of education accessibility globally. The objective of this paper is to explore various ways in which ICTs have been used to enhance education for both teachers and students at all academic levels. These will be discussed with regards to various ICT tools used for education aid to bring out ways in which they have impacted learning.
Uses of ICTs in education
Information and Communication Technologies have the potential to improve access to quality education in all levels of human development. It is used in early childhood, elementary, secondary and tertiary as well as in all levels of higher education. Essentially, learners and instructors in these levels have a great opportunity to enhance their learning and teaching experiences by using various methods available in ICT. For instance, audio sessions are used in place of teachers to deliver highly structured lessons while giving learners a chance to respond. This method is also used as a supplement even when a teacher is present. Such a method is useful for the disabled persons especially the blind as they can listen to audio lessons and ask and answer questions accordingly. On the other hand, computer applications such as Microsoft Encarta have been useful for young learners in primary and secondary schools.
Such applications are installed on stand-alone computers and contain useful learning resources for students in eh appropriate levels. With schools in many parts of the world teaching ICT from the early stages of learning, such computer applications have proved to be useful in promoting the learning progress of students. Most nations have implemented curriculums that integrate use of ICTs for effective learning and access to education. Colleges and universities have online libraries, e-books and journals that are used by instructors in teaching and giving class assignments. Students on the other hand are able to use the internet to access these resources and enhance their learning progress in due course.
Some of the technologies used in education are interactive in nature. This has been made possible by the advent of the internet and social networking. Initially, ICTs used in schools involved instruction delivery only with no interaction on the part of the student. Students only took notes, listened or watched as instructions were delivered to them. Today, ICTs have become more interactive, intuitive and integrative and give students the ability to manipulate, control and contribute to the information environment. In fact, ICTs today allow students to choose their preferred topics, explore virtual landscapes, run experiment simulations and most importantly, share these learning experiences with their colleagues. These tools are available for students across all levels though some levels may need additional intervention. For instance, nursery and primary school students may require the guidance of teachers or parents in order to use computer applications or internet resources. Parents can help their children to use applicable computer applications or the internet to complete their homework and assignments.
In earlier times, the use of ICT in learning required students to be grouped together in a specific location at a specific time and in a controlled environment. New ICT applications have however transformed how students use these tools. They can actually use them from anywhere and at any time giving flexibility in supporting teaching and learning. Virtual learning environments have indeed become popular in institutions of higher learning. These are educational situations whereby students interact with their teachers for real-time lessons though geographically separated. This way, they can take curricular instructions from anywhere at their own time and pace. Essentially, virtual learning entails making education to be accessed from home, workplace or any other place that the student chooses to be at. Virtual classrooms, schools or colleges usually offer classes and lessons via email, video conferencing or online portals or a combination of all of them (UNESCO, 1999).
These technologies have greatly enhanced the delivery of school curricula. Advance simulation systems are actually very effective as they allow students to respond and ask questions whenever necessary. In addition, they are able to ask questions that help to boost the creativity and critical thinking level of a student. These are usually in the coursework as a part of school curriculum to enhance delivery of instructions. For instance, Crocodile Chemistry is used to generate experimental data for use in investigating various chemical problems. In some cases, instruction materials are packaged in distributable media such as Compact Disks which are developed over time. With these ICTs, all the student requires for education access is internet access, a computer and the appropriate software. Besides these, the integration of various forms of multimedia, interactivity, flexibility and connectivity makes the whole experience more interesting than just sitting and listening to a teacher deliver a lesson.
Teachers usually have the opportunity to assess their students’ progress as they use ICT tools in teaching and learning. This has empowered both teachers and learners and has fostered development of skills. Sometimes, teachers have the sole privilege of deciding on the best ICT tool to use for educational practice in a classroom. They are responsible and have the opportunity to use these tools as long as they produce satisfactory results. Nevertheless, the method chosen by the teacher should be determinative and should not limit the possibilities of a teacher. This means that the teacher’s schedule should be guided by a specific content of education such as timetables, classrooms and instruction time among others. Therefore, ICTs create powerful learning environments that guide both teachers and students in the learning process.
Impacts of ICT use in education
ICTs motivate both teachers and students. Research conducted over a decade indicates that students score consistently higher on standardized tests than other students that use traditional forms of learning only. Moreover, ICTs boost the attitude of students towards school and learning processes and improved discipline as well. Most programs that use ICTs have actually been recognized in majority parts of the world. For instance, the United States recognized Project CHILD as an effective ICT educational program in the country (Butzin, 2002). Recent developments in the various sectors of ICT are enabling more and more people to access education. In fact, in some circumstances, integration of ICT into education has promoted social justice. Students are able to improve their grades through personal learning especially from using online resources. In fact, some of the applications used have simulated sample question that test the understanding of a student. Moreover, some ICTs tools have been used to provide online exams and certification for students. Students with learning disabilities have also benefited greatly from ICTs. When computers are placed in classrooms, there is much greater use of ICTs for specialized skills and such students are able to receive teachers’ attention in a closer and more effective manner.
This way, the teacher is able to monitor the progress of such students and assist them where appropriate. This is more advantageous than placing computers in separate rooms as laboratories. In fact, there is increased attention by teachers and students to us personal digital assistants and other mobile devices for learning purposes. This is aimed at utilizing available mobile technologies to facilitate access to educational facilities. On the other hand, ICTs are capable of promoting learner autonomy such that students are able to choose their course contents, time of instruction and even when to take exams. This has promoted responsibility for the student and has made the work of teachers easier. Most studies have yielded positive impacts on education as a result of using ICTs (Trucano, 2011).
Social inclusion is another theme that falls under the impacts of ICTs on education. ICT for education promotes the inclusion of individuals and communities in the social and economic wealth of the society. This means that diverse individuals, families and communities are able to participate fully in utilizing the economic resources in the society for employment, health improvement, education, recreation and other civic activities. They are able to access these resources as a result of empowerment from education. More importantly, ICTs has made it possible for students with disabilities to be accommodated in learning programs that they earlier did not have access to (Vrasidas et al, 2009). This brings equity amongst communities that comprise of students with varied natural characteristics. ICTs have therefore been effective in helping children who need more support in learning and in the long run, it boosts their academic achievement.
ICT in distance learning
ICT is as important to educationists teaching facts in science and mathematics as they are for other subjects and fields. Computers as the basic tool for teaching in ICT has provisions where students are in a position to formulate simulations that could be used to help students in understanding some of the basic rules, theories and facts which form basis for the theories. Note that some of these simulations will even make a student understand facts better than was initially done. It should be kept in mind that the generation that is there today is quite different from generations that have been there since great transformation started to set in the baby boom era to generation X, and now Generation Y. this generation has become digitalized and it is therefore only just to offer education to this generation in the best way that it can be understood.
This means that teaching the students of today facts as it has been taught traditionally will be a total failure as everything about them has been digitalized, it is like they have been programmed to effectively respond to digital teachings than other modes of teaching. On the other hand, using ICT would ensure that simulations, transformations and digitalized graphical explanations for theories will help them clearly understand the theories, laws and facts, and above all, offer them a chance to point out flaws and shortcomings, something that was not possible before ICT came.
SPSS is one of the programs that has helped students in mathematics and accountancy not only to understand some of the statistical concepts that were hard to grasp with the traditional teaching mechanisms but also have been integrated in the practice so that students will not have to undergo other different transformations when they begin working. This coupled with other simpler mathematical and statistical programs such as Microsoft excel are important because they have been crucial for students developing an understanding of the simple and complex facts related to their fields of study, most importantly science and mathematics, as well as other general knowledge (UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, 2010).
Additionally, ICT plays a great part in ensuring that students globally can access the same type of quality education without necessarily being at the center where this education is offered. As a matter of fact, it is worth mentioning that e-learning, which is the platform that has been created for education with the facilitation of ICT helps in three major areas in the education. This includes reduction of the costs of education; introduction of need based and target oriented education to a larger population of people and standards. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind the fact that with the development technologically, the challenges that have been there in distance learning have been nullified by the fact that now instead of sending information and learning materials by mail the way it has traditionally been done, therefore taking much time, and now this transmissions can be made instantly via the internet, ultimately saving costs and time as well as the fact that there is teleconferencing forum which gives students on distance learning to participate in discussions with their tutors and fellow students. This participation helps students to get acquainted with one another and therefore form group work discussions and teamwork skills (Baruah & Handique, 2009).
Advantages and disadvantages of ICT in education
There are disadvantages as well as advantages in ICT, just like it happens in many other things in life. One of the disadvantages is that the computers have to have some applications that will support most of the learning platform, some of which are too expensive. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that in some cases the computers and devices needed to help an individual to develop good learning programs require that the computer is of some specified standards, which could also be expensive. However, it is also worth noting that the advantages greatly out do the disadvantages. These includes providing for an opportunity to students to have access to quality education through distance learning, offering a situation where students have access to a wider variety of learning material, an exposure that gives them adept knowledge.
Unfortunately, however, there are instances where the whole system will have an effect on education in case of poor internet connectivity due to infrastructure, lack of enough computers in the schools for each students and the fact that parents may not have enough resources to buy students laptops and personal computers for use in schools. However, the most important of the disadvantages is that there is need for an individual to acquire some basic education in order to have access to ICT enabled learning. This places students who may not have prior training in information technology by increasing costs for training (Britt, 2007).
Limitation of ICT in schools
ICT is not a good platform of dealing with the poor performance and underachievement in institutions and cannot be used in any way to improve the performance of students. This means that in the event that ICT is introduced in the education system and there are underperformers, then it means that they are locked out to quality education. Furthermore, introduction ICT in the education system is meant to bring development to the institutions both through improving teacher and students skills, therefore ensuring that maximization of resources and effectiveness of the education system, and hence performance. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed even though the procedure is so costly.
As it has been criticized several times by educationists, putting the wheels of ICT rolling in the education system is like putting jet engine in an automobile, gaining a lot of speed in the initial stage but the whole thing ultimately facing annihilation, wrecking completely. This may not be true for the system but one thing is for sure because it would require that teachers and students all receive specialized education in ICT, and again there would be a need for training every time there is need to use a different computer application. For instance, students using an Encarta encyclopedia that was developed a few years back will need to learn how to use the new applications that are developed with different features. This is only an example since there are many other applications developed for the purposes of ICT learning, increasing complexities in the education system.
All this requires that the institution that have been introduced ICT learning will have to take their teachers and other staff members who are involved in the direct teaching and learning to students to ICT learning exercises which increases the costs of learning the institutions as it becomes a continuous process that requires upgrading once too often. There are also additional limitations that are associated with accessibility of ICT to students. This includes lack of internet connectivity due to many factors including government policies and internet service providers.
Learning theories that can be applied in ICT in education
There are two main theories that are postulated in the ICT industry, and which governs the education system in the United States, and in fact the whole universe. Already, the technological advancement that is there today gives room for further changes, not only in the education world but in other parts of the world as well. For instance, the publishing industry is no more vibrant as it was years back and therefore these publishing companies have shifted to electronic publishing which means that students will have to rely on ICT library facilities and publishing in order to progress with education.
These theories are based on these and other factors. One of the main important theories in this is the fact that the internet has the propensity to move from the server-client model as is the case today to utility model services where the services are supplied by remote SaaS vendors. This development will provide easier access to the internet and therefore closer ICT in education; much like the electricity has been integrated in the residential areas via gridline (White, 2008).
The second theory that has been used to postulate the direction that ICT in education will take is the Venor Vinge’s theory of singularity or the evolution of the brain as a result of technological change. This theory suggests that since there is rapid development technologically, there is a chance that the brain will also evolve as fast due to the availability of the intelligence that would have taken years. Although it has been criticized as a not so convincing theory by many scientists, as it is not genetically influenced, it is great to understand that the exposure created by ICT to students in the education system will increase the aptitude intelligence of students, and hence help them with critical thinking, thus improving their intellect and the value of education. These theories have great differences in the ICT world which means that using the theories in the education system is interpreted totally differently from when used in technology or science (White, 2008).
Information and communication technology (ICT) is here to stay, and however different feelings that people may have about it, it has more to give to the society and should in fact be embraced. Incorporating it in the education system is cost saving in some aspects such as acquisition of international and distance learning although it also increases costs for institutions offering ICT education services. However, it is important to understand that eventually, as shown by ICT theories and by technology and its acceptance by the current generation, all institutions will have to adopt. Furthermore, it would be important to keep in mind the fact that the institutions will have more benefits than shortcomings or limitations.
It is further necessary for governments and institutions to realize that this is the answers to improving the education delivery globally and therefore invest in ICT education delivery system, which helps reduce the overhead costs in the education system, but also improve performance and achievement. The only major problem is that it would be difficult to monitor underachieving and needy students, which means that they could be disadvantaged and shortchanged. To cap it all, it is notable that with good implementation procedure and strategies, then ICT has more to offer to education.