What does the future of technology in education look like?
The future of educational technology is impossible to predict with accuracy due to the speed of revolutionary changes that have occurred during the last decades. The Internet Age has undoubtedly affected the field of education and nowadays technology is seen by the majority of teachers as a fundamental and positive step in education.
According to the findings of the Survey (2011) which was conducted in different European countries’ schools about the use of ICT in education, more than 70% of teachers are positively situated towards the role of ICT regarding teaching and learning. This implies that there is no longer the need to convince educators about the benefits of integrating technology in classroom in order to enhance the learning process. Instead, the challenge for teachers is to modify their teaching practices and effectively incorporate technology in a variety of activities. It is a fact that although most teachers are familiar with ICT, they still use it mainly to prepare their lessons.
I completely agree with the positive impact of educational technology and it is also my firm belief that we need to embrace technology. With its advent, existing educational practices have been challenged and transformed while new ones have emerged. However, it is a sad reality that due to funding cuts in education, not all schools and colleges can afford to buy the proper equipment. Such facts deter us from predicting our education future.
Although we cannot be sure about the future of technology in education, lack of digital literacy is one of the main issues that should be addressed in the near future. It is necessary for both teachers and students to become digitally educated, as they grow up in an increasingly changing world where technologies are present and new ones are constantly appearing. But, what does digital literacy mean? The term is commonly used when referring to the range of skills and knowledge that young people need to have in order to participate effectively and safely in a digital landscape (Hague and Williamson, 2009). However, digital literacy does not simply mean acquiring the ICT skills. Instead, “it requires the development of one’s knowledge about technology and media, the application of these tools and resources to subjects, and the understanding of the role of technology and media in the real world” (Hague and Williamson, 2009). It is a combination of three elements:
- Knowledge of digital tools
- Critical skills
- Social awareness
Digital literacy has some similarities with literacy, as it requires from individuals to be able to read and write digital texts, by navigating, for example, on a website through hyperlinks or writing to social networking systems by uploading photos or videos. However, the term does not only refer to the skills required to operate technological tools and media, but also to one’s awareness of how these affect the ways in which we communicate with others and gain knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is no longer stored exclusively in textbooks and encyclopedias, but is available for free on the web. Thus, it is necessary for learners and teachers to have the appropriate critical skills to evaluate the quality of information they are provided with.
Albion et al. (2015) highlighted teachers’ professional development and training as a cornerstone in the process of facilitating ICT in the educational field. Teachers are the driving force of the learning process and, as a result, they are expected within the digital landscape of 21st century to be educated and equipped with the appropriate skills and expertise that will enable them to feel confident and competent when using technology in the classroom. Besides, according to the findings of the Survey (2011), there is a positive relation between digitally confident teachers and students.
Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites (Facebook or Twitter), blogging, wikis, e-books, online games and other educational applications are used more and more in educational settings to support teaching and learning. A significant number of research has been conducted, showing their positive impact in the learning process and identifying the challenges or future implications of technology. Therefore, someone could predict that not only its use will increase in the future but also new technologies will appear replacing the existing ones. iBook is an application and a typical example of how technology can affect education and transform existing educational practices. It enables teachers to use a range of free and easily accessible online books instead of being limited to one printed book. Teachers have also the opportunity to create their own textbooks suited to their class and curriculum. Moreover, students are able to download their books, search for those they are interested in as well as edit and format them. In that way, learning becomes a personalized experience for students.
Social networking systems, such as Facebook or Twitter, are not largely used in educational settings. The number of research that has been conducted investigating the benefits of their application in education is limited (Ryan, Magro and Sharp, 2011). In my opinion, as I have already mentioned in my previous blog about Twitter, social networking systems could offer many possibilities and opportunities in the field of education, as students are already familiar and feel comfortable with their use. However, in classroom I am unsure about their effectiveness due to possible distractions they may cause, resulting in significant barriers in learning.
Based on my personal experience, the use of wikis in education looks promising. Wikis could be used at all educational levels, as they promote collaborative learning and knowledge-building by allowing students to generate their own learning content as well as edit, modify and update information.
Online learning is one of the most positive steps regarding the use of technology in education. Distance learning courses, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environments) have created new opportunities and possibilities by enabling learners all over the world to have access to educational materials and by providing them with flexible study opportunities. Distances are annihilated and learners can interact with others whose location is miles away and their cultural contexts are different. In contrast to traditional university online courses, MOOCs provide free or low cost courses, so as learners to be able to attend them and enrich their learning experience regardless of their economic background. MOOCs are considered “as a powerful tool to make fundamental changes in the organisation and delivery of higher education over the next decade” (Yuan and Powell, 2013). According to the findings of a recent survey conducted at Duke University, students were motivated to attend MOOCs courses by factors, such as personal and professional development, convenience, open access, experience and exploration of online learning, fun and enjoyment. Udacity, Coursera and EdX courses, for example, consist mainly of interactive materials, videos and quizzes, which appeal to students (Conole, 2013).
In addition, through virtual learning platforms, campus students or distance learners have access to online materials and resources uploaded by their tutors that support their course. Discussion forums also allow them to interact with other students, express and share their opinions and create online communities where knowledge is built in a chain of questions and answers. It is possible in the future, platforms, such as Ublend, to be used more in education, as they are more effective in enabling communication and interactions between students and instructors due to their features. Using Ublend during my modules in the first term, I realized that it is more efficient compared to virtual learning platforms, such as ELE, since Ublend is more accessible and easier regarding posting, reading and commenting. Undoubtedly, this kind of platforms can enhance students’ learning experience.
In the Internet Age, distances are eliminated and people from all over the world are connected through wireless networks, while physical presence becomes less important. “We are experiencing a transition from place-to-place to person-to-person connections” (Wellman, 2002) which seems to have a positive impact in education, as it enables new forms of communication and offers opportunities both for collaboration and for sharing experiences.
Albion, P., Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A. and Peeraer, J. (2015). Teachers’ professional development for ICT integration: Towards a reciprocal relationship between research and practice. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), pp.655-673.
Conole, G. (2013). MOOCs as disruptive technologies: strategies for enhancing the learner experience and quality of MOOCs. [online]. Available at: http://www.um.es/ead/red/39/conole.pdf [Accessed: 31st March 2017].
Hague, C. and Williamson, B. (2009). Digital participation, digital literacy and school subject: A review of the policies, literature and evidence [online]. Available at: https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/FUTL08/FUTL08.pdf [Accessed: 1st April 2017].
Ryan, S.D. Magro, M.J. and Sharp, J.H. (2011). Exploring educational and cultural adaptation through social networking sites. Journal of Information Technology Education, 10, pp.1-16.
Wastiau, P. et al. (2013). The Use of ICT in Education: A survey of schools in Europe. European Journal of Education. Available at: https://orbi.ulg.ac.be/bitstream/2268/167401/1/article%20de%20EJE.pdf [Accessed:15th March 2017].
Wellman, B. (2002). Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism [online]. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1dff/e739aa0912c7f3d15b5fbd20373b4ff60c00.pdf [Accessed:3rd April 2017].
Yuan, L. and Powell, C. (2013). MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education. [online]. Available at: http://publications.cetis.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MOOCs-and-Open-Education.pdf [Accessed: 31st March 2017]