The Impact of New Technologies in Primary School Education Essay

The Impact of New Technologies in Primary School Education

Introduction

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            The contemporary progress on the use of information technology provides the advance feature of learning opportunities, envisioned by modern educators to shaping the educational processes. This development has largely contributed by the production growth of computers, availability and use of the Internet.  Indeed, the use of computer and Internet technology in education has ushered and revolutionized the aspects of teaching and learning.

            On the other hand, there are several studies and findings in the perspective of the type of technologies being used in education to address compatibility on the characteristics of learners and teachers.

The significant concern focuses on the impact, specifically the advantages and disadvantages on the use of general technologies in primary education.

            This paper aims to discuss the typology of technologies being used in primary education, the need and impact to achieve the early learning abilities.

Defining technology

The computer is a tool or electronic machine for computing with versatile and mathematically logical components that are able to store data and process programmed information.

Computer has 2 types which is analog and digital. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the first computer was an analog that stores pre-computed data, in which NASA uses in flight simulation. Whereas, digital computer simply manipulates data derived from analog information. As technically described by NASA, computer is a combination of analog and digital types.

In a study-research, entitled ‘Technology, Innovation, and Educational Change: A Global Perspective’, published by the International Society for Educational Technology (ISET) has documented the cases chosen by an academic panel that used international and local criterions, assuring that the cases should be representing “aspirations” of every country for future educational system. On the documented 174 cases has found that technology supports significant improvement in teaching and learning. As quoted from the documented report, “the traditional teacher lectures in front of the classroom and students do worksheets”. The study-research showed significant comparison on how technologies are used in various countries worldwide.

The journal has demonstrated the result of the case finding on selective group of students who aggressively engages in “constructivist activities”; in search for information, product designing and publishing work output. The students frequently collaborate on conducting project activities inside and outside the classroom or school through the Internet.

The interactive collaboration has also participated in by teachers or instructors. The ISTE web site highlights the interactive project activities of primary students through its program dubbed as “journey”. As quoted from the Journey Program, “learning journey for teacher and student focuses more on learning [not solely the technology], preparing the students to live, learn and work in a technology-rich world” (ISET 2007).

To cite, the “journey” renew and encourage teachers to deviate from conventional teaching toward a “new vision” of instructional devise. The journey program provides productivity tools, such as word processors and presentation software, being used in a large number of primary education teaching, in which the tools and resources creates product presentations, communication and information (ISET 2007).

The recent innovation in electronic and digital media technologies has developed the interactive whiteboard.  Hitachi Corporation (2008) has defined interactive whiteboard as a “dry erase whiteboard”, comparable to a whiteboard writing surface that captures marks electronically. Meaning, it is an electronic “whiteboard” likened to a whiteboard being used in classroom, with electronic feature able to capture marks or writings through a “dry erase ink”, controlled by a computer-generated imaging system from a digital projector (Hitachi Corporation 2008).

When can teacher use the technology?

The utilization of education technologies in developing countries has significantly increased throughout the past decades regardless of the expensive technology that have been a difficulty of poor countries. Several poor countries in Asia have included information technology in their curriculum from primary to college education. The “structured framework” of education system in poor [and developing] countries has produced a massive requirement for computers, Internet and other electronic equipment.

The structured change in educational system has dramatically transformed the overall need for cyber-electronic. As cited from the Asian Tribune, the utilization of cyber-electronic-technology through computer and other computer-generated equipment have been observed with a slow yet determined diversification from poor technological use to massively adopting advance technologies that creates opportunities for disadvantaged population (Wanigasekera 2008).

In Sri Lanka, the interactive whiteboard potentially provides effective teaching capabilities, wherein primary school children are attracted and encouraged by the presentation. A study conducted by the Solution of Life (SOL) has found that Interactive Whiteboard effectively draws attentiveness of about 80-90 percent of pupils, enhancing the “interactivity of teaching” through highlighting, spotlighting, zooming, curtaining, color spraying and screen capturing of most of subjects in mathematics, science and English. SOL (2008) emphasized that a more illustrative, demonstrative and expository teaching method creates efficient teaching-learning modalities, as exemplified by systematizing the usual teaching and learning methods which saves time and efforts.

In Michael T. Miller and Dann E. Husmann’s ‘A Holistic Model for Primary Factors in the Ecology of Distance Education Course’ (1996) perceives the “culture” of an educational upbringing “when can teacher use technology in three key considerations”, such as administrative action, programmatic consideration, and technology and delivery related action. To cite, Miller and Husmann explained that Administrative action provides: (1) students with on-campus support services; (2) academic support for distance learners, access to library materials and support advisory; (3) encouragement for improved recognition of distance education and contributing quality programs. Meanwhile, program planning actions enables: (1) transfer of course credits; (2) flexible and alternative delivery method of academic programs; (3) receptiveness to students’ needs; and (4) faculty participation to overall program planning process. On the other hand, technology and delivery action varies in actual results, such as (1) clear and concise presentations, (2) timely feedback on quality student work output, (3) training of participants on technology use, and (4) improved use of diverse technologies (Miller & Husmann 1996).

The study conducted by Kathleen Swan and David Locascio points out that numerous evaluations in social studies concluded the use of primary sources in history classrooms is more accessible from the Internet. In Swan and Locasio’s finding, they have gauged the reliability of Internet as a primary source based on three domains, such as curriculum content, instructional processes, and student products or outcomes.

According to Swan and Locasio, the first domain which is “Curriculum Content” comprises ideas, concepts, descriptive information, facts, rules, and principles offered to the learner (Tomlinson 1995; in Swan & Locasio 2008: pp. 176-180). As explained, Swan and Locasio’s focused on gauging the “curriculum content” as the main source for teaching in history.

For the second domain which is “Instructional Process” incorporates the appearance of content, design of learning activities for students, formulating logical questions and teaching methods, and enabling learners’ skills (Tomlinson 1995; in Swan & Locasio 2008: p. 181). The study confines measurement of methods, of which instructional process minimizes primary sources used in promotional exercises, historical analysis and methodologies (Leinhardt 1993; in Swan & Locasio 2008: p.182).

The third domain which describes “Student Products or Outcomes” refers to the result that merges learning and expresses ideas (Tomlinson 1995; in Swan & Locasio 2008: p.183). This domain gauges the use of main sources of evaluation, specifically viewing the interdependency of students, exemplifying the creation of “historical narratives” from the Internet sources. The evaluation has found the interdependency of students with selective groups being dependent to Internet contents as the main source of historical search.

In summary, to cite, the three domains [referring to content, process, and product] confines the use of Internet as the useful technology of teachers and students (or pupils) to obtain main sources of data and apply the “constructive” skills or abilities in using Microsoft software, such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel to name a few.  Meaning, the three domains has proven the “instructional design” for integrated technological use (Shulman 1986; Kobrin 1996; Harris 1997; Crocco 2001; Barton 2001; Levstik & Mishra & Koehler 2006; ISTE 2007; in Swan & Locasio 2008: pp. 181-183).

Needs and uses of technology

            One of the basic concerns about needs and use of technology addresses to the efforts of teachers and pupils. Which implies the question: are these technologies need any efforts from teacher and pupils to use it?

The journal published by Anita Greenhill and Gordon Fletcher in 2003, entitled: ‘Utilizing Equipment Matrices for Information Technology in Primary School Education Policy’, embraces the educational beliefs through a research that requires enhancing the long-term learning competency and general abilities. Greenhill and Fletcher examined the Australian-government-financed study initiating a policy that incorporates information technology (IT) in primary schools.

The research project promotes the need for acknowledging cultural diversity, centralization and professional growth, requiring computer utilization as the external link from formal educational set-up. The requirements or needs include mainly the methods that represents the use of actual technologies in the classroom. Thus, determining the actual requirements or needs has brought about the formulation of “equipment matrices” to be recognized by policymakers and basically draw the considerations of stakeholders and school management.

According to Greenhill and Fletcher (2003), the purpose of “equipment matrix” is to take part on the IT planning process in schools. The equipment matrix should be used with caution because it may be misunderstood due complex graphical presentation. To briefly explain, the equipment matrix could be an effective “representational tool” that has the power to organize the sequence of data from a wide array of “extrapolation”, specifically to accumulate sets of information and experiences (Curriculum Materials Information Services 1997; in Greenhill & Fletcher 2003: pp. 755-757).

It may be perceived, the need and uses of technology may not however utilize the complexity of “equipment matrix” that make listings of “parameters” but may nurture the discovery of technological needs to enhance development-education, particularly in the primary schools. This technological discovery may pattern the needs of teachers and students, in which an educational policy may set the standards of technological utilization. As cited, the example of equal ‘cultural policy’ includes access to library and acquisition of educational materials, use of playground, school facilities and equipment, and learning of contemporary cultural-religious education that enables human development and socio-cultural growth of communities, manifesting effective means of continuing technological change (Barns 1991; in Greenhill & Fletcher 2003: p. 757).

The ‘Teacher Guidelines for Cross-National Virtual Communities in Primary Education’ published by M.B. Ligorio and H. Van der Meijden (2007) claims that schools remains in the slow-paced introductory phase to technologies despite rapid advancement of technology and continuous software innovation. Thus, Ligorio and Meijden’s works intends to demonstrate how “complex virtual environment” can be used effectively in schools to achieve “cross-disciplinary” projects relating potential partnership and target several educational needs, and likewise to create set of guidelines for teachers that shall determine the type of assistance and possible implementing programs for the development of efficient virtual-educational world.

Ligorio and Meijden’s conceptual framework for “cross-disciplinary” project [that would link the rapid technological advancement] is through “collaborative learning within communities”, in which having a “Computer-Supported-Collaborative-Learning or CSCL. The CSCL is a specified undertaking of research committed to evaluating how computers help students’ teamwork on various categories of “learning tasks” (McConnell 1994; Lehtinen et al. 2000; in Ligorio & Meijden 2007: p. 12).

The CSCL concentrates on details such as (1) the impact of technology on students and teachers, (2) the interaction and teamwork in distributing or sharing the knowledge-information, and (3) enabling collaborative expertise within the overall membership (Scardamalia & Bereiter 1992; Lipponen et al. 2003; in Ligorio & Meijden 2007: p. 13). It may be observed, accentuating the “social dimension” of learning, collaboration and interaction generates knowledgeable group of people. To cite, the concept of “school” as a “community of learning” was projected and developed as a “community of discourse and practice” ((Brown & Campione 1994; Wenger 1995; in Ligorio & Meijden 2007: p. 14).

The result of Ligorio and Meijden’s studies has found computer technology bringing “virtual spaces” within the classroom, specifically having Internet facility that enabled virtual communication. As cited, online interaction blends with multifaceted activities in the community, which composes and resembles a virtual community that stimulates and defines the roles between school and home (Ligorio & Meijden 2007: p. 15).

Impact of new technologies in primary school education

            Without deviating from the main discussion on the impact of new technologies in primary education, it may be also interesting to indicate how the emergence of technologies in education relates institutional support.

            The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has created the Primary Education Project (PEP) for a $16.4 million fund of a five-year implementing period in Macedonia. The PEP aims to improving the qualities of teaching and envisions enhancing skill among youth. Along the way of USAID’s endeavors is to empower the education system in Macedonia to develop its socio-cultural-economic-political interaction to the European Union. From this point of view of USAID, it may be synthesized that the impact of technologies in primary education seek to bridge national identities and reach out “competitiveness” and academic excellence, in which the early learning of children is seen crucial in the human development.

            To cite, the USAID-PEP is central to strengthening the educational-technological utilization with the specific objectives, such as to: (1) improve teaching and learning that enables and acquires critical thinking skills; (2) increase access and use of modern computer and Internet technologies enabling success in the job market; (3)  reconstruct school buildings to improve learning environment and motivate creativeness; (4) develop quality digital learning materials to enable active inquiry-based learning; (5) improve math and science education by improving curricula and teaching methods; (6) improve school-based assessment to motivate and reinforce quality learning (USAID 2007).

            At the community level, several private entities or non-government organizations have been encouraged to collaborate on the PEP components, such as the (1) renovation of selective schools to enhance teaching and learning efficiency, (2) accessibility to information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum, (3) development-education focus on math and science subjects, and (4) students’ internship training and evaluation to develop academic skills.

            In sum, the overall vision of USAID-PEP refocuses on generating performance and efficiency in the community, signifying the effectiveness of in-school activities and the interaction of local government units as well as the families. At this perspective, USAID-PEP has benchmarked the impact on the use of new technologies in primary school children, to cite, estimating the ratio of 30 students [from the average number of 54 students] per computer (USAID 2007).

Likewise, math and science subjects would be emphasized through “enquiry-based learning” to enable critical thinking and problem solving skills. Meanwhile, assessment component would determine the labor skills capabilities of Macedonia to emerge with the labor market of the European Union.  The sustainability component of PEP dwells in advancing more development on the primary education by providing a continuing assistance for digital e-learning (USAID 2007).

            It may be said that USAID-PEP has its holistic framework of development by emphasizing the relevance of institutional services complemented with technological assistance. According to USAID, it may not only the technology that could have impact on the educational system but providing “easement” of learning environment would result twofold effect of motivations and inspiration to teachers and students.

            In Grant Warren Sherson’s ‘The Impact of Technology on Primary Schools’ published in 1999 has earlier claimed the perspectives on the use of computer technology in primary schools. Sherson (1999) first described the “technological investments” in the 1980s that replaced the old varieties of analog computers mostly used particularly in designing educational curriculum, hastening only the bulk of paperwork in the government’s education department. Sherson implied that the use of computers during 1980s only meant to create the “daily administrative chores” in private and governmental offices or individual work. Which means, relatively the computer utilization still idle the advancement of technologies in the medium of instruction.

            Relevantly, the introduction of cyber-technology in the 1990s has skyrocketed effect on digital computer innovation, leading to competitive mass production of computer brands [like apple and Texas instrument to name a few] as well as innovating of Microsoft software and other electronic gadgets complementing the cyber-electronic equipment. As cited, American schools in the beginning of school year 1993-1994 has replaced the early model of Apple computers [phasing-in the technology use into larger investments] with the assumption of profitable returns (Rand 1999; in Sherson 1999: pp. 3-6).  However, Sherson found the changing technology trend has not yet measured and determined the variables and values of massive technology production in the educational system.

            The mid-1990s has made a breakthrough in defining the “impact” of computer technology, in which Sherson defined as “technological determinism”. According to Sherson, technological determinism has defined the significance of computers relating to primary schools that determined technology as essential to learning (Ryba 1991; in Sherson 1999: p. 7).

As indicated by Sherson’s earlier finding, the technological determinism addresses the remarkable evolution of computer technology, followed by the assertive educational system with “commercialized learning”. The expansive mode of computer technology to the present cyber-electronic media outfit of education has claimed to have improved the product-quality of software.

However, Sherson’s technological determinism may correlate the needs of teachers and primary school children to be provided with continuing and appropriate skills’ training on the use of computers and the cyber-electronics. In addition, the mass production of technology must relate the reliability, availability and lower costs. It may be deduced, the result of technological mass production may somehow contrast its functional use due high costs of software, hardware and trainings.

Although the understanding about technology has ripened by “determinants” [being essential to learning] yet many poor or developing countries are still in its “experimental” stage of integrating the technology in their educational system.  As cited, the beliefs of modern citizens in understanding technology have collectively in control of the development of society that is increasingly driven by technology (McCormick 1999; in Sherson 1999: p. 11).

            A report of Becta as a leading technology provider and publisher in the review of educational technologies has published the journal, entitled: ‘Harnessing Technology Review 2007: Progress and Impact of Technology in Education’.

            In Becta’s summary report, it indicated the direction of technology in education from national to local level. To cite, signs of progress has evidently demonstrated positive impact of technology and educational ‘e-maturity’ on a wide varieties of users and has clearly defined the results with delivered significant values (Becta 2007: pp. 1-2).

            Based on the review, the rapid implementation of technology and its performance evolves the information and communication technology (ICT) as an immediate resource of teachers’ lessons from primary to college. In a 2002 statistical data, more than 40% of teachers use “subject-specific-software” in their regular lesson preparation, while about 10% normally uses the Internet, and an estimated 5% is the yearly average growth rate of teachers relying from Internet sources (Becta 2007: pp. 3-4). Moreover, Becta’s review has described primary and secondary schools’ integrated achievements of “e-maturity model” that uphold responsiveness, focusing on educational organizations’ generation of effective and competent teachers.

            As cited from the statistical review of data, Becta has indicated the findings of improved learning experience and learning result between 2002 and 2006, such as (1) student satisfaction with learning rose from 50 to 99 percent, (2) substantial number of teachers from primary to college has managed their workloads from 50 to 81 percent, and (3) students has actively engaged their learning goals from 16 to 47 percent (Becta 2007: pp. 5-7). This review of Becta correlates the earlier finding of Sherson, and may confirm the technological determinism has been defined in the succeeding development and use of technology that draws impact to teachers, being utilized as a matured technology for primary and college educational levels.

Why needing technology in education?

            The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Policy Brief on Early Childhood, entitled: ‘Impact of Free Primary Education on Early Childhood Development in Kenya’, could be an interesting derivative to probing the question why needing technology in education.

            UNESCO’s policy briefer narrated that Free Primary Education (FPE) that has been implemented in Kenya on 2003 has provided primary education to 1.3 million children by abolishing tuition fees and added charges, in which rate of enrollment has increased from year 2002 of 86.8%  to year 2004 of 101.5% (UNESCO 2006).

In brief, FPE has substantially generated the free education for the poor children through UNESCO’s “early children development (ECD) program. In relation to the increasing number of school population in Kenya [as brought about by FPE] has indicated the technological needs of teachers to enable the quality standards of learning. Thus, computers and interactive information-communication-sharing has been considered. Although the policy briefer has limited emphasis on the teaching methods and learning components, it was clear that computers and cyber-technologies were required to expedite administrative action and interactions.

In similar development, the journal of Turkish Science Education has published the works of Bulent Cavas, Bahar Karaoglan and Pınar Cavas in 2004, entitled: ‘The Use of Information Communication Technologies in Primary Science Education: A New Teaching and Learning Approach’. Cavas et. al.’s statement of the problem in the conduct of the study addresses the Turkish Ministry of Health’s financing on technologies being used by primary and secondary schools, of which the funds were ineffective to adopt a technology that would objectively respond to the needs of the schools. Thus, a study envisions a “model” that would examine the situation and proposes concepts.

As cited, the result of research-study pointed out the proposal “to transfer the classroom learning activities to the student’s home” by using technological framework in response to the issues, such as (1) to minimize the consequences of restrictions posed by curriculum and classroom, and (2) to maximize the opportunities delivered by the new technology (Cavas et. al. 2004: pp. 2-5). Cavas et. al’s study model has described the need for the Turkish Ministry of Education to implement an information and communication technology-based (or ICT-based) curriculum that promotes the primary science course through a “science web site” where interactive lectures can be accessed from home. This proposed model also emphasizes distant learning of Turkish communities.

Advantages and disadvantages of technologies

            From the journal ‘Analyzing the Use of Interactive Technology to Implement Interactive Teaching’ published in 2007 by S. Kennewell, H. Tanner, S. Jones and G. Beauchamp, the issue on advantages and disadvantages of technologies has been determined and qualified according to applicability, familiarity, need and availability of required apparatus or devices that complements the usability of technologies.

            Based on the journal, the effectiveness and efficiency on the use of technology could be the basis to describe the advantages and disadvantages, and according to the “character of user”; meaning, the location, facility, technical know-how and effect to audience or participants. As discussed earlier in this paper, the computer without Internet connections or unavailability of Internet could only be useful [as an analog device] without the digital features of interpreting the data of information from the World Wide Web, referring to the interconnectivity to the Internet. Apparently, the disadvantages of obtaining information from the vastness of cyber space defeats the digital feature of the computer.

            However, given the minimal requirement on the “need” to accessing the World Wide Web, the analog system of the computer would be helpful in storing and making available the information or data that has been entered as programmed. This may be exemplified by the need of a teacher or a student to accessing the stored or inputted information to the computer, in which a printout would obtain or access the information.

Basically, computer [without Internet connectivity] would also be helpful for the basic training of students having “hands-on” to the system. Even without the internet, the advantage to “familiarize” the computer system would provide the basic operation. These advantages of familiarity to the basic computer operation would enable adaptability to the type of technology, specifically in the primary grades where motivational discovery or introduction to technologies is needed.

            With reference to the interactive whiteboards or IWB, Kennewell et. al. has similarly interpreted the advantages and disadvantages according to “character of user”. As briefly explained, the IWB also rely on the data or information stored in the computer. The conventional Microsoft office PowerPoint presentation [using a projector] resembles the digital concepts of IWB.

To cite, IWB is closely associated with a “teacher-centered” pedagogy, wherein related resources enables user to organize materials in advance or create spontaneously during class lectures.  Kennewell et.al described the advantages of IWB that has useful digital features, such as (1) flexibility and versatility, (2) multimedia and multisensory presentation, (3) saving and printing work, (4) efficiency in planning and saving lessons, (5) effective in teaching Information and Communication Technology or ICT, and (6) encourages interactivity and participation (Kennewell et.al 2007).

            Kennewell et.al concluded that the transformative value in familiarizing with and knowing about educational technologies serves both purposes of learning for teachers and students (pupil) in the primary schools. Knowing or acknowledging the advantages and disadvantages of technology entices the exploratory outlook of the user, especially in the early learning stage. It may be interesting to note that the analog computer has patterned the diversified learning process and development of learning values in the educational system. According to the journal, it is not only the analog or digital feature of the computer that has developed but the vision of interactive and multi-dimensional components of education, of which the framework for IWB features the character of users.

            As cited, Kennewell et.al summarized the essential features of IWB at a more advantageous consideration and perspectives, such as (1) the relationship between product and goals, (2) the role of the teacher, software designers and students provides potential structure for action, (3) shifting responsibility to organize the classroom and collaboration between teacher and students, (4) reflective and interactive actions of students during presentation or lecture, (5) developing teamwork and analytical thinking, and (6) enhances technical interactivity and overall motivation (Kennewell et.al 2007).

            In a study conducted by M. Grabe and K. Christopherson (2007) in their journal, ‘Optional Student Use of Online Lecture Resources: Resource Preferences, Performance and Lecture Attendance’, the students’ attitude towards class attendance and lectures has seen significant improvement correlating the use of educational technologies. Grabe and Christopherson implied that the aid of computer-manage learning environment impart resourcefulness and active participation of students in classroom lectures, examination and related academic activities. A regression method of research was used dating back on the review of findings from 1972 to 2007 has found significant dissimilarity to the present school interactions. Grabe and Christopherson perceived the large difference on the attitude of present day students is contributed by the transformative technological values.

            To cite, student accessibility to lectures using digital-media-presentations provides comprehensible results, wherein class presentations using computer or cyber-electronic technology validates the regression method that proves great improvement for 35 years [validating the data from 1972 to 2007], being consequential to contemporary interactive learning (Grabe & Christopherson 2007).

Conclusion

            The impact of technologies in primary school education is seen to have much felt in rich countries. The accessibility of children to computers, cyber-electronic media and most particularly the Internet may develop the elements of being dependent, interdependent and independent. On the other hand, what the educational system may need are competent skills and expertise of teachers that will mold the minds and characters of children.

            The utilization of educational technologies is expected to build the cornerstone of education, wherein the quality of education would earmark overall progress to the population. However, it may be perceived that educational system in poor countries is yet to achieve the tangible impact of new technologies. It may be observed that diversification of economy patterns the technological development and continuing innovation. This observation may be critical upon consideration of an educational system that usher the development of curriculum or academic instruction according to the trend of the labor market.

            On the contrary, it may be viewed that the emerging and rapidly changing technologies has likewise outlined the commercialized educational system. It may be said that the poor economies has opened its doors to Information Technology (IT) to absorb the overflowing glut of the labor market from thousands of graduates in social and medical sciences. Although IT complements in job generation [through Business Process Outsourcing or Call Center operation], the educational system may deviate the labor forces for a national industry that primarily engages economic production. What is pointing out by this deduction is the impact of technology in “seemingly” diversified educational systems that do not have the capability to equalize its “products” (or graduates) to the globally diversified labor markets and competing economies.

            It may be concluded, the impact of new technologies in primary school education may find relevance in the perspectives of the global economy. The early learning and capability training of primary schoolchildren being exposed and familiarized with the modern technologies would harness the literacy and cyber intelligence. Thus, the advocacy for educational reform and education for all could be challenging the impact of technologies in education.

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