Technology in the classroom improves student performance – lessons from Australia?

Technology in education goes beyond copying lesson notes on WhatsApp or holding classes on Google classroom
Covid-19 has taught us that the need to integrate technology into our education system is here with us. And this is not just about putting lesson notes on WhatsApp and on Google classroom; neither is about holding classes on a video conferencing App. Those are just scratching the surface of proper use and teaching of technology in schools.Recently, Vodafone Ghana CEO pointed out that the youth/children of today cannot afford to remain digitally illiterate. She stressed the need for the youth to have digital skills as practically everything is moving unto the digital environment, and those without digital skills will be left behind. Acquiring digital skills is not just about copying lesson notes on WhatsApp or joining your meets for a lesson on Google Classroom or Zoom.

This write up from the Australian example should offer some lesson on how Ghana can properly integrate technology into education to ensure desirable outcomes in term of the kind of graduates we churn out from our school.

Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities and our homes. Yet many schools lag far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning. Many are merely exploring the potential technology offers for teaching and learning. Properly used, technology can assist students acquire the skills they need to thrive in the complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy we now find ourselves.

Integrating technology into classroom instruction is more than training students in basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. It also means more than allowing a free for all, allowing students to play with everything. Essentially effective technology integration happens across the curriculum in areas that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. It must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.

Barry McGaw, Chair of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) states that an Information and Communications Technology (“ICT”) strategy for Australian schools was being developed alongside everything else in the new curriculum. He commented that while technology would not be treated as a separate subject in the early years and its integration was mandated.

Research has suggested that technology-enabled project learning have the greatest benefits as these allow students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what real world problems looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online. The myriads of resources held within the online world also provide each classroom with more interesting, diverse and current learning materials. The Internet connects students to experts in the real world and provides numerous opportunities for expressing understanding through images, sounds, texts, apps and manipulative.
New technology tools for visualizing and modelling, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding. As an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioural problems in the classroom.

Technology also changes the way teachers teach, offering educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means. It also enhances the relationship between teacher and student. When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert and coach. Technology assists teaching and learning to become more meaningful and enjoyable.

In the past technology in education was a debatable topic amongst the society. There was a myriad of views on modernising education and making it technology aided. There were a huge number of positives and negatives to education technology. Gradually as schools embraced technology, the importance of technology in education was realised. Its positives outnumbered the negatives and now, with technology, education has taken a whole new meaning that it leaves us with no doubt that our educational system has been transformed owing to the ever-advancing technology. Technology and education are a great combination if used together with a right reason and vision.

With technology, educators, students and parents have a variety of learning tools at their fingertips. Here are some of the ways in which technology improves education over time:

  • Students and teachers have access to an expanse of material:There are plenty of resourceful, credible websites available on the Internet that both teachers and students can utilise.
  • Teachers can collaborate to share their ideas and resources online: They can communicate with others across the world in an instant, meet the shortcomings of their work, refine it and provide their students with the best. This approach definitely enhances the practice of teaching.
  • Students can develop valuable research skills at a young age:Technology gives students immediate access to an abundance of quality information that leads to learning at much quicker rates than before.
  • Online learning is now an equally credible option: Face-to-face interaction is huge, especially in the younger years, but some students work better when they can go at their own pace using a blended learning philosophy.

There are numerous instances to date where we can observe the improvement in education, once it embraced technology.

  • Effectiveness in Mathematics for K-12: Technology has proved to be effective for making students efficiently adept with Maths. Interacting with the physical environment by manipulating objects such as tiles, colored squares, or circles improves understanding of math concepts by allowing learners to experience relationships between objects and events, which helps to build abstract conceptual understandings. Using virtual manipulatives improves understanding of math concepts and attitudes toward maths, and blending physical and virtual manipulatives also has been shown to improve maths learning. Other research suggests computer-managed learning; our example is Mathletics produce a positive effect on Mathematics achievement.
  • Effectiveness in Science K-12

According to research, technology can improve inquiry-science by allowing students to:

  • Conduct virtual experiments using dynamic simulations of difficult-to-see scientific phenomena.
  • Generate and test models of complex data.
  • Collect and analyse data to test predictions.
  • Gather feedback from different sources to refine work.
  • The Blended or Flipped Classroom: It is a practice in which, students watch tutorial videos as homework and discussion is carried on them in the class-time by the teachers. It has resulted in a remarkably better student performance, with noticeable grade boost-up. Students can now learn at their own pace and save class-time for interaction. According to Cheung and Slavin’s meta-analyses, blending technology with face-to-face teacher time generally produces better outcomes than face-to-face or online learning alone.
  • Educational Technology improves student-learning outcomes:Evidence suggests that educational technologies can improve student achievement, so long as such tools are integrated thoughtfully into teaching and learning. When digital capabilities like, online environments are incorporated meaningfully into instruction, students have new opportunities to learn and achieve.
  • Long-term research indicative of the positives of technology on learning: Researches have been performed to address to the question, does the use of computer technology affect student achievement in traditional classrooms as compared to classrooms that do not use technology? An extensive literature search and a systematic review process were employed and insights about the state of the field, implications for technology use, and prospects for future were discussed.
  • The effect of technology on education depends on the design of instruction: The design of the instruction accounts for more variance in how and why people learn than the technology used to deliver the instruction. Educators and educational researchers should be encouraged to focus on determining how to better integrate the use of a given technology to facilitate learning, rather than asking if it works or if one is more effective than another.

The review of literature also finds that successful technology integration generally involves some key principles:

  • Students playing an active role in their learning and receiving frequent personalized feedback.
  • Students’ critically analysing and actively creating media messages.
  • Teachers connecting classroom activities to the world outside the classroom.
  • Teachers actively monitoring students’ work and engagement.
  • Teachers explicitly exposing students to learning experiences in the areas of cyber safety and appropriate use of technology.

Over the past years, a numbers of studies have shown benefits from the use of technology in education. The role of technology in education is vital and the question is no longer if technology enhances learning, but rather how do we improve our use of technology to enhance learning?


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