By Dr Geoff Wilmshurst.
The goal of any learning experience must be to provide the learner, whether a child or an adult, with the tools for independent exploration and access to knowledge that is of value to them, both in the present and the future. That technology, including computers and other electronic devices, can be used to develop and enhance these skills and processes is not a new idea, but how best to achieve this is still in flux. It is important that educators, particularly administrators, are neither technophobes nor zealots. Effective educational technology application is a rapidly developing field and everybody is learning. It is important to experiment with these new technologies and ‘push the envelope’, but to do so with sound educational pedagogies and use technology as a means of extending the core learning of our students. Technology does not replace pedagogy, although it can be a significant part of it.
Technology has become universally accepted as a necessary resource, however it is important to ensure that the infrastructure to support its continued maintenance and effective use long term keeps pace. Particularly in educational settings such as schools, including special schools, it is important that when technology is used, it is used in an optimal manner. We must remember that each person has a unique learning curve with respect to technology. This is important when considering both how to use it, and what value it has for the learner.
Technology in the curriculum must be critically evaluated, not uncritically embraced. Technology can be a great vehicle for instruction, curricular access and accommodation but to achieve this it must be embedded in the curriculum and not viewed as merely an adjunct to teaching and learning activities. We must remember that technology, no matter how sophisticated, does not and should not replace sound pedagogy. Rather, for technologically and pedagogically literate classrooms and schools it should seamlessly enhance and extend learning for the benefit of both the students and the teachers, and reflect the school as a place of quality learning.
Educators need to reflect on a view from the past, expressed by Merbler, Hadadian and Ulman in 1999, when they stated that,
“Technology should be viewed as a tool much like a pencil or pad of paper. Also students (and Teachers) should be encouraged to use these technology tools across all learning and discovery activities within and outside the classroom.”
Technology will always be supported and moved forward by individuals with a vision and enthusiasm. However, it is critical that this vision, when associated with learning in schools, is underpinned by educational rather than political imperatives and that the primary stakeholders, in this case the educators and students, have the major input into the process of engagement.
Electronic technologies when used by educators, irrespective of their teaching and learning locations, whether in a mainstream or special education setting, should be used to address the individual learning needs of students across all environments, including home, school, the community and the workplace. Electronic technologies are tools that allow the skilled educator to enrich the teaching and learning continuum. The effective use of technology should focus on an individual’s educational needs and should consider possible employment, thereby developing the learner’s competency in using technology for facilitating and enhancing their individual learning competencies and skills across settings and environments. As each person has a unique learning curve with respect to technology it is important to provide structured learning opportunities for development at individual rates if learning is to be maximised.
New technologies can be used to enhance the learning of a student; that is not in dispute. However, it must be stressed that it is not the technology that is innovative, rather, it is the way in which it is and can be used by teachers and students to enhance and develop learning that is most important.
A list of references are available from the editorial department.
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