This blog post will examine the role that technology plays in education in our modern society and the impacts digital revolution has and continues to have on the education process. Technology is all around us and it is constantly continuing to expand. Technology is certainly being merged into the education process. Within the education sector, the increasing use of technology is a dynamic and rapidly evolving area. One would be blindsided to disagree with the increasing role technology is playing and the undeniable power technology has in society. Technology is becoming essential for adequate learning.
Overall, technology is vital to many areas of society, and its incorporation into the education process has great potential for student learning. With the introduction of technology into schools, the main objective is to improve the way teachers and students collect, view, present and distribute knowledge to enhance the education process. Technology can therefore be seen as both a tool and a catalyst for change (Waddell, 2015).
Conventional Vs New Teaching Methods
While many individuals prefer to rely on conventional teaching methods, there are countless possibilities that open up when technology is introduced into the classroom. By integrating technology, teachers may establish more ingenious and creative lessons. It can boost class engagement by enabling various learning styles to collaborate. When new ideas or topics are presented by using resources students have already mastered, they may feel more secure in their abilities to learn new material and may even feel encouraged to help their classmates learn. The current generation already grows up being immersed in technology. Students use computers with ease in their personal lives, therefore for them its incorporation into the educational process is normal and anticipated (Young Social Innovators, 2020). Students studying using technology, will acquire a collection of skills that will assist them in their own future careers (University of the People, 2020). IT skills are becoming critical in nearly all jobs and careers. Therefore, it is in the school’s best interest to teach students how to use modern technologies correctly, to equip them for their future careers.
The initial cost of laptops, computers or tablets does place an initial financial burden on many individuals. However, it can be questioned that in the long run, does it save money? With alternatives such as online degrees, and by eliminating the need to purchase physical textbooks, the cost of education has decreased dramatically. The availability of e-books has reduced the necessity for such a large quantity of books to be published for educational purposes. Technology has enabled students to have the opportunity to learn from the best colleges in the world, by not even having to participate in a full degree program, increasing the flexibility of education (University of the People, 2020). Distance learning is becoming more and more common, with many graduates finishing with identical degrees to non- distant learning students. An article from the Irish Times reveals that an online four-year computer science programme from the University of the People in California costs a total of €3,770 (Mulligan, 2017). Technology is certainly making education more accessible to all.
What are the Advantages?
Children learn at their own pace, but it is difficult to do so often in the conventional classroom setting. The integration of technology allows for greater active learning, it provides students with the option to go back to lessons on certain concepts and allows other students to work ahead (Versteijlen et al., 2017). Online polling and other online resources enable all students, including shy students who wouldn’t usually lift their hand in class, to get involved and participate (Himmelsbach, 2019).
Technology can help motivate students when learning. Many of today’s technology options enable students to see how well they are getting on relative to other users, giving them a chance to push themselves harder (Wantulok, 2015). By using technology in education, it allows students to gain essential technological skills to become prepared for the workforce, as today computers are a part of nearly all successful businesses. Technology may offer an audience outside of the classroom for students work, which may lead to increased acknowledgement for the effort of their work.
When using technology to assist learning, it opens up a huge range of information sources outside the boundaries of a textbook, journals, articles, newspaper reports and policy documents are only a few of the many available sources of information online. Students can now also collaborate with a large community of fellow students though a range of applications, supporting each other in the educational process and reducing the feeling of isolation. Technology can allow students to gain extra knowledge about areas of particular interest to them, increasing their educational capacity. For example, a student can easily get a great insight into different cultures and ways of life through the internet with documentaries on YouTube, and an overwhelming range of websites and other sources of information.
The Dark Side – Disadvantages
Many forget to consider the training teachers require to use this technology effectively to enhance learning. The satisfaction of tracking down a library book will never be understood by students who only learn to read electronically and find books at the click of a button (Lynch, 2016). The maintenance costs of laptops and computers can be significant and a burden on families. People also fail to mention the cost of keeping up to date with new software which is regularly updated and anti-virus software. Students do not all have equal internet access outside the classroom, some student’s homes may have very poor internet connection, and some may even have no access. It must be noted that not all students lucky enough to have internet access. Technology can also provide students with a much easier opportunity to cheat, storing notes on a smartphone is very simple to do and doesn’t require much skill. It can be much harder to detect cheating when carrying out online exams.
The Digital Divide in Education
Innovative and Communication Technology is being used to help relieve the problem of ‘Learning Poverty’ in developing countries (The World Bank). The digital access for all countries is not equal and there are many inequalities that lie between countries. Less than 1% of poor households in Africa are in ownership of a laptop and 25% of richer households with primary school aged children are in ownership of a laptop. About 30% of poor households have a radio in Africa and 79% of the richer households with primary school aged children have a radio. Multi-faceted responses must be prepared by education systems using all available technologies including radio, phones and televisions (The World Bank, 2020). The digital divide must be tackled to reduce educational inequalities.
Most colleges in developed countries currently run laptop schemes or grant schemes in order to reduce unequal access to educational resources online. This certainly helps reduce inequality among educational resources available to students, giving them all equal access to the required educational resources needed to benefit their learning.
Environmental Impacts of using ICTs in Education
The use of ICTs in education raises concern about whether its greater use for the provision of teaching and learning has more positive or negative environmental impacts compared to the conventional methods of teaching. By using technology in education, are we reducing students and teachers’ environmental impacts? A study carried out by SusTEACH on Universities in the United Kingdom revealed the use of online teaching methods for third level institutes revealed a large carbon emission reduction due to the reduced need to travel. It also reduced the amount of energy students used in accommodation living away from home (The Open University, 2020). Nearly all school and college reports are now released online, they are no longer printed and posted, which is a huge environmental benefit and also a benefit for students and parents as reports can now be accessed at any stage with great ease. If students are using different technologies in the classroom and at home, then it is essential to include e-waste into the curriculum and how to correctly dispose these devices when necessary. Also including technology in education at a young age is going to quickly build up a carbon footprint for children, therefore education about online internet safety and privacy settings becomes essential.
In conclusion, the effective use of technology is a life skill needed in this digital world and can certainly aid the education process, however there are some disadvantages that must not go unnoticed. Teaching methods have evolved over recent times, by including technology moving away from some conventional methods. It is evident that many students are relishing technology’s presence in their learning experience. A digital divide in education does exist, and poorer countries are unfortunately lagging behind in this digital age. Hopefully this will be solved in time, allowing for more equality to technological resources for education purposes. The use of technology in education is certainly helping our environment in many ways and is working towards a more sustainable future. Discussions relating to the role technology is playing in education, still continues to surface the media.
- Himmelsbach, V., 2019. Six Major Pros & Cons Of Technology In The Classroom. Top Hat. Available at: https://tophat.com/blog/6-pros-cons-technology-classroom/ [Accessed 1 December 2020].
- Lynch, M., 2016. The Dark Side Of Educational Technology – The Edvocate. The Edvocate. Available at: https://www.theedadvocate.org/dark-side-educational-technology/ [Accessed 1 December 2020].
- Mulligan, B., 2017. Technology Is Key To Reducing College Education Costs. The Irish Times. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/technology-is-key-to-reducing-college-education-costs-1.3045100 [Accessed 29 November 2020].
- The Open University. 2020. The Environmental Impact Of Teaching And Learning. Available at: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/nature-environment/the-environment/the-environmental-impact-teaching-and-learning/content-section-5.3 [Accessed 1 December 2020].
- Technology 2020. [image] Available at: https://www.hyattworkplace.com/technology/technology-in-education/ [Accessed 30 November 2020].
- University of the People. 2020. The Growing Importance Of Technology In Education | University Of The People. Available at: https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/the-growing-importance-of-technology-in-education/ [Accessed 1 December 2020].
- Versteijlen, M., Salgado, F.P., Groesbeek, M.J. and Counotte, A., 2017. Pros and cons of online education as a measure to reduce carbon emissions in higher education in the Netherlands. Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 28, pp.80-89.
- Waddell, J., 2015. The Role Of Technology In The Educational Process – Green & Write – College Of Education – Michigan State University. Education.msu.edu. Available at: https://education.msu.edu/green-and-write/2015/the-role-of-technology-in-the-educational-process/ [Accessed 30 November 2020].
- Wantulok, T., 2015. How Important Is Technology In Education? Pine Cove’S Top 10 Reasons. Marketing.pinecc.com. Available at: https://marketing.pinecc.com/blog/the-importance-of-technology-in-education-pine-coves-top-10-reasons [Accessed 30 November 2020].
- World Bank. 2020. Digital Development. Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/digitaldevelopment [Accessed 1 December 2020].
- Youngsocialinnovators.ie. 2020. The Growing Use Of Technology In Education | Young Social Innovators (YSI) – Young Social Innovators Changing The World For Good. Available at: https://www.youngsocialinnovators.ie/resources/ysi-blog/the-growing-use-of-technology-in-education/ [Accessed 1 December 2020].
Charele McMahon is currently an undergraduate student on the Bachelor of Sciences (Applied Social Sciences) Degree Programme at the National University of Ireland Galway