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Technology in the PK-16 Classroom

Essay By: Desmond Morris

This paper explores the foundations of technology in education and how its increased use affects instruction and society as a whole.

Submitted:Nov 30, 2008    Reads: 190    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

Technology in the PK-16 Classroom
Desmond Morris
ETC 547
Northern Arizona University
Fall 2008

The use of technology in education has seen an increase since the eighteenth century. With the inception of President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" Act, technology will continue to be the focus of lawmakers and educators. From the early uses of Blackboards to textbooks and the Internet, technology has been an integral part of classroom instruction. Theories such as "Constructionism", "Constructivism" and "Cognitivism" argue that learning is based on internal versus external factors. Many of these factors can be modeled through the use of technology. This paper explores the foundations of technology in education and how its increased use affects instruction and society as a whole.

Learning Theories
Theories on learning have been around for many years. Many schools of thought have been argued. These theories strived to explain how people acquired and constructed learning. Among the most highly recognized theories are Behaviorism, Constructivism, Constructionism, and Social and Cognitive Learning Theories.
Behaviorism is a learning theory that stated that learning can be molded by external factors through positive and negative reinforcement or by repetitive tasks. Theorist like John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner argued that learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior in the learner.
Constructivism is rooted in the thought that the learner is the constructor of information. The information constructed is linked to the learner's prior knowledge on a given subject or experience. As Karen Shaw (2005) reported in,"A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online," all learning is therefore intimately tied to experience and the contexts of experience, no matter how or where that learning takes place."
Constructionism, like Constructivism, based learning on the analysis of the learner prior knowledge. Through this analysis knowledge is constructed and reconstructed. Knowledge construction toke place when the learner was actively engaged in meaningful activities that allowed for concept building. Constructionism particularly applies to learning with digital technology. "If you can use technology to make things you can make a lot more interesting things. And you can learn a lot more by making them"(Stager, 2005).
Social learning theories stated that people learned from each other. In other words, learning is acquired in social environments. These theories also stated that learning occurred through observation and modeling. "Learning is essentially a social activity, that meaning is constructed through communication, collaborative activity, and interactions with others" (Shaw, 2005). Theorist, such as Albert Bandura, contested that learning may occur without a noticeable change in behavior.
Foundations of Technology
From the beginning of the eighteenth century to today, educators have searched for innovations that improved the facilitation of instruction in their classrooms. One of the first innovations educators developed was the blackboard. "Early blackboards were made from pine lumber and covered with a mixture of egg white and carbon from charred potatoes. Teachers and students wrote with chunks of chalk and erased with cloth rags"(Roundtable, Inc., 2001). The use of blackboards was a very important part of the classroom. Blackboards were used to visually display the lessons and curriculum for the whole class to see. Today, classroom walls are lined with "whiteboards," and teachers us dry erase markers. The whiteboards, like blackboards, are still a integral part of the classroom and are being used by teachers to illustrate lessons, while students use them to demonstrate essential understandings.
Another technological innovation was the abacus. "This early calculator was made of a wood frame with parallel wire rods, each with wooden disks that glided on the rods" (Roundtable, Inc., 2001). This early innovation was used to facilitate mathematic computations during classroom instruction. This device was quite large and limited in their, use creating the need for smaller more accurate versions. Today, many classrooms are equipped with calculators to assist students with lengthy mathematic computations. Some of these calculators are even equipped with graphing capabilities.
Textbooks are another technological staple of the classroom that has evolved since the eighteen century. Books have allowed educators the flexibility to instruct students on multiple levels. From literacy instruction to mathematical activities, textbooks are a essential part of any classrooms curriculum. Early textbooks were hard bound copies filled with passages to read and activities for students to copy and complete. Today, textbooks have gone digital and are found in CD-ROM form and in many cases with online access.
With the establishment of the digital age came computers. "Many educators awaited the promise of technology's power to guide them and to lead improvements in the educational system" (Hamza and Alhalabi, 1999). Few computers were used in the classroom to facilitate instruction. In fact "in 1981, only 18 percent of U. S. public schools had one computer for instructional use"( Hamza and Alhalabi, 1999). During this time, computer were primarily used by educators to store instructional information and by students to produce classroom assignments. By the 1994-95 school year 37 percent of schools had computers with CD-ROM drives(Hamza and Alhalabi, 1999). CD-ROMs allowed educators to install and use educational software programs to facilitate and reinforce classroom instruction.
As the use of computers in the classroom increased so did the use of the Internet. "With the aid of technology, many teachers take students beyond traditional classroom limits, creating virtual environments to experiment and explore"(Hamza and Alhalabi, 1999). The Internet has allowed educators to use video streaming as a resource to give students a virtual view of the content they are learning. The Internet has enabled students to collaborate with other students in classrooms across the country and around the world.
Despite the increased use of the Internet in the classroom, "the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a report on the impact of technology in education" (Cambre & Hawkes, 2004, p.41). As Cambre and Hawkes (2004)have reported in "Toys, Tools & Teachers," the NCES has reported that "the Internet has not made dramatic differences in how teachers teach or how students learn." Cambre and Hawkes (2004) also have stated that in 2001 President George W. Bush, possibly because of the NCES report, signed a bill allocating a billion dollars to educational technology programs. Along with President Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act," the allocated fund will continue to make technology in education a priority for lawmakers and educators alike.
Learning theories have provided a firm foundation for how people acquire and construct learning. Behaviorism showed how positive and negative reinforcement causes learning with a change in behavior. Constructionism and Constructivism proved that the learners prior knowledge is a key factor in the construction of new knowledge. And social learning theories allowed many to see that social activities are important to the learning process. All of these theories helped the evolution and expansion of the technology in education.
Through innovation classroom keystones such as the blackboards and chalk have been replaced with whiteboards and dry erase markers. The bulky abacus evolved into the small, yet efficient calculator. Through technological innovation, the ultimate teaching tool also known as the textbook had become accessible on CD-ROM and online in many cases. During the early eighties, computers not very visible in classrooms across the country. By the mid-nineties more computer made their way into classrooms. The Internet has allowed educators to bring video streaming and increase collaboration into the classroom. Finally, President George W. Bush signed a bill allocating a substantial amount of money for educational technology programs.
As focus increases on technology in education, educators must because educated in its best uses in the classroom and in educational settings. New technologies are creating ways to increase student motivation, engagement and achievement. School districts are requiring increased technology use among students and teachers as a direct result of the "No Child Left Behind Act." There will be even more increased focus on technology in the classroom as the United States struggles to compete with countries like Japan.
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