Turn on the light

Sunday July 8, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/7/8/education/11458494&sec=education

By DR TERMIT KAUR RANJIT SINGH

Like flipping on a switch in a dark room, the right use of technology in education can do wonders to produce great minds and holistic individuals.

OBSERVING a trainee teacher teaching during her practicum one day, got me thinking again on how schools and teaching have hardly changed. From the time I was in school many decades ago, till this day and age where everything is going “e”, teaching has yet to embark on real change.

When my trainee teacher took out her laptop, connected it to the projector, and started her PowerPoint presentation, I was glad to see how she used a simple application and made it “powerful” from the very start of her class.

Her induction set incorporated music, attracted her students and got them all interested. She then went online to explain a concept for her lesson that day. “Wow!” I thought, “Now that’s something!”

The students were engaged in the lesson which was conducted in a more interesting manner than the usual chalk and talk method.

Active engagement

Effective technology integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows can deepen and enhance the learning process.

In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts.

Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.

Technology changes the way teachers teach, offering educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means. It also enhances the relationship between teacher and student.

When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach.

Technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.

The myriad resources of the online world also provide classrooms with more interesting, diverse, and current learning materials.

The Web connects students to experts in the real world and provides numerous opportunities for expressing understanding through images, sound, and text.

New tech tools for visualising and modelling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding.

As an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioural problems in the classroom.

Intellectual challenge

Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, our homes. Yet most schools lag far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning.

Many are just beginning to explore the true potential technology offers for teaching and learning.

Properly used, technology will help students acquire the skills they need to survive in a complex, highly technological, knowledge-based economy.

Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class.

Technology-enabled project learning is the new plus ultra of classroom instruction.

Learning through projects that are equipped with technology tools allows students to be challenged intellectually, while giving them a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like.

Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesise information they have found online.

New role for teachers

Technology use in teaching and learning may also make some assessment methods redundant. Low level (factual) knowledge for example, has been traditionally tested by the use of multiple choice questions.

In an ICT environment, online tests can easily be used, which instantly provide the teacher with a wide range of information associated with the learner’s score.

There are various technological tools that are available in assisting teachers with this task.

Comparisons of previous scores and dates of assessment, for example, will indicate a student’s progress, and each student can be allocated an individual report database stored in electronic format into which each successive test’s results can be entered automatically.

This means we can make do without reports and put all information online instead.

Teachers can also pick up on the creative use of Internet technology and put the blog to work in the classroom.

The education blog can be a powerful and effective technology tool for students and teachers alike.

The role of the teacher must change because using technology in teaching will cause certain teaching resources to become obsolete.

For example, the use of overhead projectors and chalkboards may no longer be necessary if all learners have access to the same networked resource on which the teacher is presenting information.

The role of the teacher must change in the sense that it is no longer sufficient for teachers merely to impart content knowledge.

Instead, it is crucial for teachers to encourage critical thinking skills, promote information literacy, and nurture collaborative working practices to prepare students for a new world in which no job is guaranteed for life, and where people switch careers several times.

It is our responsibility as teachers to produce holistic individuals who are ready to face the real world, a world full of challenges.

Aladdin’s lamp

Teachers must begin to reappraise the methods by which they meet children’s learning needs and match curriculum to the requirements of human thought.

The Internet can be an excellent way to adapt information to meet the characteristics of human information processing.

Traditional methods of imparting knowledge, such as lectures, books and this conference paper, are characterised by a linear progression of information.

Human minds are more adaptable than this, using non-linear strategies for problem-solving, representation and the storage and retrieval of information.

Technology encourages teachers to take on new and expanded roles, both inside and outside of the classroom.

The teacher assumes the role of coach or facilitator while students work.

Outside of the classroom, technology supports teacher collaboration.

Instead of working in isolation, teachers can work together on school wide programmes.

They can help find solutions to problems and act as peer advisors to provide information and feedback.

Technology if harnessed properly can play the role of “Aladdin’s lamp” in teaching.

For children with special needs, like hearing impairment, I believe you cannot proceed much in providing meaningful education without the use of technology.

As for other cases also, I believe a good teacher cannot materialise his or her brilliant ideas for creating learning experiences without technology.

For example, with a digital camera and the Internet it is possible to cover a wide spectrum of experiences at the global level, something which cannot be done via verbal and routine non-verbal methods and through textbooks within the walls of a classroom.

The bottom line

One may argue that you need to have your own ideas before using technology. Though this is true to some extent, by using the Internet you can find ideas to teach certain topics and thus supplement the planning process.

Thus technology can be a good servant in the planning and execution of teaching. Just have a clear vision and information on what prevalent technology can do, and its limitations.

Technology as an enhancement is as important as light is to a dark room.

Technology integration is not education in itself. However, technology is the light for our current times. Applied in the right way it will help in the education process to produce great minds and holistic individuals.

The writer is a senior lecturer at the School of Educational Studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Her main interest in research is in the area of ICT in Education and the use of Peer Coaching in technology integration in teaching and learning. Her most recent achievement is a Gold Medal in the Malaysian Technology Expo 2011 for creating a courseware using the SmartBoard. She is currently working on the development of an Interactive Teaching and Learning Lab in USM.