With increased trends towards using technologies in most fields of the economy and society, there have been widespread views on the impact of modern technologies in learning (Ehrmann 21). In particular, the link between the use of technology and the educational outcomes has become a major topic of debate in the modern world (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). Scholars have attempted to establish a link between the variables using various approaches, with most studies supporting the existence of a positive link.
However, some scholars, authors and other parties have also shown the existence of a significant link between the use of technologies in the classroom and undesired outcomes, especially in terms of the learning process, the efficiency of learning, motivation and the student behavior. However effective and accurate these findings could be, the modern trend towards applying latest technologies in the classroom seems to be unstoppable, especially in the US (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10).
Apparently, policy makers and other stakeholders in the education system are inspired by the immense rate at which the industries, individuals, organization, the government and the economy in general are adopting technologies to enhance processes, service delivery, communication and profitability (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). Since the expectations of the society is to increase the rewards of the education system, the tendency towards ensuring that learners are equipped with technical and technological knowledge cannot be stopped (Davies 164). Arguably, the short-term and long-term benefits of using technology in the classroom outweighs the disadvantages, which makes it mandatory to enhance the integration of education in the classroom.
The role of past technologies in social and economic development
There is little doubt that technology has been the major contributor to these achievements (Schacter 348). Technologies of different kinds and at different times have enabled humans to communicate, work, learn and relate with each other. Technologies have transformed industries through effective production, which has helped people achieve an effective way of satisfying human needs (Schacter and Fagnano 329).
In addition, technologies are still advancing and becoming common in almost every sector and field. There is little doubt that organizations, institutions, economies or societies that fail to adopt technology or fail to go in par with technological development are always left behind in terms of development and ability to satisfy human needs (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). With this in mind, it is worth noting that the education sector has been one of the institutions or fields with the slowest rate of adopting and applying technologies. Chalks and boards, books and pens and other traditional materials of education being used in schools today have been in use for centuries (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10).
There is no doubt that the societies that failed to adopt learning technologies of the past failed to achieve development, but these old technologies had their inherent problems and negative outcomes. Therefore, the bottom line issue is the inability of the modern education systems to fail to adopt technologies and achieve development for the future. Should education be the only sector not applying modern technologies? What is the future of a sector that fails to adopt and apply technologies that define the future of the society?
The role of past technologies in enhancing learning: A review of past studies
During the computer and internet boom of the 1990s, the arguments about the impact of technologies on the education sector and the education outcomes escalated significantly. A study by Kulik (54) is among the first empirical research studies that attempted to examine the problem from a scientific perspective. Kulik (54) used a meta-analysis research technique to aggregate the outcomes of more than 500 research studies on the issue of computer-based instruction for classwork.
The computer-based instruction approach is an example of learning technologies used in the education sector. It is based on software with a tutorial, practice, drill as well as an integrated learning system. In his study, Kulik (72) was attempting to examine the positive and negative sides of this learning technology and the link between its use and the educational outcomes. From the study, Kulik (76) drew a number of findings.
First, the study indicates that the average of the students who used the technology scored more than 64% in all the tests and cases. On the other hand, Kulik (94) found that learners who did not apply the technology had their scores averaging around or below the 50th percentile out of 100% possible for each test. Secondly, Kulik (127) found that the time needed to learn reduced significantly when the technology was applied. Thirdly, it was found that leaners tend to like classes and development positive attitudes towards classwork when the technology was adopted. The findings provide an indication that the learning technology was enhancing the learning procedure by improving the outcomes in terms grades (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 8).
It also suggests that the grades increase because the technology reduces learning time and makes the classroom environment enjoyable and interesting. In other words, Kulik’s findings show that learning technologies improve student and teacher motivation, which then enhances the outcomes (Singhal and Rogers 36).
Nevertheless, Kulik also found that the computer-based learning technologies studied did not have the same positive outcomes or effects in every area that was studied. While this is a major discrepancy in the study, it is worth noting that out more than 500 studies included in Kulik’s work. In fact, this was the only negative impact (Singhal and Rogers 36). This further suggests that the benefits of learning technologies outweigh the negative impacts.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the tendency towards including technologies in the classroom, especially in higher education, was increasing. Yet, the debate on whether the application of learning technologies in the classroom was good for the students and the system was still significant (Keengwe 169).
Sivin-Kachala (126) carried out a comprehensive study to examine the impact of the learning technologies on the educational outcomes. Sivin-Kachala (128) reviewed about 219 studies carried out between 1990 and 1997 (Schacter 348). It was found that learners in reading environments marked by the use of technologies experienced positive effects on the outcomes in all the major subjects (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). Secondly, learners in the environments marked with the use of learning technologies manifested increased achievement from preschool through to the institutions of higher learning (Schacter 356).
In addition, similar results were observed in special needs schools. Thirdly, the attitudes of the learners towards learning and the self-concept were improving significantly and consistently with the increased use of computer technologies in learning (Schacter and Fagnano 329).
Noteworthy, only one negative impact of technology use in the classroom was determined (Schacter and Fagnano 329). It was found that the level of effectiveness of the learning technology in the classroom was a product of various factors. For instance, the design of the technology determines the outcomes of the method. In addition, the teachers’ knowledge and the student population have a significant impact on the expected outcomes (Schacter and Fagnano 329). It is important to note that these factors do not show any indication of a possible link or relationship between the use of learning technology and the inability of achieving the desired outcomes (Dori and Belcher 243). They are issues that can be solved by enhancing the design and availability of the technology in the classroom.
The role of modern technologies in enhancing learning
Recently, studies have shown that the benefits of using learning technologies in the classroom are many (Singhal and Rogers 36). Modern technologies are improving rapidly to meet the demands of the leaners and their teachers, making it possible to integrate effective technology with a high degree of success (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). Recent studies have shown that the significant of effective technology integration is increasingly improving learning processes, including the achievement of the targets (Lewin and Luckin 759).
In particular, special software systems designed to meet and solve the needs and challenges in learning specific subjects in class have improved learning in schools (Schacter and Fagnano 329). For instance, the English Language Arts is one of the subjects that have been improved through the integration of learning technologies. For example, the New York Students Centered Active Learning Environment states that English teachers who adapt instructions for using technologies in classwork obtain better achievements in teaching English language arts at the middle school levels (Edens 207).
In particular, it was noted that the teachers ability to apply students portals, electronic formative assessments and personalized digital instructions have positive impacts on the learning achievements (Baylor and Ritchie 396).
In mathematics, the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot study indicated that students participating in sessions that apply learning technologies perform better than those who do not participate in a case-control study (Shapley 127). It has also shown that the students from impoverished backgrounds fail to perform better in mathematics because they cannot afford the appropriate technologies compared to their colleagues from non-impoverished backgrounds (Shapley 127). The study also indicated that the positive effects of the technologies in learning mathematics increase with time as the proficiency of the teachers’ use of the technology improves (Shapley 138).
In an empirical study, 12 states in the US participated in the Enhancing Missouri Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies (Emints) (Martin 53). The aim of eMINTS is to facilitate the integration of technology in the learning process through collaborative development of teacher profession, inquiry-based teaching and deliberate alignment of instruction and curriculum with the appropriate technology (Martin 59).
In all the states that participated in the program, intermediary elementary learners outperformed their peers who did not participate in the program (Martin 61). In fact, it was shown that the phenomenon was consistent and persistent for the ten years of the study. It was also shown that the outcomes were strong for the leaners from the disadvantaged backgrounds, especially the minorities, impoverished, special education and those from limited proficient classes (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). In addition, the same outcomes were observed in students who were attending the Title I schools in all the 12 states that participated in the program (Martin 67).
From these studies, one finds adequate empirical rather than hypothetical evidence that learning technologies will improve the outcomes of the education system was they are fully put into use. In particular, it is evident that technology availability will ensure equality in the education sector because it provides the same resources to all the leaners, regardless of their backgrounds. It is clear that educational technologies will improve achievement of the students and their teachers as long as the technological tools are integrated in the right design and manner within the learning and teaching systems (Schacter and Fagnano 332).
Why we should embrace technology in the classroom
It is worth noting that modern education and knowledge achievement is relying heavily on information sharing across networked systems of communication. In industries, public sector and the society, formation of information sharing groups is a common phenomenon in the modern world. It is improving the process of learning, sharing ideas and the rate of innovation. In fact, it encourages and enhances innovation.
The education sector should not be left behind these developments, considering that education regards the acquisition of knowledge in form of information. Traditionally, learners have been sharing information with their teachers in a classroom without engaging outside sources (Maeers, Hanson and Weston 10). Whether some bits of information are wrong, the students have only the teacher and the books to consult.
However, it is worth noting that modern learning technologies allow information sharing through the virtual or online learning (Schacter and Fagnano 329). Currently, about 47 states and the District of Columbia support virtual learning in order to enhance the learner’s knowledge acquisition (Singhal and Rogers 36). The idea is to supplement the classwork instruction by enrolling the learners in occasional or full-time programs. In these programs, students are allowed to take core subjects or elective units online, where online learning materials have been archived. They are allowed to search for information from a wide library with a large volume of materials (Schacter and Fagnano 329).
In this way, it is possible to ensure that the students are able to access information from wide sources. In the traditional learning methods, students and their teachers were only able to access information archived in their school libraries (Schacter and Fagnano 329). Economic and geographical limitations were associated with these types of libraries because print books, journals and materials are not only expensive, but also highly bulky and difficult to access (Alavi and Leidner 6). On the other hand, the virtual library allows students to obtain and read updated books and journals in various fields, which enhances learning.
In conclusion, it is clear that the need for technologies in the classroom exceeds their negative impacts on education. To ensure that the problems identified in the previous studies are reduced, it is important to ensure that the learning technologies integrated in the learning process are designed to meet the current and future demands. In addition, it is important to integrate relatively uniform technologies to ensure that there is equity in accessing, obtaining and using information across all the schools and learning centers (Schacter and Fagnano 329).
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