It cannot be disputed that the computer has assumed great importance in society today. Navigating the information superhighway on the Internet is an example of the type of information exchanges that occur for those who possess the technology and understand its use. A principal factor that has spawned the rapid use of the computer is the invention and mass production of the microcomputer. Its low cost, power, speed, and ease of use have helped to spark widespread acceptance of computer technology (Carver, 1994).
There are numerous arguments in favor of the wide usage of computers in the life of all people, and students in particular. First of all, computers are being used in the classroom to enable teachers to improve the curriculum and enhance student learning. On the other hand, it enables students to become more active and independent learners. Secondly, computers allow students to take charge of their learning through direct exploration and experience. Thirdly, with the introduction of Internet connections in schools, students have access to rich, varied, and challenging learning opportunities whereby they can have access to simulations, goal-based learning, and real-world problems.
Computers and education
Computers should be included on all levels of education, starting from elementary schools and continuing throughout education in college too. So, to support this argument it should be said, that the use of computers in the classroom involves the inclusion of elementary schools as well. The factor, which determines the integration of computers in elementary schools, is the amount of computer knowledge that the teacher possesses. Research shows that anxiety associated with computer use in elementary school can be reduced through proper training and education to teachers. In a study conducted in the elementary schools of the State of Georgia, it has been found that although most of the elementary schools have computers; these have been largely used for administrative purposes. The study recommended that the teacher educator should offer staff development courses in curriculum integration, presentation software, and research, using the World Wide Web and CD-ROM. The study recommended that a follow-up study be conducted to assess the need for future research on technology training needs for elementary school teachers (McCannon and Crews, 2000).
How students use computers
Despite the fact, that students have access to computers, they are not always using them for education. So, schools should teach students to use this technology for learning. In a national report “Voices & Views from Today’s Tech-Savvy Students” sponsored by the nonprofit group NetDay, more than 210,000 K-12 students were surveyed from all 50 states to learn what role technology plays in their day-to-day activities. The result indicated that irrespective of their socio-economic status, most students are computer savvy and the unavailability of a computer or Internet at home is not a deterrent. Students mostly get access via community center, cyber café, local library, or club. And not just for schoolwork. The majority of students said that they use computers as a communication tool to exchange information, conduct research, and chat with friends. Instant messaging is found to be the most popular among students (Murray, 2004). This report once again shows the wide availability of computers today, however, they are not taken advantage of by students as sources for educating themselves.
The level of usage of computers by students
To increase the level of usage of computers by students, it is important to find out the most commonly used software and to teach them how to take advantage of these programs. One of the most frequently used software by students in the classroom is Microsoft PowerPoint. Apart from improving the quality of presentation, and the delivery of content, using PowerPoint can explain the main points of a researched area visually and coherently. Presentation of data in graphical forms through PowerPoint lends credibility to their research work. Students sometimes take the help of other software tools to organize, edit and prepare a presentation. Depending on the need, they use a word-processing program, a publishing program, or a hyper-media program to combine texts, graphics, photographs, video, sound, and animation to create a talking slide show, PowerPoint presentation, web page, database, or other products. With computer tools, students can gather or organize information, create new information, persuade or entertain (Stripling, 1999, p.91).
To address the question of what schools and other educational establishments are doing to increase the number of computers at the campus, it can be said, that the continued growth and availability of computer networks is guiding the Learning Management Systems (LMSs) towards a more network-based structure. The U.S. Department of Education announced that the number of computers in schools has been growing over the last 10 years and 99% of American schools now have a 5:1 student to computer ratio. With the increasing numbers of computers and Internet connections available in classrooms, learning management is increasingly playing a critical role in the school learning environment. Furthermore, with the increasing speed of wireless networking, learning management systems will be able to leave the physical bounds of the classroom and better support learning outside of the school. Students will have their learning better supported at home and in the community as they interact with real problems and become more involved in service-learning (Neto & Brasileiro, 2007, p.88).
Moreover, speaking of the schools, where computers have become an essential part of the learning process, it should be pointed out that these schools are moving in the right innovative direction. Computer-mediated learning is one of the most widespread and fruitful areas of theory, research, and education practice. This learning format has been applied to a wide variety of content areas at all levels, from pre-school to post-secondary as well as teachers and industry, including mathematics and science and language arts and history and has been integrated into a variety of theoretical framework such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, activity theory, critical thinking, as well as computer-supported cooperative learning. Effects of computer learning on student achievement, perceptions of interpersonal skill-building, self-esteem, reasoning and discourse abilities, problem-solving inquiry, as well as disciplined knowledge construction are found to be positive. Students learned how to gather information, assess evidence, make judgments and justify their arguments to re-interpret and reconstruct an event in computer meditated learning (Yang, 2007).
The contribution of computers
Addressing the next point about the contribution of computers to the lives of students, teachers, and even students’ parents, it can not be denied that it is mostly positive. Elders at home and teachers at school can help children best utilize the online content for knowledge enhancement encourage them to learn the software. Used effectively, the computer can be the best friend of every student. In school, opportunities to use a computer creatively and to use technology to collaborate with children in other classrooms and communities help empower children to play active roles in the emerging digital world, not merely to navigate through it. Computer technology is only a tool, whether it serves to improve children’s lives depends on how it is used. Effective, responsible, and creative use of computer help students to shape the digital world of tomorrow (Sheilds & Behrman, 2000).
Those schools, which will organize the process of study correctly combined with computers’ usage, will enjoy a high level of results. Reformers advocate classroom activities organized around important, multidisciplinary themes, with students working singly and in groups on long-term projects that involve meaningful, challenging content and that draw on and develop such higher-order skills as analysis, interpretation, and design. Technology can play an important role in achieving this vision. Giving students authentic tasks that involve the design and development of products for an audience beyond their classroom walls creates pressure to furnish students with the tools used to create such products in society at large. Increasingly, these tools are computers, software, and network resources. With the help of a computer, a student can store and manipulate information and from information gathered can write research papers (Means, Olson, & Singh, 1995).
To receive positive results from students while applying computers to other subjects, it is important to organize interesting learning programs. Educational software programs whereby students can work in an interactive atmosphere, with students with learning disabilities who have difficulty processing written information can benefit from completing writing assignments, tutorial lessons, and drill-and-practice work with the aid of computers. For example, a student who cannot produce handwriting reliably can greatly benefit from a standard word processor.
Educating students how to use this technology with educational goal
Supporting the importance of educating students how to use this technology with educational goal, it is important to highlight the role of the digital library or online library, which has saved time for students and have saved the students from the hazard of free Internet searching. The hassles of multiple searches via google are minimized, whereby a student can use quality time on specific research projects. Through a school e-library, students can research various assignment topics, without going through the time-consuming process of searching another library or google searching. While researching on the Internet via Google, deciding what is relevant to the area of research or their authenticity may consume much time, which a student can ill afford. With a keyword search, the student can have access to thousands of online journals, articles, or e-books to help them produce quality academic papers.
Here are the examples, which support the idea of the efficiency of schools, which use computers in classes. In Canada, as a part of the Computers for Schools program, efforts have been made to recycle surplus computer equipment to benefit schools, & libraries. Under this program, computers and related equipment donated by the government and business houses are refurbished and distributed across Canada to schools and libraries.
In the U.S. one area in which federal legislation has positively influenced connectivity is the rapid increase in Internet access in U.S. schools. The U.S. government set a goal of Internet access to all schools by the year 2000. By 1998, 98% of U.S. public schools had access to the Internet and 77% of the instructional room was connected to the Internet. Connectivity increased in schools with the highest concentration of poverty (up to 60%) and schools with the highest minority enrolment (64%) (Johnson, 2004, p.17).
A high school in Vail has become Arizona’s first all-wireless, all laptop public school in the fall of 2005, which means the students don’t have traditional textbooks. Instead, students take the help of online study materials like articles, or e-books to learn different topics. Each laptop costing about $850, which the district had provided to 350 students for a year.
On the other, this example proves the statement that schools without wide application and usage of computers, appear to be not so effective and even provide less useful knowledge. In a study undertaken by Carver (1994) African American students were found to have less computer experience due to the non-availability of computers in the classroom. Rather usage was restricted to the computer lab. These students were found to have lagged in terms of computer knowledge and application skills in college. European American students were found to be more computer literate, using computers for a wider variety of computer applications than the African American students. This calls for the implementation of classes and programs that eliminate the difference between student groups’ computer skills (Harris, Kamhi, & Pollock, 2001, p.269).
The author is the supporting the idea that the pedagogical principle of learning from example can be followed by the practical use of hardware and software in schools, which will help create a favorable climate for reflections on one’s practical experiences and relating it to theoretical foundations thereof (Stockhammer, 1992).
Many school officials should realize that educational technology should be considered as a valued tool for bringing out significant intellectual development of students. There is a need to integrate technology into activities that are a core part of the classroom curriculum. But at the same time, with constant expansion and up-gradation of technology, curriculum, and instructional methods also need to be expanded and upgraded from time to time to make the best use of these technologies. There is increasing emphasis on the use of the newest computer technologies, including applications like electronic communications by the teachers in the classroom. To harness technology effectively, teachers need help in how to use a computer, and other forms of technology used in the classroom such as overhead screen projectors, and PowerPoint presentations. To help to make technology an integral part of the teaching, learning process, a balance needs to be maintained between technology integration in school and tech-savvy teaching staff. To ensure top-notch technology education in graded schools, the important aspects to be considered are infrastructure development, installation of hardware and software, professional development in terms of teachers’ training, and maintenance of hardware and software with a long-term support plan.
The issue of the dissemination of computers’ applications among students touches the issue of training teachers on how they should use technologies in schools from programming to encourage individualized drill and practice, to building computer literacy to participating in electronic communities. Conventional thinking has also shifted about how to organize technology resources from self-contained labs to one computer per classroom for teacher demonstrations or single student tutorials, to a few computers per classroom on which students can work in small groups, to one computer per student. However, the foremost need during the up-gradation of IT infrastructure in schools is changed incentives for giving teachers more time to learn and experiment with new technologies; otherwise, it will stand out as the greatest barrier to technology use in school (APS, 1995, p.20).
Describing what is being done by government and school officials to promote computers’ usage for studying, positive processes are taking place today. As more and more school districts across the U.S. are taking steps to incorporate computer application in their curriculum, the goal, however, should not simply be acquiring computer skills; rather students need to be trained to use the computer as an effective tool for undertaking school assignments as well as for future use outside the school environment as well.
In a world dominated by fierce competition, the quality of education will determine whether children hold high-skill jobs that add value to the global economy of the 21st century. While several different approaches have been suggested for the improvement of K-12 education, the effective utilization of information and communication technologies to support the systematic curricula reform has been the most common. However, the focus should be on learning with the computer, not learning about the computer. Although both are worthy of attention, it is important to distinguish between technology as a subject area and the use of a computer to facilitate learning about any subject area in the K-12 curricula (Lau, 2000, p.170).
While the widespread of modern computing and networking hardware is necessary if technology is to realize its promise, the development, and utilization of useful educational software and information resources and the adaptation of curricula to make effective use of technology are likely to represent formidable challenges. Another focus should be on professional development. The substantial investment in hardware, infrastructure, software, and the content will be largely wasted if K-12 teachers are provided with the preparation and support they need to effectively integrate information technologies into their teaching. Both government and private sector leadership and funding should be mobilized to help the education sector integrate technology into the system and ensure accessibility to knowledge building and communication tools based on computing and networking technologies to all students irrespective of their socio-economic status or geographical factors (Lau, 2000).
Finally, it is important to highlight, that computers should be widely included in the lives of not only students but also teachers. As it is reflected in the paper, computers’ application has a positive impact on the level of knowledge of students, the results of their performance. And comparing schools with wide usage of computers and schools without them, there is no doubt that ones with computers’ application benefit by the adoption of such innovations. So, overall it is recommended, that all schools should move to the innovational system of taking advantage of computers’ benefits.
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