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In contemporary society, science and technology are developing continuously and rapidly. In particular, computer technology, communication technology and network technology actively engage in every area of social life. Information and communication technologies (ICT) on the basis of multimedia and network communication have exercised an extensive and profound impact on teaching and learning of human society. In fact, teaching and learning is a process of information transmission and reception. The continuation of human civilization, knowledge transmission, and cultural exchange, without exception, largely depend upon the information dissemination. Thus, the development of ICT has been regarded as a major driving force to promote the education transformation.
This essay aims to examine how ICT are being used to transform teaching and learning. And it mainly discusses two aspects: first, this essay investigates the actual situation of the application of ICT in higher education. Second, it examines the role of ICT in lifelong learning.
Teaching and learning with ICT
Reviewing the development process of human society, every innovation of technology has greatly increased the number of educated people and has contributed to extending education from a few elites as in the past to the general public. The advancement of technology, to a certain degree, has improved the overall quality of human beings and thus effectively promoted transformation in society. Such as the emergences of telegraph, telephone, radio, television providing people with more communication channels and information sources change their style of living and studying. ICT, which are represented by Internet, has brought many potential benefits to teaching and learning: since the dissemination of information transcends the constraints of time and space, teachers and students are able to take lessons/lectures at any place and any time instead of going to school and staying in classrooms. Also, ICT can fully utilize the limited educational resources and maximize the resource sharing. Furthermore, ICT effectively promote the interaction between teaching and learning and facilitates the communication, discussion and assessment between teachers and students. In addition, Modern education with ICT provides comprehensive knowledge which not only contains traditional textbook knowledge, but also vocational skills training, professional certification and individual interest development, in order to meet the different needs of people.
ICT and higher education
The aforementioned overview of the current state of teaching/learning with ICT demonstrates that ICT is playing more and more critical role in education. Next, this essay will go deeply into the particular example of higher education and examine how ICT are being applied to motivate transformation.
As we know, conventional higher education has always confined within a certain space such as fixed campus and a certain age period which is mainly between juvenile and adolescence. However, in contemporary society which was called 'knowledge society', the knowledge can be mediatized as commodity via communication channels (Ludes, 2009). ICT, especially the wide application of the Internet, not only offer new approaches and tools for university education, research and management, but also exert a great influence on the future development direction of the universities.
Universities take responsibilities for the students. On one hand, universities should make efforts to let more students receive good quality higher education and strive to boost their integrated developments; on the other hand, universities should take into account the diverse specific requests of the students who grew up in the computer age. These days, the students ask for more flexible and diversified teaching methods. Therefore, the universities should provide a variety of modern information technology equipments and the teachers need to know how to operate such technical equipments, taking advantage of ICT to meet the needs of students. Besides, in the so-called 'information society' there has been a growing tendency that knowledge and skills of modern information technology become fundamental requirements for labor. Thus, universities should ensure students master the knowledge and skills to meet the social demands.
Nowadays in the universities, ICT have been widely applied in the school administration, library and information services, and has gained a lot of successful experience. However the application of ICT in the teaching process could be more complicated. Currently, there are some main application modes of ICT in the teaching process in the universities.
Common tools: text editor, e-mail of teachers and students, document and materials transfer, chat room, World Wide Web (WWW), video conference and so on.
Information acquisition via Internet: through multimedia technology and database, students can get access to a huge amount of information such as eBooks, research, literature, journals, curricula, and exercise materials and so on. What is more, internet enables the resource sharing among various universities and institutions.
School Organization and administration with ICT: teachers can set teaching plans, give assignments, allocate learning tasks, and evaluate academic performance on the Bulletin Board System.
Teaching experiment with ICT: students can take advantage of online video conference to conduct interviews with different people and collect diverse information. And also students are able to use computer to do simulation experiments in order to acquire data and experience which can not be obtained through conventional experiments.
Distance-learning and 'virtual class': conventional learning is being transformed by more effective method---ICT. There has been interactive distance learning which is on the basis of multimedia technology and virtual pattern of teaching and learning.
Through the extensive application of ICT in higher education, there have been many changes in the teaching and learning process.
ICT has expanded the teaching scope and improved teaching effectiveness. Teaching with ICT can develop round analyzing abilities of the students, and broaden and diversify the communication channels of ideas and opinion between teachers and students. Taking advantages of ICT, students are able to have better conditions to practice, experiment and collaborative learning. ICT itself function as collaborative tools which provide conveniences such as substantial resources and sufficient channels to support the students working together. Schrage (1990) illustrates an experiment of the long-distance telephone calls as an example. Due to the voice delay between two geographically separated students, it is very crucial for one student to listen to the other clearly and interpret the accepted information properly. This example demonstrates the impact of ICT on 'human interaction relevant to learning to collaborate' (Schrage, 1990, p.168). Apart from that, it is worth noting that although ICT do facilitate the teaching content delivery and advance collaborative learning, they can not ensure the teaching quality will also increase. The use of ICT in the higher education should pay attention to the problem that how to coordinate the relationship between quality and efficiency.
With the help of the ICT, there have been an increasing number of higher education institutions offering distance learning services. Different departments or universities collaborate to provide more education and training services for the people from everywhere, especially the students in remote areas, and enable them to learn in a flexible way. There are many strong points of such kind of education. First, distance learning can largely save the time and money on travelling. Second, the powerful communication technologies can promote the culture exchange of diverse background. Finally, this approach, connecting the full time student and part-time student, is more likely to achieve the optimal integration and utilization of educational resources.
ICT affect the costs of higher education. These days, universities around the world are generally facing the problem of the shortage in education funding but at the same time, society strongly urges the universities to enhance their operational efficiency. In such cases, ICT have been used as a significant way to reduce the educational costs by a growing number of universities. Because these universities believe that owing to the flexibility and availability of ICT, the adoption of ICT is able to the increase the number of students, reduce the number of administrative personnel and teachers and even cut back on travelling costs and some other incidental expenses. Nevertheless, several researchers (Oliver, 2002) claim that compared to conventional learning, contemporary higher education has become more expensive. Because, firstly it demands for a huge amount of money to introduce ICT to the universities, such as to purchase technical equipment and to train the teaching practitioners. Moreover, there will be many underestimated cost to maintain the use of ICT. Oliver¼ˆ2002¼‰points out nowadays higher universities with ICT have to invest heavily in infrastructure, course development and course delivery.
In these days, teachers are strongly recommended to apply ICT into their teaching. The statements of Ludes(2009¼Œp.111) ' …the use of ICT perceived as media in new forms of education' can perfectly generalize the trend. With the aid of many information technologies and educational software, the roles of teachers are no longer merely to impart knowledge in the classes but more incline to act as mentors or coaches. Nowadays, the primary responsibilities of the teachers are to design curricula, to organize teaching materials, to guide the students to consult relevant learning stuff and to encourage them to solve the problem by themselves. Somebody may claim that even though the teachers adapt ICT as teaching tools, it seems there is still a great amount of work for them to do. Whereas in the long run, with the continuous progress of ICT, teachers and students are able to better master these new methods and they can deal with most of the common problems via educational technologies. Such as educational software.
ICT have brought about transformation of students' learning style. The flexibility and availability of ICT provide better conditions for the students to do self-directed learning according to individual abilities, interests and progress and pave the way for the realization of controlling the teaching process by the students. Hereby, the pattern of learning has been transformed from teacher-centered style into student-centered style. As Duffy and Cunningham (1996) mention, contemporary learning pattern lays emphasis on the how to construct the knowledge. Taking advantages of ICT, students are exposed to diverse perspectives and opinions and it is a significant procedure for them to establish the knowledge. Besides, with the help of ICT, teaching and learning can transcend the constraints of time and space. Therefore, the students could have more choices and even if the students leave the universities, but they are still able to study depending on their own needs and even do lifelong learning.
ICT and lifelong learning
With the continuous development of politics, economy and culture in human society, new technological revolution has given rise to a mutation of knowledge. For example, the amount of knowledge rises sharply, the update cycle of information greatly accelerates and a large number of new disciplines and knowledge categories keep constantly emerging. Under these circumstances, people are required to keep studying and that is the reason why lifelong learning seems to become a lifestyle of people.
As we know that, Flexibility is an obvious characteristic of teaching and learning with ICT which is also a great advantage widely used by people. ICT, transforming our society into a gigantic information support system, enable people, at any time and any place, search, study and even master the knowledge, information, and skill they need. Young (2002) believes this flexibility conduce to just-in-time learning and strongly back 24-7 teaching and learning. It can be seen that ICT, breaking through the limitation of time and space, lay the vital foundation of realization of lifelong learning.
The objective of lifelong learning is to give every person the equal opportunity to participate in studying and training throughout their lives. However, due to the geographical distance and the huge imbalance of resource distribution, it seems impossible for every people to get the equal chances to study. Fortunately, thanks to the development of ICT, distance learning has come true and educational resource sharing has become possible. But at the same time, it still has caused a series of problems such as digital divide. The gap in the field of digital information between developed countries and developing countries has been increasingly becoming bigger. This trend has been considered as a vicious circle in which developed area become even more developed with the wide use of ICT while the developing countries become much poorer. There are several factors contributing to this problem, among which the essential one lies in the imbalance of information infrastructure and the development of education. Therefore, with the benefits of ICT, the realization of lifelong learning still demands for strong infrastructure and also requires the teacher and learner having higher skills and capabilities.
ICT can not replace the traditional way of studying. Even though the development of ICT has brought about a lot of transformations for our teaching and learning, they are still considered as 'complementary to and not as substitute of face-to-face teaching' (Ludes, 2009, p.112). It is because this flexible method is more suitable for students who already have some educational background and have good ability of self-regulation. In other words, ICT may have better effect on adult learners who are outside the educational system. Lifelong learning is a long-term task and it is not merely related to students but to the whole society. For this reason, 'blended learning models' (Ludes, 2009, p.112) should be employed in contemporary teaching and learning.
Lifelong learning system is a tremendous supportive learning environment of which convenient learning materials are indispensible factors. The application of ICT aims to integrate the knowledge people come across in their daily life into a huge supportive learning system, instead of focusing on certain linear discipline and curriculum. The reasonable application of ICT in teaching and learning help people autonomously involve in this supportive learning environment, communicate with the tutor and discuss with other learners. The ideas and thoughts during their learning process keep constructing the information database, strengthening and enriching the supportive learning system. Thus, it is forming a virtuous circle of knowledge which will continuously support lifelong learning.
As discussed above, this paper explores the relationship between ICT and education, and investigates how ICT are being harnessed to transform teaching and learning. It indicates that ICT, to a great extent, promote the transformation in education. For example, in higher education, the objective, content, form and method of teaching/learning have changed a lot along with the development of ICT. Also, this paper shows that ICT are playing a significant role in lifelong learning since it can convey information and knowledge to any part of the earth and offer every person equal opportunities for achieving education at any place and any time, laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning system.