Educational Technology Integration: Accessibility and Barriers

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Different literatures were studied to define and to justify the importance of the different keywords as they relate to the study as well as to have a good background on the body of knowledge. This surely will be beneficial to the understanding of the essence of ICT tools in Education as they are simply referred as Educational Technology Tools.

Technology is becoming an increasingly influential factor in education. The use of computers and mobile phones as complements to educational practices are very up-to-date development in the area as we are talking about online education. The explosion of computer use in different economic areas brought about the ICT dimension in almost everything we do these days. The demand of new skills and understanding of students and Educators are imposing itself as a reality, also the environment in which teaching and learning is taking place is under constant change as well as the instruction of the students. It is important to note that, in order to set the context, generally speaking, there is no one accepted definition of what constitutes technology.

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Technology is the word associated with anything that aims to facilitate the human life through change. Ursula Franklin, in her 1989 "Real World of Technology" lectures: defines technology as a "practice, the way we do things around here". The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a definition of the term as: "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area" and "a capability given by the practical application of knowledge".

2.2 Education, Teaching and Learning Process

Education from the Webster's 1828 Dictionary read as follows: The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

Education is a concept in which Instruction, Teaching and Learning are major pillars:

Instruction refers to the facilitating of learning toward identified objectives, delivered either by an instructor or other forms.

Teaching refers to the actions of a real live instructor designed to impart learning to the student.

Learning refers to learning with a view toward preparing learners with specific knowledge, skills, or abilities that can be applied immediately upon completion.

For, education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another. However there has always been a discussion on the matter of assuring continuity of passing on knowledge and a matter of fostering creativity, which propels the learners to the world of unknowns and forces the coming out of it with innovation and ingenuity. Both of these functions relate equally to knowledge and attitudes, to understanding and behaviour. They are the essence of the teaching/learning process. We want creativity, but we want it to emerge from what is known and understood. We want continuity and that too from what is known and understood.

Learning environments in schools typically involve one or more adult teachers connected with a number of students, usually in well defined physical settings. Physically it may be in a room, full of particular furniture and equipment. The place of computers in learning for the majority of children is most likely to occur in the classroom and, for an increasing number, at home. However, most experts in the field of educational computing would characterise computers as interactive and thus admit them a place within the relationship structures of the classroom learning environment, not just the physical environment.

The curriculum is concerned with

What is learned and taught: includes objectives, content, and learning outcomes (the knowledge, skills and attitudes that students are intended to demonstrate).

How this learning and teaching occurs: concerns teaching/learning methodology, teaching strategies and media resources.

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Most teaching/learning methods and strategies involve the use of some equipment. Some teaching methods may only include the use of a blackboard and chalk while others may make use of a television or overhead projector. This equipment and its use within the curriculum are often referred to as educational technology.

2.3 Educational Technology and ICT

Educational technology concerns the technology that is used to facilitate the teaching/learning process. As such it is included in the how part of the curriculum. We could consider educational technology as the tools of the teaching trade, part of the medium used to convey the curriculum. Thus the technology used is determined by the intended curriculum. Also part of the context of the curriculum concerns the role of the teacher, the physical setting and the general pedagogical views of the teacher and education system. These are likely to affect the technology used and may involve the use of computers.

Technology can be seen to be affecting the curriculum both in terms of content and methodology, there are a number of instances where the curriculum has been changed due to changes in technology, invention of new technology has added content to the curriculum (e.g. technology based on electricity) or new technology has made parts of the content obsolete (e.g. using calculators instead of logarithms for calculation).

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a "diverse set of tools and resources used to communicate, create, disseminate, store, and manage information." These technologies include computers, the Internet, broadcasting technologies (radio and television), and telephony. Nowadays there is an increasing interest in how computers and the Internet can improve education at all levels. Older ICT technologies, such as radio and television, have for over forty years been used for open and distance learning. There is a variety of terminology that describes the ways computers are integrated into the learning process and in the classroom: technology-mediated learning, computer-aided instruction, distance education, distance learning, educational technology, home learning technologies, computer-based education, instructional technology, multimedia, communications systems, Web-based learning, educational multimedia applications, and computer-mediated communication etc are just a sample of those. This variability in terminology is not a matter of disagreement among researchers, but simply implies that technology is a word that is used to describe different things to different people. Technology is a term that is used by many to describe, study, and evaluate the various ways computers are integrated into education, both inside and outside the classrooms.

2.4 Integrating Technology in Teaching

Moreover, there is no consensus about what constitutes technology in learning or teaching. However, the common link tends to be some use of the personal computer to aid teaching or learning in some form or fashion. These technologies run the continuum of integration in education from entire courses put on the Web to technology integrated into a specific lesson. Though most research studies focus on computer-based technology, there are other teaching and learning technologies that are not computer-based. These can include overhead projectors, document cameras, laser pointers, robotics, television, VCR, DVD, demonstration equipment, sound systems, CDs, tape recordings, simulation machines, and models. Some researchers even consider the traditional piece of chalk and chalkboard a type of technology.

Many educators have argued that the appropriate use of ICT by students can assist teachers in determining and catering for the prior knowledge of students. Further, it is usually also argued that ICT can assist students in engaging cognitively to a greater depth with knowledge domains. That is students are supported in employing the full range of thinking skills within authentic contexts. This is often discussed in terms of cognitive taxonomies such as that provided by Bloom (1964).

Knowledge The learner must recall information (i.e. bring to mind the appropriate material).

Comprehension The learner understands what is being communicated by making use of the communication.

Application The learner uses abstractions (e.g. ideas) in particular and concrete situations.

Analysis The learner can break down a communication into its constituent elements or parts.

Synthesis The learner puts together elements or parts to form a whole.

Evaluation The learner makes judgments about the value of material or methods for a given purpose.

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Generally speaking, there is an assumption that technology fosters learning merely by its use in the educational process. Ehrmann (1999) sums up this assumption very nicely: Technologies such as computers (or pencils) don't have predetermined impacts; it's their uses that influence outcomes. This statement seems obvious, but many institutions act as though the mere presence of technology will improve learning. They use computers to teach the same things in the same ways as before, yet they expect learning outcomes to be better. (p. 32)

In his essay, Clark (1983) said succinctly: "…media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition" (p. 445).

"if learning occurs as a result of exposure to any media, the learning is caused by the instructional method embedded in the media presentation. (p. 26)

Further, he posited that different types of media could be substituted for each other, because media are not responsible for any learning that might take place. Media are not the causal agents in the learning process; rather, instructional method is the active ingredient or catalyst that causes learning to take place. In contrast to Clark's argument, Kozma (1994) believed that the more appropriate question was not whether media do influence learning, but will they influence learning. He also contended that simply because we have not established a relationship between media and learning does not mean that one does not exist. He believed that, since we do not fully understand the relationship between media and learning, we have yet to measure it, and the failure to establish this relationship is caused in part by our theories of learning, or more specifically, behaviourism, with its basic assumption that a stimulus causes a response. Therefore, if the stimulus is not present, there is no possibility for response. Kozma (1994) explained that in Clark's view media are simply "mere vehicles" or conduits for an instructional method (stimulus) that elicit a response (learning). Kozma argues that learning is a much more complex process than just a series of stimulus-response connections. Learning, in his view, is defined as "an active, constructive, cognitive and social process by which the learner strategically manages available cognitive, physical and social resources to create new knowledge by interacting with information in the environment and integrating it with information already stored in memory" (p.8). Thus, in Kozma's view, since the definition learning has evolved to embody more of a constructive process, our measurement of this process must evolve as well.

Still others have argued for a complete reframing of the debate over technology and its effect on learning. Jonassen, Campbell, and Davidson (1994) believed that the Clark/Kozma debates focused too much on instruction and media and not enough on the attributes of the learner who ultimately constructs the knowledge.

With all the various opinions on the relationship between technology and learning, it begs the question: who is right? It appears that each theorist brings an important perspective to the table. Clark is correct that technology has not necessarily revolutionized the process of learning.

Technology has not helped humans develop a new way to learn. Learning is still something that is performed by the individual. However, in Clark's view, all an instructor would need to do is embed the appropriate instructional method into his/her lesson and learning should take place.

We know, however, despite many instructors' best efforts and superior teaching abilities, learning does not always take place. Kozma is also correct that we must examine technology and learning beyond a behaviourist context. Learning is an intentional act (Jonnasen, 1994) and the human being doing the learning should not be discounted. Researchers have established that there is no significant difference between learning with technology in distance education courses and learning in a traditional classroom, but they do not discuss how human motivation is influenced by technology. This could be a very important missing element in the debate.

Which side you take in this debate depends largely upon how you define learning. If you subscribe to more behaviourist views of learning, Clark will make more sense to you. If you conceive of learning as a more cognitive or constructivist process, you would be more likely to agree with Kozma or Jonnasen.

From a pedagogical approach, Information-processing theories emerged from a branch of cognitive psychology that focused on the memory and storage processes that enable learning. Theorist in this area explores how a person receives information and stores it in memory. The structure of memory that allows the learning of something new, relate to and is built on something learned previously and also how a learner retrieves information from short-term and long-term memory and applies it to new situations. The well-known information-processing theorist, David Ausubel, proposed that the way a learner receives and stores information affects the usefulness of the information, for example, by transferring current learning to learning other skills.

On the other hand, the model of the behaviourist B.F. Skinner, infers that part of the Educator's job is to modify the behaviour of students through positive reinforcement, thus under laying behaviour modification techniques in classroom management and programmed instruction. To this we may say that, the stimulus-response interaction between student and technology can be introduced through computers so as to aid instruction, by providing drills and practices on previously learned skills, from practice and tutorial software.

The cognitive constructivist, Jean Piaget's theory has two major parts: one component that predicts what children can and cannot understand at different ages, and a theory of development that describes how children develop cognitive abilities. The key implications to these are: First, learning is an active process where direct experience, making errors, and looking for solutions is vital for the assimilation and accommodation of information. The presentation of information is important, when it is introduced as an aid to problem solving. It functions as a tool rather than an isolated arbitrary fact. Second, learning should be whole, authentic, and "real." Thus, in a Piagetian classroom there is less emphasis on directly teaching specific skills and more emphasis is laid on learning in a meaningful context. Technology, particularly multimedia, offers a vast array of such opportunities, with the support of educational software on videodisks and CD-ROMs, Educators can provide a learning environment that helps to expand the conceptual and experiential background of the audience.

The social constructivist, L. S. Vygotsky's theory has much more room for an active and involved Educator. He claimed that the central point of his psychological approach is mediation. Through mediation human cognitive growth and learning as peers and other members of his community engages in relationships with the material and social environment. Thus the use of technology can be used to connect students to each other via email, forum, newsgroups etc.

Now, from here, which approach to choose? Which is best suited to enhance learning? What hardware or software to use? There is no right or wrong answers to these questions, acquiring hardware and software packages will partly resolve the problem. It is up to the Educator, who knows the lesson objectives, the expected results and the students, to choose which approach to use and what technology should accompany the approach. However the determination of the technology's worthiness for a given lesson could be answered by the following questions:

Is the lesson content worthwhile? (Are there clear objectives, connected to standards or significant questions, etc?)

Do the lesson activities engage students?

How does technology enhance the lesson in ways that would not be possible without it?

Educators should then look for the best means to facilitate a diversity of learning styles, and need to be competent observers of the social milieu in which learners interact as well as knowledgeable about the content to which they wish to expose learners. Hence, educators' development is absolutely essential if technology provided to schools is to be used effectively. Simply by placing computers in schools, providing internet facilities, spending on IT hardware and software, without financing the educator professional development as well, is wasteful. Educators' training of the use and application of technology is the key determining factor to improve student performance for both knowledge acquisition and skills development enabled by technology.

Information technology professionals have an axiom that "an unsupported technology is an unused technology." In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "When Good Technology Means Bad Teaching," Jeffrey Young made the case that a poorly supported technology is actually worse than no technology at all. He argued that giving teachers technology without training has often done more harm than good to teaching and learning. This is undoubtedly true. At the teacher level without proper training and support the educators are faced with:

the fear of embarrassment in front of pupils and colleagues, loss of status and an effective degrading of professional skills (Russell & Bradley 1997)

classroom management difficulties when using ICT, especially where pupil-to-computer ratios are poor (Drenoyianni & Selwood 1998; Cox et al. 1999)

lack of the knowledge necessary to enable teachers to resolve technical problems when they occur (VanFossen 1999)

Educational technology is not, and never will be, transformative on its own; it requires educators who can integrate technology into the curriculum and use it to improve student learning. In other words, computers can not replace educators, as they are the key to whether technology is being used appropriately and effectively. They need to understand a subject enough to convey its essence to students. While traditionally this has involved lecturing on the part, new instructional strategies put the educator more into the role of course designer, discussion facilitator, and coach and the student more into the role of active learner, discovering the subject of the course.

Even if students could learn independently with little or no involvement from their teachers on how to use technology to enhance their learning and skills development, they are highly unlikely to have those opportunities if educators do not let them have access to the technology. The term "computer-assisted learning" (CAL) has been increasingly used to describe the use of technology in teaching. Educators also need professional development in the pedagogical application of those skills to improve teaching and learning. They should be empowered to develop their knowledge and skills actively and experientially, in a variety of learning environments, both individual and collaborative. This, include a variety of learning strategies, encompassing direct instruction, deduction, discussion, drill and practice, deduction, induction, and sharing. Thus emphasis in the courses should be on the ways technology can facilitate and enhance his profession lives.

Educators' preparation programs are essential and as described by Kook (1997) it is "the crucial issue to be addressed" (p.58). The teacher of the future will depend on the computer for both personal productivity and for instructional activities. Kook lists thirty-three primary computer skills for teachers, ranging from navigating the Windows desktop environment, to using IRC chat, to installing software. Kook suggests that these skills should be part of the required courses for prospective teachers and insists that in the next century "teacher education will be forced to accommodate a considerable amount of transformation to allow teachers to function effectively in the Information Age" (p.59).

Computer technology cannot be effective in the classroom without teachers who are knowledgeable about both the technology itself and about how to use it to meet educational goals. The most common barrier to adequate training is the expense involved. Without training, however, other technology spending has a marginal effect (Boyd, 1997).

Learning to operate computer hardware, growing comfortable with many different software applications, developing management systems for student computer use, and redesigning lesson plans to make use of technology, takes a great deal of time. When combined with frustrating hardware glitches and software bugs, the task can become daunting for even the most determined. Often, what stops people is one little thing that they didn't know how to do. If you have a room full of kids when something goes wrong, it discourages you from trying it again (Zehr, 1997, p.3).

Leading to the question why school teachers don't use, and sometimes resist, the use of computers? Hannafin and Savenye (1993) list some research-based possible explanations for teacher resistance to using computers. These reasons include: poorly designed software, doubt that computers improve learning outcomes, resentment of the computer as a competitor for student's attention, unsupportive administrators, increased time and effort required of the teacher, fear of losing control of "center stage," and fear of "looking stupid." in front of the class.

Viewing the teacher's role as a continuum, Hannafin and Savenye (1993) also put the role of traditional lecturer and imparter of knowledge at one end and the role of coach, observer, and facilitator at the other end. They then generalize that the traditional end of the continuum embraces an objectivist learning theory while the other end is likely to embrace constructivism. The teacher's view of learning, then, could be another source of resistance to classroom technology. A teacher may be open to technology but resist the accompanying change in learning theory. This would suggest that in addition to providing training in technology, schools and districts need to provide information, training, encouragement, and support to teachers in moving toward a more constructivist view of education. The management should champion the change, policies has to be adopted as from the management level down to the students, everybody contributing and accompanying the reform for it to be successful and to be able to take out the maximum benefit. This issue is addressed with difficulty, because "Principals, on average, are 50 years old. We've got a generation of people who are actually barriers to the infusion of technology in school systems and are afraid of it themselves" (Quoted in Trotter, 1997, p.1).

It has "become clear over the past decade that simple motivational and short-workshop schemes are vastly insufficient to enable veteran (and even new, computer-generation) teachers to teach differently, and to teach well with technologies" (Hawkins and Honey, 1993).

The evidence suggested that teachers who use technology in their classrooms are more effective if they have received training, if they have district-level support and if they have a network of other computer-using teachers to share experiences with.

Swan and Mitrani state that "computers can change the nature of teaching and learning at its most basic level" (1993). We need to ensure that we are using our current knowledge about the application of technology in education as a basis for proceeding in the future.

The management has also its part in the integration of the the educational technology in the school. Policies and support programs must be initiated from the top management and they must be part of and accompany the change. The most important barrier to this integration is the financial barriers. They include the cost of hardware, software, maintenance (particular of the most advanced equipment), and extend to some staff development. Froke (1994b) said, "concerning the money, the challenge was unique because of the nature of the technology." The initial investment in hardware is high but the costs of technology have to part of the cost of instruction. The integration reveals the institutional support through leadership, planning and the involvement of teachers as well as managers in implementing change.