Uses of Computers in Education

By Edward Mercer

Computers are powerful tools for multimedia instruction.
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In an increasingly technological society, computers pervade many aspects of our culture and daily lives. In the case of education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 97 percent of U.S. teachers had a computer in the classroom every day in 2009, evidence of the rapid transformation of education through computer technology. While educators use computers differently in their classrooms, the devices provide a number of educational opportunities, including uses in curricular development, research, record-keeping, computer literacy training, data processing and presentation.

Computer-Based Instruction

Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) refers to any teaching methodology that uses computers as a key element of information transmission. Computers, for example, can be used to present content and lesson plans to students in more engaging multimedia formats or used in test-taking to simplify grading and evaluation. CBI is especially useful in high-enrollment classes and in special needs groups that bring together students with varying mental, physical and behavioral competencies, because computer applications can be adjusted to different learning styles and paces when the instructor is unable to provide individual attention to each student.

Research and Communication

Of the computers located in classrooms, the NCES found that 93 percent had access to the Internet, turning each computer into a powerful research station with access to global information. Students can use computers to compile information and access reference materials, enriching the content presented in the classroom and facilitating student access to information. Internet connections also provide a quick communication method through email, message boards and chat programs, allowing teachers to communicate with students and parents or for students to communicate with each other during group projects.

Data Processing and Presentation

Even without an Internet connection, a computer's processing power helps students quickly organize data in spreadsheets or databases and perform calculations and basic data-modeling. Moving data to visual presentation formats, students can also prepare digital presentations for instructors and fellow classmates. Teachers can make use of the same programs for curricular development or to store and organize information about grades, participation and attendance. Unlike paper formats, digital files are easier to edit and transfer, streamlining communication between teachers, students and parents and saving time when teachers update their classroom materials.

Computer Literacy Education

Beyond the contributions computers make to the traditional curriculum -- making history lessons more engaging or grammar instruction more personalized -- learning how to use and manipulate computer applications is a goal of educational computing in itself. With a world and job market that increasingly demands computer skills, students who learn to use the devices from an early age are at a marked personal and professional advantage. In fact, developing countries like Pakistan have ambitious computer distribution programs for students designed to build computer literacy and democratize computer access.