Contemporary education is characterized by several important trends that influence the practices of many teachers, and one of them is the increased use of information technologies for instructional purposes in schools and colleges. This essay is aimed at discussing the main goals of this approach, its current usage, major peculiarities, and benefits in more detail. Although, one cannot say that this is an entirely new trend because educators began to use technologies, especially computers more than two decades ago; however, its impacts on students’ learning are still worth examining. Furthermore, it is important to understand how these tools can best support learning and teaching activities. This educational trend can be traced to such educational philosophy as experimentalism which emphasizes the idea that an individual should be able to acquire new skills and knowledge independently. These are some of the main questions that should be examined in this paper.
The purpose of using information technologies
Overall, the development of technologies “dramatically improved the dissemination of information”, and educators realized that they could offer many opportunities to students and teachers (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 18). The use of information technology has to achieve several objectives. According to Chandra (2002), the most important purpose is to foster the learning activities of students and improve their acquisition of knowledge and skills. To a great extent, they should support independent studies and make them more engaging. They should know how to pursue education in informal settings. Moreover, information technologies can significantly improve the instructional activities of teachers who should be able to use various methods in the classroom (Khosrow-Pour, 2006). In this case, close attention should be paid to “the presentation of materials, development of exercises, testing, and giving feedback to a learner” (Khosrow-Pour, 2006, p. 516). However, the increased use of information technologies also has to “facilitate the dissemination of information and students’ teamwork” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 33). In other words, these tools should lead to the better organization of students’ work (Khosrow-Pour, 2006). These are the main rationales for the wide adoption of technologies in different educational organizations. This tendency has become particularly important when students can learn only in an online environment without meeting instructors in person. To a great extent, the adoption of technology has produced beneficial impacts on the instructional strategies of many teachers (Volante, 2012).
Various uses of technologies
It is possible to say that information technologies can be used by teachers and students in different ways. First of all, they are adopted for the development of exercises that are designed to “test learners’ progress and help them acquire new skills” (Volante, 2012, p. 97). For instance, there are numerous “online quizzes and tests that students can be asked to complete during or after classes” (Volante, 2012, p. 97). This form of assessment can benefit both educators and learners. Additionally, information technologies support the presentation of material during classes. With their help, educators can better “introduce and explain new topics or concepts” (Volante, 2012, p. 97). Modern teachers can also use Internet resources or files during lectures to make his/her explanations more interesting. Additionally, they are used to create new learning environments that could not exist at the beginning or in the middle of the twentieth century. For instance, one can speak about distance education. It is particularly suitable for the needs of people who cannot attend classes in person (Simonson & Schlosser, 2008). Apart from that, the use of information technologies has changed the relationships between students and teachers who can often interact without face-to-face contact by using email (Volante, 2012). These are how information technologies are currently used by educators and learners. One can say that they have made the educational process much more dynamic and productive. Moreover, due to this tendency, instructional methods became more elaborated because teachers have to find ways of incorporating technologies in classroom activities. It is quite possible that in the future, teachers will find new applications to these tools that offer many benefits to many stakeholders.
The pioneers of computer-assisted instruction
It is very difficult to identify a single educator who should be credited for the adoption of information technologies (Chandra, 2003). One should bear in mind that researchers continuously improve their techniques and models which rely on the use of multi-media devices and it is difficult to determine the first pioneer of this approach. This is one of the issues that should be kept in mind. It should be noted that “the early adoption of computers for education was advocated by private companies such as Apple or Microsoft” (Chandra, 2003, p. 265). To a great extent, this trend was motivated by “commercial activities of businesses that wanted to promote their products” (Chandra, 2003, p. 265). However, one should not disregard the role of important theorists. Among them, one can distinguish Michael Simonson and Charles Schlosser, who were early proponents of distance education and computer-assisted instruction. Yet, one can argue that many scholars advocated the use of information technologies and developed instructional models that can be applied by teachers. Currently, the application of technologies for instructional purposes is one of the most important issues in modern educational theory (Volante, 2012). This question is examined in theoretical works and empirical studies, which are aimed at identifying the best models and practices that best fit the needs of diverse learners.
Overall, the increased emphasis on technology brings several benefits to teachers and students. First of all, this approach gives students more autonomy and wider opportunities for independent learning. For instance, they can access learning materials such as lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, and other handouts that can help them get a better understanding of the material (Notterman & Drewry, 1993). Furthermore, the use of multi-media is beneficial because, in this way, teachers can meet the needs of students with different learning styles (Volante, 2012). Some of them can rely on visual aids while others prefer to communicate with the teacher and discuss the most complicated questions. By adopting multi-media technologies, teachers enhance the learning experiences of students some of whom can have disabilities (Notterman & Drewry, 1993). This is another benefit that one should not overlook when speaking about these tools. Apart from that, these technologies enable students to test their knowledge and progress. With the help of online tests and quizzes, they can evaluate their performance without the assistance of a teacher (Chandra, 2003). As it has been said before, online technologies can support independent studies of learners, who can do readings and exercises. Thus, learners can become more autonomous due to the development of information technologies. This is another point that one can make. However, this model is of great use to teachers as well. In particular, they can design new exercises for learners and these tasks can be more engaging (Volante, 2012). By relying on computers, educators can better explain new topics or ideas more clearly. Finally, teachers can foster cooperative projects that can involve individuals, living in different locations. These are some of the main improvements that this approach can bring to different stakeholders.
The main characteristics
This trend has several important characteristics; first of all, it reflects the principles of education philosophy called experimentalism which is very popular among many teachers and scholars. This philosophy implies that the “world is an ever-changing place”, and an individual should continuously acquire new knowledge and skills (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 44). According to the principles of this philosophy, “teachers should continuously improve their instructional techniques and assessment methods” to meet the needs of students (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 44). This is an important principle of experimentalism. Additionally, this philosophy implies that students should be involved in “independent learning and discovery of knowledge without help offered by educators” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 44; Notterman & Drewry, 1993). To a great extent, this philosophy supports the idea of life-long learning (Notterman & Drewry, 1993). The goal postulated by the supporters of experimentalism can be best achieved if students have access to information technologies and various sources of information. Moreover, teachers should be able to incorporate multi-media technologies into classroom activities (Chandra, 2003). These are the main principles, underlying the use of technologies in the classroom. One should focus on the different characteristics of this model. First of all, one should speak about multi-media presentation of information (Volante, 2012). This educational environment can be of great use to visual and auditory learners. Additionally, during lessons, teachers and students have access to various sources of information, apart from the textbook. For instance, they can use educational videos, pictures, or diagrams from the Internet. Having these opportunities, teachers can also use various instructional methods. This is another peculiarity that should not be overlooked. On the whole, the wide adoption of technologies in the classroom sets new standards for teachers, who should have experience in various fields of instructional design. The inability of many teachers to change their instructional methods often results in the slow adoption of multimedia technologies (Notterman & Drewry, 1993). Apart from that, one should not assume that computer-aided instruction can diminish the role of teachers who should facilitate the activities of students and support their group work. More likely, these professionals have to acquire new skills to become effective (Volante, 2012). These are the main challenges that educators should take into consideration.
These examples show that information technologies enjoy significant popularity among students and teachers. Their use is advocated by many scholars who think that in this way, the interaction between educators and learners can be made more productive. However, one should bear in mind that this model can yield expected results if educators can skillfully combine new technologies with conventional instructional methods. Provided that these issues are properly addressed by teachers, their work will be much more productive. Likely, the role of technology-aided instruction will only increase in the future.
Chandra, R. (2003). Information technology. Delhi: Gyan Publishing House.
Khosrow-Pour, M. (2006). Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management. Boston: Idea Group Inc.
Notterman, J. & Drewry, H. (2003). Psychology and education: parallel and interactive approaches. Ann Arbor: Plenum Press.
Simonson, M. & Schlosser, C. (2008). Quarterly Review of Distance Education: Research That Guides Practice. New York: IAP.
Volante, L. (2012). School Leadership in the Context of Standards-Based Reform: International Perspectives. New York: Springer.
Wiles, J. & Bondi, J. (2007). Curriculum Development: A Guide to Practice. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.