Technology in the Classroom: The Impact of the Internet Is Significant
In addition to re-ordering the classroom, technology is also significantly changing another major aspect of education, and that is the textbook. Needed for accreditation standards underscores the role of textbooks for the foreseeable future, yet with the growth of computer-based instruction and the growing sophistication of software development tools, the development of courseware that supplants and more fully defines the key concepts of textbooks is now a prevailing trend in the use of technology in education.
The combination of inexpensive graphics video terminals and the plummeting prices of personal computers have led to the development of high performance multimedia laptop and desktop systems that integrate animation complete with audio and video as part of the learning experience. Educational software is a critical foundation that in turn makes it possible for educators to gain greater insights and develop greater skills in using technologies in their classrooms. The development of educational software specific for each grade level and their specific learning objectives, in conjunction with textbooks and classroom instructions, creates a higher level of overall understanding of the core concepts of the curriculum (Xu, Wang, 2006). Apple’s many contributions to educational software development and specifically its aligning to the unmet needs of elementary, middle school, high school and special needs students is well-known, as are the company’s efforts to create technology consortiums that foster the development of technology integrations standards across educational software developers (Blackwood, 1995). Apple has gone so far as to design entire personal computer systems, laptops and low-end servers for the educational market, all attuned to the economics of this market, meaning the need to keep costs low. The latest Education iMac to be released at the company’s 2008 MacWord event is a case in point (Seff, 2006). The product strategies of Apple highlight how critical it is for technologies to be able to integrate together so students and teachers have a reliable electronic platform for collaboration and learning. Developing software and hardware all for the specific needs of the educational market by Apple has become the standard by which software development efforts are evaluated and shows how critical it is for software developers to work closely with the PC companies they are developing educational software for.
The Internet is the dominant platform in use today for the development and use of educational applications, collaborative workspaces, portals and websites. From having been created as a basic communications protocol, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) has gone through much iteration to allow for greater collaboration and communication (Providenti, Zai III, 2007) which has led to it become the world’s most powerful communications platform. As a result it is commonplace to find distance learning programs and online programs that are entirely Web-based and delivered over the Internet. The collection of strategies, techniques, and programs to enable excellence in education delivered over the Internet is called Web-based Instruction (WBI). Collectively the study of distance and online learning techniques, platforms, strategies and initiatives is referred to as WBI and is forming the foundation of change management strategies in many learning institutions’ growth strategies, writes (Khan, 2003). Dr. Badrul Kahn (2003) has also defined an entire framework of e-learning dynamics that is widely used by higher education institutions to define how technologies will be aligned to teaching processes. His e-learning framework is considered one of the most practical and theoretically sounds in this area.
As a result of the pervasiveness of the Internet’s use, there are several dozen application development tools and entire online environments available for creating online learning, tutorial and teaching applications. These development tools and environments have also given instructors the ability to create online courses rapidly, including digital content in the form of video and sound to enrich the students’ learning experience. As development tools and applications offer instructors the opportunity to create their own online courseware, and also give experienced developers the flexibility of defining online applications, collaborative workspaces and portals, there is the need for ensuring these interactive environments encourage active, versus passive learning as well (Mitchell, Honore, 2007).
The advent of Web 2.0 technologies (Bernoff, Li. 2008), (Mitrano, 2006), (Wildstrom, 2007) have major implications for the use of technology in teaching, as these technologies together form the foundation of a more collaborative, agile learning environment online. The concept of Web 2.0 is attributed to O’Reilly (2005) and taken together these applications form the collaboration platform that learning and e-learning applications require for a high level of student and teacher collaboration to be achieved.
The proliferation of Web 2.0 applications and their growth are defined more by communication patterns than adherence to taxonomies and architectures, and this is evident in the growth of social networking sites (SNS) including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and many others. These sites, while popular from socializing standpoint, also provide an excellent point of reference regarding how powerful online collaborative platforms can be as potential learning tools, and this is one of the dominant trends in the use of technology for teaching and learning today.
Figure 1 is the map O’Reilly and Battelle created showing how both market and user dynamics are defining social networking (O’Reilly, 2005. et.al.), and there is ample theoretical and empirical evidence of how Web 2.0 technologies can be highly effective in meeting the unmet needs of students and teachers alike (Zhang, Olfman, Ractham, 2007). The use of Web 2.0 technologies as a more collaborative platform than has been possible in the past using static HTML-based websites to automate the critical processes educators need online to foster collaboration and learning has been evidenced by recent empirical research into how groups learn together (Eijkman, 2008).
Figure 1: A Graphical Definition of Web 2.0
Table 1: Overview of Web 2.0 Applications provides insights into the extent of collaborative application development. Taken together, this collection of applications and collaborative workspaces form a strong foundation for outcome-based learning as well (Haung, Behara, 2007).
Overview of Web 2.0 Applications
Online diary or journal entry on the Internet, which primarily supports text, photo (photoblog), video (vlog), and audio (podcast) formats
Google, AOL, and Yahoo offer free blogging platforms
Web service that gathers related content from more than one source
IBM’s mashup applications enable project managers to match team resources with a map to identify the geographical locations of the resources
Peer-to-Peer Networking technique for effectively sharing music, audio, and text files
Napster and Gnutella are popular peer-to-peer networks
Real Simple Syndication (RSS)
Feed-based technology that, with the aid of an RSS reader, enables users to subscribe to newly released content such as text, Web pages, sound files, photos, and video
RSS feed may contain the full content, for example a podcast, or simply a link to the content
Encompasses all online tools (blogs, podcasts, Wikis, social networks, vlogs) and Web sites enabling people to share content, such as text, audio, picture s, and videos
Popular social media sites include YouTube (video) and Flickr (photos)
Web sites that permit users to create online networks and communicate with friends and colleagues
Social networking sites include MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, and Friends Reunited, and business networking sites include LinkedIn and Ryze
Allows users to bookmark or rate online content to share their recommendations with other online users
Typically used by publishers of media sites attempting to benefit from users’ recommendations
Popularized by sites such as Digg and del.icio.us, which enable users to publish, categorize, and share their bookmarks
Enables users to create and edit the content of a Web site, leveraging the expertise of online users
Consumer Wikis enable users to comment on content, in addition to editing content
Wikipedia, a community Wiki encyclopedia, includes approximately 1.3 million English-language articles
Sources: (Bernoff, Li. 2008) (Mitrano, 2006) (Wildstrom, 2007)
As Web 2.0-based learning applications, collaborative workspaces and portals become more commonplace, the tasks of managing their use and also creating individualized learning programs for students, sometimes called scaffolding (Yang, Yu, Chen, Tsai, 2005), is a new skills et educators will need to develop and continually commit to improve upon (Craig, 2007). In summary, the ways technology is used in education has progressed from pushing concepts, content. Information and knowledge to students and has now progressed to a more collaborative online learning experience. The rapid growth of online collaboration both for in-class and distance learning is leading to entirely new approaches to teaching that simply complex concepts and lead to higher levels of retention of knowledge as well.
Benefits of using Technology in the Classroom
The benefits of using technology in the teaching of both simple and complex concepts are briefly described here. First, there is the advantage of being able
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