The Use of Technology in the English Classroom

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Computers, televisions, mobile phones, visual media and other technologies have become a huge part of everyday life. Technology has changed the way we perform many activities from communicating to playing games. A person can now talk to friends and even strangers thousands of kilometres away, right from their bedroom. Events occurring around the world, whether significant or not, can become common knowledge to people minutes after they occur. Beyond communication, technology has also changed the way people shop, research, bank, and book holidays, just to name a few. Technology has become a normal way of life for today's children, being integrated into many parts of their lives. Every day, children are spending numerous hours absorbed in widely accepted social networking websites and other technologies such as Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, computer games and television. With the emergence of these technologies comes a change in the way children communicate, make friends and collaborate with others, and much interest has been taken into whether or not technology should become incorporated into the classroom.

This evolution of technology has brought with it, serious implications for teachers and education systems around the world. Part of a teacher's role is to prepare his or her students for the real-world, life beyond school. With technology now playing an enormous role in modern society, teachers need to consider how they might incorporate computers and other technologies in learning experiences while being aware of any negative impacts in doing so. Many businesses and government agencies have adopted the use of technologies such as simulations into their organisations for educational methods; however some schools and other educational institutions are yet to accept technologies in the classroom for clearly debatable reasons.

Some researchers claim that the benefits of technology are so great that students are being disadvantaged if teachers are not integrating technology into their classroom. Common ideas become evident while reading through a number of credible journal articles written by advocates for the incorporation of technology. These ideas include the endless resources and information now available to students as a result of the Internet and search engines such as Google. Other benefits include how learning can be made much more engaging and fun with the use of computers, videos and other technologies. Although technology in the classroom seems to have an enormous support base, there are some researchers who are not all that keen on the idea. These researchers refute the work of these theorists and consider the negative impacts to outweigh the positive. Some common ideas presented throughout the literature written by people against incorporating technology into the classroom relate to the idea that it affects good teaching and opens up a world of horrible images and information that could corrupt the minds of young children. Further negative impacts that appear throughout the literature include the cost of purchasing and maintaining technology, and the idea that technology is harming children's literacy skills and limiting originality.

This paper aims to explore the positive and negative effects of the incorporation of technology in the classroom, with a focus on the English subject area. Reading and writing, two main outcomes of the English learning area (Curriculum Council, 1998) have been said to be greatly impacted by the integration of technology and therefore will be the basis of a future action research project concerning the attitudes and thoughts of upper primary students towards technology in English learning experiences.

This paper will be limited in its direct application to the action research project as much of the research relates to the general use of technology in the classroom rather than being specific to the English learning area. The research found has also greatly been based on high school students rather than primary students, however, can still be related to this age group. It will not have a major focus on the effects of the integration of technology on teachers and will only touch on the teacher's role and skills needed to ensure effective teaching occurs in a technology-based classroom. Furthermore, it will not give much consideration to the effects of technologies, other than computers and the Internet, on the effects of learning.

Support for the Integration of Technology in the Classroom

There are numerous credible journal articles written in support of the integration of technology, in particular computers, into the classroom. According to (enter someone here), computers should be an integral part of the modern classroom as they have the ability to make learning in all subject areas easier and are valuable tools that help to develop a child's language skills. This researcher suggests that computers and other technologies provide students with an endless world of communication networks and information resources that cannot be found in traditional tools such as textbooks. Furthermore (someone) recognises the importance of having an understanding of technology, as well as the skills required to effectively use computers in order to enter into an interesting and well-paying career in the future.

Further research by journal article writers in support of the integration of technology in the classroom, such as (enter), offer additional benefits for students. (He) suggests that by providing students of low socio-economic status with the opportunity to learn how to effectively use computers and other technologies, they are able to learn important lifelong skills that they may not have learnt at home. This ensures that no child is disadvantaged and prepares them for life beyond school. Another researcher, (enter), acknowledges that teachers may be nervous about integrating technology as they feel that they will have to change their teaching styles and strategies which they have found to be very effective. This is not the case, states (enter), instead, technology, if implemented effectively, can be used to support and enhance existing pedagogy.

One researcher, (insert), proposes that technology has the ability to play a large role in the development of cognitive learning ideas in the classroom. The important role social interaction plays in a child's learning was recognised by two well known theorists; Piaget and Vygotsky. Computers promote interaction through the communication opportunities it provides, as well as through interaction between the user and various programs installed on the computer. This interactivity according to (someone) encourages the development of higher-order information processing skills as well as critical thinking and cognitive processes. Furthermore, computers can provide students with opportunities to perform problem-solving activities, in a collaborative nature while actively engaging students. (Someone) suggests that, when a teacher incorporates technologies in learning experiences, students are required take on an active role in their learning, rather than passively accepting what the teacher has to tell them. This statement is only relative under the assumption that teachers act as instructors rather than facilitators, which is not always accurate. (Someone) then goes on to explain the opportunities technology offers students in regards to the many ways they can present information such as through a PowerPoint, video or typed document, just to name a few.

In a constructivist classroom, students are involved in collaborative activities that involve discussion and learning from peers while building on prior understandings and experiences. (Someone) states that technology provides students with ways to collaborate and share ideas and knowledge with, not only each other, but with people from all around the world. This encourages students to think outside of their immediate world, and acknowledge other cultures and ideas.

Effects of Technology on English Learning

Although studies are limited in regards to a direct link between technology uses in the English classroom, there are a small number of researchers who have written journal articles outlining the benefits technology has on English learning. Advocates for the inclusion of computers and other technologies in English such as (enter) propose that the majority of today's students will eventually be working in environments that require them to use computers and other technologies. Therefore, (enter), states that students who are not using computers in the classroom are not being prepared for their future. Other researchers say that technology should be used in English as it is fun and allows students to publish their stories, poems and other literature to the world.

(Someone) presents a case study of a teacher named John who decided to embrace technology in his English classroom. He decided to create a social networking Internet site for his class in which he reinforced classroom ideas, discussed projects and other relevant learning experiences. He also uploaded pictures, videos and other information that he found applicable to the content he had taught in class. Through this networking site, John's students were able to collaborate and discuss issues, understandings and ideas to their peers outside of the classroom. John then found that he was able to take ideas brought up by his students on the networking site and use these to form the basis of further learning experiences. The students were very enthusiastic about this use of social networking and often visited the site even when not asked or expected to. John also found that the shy children and children with poor social skills in his class contributed frequently to the site even though they struggled to communicate during class times. (Someone) states that through this case study and many other similar experiences, it can be seen that the benefits of technology in the English classroom far outweigh any negative impacts it may have.

Alternative Views

Although theorists such as (insert name) present a sound argument for the inclusion of technology in the classroom, other theorists exist to prove that there are negative effects far outweighing the positives. (Someone) suggests that, while technology provides students with an almost endless world of information and resources, the Internet also has the ability to connect them with the unlimited information, pictures and videos of the most awful parts of our society. Although education officials, government agencies and other companies attempt to create rules, regulations and programs to prevent this from happening, the problem still exists.

Other researchers such as (insert name here) believe that, while technology does open the door for new programs and resources that have the ability to enhance instruction and learning experiences, it also brings with it the potential to be very disruptive. He suggests that teachers consider what would happen if one of these much relied on resources was to fail. Would this mean the end for the particular lesson or concept being taught? Or would it mean that the student with special needs could not be involved in the learning experience as a result of their technological aide failing? (someone) rejects the idea of becoming reliant on technologies in order for a classroom to function smoothly and effectively. He fears that teachers may use technologies such as audio-visual media and computer programs to replace quality student-teacher interaction and discussion. This could lead to learning experiences that are not personalised and planned well enough to cater for multiple intelligences and the needs of all students.

Further studies by other researchers have discovered additional negative implications specifically associated with the integration of technology in the English learning area. (Someone) passionately feels that computers and the internet are preventing originality of ideas. He explains that, with the unlimited number of resources available to students, they are becoming more inclined to copy story ideas and find answers to homework questions with the use of search engines such as Google. Other researches complain that, as a result of social networking websites, students' literacy skills are becoming poorer. Students are using shortened versions of full words and are writing sentences that are short, incomplete and often not very meaningful. Social networking also prevents students from learning real-world interaction skills as there is limited expression and tone of voice.

Although many researchers propose that technology makes learning more effective as it is fun for students, others such as (enter) argue that learning is not about having fun. He believes that learning should take effort, discipline and accountability. 'Real learning', (someone) says, causes students to actively think about what they are doing and should involve hands-on learning experiences rather than meaningless exercises on computers. Online learning does not allow the student to receive instant feedback and discussion like they would receive from a teacher. Other literature suggests that, when students are using computers and the Internet, the teacher's job becomes one of supervisor rather than teacher or facilitator. (Someone) acknowledges how quickly and easily a person can become distracted and off-task while using the computer. Therefore, teachers must have an understanding of how computers work and must be constantly watching what students are doing to ensure that they are remaining on-task.

Beyond the arguments already mentioned, a common thread throughout the literature written by people opposed to the integration of technology in the classroom, relates to money. There are many costs involved in maintaining a good quality technology system. Some of these costs include, firstly purchasing the computers, constant hardware and software upgrades, virus protection programs, educational programs, printers and other associated equipment, and the costs involved in having an IT person fix any problems that may arise. (Someone) offers the idea that these great costs involved in maintaining a computer network is money that could arguably be better spent on teacher training, school maintenance, music programs, libraries and other important aspects of education.

Action Learning Plan

In order to further research the implications of the use of technology, in particular computers, in an English learning environment, a small action research plan will be conducted. It will firstly involve observing and interviewing a small group of Western Australian, upper primary children participating in a literacy learning experience with no technologies involved. Secondly, the same group of children will again be observed and interviewed after participating in a literacy learning experience that does incorporate the use of computers. Observations will involve monitoring student interaction, engagement, attitude, speed and quality of the work that is occurring. The interviews will take place to find out which learning experience was more enjoyable, made more sense and to find out how well they thought they did. To ensure students' safety during this action research project, students will be supervised at all times to limit the chance that they may view any offensive images or information. Being in a small group this will be quite manageable.

Conclusion (250 words)

Draw together the main themes from the literature

Highlight the most relevant points

Reiterate the implications of the literature for the design of the action research project

187 words to write the conclusion

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