What Is the Effect of Computer Technology in Education?
By Nicholas Delzotto
In a classroom full of students texting away on their smartphones, the effects of computer technology can be readily observed. Vast amounts of information are now literally at students fingertips. Instructors make use of digital multimedia tools to illuminate their lessons. Some classrooms are managed online and some take place entirely on the Web making it possible for the geographically-isolated and the underprivileged to connect to broader learning communities. Virtually every aspect of education is affected by computer technology.
The Answer is a Click Away
The way students search for information has been drastically impacted by computer technology. Instead of a trip to the library, students go online to access vast amounts of information. Large digital collections, such as Project Gutenberg (link in Resources) which hosts over 40,000 ebooks, and reliable online references such as Encyclopedia Britannica (link in Resources) provide students with searchable text, engaging multimedia and interactive content. Rather than relay information, the instructor's new role is to facilitate more inquiry and encourage students to develop the skills to find the answers by themselves.
Teachers making use of computer technology have more ways than ever to engage their students. PowerPoint presentations with rich multimedia such as graphics, videos and animations appeal to the visual learners in the classrooms. Multi-touch smart-boards, such as the SMART Board 800i interactive whiteboard system (Link in Resources), go further by getting the students involved. Whether it be an elementary school student matching animals to their natural habitats or a chemistry student assembling molecules with her fingers, smart-boards add a kinesthetic dimension to the learning experience. All of this equates to an increase in motivation and interest that drive students to want to learn more.
Taking Class Online
Computer technology has brought many components of class management online. Through Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard (link in Resources) and the open-source Moodle (link in Resources), students enroll for classes, access important documents and take online quizzes. Discussion takes place in forums and wikis and instructors send feedback and grades all in a virtual space. According to SEO.com, in 2011 more than 6 million students were taking at least one class online with an enrollment rate far exceeding brick-and-mortar institutions. Online schools make it possible for non-traditional students such as a working adult or a parent taking care of a child to earn a degree from an accredited online school despite their busy schedules.
Bridging The Gap
Computer technology also affects geographically isolated and underprivileged students. Schools in rural areas, such as those in the state of Alaska, attend "blended classes," a hybrid of online and face-to-face instruction to connect to other learning communities. Children in India are closing the digital divide thanks to the American India Foundation's Digital Equalizer which helps students develop computer skills that promote social mobility in a a caste system.
The effects of computer technology on education are not all beneficial. Students who text in class sometimes have difficulty staying focused and may ultimately learn less. Additionally, computers have limitations in the fundamental way humans communicate and cannot handle unexpected problems in the same way as a teacher, therefore classrooms which depend too heavily on computers can run into issues with these problems. Moreover, some studies have shown that computer technology in the classroom may not even have an effect on students test scores in subjects such as reading and math, raising the question if the technology is worth the financial cost.
Nicholas Delzotto has been working in the field of educational technology for more than 10 years. He has developed various course-management systems and online portfolios, helping faculty and students use technology to enhance their academic lives. Delzotto holds a master's degree in teaching English as a second language.