Computer Implementation in Learning Environments

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Computer Implementation in Learning Environments

Abstract

This paper seeks to analyze the current research and reports on computer implementation in learning environments. The three articles discussed come from Annual Editions—Computers in Education 04/05, 11th edition, edited by J. Hirschbuhl and D. Bishop (2004). For analysis are the proposals of investing in e-learning in higher education, more effective use of computers through initiation, implementation, and institutionalization, and improving student/computer interaction through the use of computer tutor programs. This paper concludes with some suggestions for the practice and implementation of the aforementioned strategies and/or programs, and highlights for educators the most relevant points made by these articles on the topic of computer implementation in learning environments.

Computer Implementation Analysis in Learning Environments

Computers as a form of technology are assisting daily the advancement of various societal fields, from business, to science, to education. This particular innovation in technology has literally taken the world by storm and countless authors and experts are continually determining its effects on our society. Indeed, newspapers, educational journals, and even the evening news are each eager to report the successes and failures of technology in education. In this paper, I will analyze three articles on the subject of computer implementation in learning environments. I will seek to summarize the main points for computer technology use in education and conclude with the authors’ suggestions for practicing technology in these learning environments. Each of the analyzed articles can be found in Annual Editions—Computers in Education 04/05, Eleventh Edition edited by J. Hirschbuhl and D. Bishop.

The first article, Investing in Digital Resources (McArthur, 2002), seeks to define educational technology and its related vocabulary, outline reasons for planning e-learning, and describe the necessary steps for implementation, chiefly in respect to higher education. McArthur (2002) states, “it no longer makes sense to debate whether e-learning should be accepted or rejected—either in individual schools or by higher education as a whole—just as it is no longer reasonable to consider spurning the Web in business or at home.” He defines various e-learning options, such as web displayed, web enhanced, hybrid, and on-line, and maintains that, “none of these e-learning options necessarily diminishes the role of the instructor in learning and teaching” (McArthur, 2002). The defense for e-learning is that it provides an environment where students can easily and flexibly shape and own their learning (McArthur, 2002).

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The article proposes the need for extensive planning in e-learning for higher education because as a new technology, it is “easy to do badly.” The reason is that e-learning technology must be compatible with the institution’s mission and goals for its students and faculty, and there must be sufficient structures in place to sustain its success. Evidence for the necessity of these factors is shown in examples of institutions where e-learning movements have been put in motion and failed, due to lack of extensive planning and inconsistent implementation. McArthur (2002) suggests that schools incorporate staged implementation and appropriate outsourcing to “choose the right service at the right time and…reduce the overall cost of developing and implementing an e-learning environment that works for the campus.”

The second article up for analysis is Scott Tunison’s Herding Elephants: Coping with the Technological Revolution in our Schools (2002). Tunison uses a situational analogy of a person faced with a stampeding herd of elephants, and the choices he/she makes, to explain the need for schools to address computer technology and the strategies to be used when integrating computers into the current educational framework. He maintains that “while the concepts remain the same, both the context for their application and the context for those who are learning the concepts have changed. …Computers, in today’s context, represent a powerful tool for teachers to use to help develop cognition in contemporary students” (Tunison, 2002). Without a doubt, computers have found their way into today’s classrooms, however their use as “cognition-development tools” is still somewhat limited. Tunison (2002) explores the potential future reality that faces today’s students and notes that since information has become the world’s chief resource “a future educational reality must help students use technology to cope with and use this vast array of information.” In order to manage such a change in perception and practice, the traditional teacher/student paradigm must undergo a shift in the responsibility of learning to students and the role of teachers to learning facilitators (Tunison, 2002). He cites Fullan (2001) and his phases of initiation, implementation, and institutionalization as the necessary tools to make this change. The evidence that Tunison (2002) presents for these changes to include computer technology is that most schools “intend for students to have the requisite knowledge and skills for whatever future they may choose for themselves—in other words, that they become life-long learners. If this is true, schools are doing a disservice to students if computer technology is not fully integrated into basic instructional curricula.”

The last article is The Future of Computer Technology in K-12 Education, by Frederick Bennett (2002). This piece discusses the changes that computers can make to today’s education. Although there are adequate computers per students and sufficient teacher training with computers, their effects on education have been minimal thus far. The core issue, according to Bennett (2002) is “the power of electronic interaction is necessarily diminished because of the way computers must be used in schools today.” Bennett cites the innovations in computer use that U.S. businesses have made as an example for U.S. schools—to make certain structural changes and alter the way “business” is carried out. Bennett (2002) proposes an alternative: “allow computers to tutor children individually and directly, without a teacher in the usual role.” Until now, this idea has only been implemented in the cases of at-risk students and has been met with success. It is a program that if universally adopted, can provide positive results for all students. According to Bennett (2002), “through constant testing and continual interaction, the electronic instructor would be aware of the child’s needs and would immediately provide proper material to correct any problems and to encourage and help the student to advance.” So what about the role of our teachers? Bennett (2002) maintains that while educators’ roles would change, they would neither be eliminated nor downgraded. Instead, these teachers would carry out the functions of conducting group activities and acting as “leader teachers.” In this new capacity as a “leader teacher,” educators would meet with children regularly to discuss their progress with the various computer programs, according to the age and needs of the child. Such a relationship might last from one to several years, depending on family mobility. Bennett’s evidence for the necessity of such a radical program is the basic need to improve computer (and overall) education in America’s schools. He concludes that “until schools can permit a major alteration in the way teaching is carried on, they must necessarily continue to miss out on the improvement that computer technology can bring” (Bennett, 2002).

Each of these articles deal with the issue of computer implementation in learning environments differently. McArthur calls for institutions of higher education to invest in digital resources through the use of e-learning, but in a form that calls for systematic planning and staged implementation. Tunison likens the current issue of addressing computer technology and making it a part of schools’ educational framework to a person faced with a herd of stampeding elephants. To have success in either situation, one must employ the phases of the change process: initiation, implementation, and institutionalization. Bennett approaches the issue of the future of computer technology in education with a futuristic idea—let the computers teach the students. Teachers then embrace new roles in conducting group activities and acting as “leader teachers.” In the case of all three articles, the most relevant idea in the field of education and technology integration is that new technologies require new methods and programs for their successful implementation in today’s educational system. Whether it be the use of e-learning, allowing for more cognitive activities with computers, or improving computer interaction with students through tutoring programs, each is a contemporary idea for a contemporary technology. In conclusion, as the issue of computer implementation in learning environments, the most important thing for educators to know is that it will require change, in mind and practice, for teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

References

Bennett, F. (2002). The future of computer technology in K-12 education. Phi Delta Kappan, April 2002, 621-625.

Hirschbuhl, J., & Bishop, D. (Ed.), (2004). Annual editions—computers in education 04/05 (11th ed.). (pp. 1-17). Connecticut: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.

McArthur, D. (2002). Investing in digital resources. New Directions for Higher Education, Fall 2002, 77-84.

Tunison, S. (2002). Herding elephants: coping with the technological revolution in our schools. Journal of Educational Thought, Fall 2002, 77-84.


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