Technology has changed the ways schools operate, the ways teachers communicate, and the ways students learn. At every level of education, from kindergarten until graduate school, technology is being used as a means to develop and deliver course material. Technology is also being used in administrative offices, and also in the home as students have greater access to educational technologies. In traditional classroom environments, technology is being used not just in the most obvious ways such as computer terminals with Internet and library database access. While traditional technological tools such as computers have become indispensable, revolutionary changes to the learning environment itself are technology-dependent. For example, technology can be used to alter lighting and sounds in the classroom in ways that promote learning, cooperation, and concentration. With technology in education comes a great responsibility to monitor usage, upgrade systems, and remain continually mindful of issues such as privacy and intellectual property. As Pula & Goff (1972) pointed out decades ago, technology's impact on education encompasses psychological, philosophical, sociological, and pedagogical issues.
In developing countries, technology is becoming more seamlessly integrated into classrooms than expected. For example, in Bangladesh mobile phone technology is being harnessed as a learning device ("Technology impacts on education" 2010). Mobile phones are being used more like PDAs, portable digital devices, than as telecommunications objects. The use of mobile phones as an educational tool includes a BBC-developed system of language translation services. In Uruguay, the government has ensured that every child in school has a laptop and similar one laptop-per-child initiatives are being implemented in other South American countries ("Technology impacts on education" 2010).
Technology may have had its greatest impact on information delivery, which has reduced geographic and even language barriers in schools. Distance learning options transcend borders, allowing students in countries with poor educational services to have access to libraries, facilities, classes, and degree programs abroad. Online learning is used in conjunction with traditional learning in the classroom setting, in grade school as well as at the university level. The Economist Intelligence Unit found that law school students enrolled in hybrid problems, which used a combination of online and physical classrooms, outperformed their classmates who only studied in one type of learning environment.
In a comprehensive study of how technology is used at the grade school level, Gray, Thomas, Lewis & Tice (2010) found that in the United States, almost all teachers (97%) had one or more computers in their classrooms every day. Most of these computers were used for multiple purposes, and almost all were on the Internet. The average ratio of students to computers in the classroom was about 5 to 1 in the Gray et al. (2010) survey. Other technologies besides computers also played a major role in the learning environment. Projectors, including LCD displays, were used commonly. Even digital cameras were used as teaching tools (Gray, et al. 2010). Teachers in the Gray et al. (2010) survey report using technology for instructional as well as administrative and organizational purposes. For example, grades and attendance records were maintained in an electronic database for more than 90% of all teachers surveyed (Gray et al. 2010). Word processors were among the most common software tools used in an instructional context, followed closely by the Internet. Gray et al. (2010) also found that spreadsheets and presentation software were relatively common in public school classrooms. However, the results of the technology in education survey varied depending on whether the school was located in a low-income or high-income neighborhood. Teachers reported emailing parents far less often in a poor district vs. A wealthy one: 92% of teachers would email parents in the wealthy school district but only 48% did so in the low-income districts. This shows that even in 2009, there still remain socio-economic barriers to educational equality. Moreover, technology is one of the ways to measure barriers to education in the United States and worldwide.
On college campuses, technology is ubiquitous and being used in unexpected ways. For example, the Economist Intelligence Unit (2008) found that "social-networking tools are helping to build connections with alumni and support career service activities," (Sec 1:5). Anderson, Poelhuber, & McKerlich (2010) likewise found that socially-oriented software and social networking enhanced the learning experience, especially for students enrolled in online programs. As with public grade schools in the United States, cost barriers present some major problems for the educational institutions using technology. The cost of maintenance and upgrading are a few of the stated costs (Economist Intelligence Unit 2008).
Technology is aiding students who fall asleep in class or who could not make it to class because they were sick or otherwise disposed. In New York University's tax law program, for instance, each class is filmed using three cameras and a sound mixer for optimal quality video and audio and then within thirty minutes the entire class goes online for the students to review (Economist Intelligence Unit 2008). In fact, Seirup & Tirotta (2010) conducted research into the possible applications of online learning for students who are on academic probation. Online learning was found to mitigate the negative effects of the probation and helped raise test scores among students who had low GPAs (Seirup & Tirotta 2010).
The uses of technology in a higher education setting are, predictably, different from the uses of technology at the public grade school level. The Economist Intelligence Unit (2008) notes that technology is being perceived as a signal of fundamental shifts in pedagogy, with a greater shift on student-centered and student-directed learning. Similarly, technology is enabling a revision of assessment methods. Technology allows a change from a scenario enabling a rote memorization for tests towards a situation in which students apply what they have learned towards the solving of real or simulated problems (Economist Intelligence Unit 2008). Professors will become more like mentors than as traditional instructors and specialized degrees and course customization will become more common (Economist Intelligence Unit 2008, Sec 1:7). Pula & Goff (1972) also predicted that technology would be employed in accordance with systems theory in education, with a tremendous personal and sociological impact. In other words, technology is revolutionizing the role of the university.
Collaboration tools, especially online collaboration tools, were cited as the most important technology in higher education, followed closely by "the dynamic delivery of content and software that supports individually paced learning," (Economist Intelligence Unit 2008, Sec 1:6). Online collaboration tools include wiki, which is being viewed increasingly as a collectivist academic project. Content presents academic material in an accessible and "egalitarian way," (Huett, Huett & Bennett 2010). Huett et al. (2010) also point out that "Wikis promote collaborative knowledge convergence that helps accumulate, organize, and store essential programmatic assets in an easy-to-access format."
Online learning is a major growth area for educational institutions. However, online learning and online program development are not monolithic in education. There are numerous methods and strategies to developing online programs, courses, and course materials. Meyer & Barefield (2010) outline several models for e-learning with the costs and benefits of each. The authors note that programs developed by individual instructors "often fail due to faculty burnout, poor course design, or a technology infrastructure that is so riddled with problems that students quit the program due to the frustration of frequent disconnects and the inability to get the technology to work as intended," (Meyer & Barefield 2010). Unfortunately, schools that are new to online learning or which have not yet developed the administrative level supports for e-learning are likely to leave individual faculty members to "fend for themselves in gathering of support, learning new technology, and designing an online program from scratch with little or no support from the infrastructure in place," (Meyer & Barefield 2010). This may have been the first and initial model used for developing online course materials and content because it seemed like the only way to approach the issue: have teachers develop their online courses the same way they develop their traditional courses. However, instructors need far more training before they can develop effective online courses. Instructors also need to collaborate and have access to available resources.
Therefore, Meyer & Barefield (2010) describe what is becoming a more prevalent model of e-learning development: the team approach. Using a team approach, campus administrators play an active role in coordinating online course development as well as the promotion of online materials and degree programs. Furthermore, instructors are not designing the courses on their own. They have at their disposal IT professionals and consultants: "Other support personnel such as content developers, instructional designers, and administrative support are either realigned to support the online endeavor or new personnel are hired to provide the support," (Meyer & Barefield 2010). Discovering and implementing new and effective ways of developing and delivering online content is crucial for student satisfaction, program recognition, and future success. As Sampson, Leonard, Ballenger, and Coleman (2010) show, students are often dissatisfied with the level of teamwork involved in the distance learning process. Knowing this, administrators and instructors…