The Positive Impact of Technology on Teaching and Learning

 

Abstract

 

            Schools need to understand the positive impact that technology can have on students, teachers, and administrators.  There is ample research available that emphasizes the value technology can have in our classrooms.  This research can help rebut the naysayer’s looking to minimize the importance of technology in education.  I researched teaching delivery methods in which technology could help foster greater learning as well as the various ways that one could use technology to improve standardized test scores and overall academic achievement.  In addition to a student-centered focus, I will also be discussing how using technology can assist both teachers and administrators.

 

Chip Flemmer

Boise State University

Dr. Connie Pollard/EdTech 571

November 25, 2007

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Positive Impact of Technology on Teaching and Learning

           

I strongly believe that technology should be used as a teaching and learning tool in helping both students and teachers achieve higher levels of success in and out of the classroom.   The belief that there is a positive impact of technology on teaching and learning has been put to the test and questioned by many, but there is ample research available which shows that technology has a legitimate and valuable place in our educational system as both teaching and learning tool.   I want to see schools across our country utilizing the research that is available in an effort to use the best methods available for applying technology into our curriculum.  A lot of people want to use technology in their schools, but they just are not sure how to use technology.   I want to insure that both students and teachers are using the technology to its greatest potential and we only need to look at the research to help guide us in the right direction.   Teaching and learning will greatly benefit if technology is used according to researched methods resulting in proven success.

We live in a “high-tech” world and our students need to be trained in using technology to insure that they will be given all the tools necessary to successfully compete in this “high-tech” society and job market.   We must understand that technology is constantly changing and we must be prepared to evolve our educational technology practices when we find a better and more efficient way of educating both our teachers and students.    We have plenty of research available and now’s a perfect time to start applying what has been researched and put it into practice in our classrooms.   We don’t want our students and teachers to be left behind as technology increases and the job market evolves.

Technology is all around us, everywhere you look, and anywhere you go.   I believe if something is as prevalent in our daily lives as is technology, we need to look into ways in which we can incorporate it into our teaching and learning if it can be effectively done.   Teachers, students, administrators, parents and community members are bombarded with technology and as hard as one may try; technology is here to stay and we need to learn to make it work to our advantage and benefit.

If you question the importance of technology in our lives, just think about the following situations and decide if you believe technology is important enough to incorporate with our children in the classroom.  Have you ever needed some money and walked up to your local neighborhood automated teller machine (ATM)?   One swipe of your bank card and a few numbers punched into the machine and out spits cold, hard, ready to be spent cash like it is Christmas.   Have you ever had to drive through a toll booth?  We used to have to stop at every toll booth to pay the allotted fees, but not any more.  Today, if you have a Toll Tag, there is no need to stop your vehicle.  If you just place the Toll Tag on your window, every time you drive through the toll booth, the fees will be added to your credit card in turn saving you a lot of time that was normally spent waiting in a long toll line.  School administrators don’t need to write down their classroom observations using pen and paper anymore.  No, they just walk into your classroom with a Palm Pilot in hand while using their magic wand on a little magic screen poking down all the information that they need to get their job done quickly and efficiently.   It is really hard to escape technology.  Every time I make a mistake typing this paper, my good friend, Mr. Microsoft Word, is so kind and generous to help correct any spelling blemishes or strange sentence structure.  I have probably learned more about sentence structure and spelling through all of my experiences using word processing than I ever remember from all the “red marker spots” that wallpapered my papers as a child.   Technology is very important and it is everywhere.

Technology can have an extremely positive impact on teaching and student learning and should be used in our classrooms as a tool to improve both teaching and learning.  To ensure that this positive impact of technology is the rule rather than the exception one needs to become familiar with current research on how to use technology in a manner that promotes higher levels of success.   It is also important to keep in mind that students are not going to be students forever.  Our goal as teachers is to prepare them for the “real world” by providing the skills needed to successfully compete in an ever-changing job force and integrating technology into our curriculum is a huge step in accomplishing that very task.  If we really want our students to compete, we need to use technology in a way that meets our goals, increases learning, and helps move all students forward.  How is this all possible?  Research shows that technology will improve student performance when the application directly supports the curriculum objectives that are being assessed.  It was concluded by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology in 2001 that "technology can have the greatest impact when integrated into the curriculum to achieve clear, measurable educational objectives"  (CEO Forum on Education and Technology, 2001, p. 2).

A lot of teachers fear that they won’t have enough time to work technology into the curriculum because they need to focus their valuable time improving state test scores.  For those who use that argument, they only need to view the research from an eight-year longitudinal study of SAT I performance at New Hampshire's Brewster Academy (Bain & Ross, 1999). Students participating in the technology integrated school reform effort (School Design Model) demonstrated average increases of 94 points in combined SAT I performance over students who participated in the traditional independent school experience.   Not enough time to use technology in your classroom after reading those eye-bulging results?

Often times we think of a traditional classroom as one in which the students are all in symmetrical rows quietly doing their work.  The trends in education have changed to incorporate more collaboration into the student’s learning experiences.  This trend is also very important in utilizing technology in the classroom.  Technology has been found to improve performance when opportunities for student collaboration are provided.  Improved achievement tends to be the result of technology applications that enable student collaboration.  A study involving upper-grade elementary students used Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE), a software collaboration tool that enables students and teachers to collaborate by creating and posting text and graphics as well as asking questions, searching for other students' answers, giving feedback on student responses and work and then reformulating the answers and questions. The students in this study performed better on standardized tests in reading, language and vocabulary and on measures of depth of understanding, multiple perspectives and independent thought than students who did not use the software (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).

The research shows that using technology that supports the curriculum objectives and allows for collaboration opportunities can improve student learning.  If improving student learning is our primary objective then it stands to reason that we need technology in our classrooms.   

There are very few lectures or lessons I remember from my elementary school years, however, I remember in detail looking forward to playing Oregon Trail on our dinosaur computers back in the mid-1980s.  I remember learning the names of the various forts and rivers along the Oregon Trail by playing that classic computer game.   I might not have remembered those names so well if my teacher only presented that information in the form of a lecture.  I strongly believe that we need teachers to present information in a wide variety of formats which work to meet a wide array of learning styles.  Technology is one of the formats that must be used in our schools if we want more of our lessons to have a longer-lasting impact on their lives.

Technology is so important that twenty-four years ago, way back in 1983 to be exact, the federal report A Nation at Risk recommended that high school graduation requirements should include the “Five New Basics”—English, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer science (The National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, April).  Technology is not limited to a computers class.  We can use technology in our elementary classrooms, science, social studies, English, reading, math, foreign languages, and any other subject imaginable.  The integration of computers with traditional instruction produces higher academic achievement in a variety of subject areas than does traditional instruction alone (Fouts, p. 8).

I just finished leading a staff development day dealing with how today’s students use technology.  The purpose of this staff development was to enlighten teachers and administrators on the common uses of technology in our student’s lives.  A lot of teachers and administrators knew a little bit about MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and the text messaging craze, but we brought in two tech-savvy students to explain why, when, where, and how often they use these technologies.  It blew everyone away to find out that one of the students that we brought in wrote 3,000 text messages in one month during the summer.  Things slowed down for her once the school year started and she is now down to 1,000 per month.  We are teaching a different kind of student than we had in the classroom twenty years ago.  This new type of student isn’t necessarily better or worse, they are just a lot more technologically intelligent than most of us were when we were in school.  Most of us grew up with rotary dial phones in our house.  We had to memorize phone numbers or at least have them written down if we wanted to call someone.  Nowadays, we just find the name and click call or better yet we can put these people in our “Fav Five.”

Back when most of us adults were in high school you would see cliques of students gathered in the hallways shooting the bull with buddies or flirting with someone that looked like possible dating material.  Now, you are more apt to see groups of high school students gathered without much noise, but rather with thumbs rapidly maneuvering messages to friends (possibly friends that are even standing two feet in front of them).  I am not saying that some of the technology trends we see in today’s society are great, but I do believe that it is vital to have technology in the classroom because that is what our students know and how they can learn the curriculum that we are trying to get them to master.  The term “digital natives” has been coined by Marc Prensky which describes the students of today.  These children were born with the internet, instant messaging and the “cyber world” all around them.  Most of us adults over the age of thirty are “digital immigrants.”  We have had to learn the new technologies and watch them evolve over the course of our childhood and into adulthood (Prensky, 2006).

Not only do students benefit from technology, but teachers benefit greatly as well.  My own personal classroom has technology being used from the opening bell to start each class up through the final bell to end each period.  I have my projector on as the students enter the classroom with a Power Point slide explaining our daily warm up activity.  As the students are working on the warm up, I am on the computer taking attendance with our online program eSchool.  Whenever I grade an activity it goes on eSchool as well.  Parents have instant access to their child’s grades online as well as attachments posted by the teacher which can include any worksheets, review sheets, notes, or any other educational document being used in the class.   As a teacher who began teaching at the start of the technology craze in 1996, I have personally benefited by technology making my life easier in planning lessons, taking attendance, and keeping track of grades.

Think of how a sick child used to obtain their homework years ago.  The parent would call up to the school and the teachers round up copies of necessary work, somebody would have to gather all the work and drop it off in the office for the parent to pickup whenever they were able to make it up to the school.   In our case, the parent just clicks on eSchool and prints off the homework from the comfort of their home while Junior is able to stay caught-up on his homework without taking off his pajamas.  This makes things so much easier for the students.  Instead of being two weeks behind after an illness, they are often able to do most of the work from home and bring it with them when they are able to come back.  Technology is needed for teachers as well as the students.  With technologies like eSchool teachers, principals and administrators are able to track student achievement and vary instruction to help meet individual needs.

If we want our teachers to be effective with all the great new technologies that are available, we need to make sure that they are given adequate and valuable training to use the them in the most efficient and effective manner.  Research says that teachers must have substantial time if they are going to acquire and, in turn, transfer to the classroom the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and completely infuse technology into their curricular areas (Boe, 1989).  This time that is necessary is not just in learning how to apply technology to the curriculum, but also learning how to apply technology that is used on a daily basis in our school settings such as online attendance, online grading, and online lesson planning.

Not only do teachers need time to apply technology to the curriculum, they also need to learn the basic technologies of a school district such as online grading programs, online attendance, using LCD projectors in your classroom, utilizing a web page to provide an inside look to your classroom, and any other technological area of importance to a district.  Teachers need to be provided quality training, planning time, and extensive support to improve their comfort levels and implementation of the various technologies into the curriculum and their daily routines.

My strong belief that technology is a very important tool in student learning and teaching has been solidified by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan which was released in January of 2005.   Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige stated that we need to listen to our tech-savvy students and that teachers are transforming what can be done in schools by using technology to access primary resources, allowing students to see a wide range of perspectives, and enhancing the overall learning experience through multimedia, simulations, and interactive software (U.S. Department of Education, 2005).

            As the learning and teaching environment has changed, we have been seeing an increase in online instruction as well as virtual schools.  The online and virtual schools can make classes that were not previously available to a student accessible in the click of a mouse.  Students who live in rural areas and may have been much more limited in their course selections can have opportunities available for them that were not before imagined.

"As these encouraging trends develop and expand over the next decade, facilitated and supported by our ongoing investment in educational technology..." the report said, "...we may be well on our way to a new golden age in American education" (U.S. Department of Education, 2005).

It is necessary for teachers, administrators, and community leaders to back technology in their districts and understand that the benefits of technology on teaching and learning have been validated through research as being vital to providing our students with the highest level of quality education possible.

I conclude by reemphasizing that the benefits of technology in today’s classroom are essential.  The learning and teaching environment has changed over the last few years with the influx of technology and we need to adhere to the abundance of research which states that technology can be used effectively to enhance our teaching strategies and student learning.  This change in our teaching and learning approach is essential, valuable, and necessary in the competitive global economy that exists in this golden age of information which we have at our finger-tips at a second’s notice.   I believe that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington’s web site does a perfect job of summarizing the reasons which I believe solidifies my firm stance that technology is such a valuable and necessary resource in our classroom to aid and improve our teaching and learning strategies.    The OSPI’s web site summarizes seven research-based reasons that technology should be used in our instruction.  Each of these reasons I agree with whole-heartedly and wrap-up my position by listing:

1.      When combined with traditional instruction, the use of computers can increase student learning in the traditional curriculum and basic skills area.

2.      The integration of computers with traditional instruction produces higher academic achievement in a variety of subject areas than does traditional instruction alone.

3.      When combined with traditional instruction, the use of computers can increase student learning in the traditional curriculum and basic skills area.

4.      Students learn more quickly and with greater retention when learning with the aid of computers.

5.      Students like learning with computers and their attitudes toward learning and school are positively affected by computer use.

6.      The use of computers appears most promising for low achieving and at-risk students.

7.      Effective and adequate teacher training is an integral element of successful learning programs based or assisted by technology, (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2007).

I recommend more research be done on how to effectively place students in collaborative groups which are designed to use technology to increase learning.  I would also like to see additional research conducted on what kind of positive impact technology can have on special education students with a ride array of needs.

REFERENCES

 

Boe, T. (1989). The next step for educators and the technology industry: Investing in

            teachers. Educational Technology, 29(3), 39-44.

 

Bain, A., & Ross, K. (1999).  School reengineering and SAT-1 performance: A case study.  International Journal of Education Reform, 9(2), 148-153.  Available: http://ctap6.k12.ca.us/downloads/RelevantResearch.pdf

 

CEO Forum on Education and Technology. (2001). The CEO Forum School Technology and Readiness Report: Key building blocks for student achievement in the 21st century. Available: http://www.ceoforum.org/downloads/report4.pdf.

 

Fouts, J. T. (2000). Research on computers and education: Past, present and future. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Available:  http://www.portical.org/fouts.pdf

 

Prensky, M. (2006). Learning in the Digital Age. Listen to the Natives. Available: http://www.ascd.org/authors/ed_lead/el200512_prensky.html

 

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C.  (1996). Computer support for knowledge-building communities.  In T. Kotchmann (Ed.), CSCL: Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

 

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2007). Improving Learning with Technology: What Works.  Retrieved December 4, 2007, http://www.k12.wa.us/EdTech/whatworks.aspx

 

U.S. Department of Education (2005).  National Education Technology Plan.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available: http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2005/01072005.html.

 

The National Commission on Excellence in Education, (1983, April).  A Nation at Risk:            

The Imperative for Educational Reform, A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education United States Department of Education.  Available: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/recomm.html