Social Aspects of Technology in Education
Technology in education is more than an advantage. While US schools are required by federal legislation to graduate students with technology experience at an eighth grade level, specific education organizations say that level is not enough. To be prepared for - and competitive in - a global workforce, students need to demonstrate technology skills that show advanced levels. Furthermore, access to technology education is not universal; as such, not all students will achieve even the minimum requirement. This is especially true for the students who do not have computers at home. In addition, teachers and librarians need administrative support in order to pursue professional development opportunities that lead to teaching advanced computer skills.
Keywords A Nation at Risk; Computer Literacy; Department of Education; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Information and Communications Technology (ICT); Information Literacy; Information Technology Literacy (ITL); Integrated Learning Systems (ILS); No Child Left Behind (NCLB); Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills; Technology Education
Social Aspects of Technology in Education
Innovations like Baby Einstein®, Leap Frog®, Microsoft Power Point®, and SMARTboards®, were created to further the education of people from infancy to adulthood. Those who cannot adequately utilize the innovations may have a crumbled foundation on which to contend with their peers. Almost every subject from preschool to college can utilize technology as an instrument of instruction, development, or function. And those who lack the skills to teach or implement the resources are left out of a continuous conversation that will become more extensive in the future. The most important topic of that conversation should be whether or not high school graduates are proficient enough in technology applications to earn jobs once they leave high school.
While many people view technology proficiency as being able to research journal articles, create spectacular looking presentations, or utilize databases, A Nation at Risk (1983) -- a report created by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) -- notes that many occupations require proficiency of a level beyond what is common to high school activity. Even in 1983, fields like "health care, medical science, energy production, food processing, construction, and the building, repair, and maintenance of sophisticated scientific, educational, military, and industrial equipment" were identified as those requiring levels of technology higher than what most high school graduates achieved (NCEE, as cited in Allen, p. 26).
Allen (2008) notes that since the A Nation at Risk report was published, the "student-to-computer ratio has certainly improved, from about 60-to-1 in 1983 to about 4-to-1 nationwide in 2007" (Office of Technology Assessment, 1988 (1983 data), Nagel, 2007 (2007 data), as cited in Allen, p. 611). The ratio improved again in 2008 with three students for every one desktop or laptop computer. While this is a positive trend that shows a change toward allowing academic institutions the ability to develop and maintain technology curricula, it also promotes the disparity between haves and have-nots once students leave school, as many do not have computers at home.
In 2005, for example, only 11.4 percent of households with an income of $29,900 or lower had high-speed Internet access, while 62 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or more had high-speed access (United States Government Accountability Office). As long as this informational playing field is not level, the inequity of access to educational resources will remain (Allen, 2008, p. 611).
The Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills is an organization of public and private groups established in 2002 to create a standard for successful learning. The Partnership recommends that each state focus closely on the students who do not have access to technology, insisting that meeting the (technology) needs of such students requires a matter of policy (p. 20). Further, as research notes that students are more motivated in the classroom when the Internet and other technologies are utilized (Leu, 2002, as cited in Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008, p. 4), teachers also require support for improving their skills.
Many teachers still lack ongoing professional development support needed to fully integrate existing technology into instructional practice. States should support these professionals with sustained, strategic professional development that enables them to incorporate twenty-first century skills into their standards, curricula, and assessments (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008, p. 20).
More students than ever before can use computers at school; however, working at home is limited to those in specific income levels. Furthermore, depending on the budget of the school district, limitations with technology may not be exclusive to household incomes. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the National Education Association address this issue:
While most states and school districts have made remarkable progress in installing computers in schools, many still do not have ready access to the Internet or adequate technical support to make access reliable all day, every day. Today, desktop computers in classrooms represent the bare minimum in terms of technology equipment that schools need. Classroom telephones, laptops, wireless technology, scientific devices, and video conferencing centers for distance learning are just a few of the tools that can improve and expedite learning (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008, p. 20).
With regard to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which legislates that students achieve technological literacy by the eighth grade, the Partnership argues that "states need to think much bigger and go much further to prepare young people adequately for the future. Eighth-grade technology literacy is just a starting point" (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008, p. 10). The organization insists that,
[s]tandards must encompass more than technology proficiency, which is too narrow a skill for the world today. Instead, students must be competent in ICT [information and communication technology] literacy-using 21st century tools and learning skills (information and communication skills, thinking and problem solving skills, and interpersonal and self-directional skills) that will enable them to learn how to learn in school and throughout their lives (p. 10).
It is not clear within the 21st Century Skills document how the Partnership defines literacy with regard to information and communication technologies (ICT). As such, other terms that are defined may show how different levels of proficiency are considered when working with technology is concerned. Computer literacy is the most basic form of computer proficiency. Someone who is computer literate can understand rudimentary applications, like Power Point® and Microsoft Word®. A slightly more advanced person would have information literacy in order to determine which information resources are needed in various contexts. This is a necessary skill since technology is a constantly changing field. Finally, someone with information technology literacy (ITL) is effective at utilizing various technologies. Someone at this advanced level can write HTML code or can find a lost file within data storage components.
As far as the National Education Association (NEA) is concerned, students "need to know how to learn new skills as quickly as technology creates new challenges" (2008). While such skills don't require the acquisition of information technology literacy (ITL), it is essential that all students acquire the skills necessary to utilize different technologies according to the context of the tasks they are completing. Indeed, the information-literate student will be successful with many applications and with various technologies. To create an information-literate student body (and, ultimately, workforce) the NEA (2008) takes the following stance concerning technology and education in the United States.
• More funding is needed at all levels to better integrate technology into schools and classrooms.
• The technology available to educators and students should be compatible with, and at least on the same level as, technology in general use outside of schools.
• Education technology budgets should reflect the importance of professional development. At least a third of all tech budgets should be reserved for school staff to become proficient in using and integrating technology into their classrooms.
• Educators themselves should be involved in decisions on planning, purchasing, and deploying education technology.
• Teacher education programs need to embrace educational technology and help prospective teachers use it effectively in the classroom.
• Technology should be deployed and applied equitably among all students and educators, regardless of geography or demographics.
• Students should also be taught the appropriate and safe use of technology. (National Education Association, 2008).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), established in 1990, requires that all schools provide equal access to education for all students with documented learning or physical disabilities. Students with learning or physical disabilities are allowed what is known as accommodations – devices or services that level the playing field between the disability and the lack thereof for other students. For example, a student with attention deficit disorder (ADD) may require extra time for tests or a private testing room; someone with dyslexia or a visual impairment might need assistive technology to perform similarly to their peers. Computerized learning systems can scan texts, essays, and notes and present the information to students in the form of a digital voice. Students can take notes manually or within the...
(The entire section is 4470 words.)