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Shawn Amika Lalla 20/02/2014

Assignment – Extended Essay 4 – Technology as a learning tool Studies conducted on the effectiveness of technology in the classroom often have mixed results, making it difficult to generalize about technology's overall impact in improving learning. For example, in one of the few large-scale studies conducted nationwide, some approaches to using educational technology were found to effectively transfer knowledge, whilst proved to be ineffective. Three key reasons contribute to these mixed results. First, hardware and software vary among schools, and there is even greater variation in the ways schools use technology, so the failure to produce uniform results is not surprising. Second, successful use of technology is always accompanied by concurrent reforms in other areas such as curriculum, assessment, and teacher professional development, so the gains in learning cannot be attributed to use of technology alone. And third, rigorously structured longitudinal studies that document the isolated effects of technology are expensive and difficult to implement, so few have been conducted. Although today's research can support only limited conclusions about the overall effectiveness of technology expenditures in improving education, studies conducted to date suggest that certain computerbased applications can enhance learning for students at various achievement levels. The following sections highlight several promising applications for improving how and what children learn. Based on the research to date, the strongest evidence showing positive gains in learning tends to focus on applications in learning new languages for example. Learning research has shown that students learn best by actively "constructing" knowledge from a combination of experience, interpretation, and structured interactions with peers and teachers. When students are placed in the relatively passive role of receiving information from lectures and texts (the "transmission" model of learning), they often fail to develop sufficient understanding to apply what they have learned to situations outside their texts and classrooms. In addition, children have different learning styles. The use of methods beyond lectures and books can help reach children who learn best from a combination of teaching approaches. Today's theories of learning differ in some detail but educational reformers appear to agree with the theoreticians and experts that to enhance learning, more attention should be given to actively engaging children in the learning process. Curricular frameworks now expect students to take active roles in communicating


effectively, skills that go far beyond the mere recitation of correct responses. Although active, constructive learning can be integrated in classrooms with or without computers, the characteristics of computer-based technologies make them a particularly useful tool for this type of learning. Students can actively engage in experiments without computers, yet nearly two decades of research has shown that students can make significant gains using technology as a learning tool. Using technology to engage students more actively in learning is not limited to language learning. For example, computer-based applications such as eLearning platforms can be used to involve students more actively by learning through simulations and dynamic content. One influential line of learning research focuses on the social basis for children's learning. Social contexts give students the opportunity to successfully carry out more complex skills than they could execute alone. Performing a task with others provides an opportunity not only to imitate what others are doing, but also to discuss the task and make thinking visible. Much learning is about the meaning and the correct use of ideas, symbols, and representations. Through informal social conversation and gestures, students and teachers can provide explicit advice, resolve misunderstandings, and ensure mistakes are corrected. In addition, social needs often drive a child's reason for learning. Because a child's social identity is enhanced by participating in a community or by becoming a member of a group, involving students in a social intellectual activity can be a powerful motivator and can lead to better learning than relying on individual desk work. Some critics feel that computer technology encourages asocial and addictive behaviour and taps very little of the social basis of learning. Several computer-based applications, such as tutorials and drill-and-practice exercises, do engage students individually. However, projects that use computers to facilitate educational collaboration span nearly the entire history of the Internet. Some of the most prominent uses of computers today are communications oriented, and networking technologies such as the Internet and digital video permit a broad new range of collaborative activities in schools. Using technology to promote such collaborative activities can enhance the degree to which classrooms are socially active and productive and can encourage classroom conversations that expand students understanding of the subject. One major, long-term effort that exemplifies many of the promising features of collaborative technology is the Computer-Supported Intentional Learning. The goal of CSILE is to support structured collaborative knowledge building by having students communicate their ideas and criticisms—in the form of questions, statements, and diagrams—to a shared database classified by different types of thinking. By classifying the discussion in this way, students become more aware of how to organize their growing knowledge. In addition, CSILE permits students or experts to


participate independent of their physical location. Students can work with other students from their classroom or school or from around the globe to build a common understanding of some topic. Although all students show improvement, positive effects are especially strong for students categorized as low or middle achievers. Many types of learning networks cater for multicultural and multilingual collaborative learning by partnering classrooms in different countries to produce newsletters or other writing projects. Reports from researchers and teachers suggest that students who participate in computer-connected learning networks show increased motivation, a deeper understanding of concepts, and an increased willingness to tackle difficult questions. In traditional classrooms, students typically have very little time to interact with materials, each other, or the teacher. Moreover, students often must wait days or weeks after handing in classroom work before receiving feedback. In contrast, research suggests that learning proceeds most rapidly when learners have frequent opportunities to apply the ideas they are learning and when feedback on the success or failure of an idea comes almost immediately. Unlike other media, computer technology supports this learning principle in at least three ways. First, computer tools themselves can encourage rapid interaction and feedback. For example, using interactive graphing, a student may explore the behaviour of a mathematical model very rapidly, getting a quicker feel for the range of variation in the model. If the same student graphed each parameter setting for the model by hand, it would take much longer to explore the range of variation. Second, computer tools can engage students for extended periods on their own or in small groups; this can create more time for the teacher to give individual feedback to particular children. Third, in some situations, computer tools can be used to analyze each child's performance and provide more timely and targeted feedback than the student typically receives. Research indicates that computer applications such as those described above can be effective tools to support learning. Computer technology can provide students with an excellent tool for applying concepts in a variety of contexts, thereby breaking the artificial isolation of school subject matter from real-world situations. In addition to supporting how children learn, computer-based technology can also improve what children learn by providing exposure to ideas and experiences that would be inaccessible for most children any other way. Through online communications, students can reach beyond their own community to find teachers and other students who share their academic interests. The most interesting research on the ways technology can improve what children learn, however, focuses on applications that can help students understand core concepts in subjects like vocabulary, grammar, sentence construction and conversing with native speakers. Research has demonstrated that technology can lead to profound changes in what children learn. By using the computers' capacity for simulation, dynamically linked notations, and interactivity, ordinary students


can achieve extraordinary command of sophisticated concepts. Computer-based applications using learning by association, viewing live content and assessing their skills and ability have been proven to be powerful tools for learning a new language. For example, technology using dynamic diagrams —that is, pictures that can move in response to a range of input—can help students visualize and understand the forces underlying various phenomena. Involving students in making sense of computer simulations that model physical phenomena, but defy intuitive explanations, also has been shown to be a useful technique. Students can explore changes rapidly in the notation by dragging with a mouse, as opposed to slowly and painstakingly rewriting the changes. There are various technological platforms in which students can use to learn. One example is that of eLearning platforms which creates and supports an interactive approach to learning a new subject or language. Students are more engaged with the subject or language thereby eliminating the notorious teacher-led traditionally manner of learning. Many students prefer to learn at their own pace and such technological platforms cater for majority of what students want. With eLearning, a student can ideally repeat a session as many times as s/he wants without having to ask a teacher to repeat the content. This is a positive aspect in relation to technology as students can revise a subject or language as many times as they like. Interactive learning content enables the student to actively learn by engaging with interesting and dynamic content. Many language learning websites cater for this niche market. The content is learning by association, using pictures, movie clips and other interactive content which assists the student to grasp the new language. The other advantage is that these websites can easily assess the fluency and the correct pronunciation of words using the software and microphone. This is a technological breakthrough in which learners can be evaluated on their fluency and accuracy by merely sitting in the comfort of his/her home and let the software be the virtual teacher and assessor. It is no wonder why many of these websites companies attract a large number of users from around the world. Video calling is another great approach to conversing with native speakers around the world. Most foreign students typically forget what they have learnt simply because they do not get the opportunity to converse with native speakers. Video calling allows native speakers to create chat-groups and advertise their services to simply have a general discussion with students wanting to learn the native’s language. Technology cannot drive behaviour, nor can it motivate a student to finish the learning experience. Teachers are natural motivators and this is the primary gap between technology learning and teacher-led learning. A teacher must realise that there are various technological platforms readily available to assist the learning experience. Teachers should be encouraged to make use of such technologies and use this to their benefit. Teachers and students have these tools available to supplement the learning activity but technology is only a tool and is certainly not an outcome. Learner-centered environments support independent


work as well as collaboration among learners. These classrooms provide students opportunities to connect prior learning with current experience. Learners have access to a variety of tools and resources with which to work. Teachers can design such classrooms, and computers can help. Computers can support the variety of ways learners construct their own understanding. Students who gather information from the Internet can be self-directed and independent. They can choose what sources to examine and what connections to pursue. Depending on the parameters set by teachers, the students may be in complete control of their topics and their explorations. Students can work through a computer-based activity at their own pace. Rather than 25 individuals working together on one activity, technology allows independent completion of work. Those who begin to fall behind can receive an instructor's individualized attention while others can begin to tackle more complex tasks. Computer software can mix text, pictures, sound, and motion to provide a variety of options for learners. Multimedia software will not be the only classroom resource, but it can contribute richness and variety to student work. Students can build on their own understanding by using computers as resource tools, as work stations for individual learning, or as communication channels to share their ideas with other learners. Individual understanding and experiences must be shared and compared to curriculum content. By uncovering students' individual understandings, teachers can determine the influence of students' prior knowledge and further their education through new experience. Computers can be used to assist active experiences--gathering data and resources, conversing with colleagues, struggling through a challenging puzzle or application--or they can assist in reflection. For example, while an on-line conversation through e-mail is an active event, such discussions usually prompt reflection. They help us think about ideas and check our understanding. In another reflective application, teachers can enlist computers as authoring tools for students' journals which are excellent vehicles for thoughtful examination of experience. Introducing technology into the learning environment can encourage cooperative learning and student collaboration. If they are allowed to converse, most students like to talk about their computer work and share their strategies. Classroom activities that are structured so that computers encourage collaboration build on learners' desire to communicate and share their understanding. It takes planning and intervention to build successful cooperative groups with or without computers, but groups that use computers as teamwork tools have a better start toward collaborative work. Beyond the classroom, computer networking allows students to communicate and collaborate with content experts and with fellow students around the globe. Communication tools like e-mail, bulletin boards, and chat groups allow teachers to exchange lesson plans and teaching strategies and create a professional community. The use of real world tools, relevant experiences, and meaningful data inject a sense of purpose to classroom activity. Part of the mission of educational institutions is


to produce workforce-ready graduates who can, among other things, manipulate and analyze raw data, critically evaluate information, and operate hardware and software. This technological literacy imparts a very important set of vocational skills that will serve students well in the working world. It is evident that technology has allowed schools to provide greater assistance to traditionally underserved populations. Assistive technology such as voice recognition systems, dynamic Braille displays, speech synthesizers, and talking books provide learning and communication alternatives for those who have developmental or physical disabilities. Research has also shown that computermediated communication can ease the social isolation that may be experienced by those with disabilities. Computers have proved successful in increasing academic motivation and lessening anxiety among low ability students and learning disabled students, many of whom simply learn in a manner different from that practiced in a traditional, non-technological classroom. Technology as a learning tool has its advantages and disadvantages, as with any methodology and approach to learning, however technology can we a great tool if it is used correctly and is used as a tool to expand on the learning experience and to be used to supplement the learning experience.

*** Sources *** Rhona Sharpe, Helen Beetham, Sara de Freitas Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age: How Learners are Shaping Their Own Experiences


Technology as a learning tool