by Katherine Reilly
Believe it or not, there was a time when the idea of using a computer to perform any task seemed outlandish. The cost of purchasing such equipment, the unfamiliarity one felt around it, and of course the apprehension of misuse, loomed in everyone’s mind as the computer market started booming. Today, however, it would be incomprehensible to even consider performing simple tasks without electronic assistance. Travelling, medical treatments and occupational tasks have become intricately intertwined with technology. Education has become no exception, as students are open to the miraculous and perhaps hazardous world of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Thus, the burning question remains; is ICT in education truly worth the hype?
This issue cannot be simply examined as a pros and cons matter. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks while reaching a conclusion, is in itself an option, however, one must look into the potential ICT can have while examining and countering the gravity of the repercussions its use could have on students. To be more precise, simply knowing what the disadvantages are, does not mean we should focus solely on the wonderful prospects it can have on education.
From an educational standpoint, a teacher should definitely reap all the benefits it has to offer:
Collaboration. Teamwork, pair-work, call it what you will. Technology has surpassed our expectations as it has brought humanity closer together. Many a time, we hear of students exchanging information. Children of different nationalities on every corner of the globe, share ideas, information and collaborate on projects, thus proving that ICT has acquainted people who would otherwise have never met during their lifespan, due to distance and cost of travelling. This exchange of ‘cultures’ has not only broadened students’ horizons, but has forged ever-lasting friendships.
Unlimited source of information. Without a doubt, the Internet has become THE world’s largest library in a figurative sense. Students have access to a wealth of information which includes, but is not limited to, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Blogs, and of course Social Media which has become the preferred platform of exchanging information today.
Time-efficiency. ICT in a literal sense can offer you direct access to information. As a student, you can do your research, study the notes your teacher gave you, collaborate with your classmates without having to leave home; all this, on one device, without having to spend time travelling to the library or searching for your teacher in the corridors of the school so as to ask him a question. An email will save you both precious time and in turn, can be shared with others. Sharing and accessing information can be done in mere seconds.
Immediate evaluation of students. A wide range of software, to immediately evaluate students is at our disposal. Evaluation forms are corrected instantaneously and the teacher is not only directly informed of his students’ progress, but becomes aware of any potential questions the students might have and are afraid to ask. Repetition or a different teaching approach can be implemented, with the purpose of making the lesson more comprehensible.
Organization and Information Sharing. Without a doubt, ICT can act as a huge library of books and folders. The space you save at home or your office, not to mention a major contribution to the environment by not wasting paper, has made life much easier. With a click of a button, the day’s lesson can be clearly presented on an interactive whiteboard and of course shared with students afterwards.
Diversity in teaching Methods. ICT has opened the doors to educators of all fields. Innovations in teaching, the incorporation of new ideas, genuine approaches to stimulate the mind of young learners has become, not only a pleasure but an entertaining challenge, as educators strive to reach or surpass their own skills and make their delivery more receptive to others.
Promotes Inclusiveness. Offers greater ability to participate in class, especially for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN’s). Using a Whiteboard for instance, can help a student become an active part of a lesson. Simple tasks like clicking and dragging, or the use of Media can bring out his true potential, while boosting his own self-esteem in the process. EVERYONE has a right to education.
Offers alternatives to out-of-school children. Cheaper equipment such as solar-powered tablets with self-paced software is used as the only source of education for children who can’t attend, or don’t have access to a school.
And these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg, as ICT is in an ever-evolving state, opening new doors to learners of all ages. As for the concerns and challenges it presents?
Equipment cost. Many schools are struggling to cover basic needs such as electricity, teaching facilities, even office stationery. Equipping classrooms with such equipment to benefit from ICT, could prove to be an impossible undertaking.
Maintenance and Repairs. One might think that the only issue of maintenance or repairs, is the ability to cover the cost of such a ‘misfortune’, however there are several more factors to consider such as finding a licensed or experienced professional to handle such issues, the time period the students will be deprived of their equipment, and adapting the lesson without the use of ICT which in many cases would reduce the students’ attention spam during lesson.
Addiction to Technology. Perhaps one of the worst issues humanity is facing right now is any sort of addiction to technology and information. Socialization is diminishing and in turn, seclusiveness is on the rise. Distractions are most common, as students find it almost impossible to focus on the task at hand. Have you ever caught your students using social media in class, or going so far as to play Fortnite? These incidences have become an everyday nuisance in class and have proved tricky to handle.
Unsuitable Sites. Foul language, obscene material, inappropriate content… The list can go on and on.
Increase of Plagiarism. The availability of such wealth of information is tempting to say the least. Many a time, students find comfort in accessing, incorporating and presenting said information as their own. Such treatment not only lacks any respect to existing intellectual property, but also diminishes creativity and critical thought.
These are but a few issues one must acknowledge. But are these issues so severe that ICT should be disregarded? As my father used to say, “you could use a hammer to build a house, but if you’re not careful, you could also smash your fingers.” In other words, a student must be made aware of all the dangers ICT entails. With proper guidance and awareness, ICT could be the ‘hammer’ one needs to build the solid foundations of a respected and highly acclaimed education. It’s up to all of us to ensure its positive use and help students reap ICT’s full potential in education.