In today’s society, a life without technology isunimaginable. Already years ago, it became evident, that the change of mediahas an impact on many different areas. The most significant progress regardingtechnology was made in industrialized countries. As the USA is one of the pioneerswhen it comes to information and communication technology (ICT), it is not remarkable,that they were one of the first countries, which integrated technology ineducation (de Moura Castro, 2004, p. 40). To be specific, computershave been present in U.
S. elementary schools already in the 1950’s (Parker & Davey, 2014, p. 204), but they gainedmore and more significance in the early 1980’s, as Becker showed: Between mid-1981 and the fall of 1983, the percentage of elementaryschools with one or more microcomputers jumped from 10 percent to over 60percent. During that same period, the percentage of secondary schools withfive or more microcomputers grew from 10 percent to well over 50 percent.(Becker, 1984, pp. 22-39, as cited in Parker & Davey, 2014, p.
204)In recent years, boundaries existed, which kept Americanschools away from the development of technology use in education. The mainissue was insufficient expertise when it comes the usage of ICT, in order toenhance the study achievement. But the U.
S. Department of Education has enactedchanges regarding this problem. Many schools in the U.S. have undergone budgetand resource reorganizations, so as to improve teaching methods (U.
S.Department of Education, 2004, p.22). When looking at the past, most teachersin the beginning of the 1990’s had access to only one computer. Meanwhile, themajority of U.S. schools offer more than one computer device per five pupils onthe elementary and high school level. (Kleiner & Farris, 2002, as cited inKim & Bagaka, 2005, p.
318).According to Downes (2002), most of the childrennowadays have their first contact with different technologies at home, butthere is still a certain number of students which do not have this privilegeof having computing facilities in their households. Therefore, one possibilityto encounter ICT is at school. Those technological facilities, such ascomputers, can be found for instance in computer laboratories or libraries.The access to computers is for the majority of lecturers in primary andsecondary schools restricted. Most of the time, they cannot approach thetechnologies when needed.
In learning institutes, where more resources – suchas notebooks – are available, the usage is significantly higher, in comparisonto those schools, which cannot facilitate enough desktops for every person (p.30).Regarding theuse of technology, Levin and Bruce (2001) created a “taxonomy of uses oftechnologies for learning”, which focuses on four different groups. The firstone is called “Media for inquiry”, which concentrates on the use of technologyin general for the schematic analysis, especially for scientific and arithmeticsubjects. The second, “Media for communication”, explains, that students canlearn through collaboration with other students and teachers. For instance, teachingis a specific form of communication, and technological devices are supportingthis way of learning. The third group is called “Media for construction” where”the current constructivist approaches emphasize knowledge construction; infact, the new “constructionist” approach explicitly focuses on theconstruction of external artifacts sicas important for learning” (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, as cited in Levin &Bruce, 2001, n.
p.). The fourth taxonomy is the “Media for expression”, whichtalks about editing pictures and videos with different programs, which is consideredas a manner of expression.Downes (2002) emphasizes that there are ordinary tasks in schools whichdo not vary a lot, such as “typing things up”. Nevertheless, there exist specialactivities, such as using digital cameras for projects, creating websites andediting pictures, which are used in the normal curriculum (Downes, 2002, p.31).
For teachers, Microsoft Word is one of the most used computer programs,since it highly simplifies the creation of worksheets (Muir-Herzig, R., 2004,p. 121). This software also shows the highest usage rate within students, asthey edit English writing tasks in this program (Muir-Herzig, 2004, p. 122; Lei& Zhao, 2007, p. 290).
Students further use Microsoft PowerPoint, in orderto create presentations. Other software, for example science probe, areinteresting for students, but in most cases schools do not have the budget toprovide a large variety of this kind of software which means that the usage isnot frequent (Lei & Zhao, 2007, pp. 290-291). Lei and Zhao (2007)investigated, that middle school students use computers primarily for solving exercises(“homework”), information collection, mailing, private surfing, chatting andspecial software usage (Lei & Zhao, 2007,p. 290). When comparingelementary schools with secondary schools, it results, that teachers from theformer one instruct pupils to use the computer for problem-solving, whereasthe secondary school teachers expect students to gather information overinternet (U.S.
Department of Education, 1999, p. 2). The U.S.
Department of Education is convinced, that technology can leadto a massive progress when it comes to the efficiency of teaching and learning.Therefore, there are several free “educational resources”, which can be onlineaccessed, such as the CK-12 FlexBook, a digital textbook (U.S. Department ofEducation, n.d.
). It is proven by Lei and Zhao (2007) that the academicachievement of students increases when using topic relevant software, becausethey focus on a specific subject and apply different study methods, which arenot common in usual classroom environments (Lei and Zhao, 2007, p. 293). Furthermore,students can increase their grades while doing projects. For instance, afterresearching a specific field, they have to present a website as a result of theconducted research.
During this process, they engage with the chosen topic andthereby internalize the new material. Further to this, elementary schoolchildren can work more independently on a topic, with individual support fromthe lecturers, when having computing technology available. (Dynarski et al.,2007, p. 19). As Anderson and Dexter (2003) explained, laptops and Wi-Fi-connectioncan be considered as powerful technological resources, which help students intheir learning process while doing projects. Teachers especially highlightedthe betterment of school children in communicating their results of the project,their general commitment in class, as well as in team works and profoundcomprehension of the topic (Anderson & Dexter, 2003, p. 10).
Nevertheless,the decision if a student is allowed to use a computer for a certain task restswith the teacher. This might lead to injustice, because students only receivepermission for using the computer, if they complete for instance a “classwork”fast. Another problem which students encountered was the lack of practice time,especially those ones, which have no access to computers at home. What has alsobeen noticed is, that teachers tend to give simple exercises such as typingtexts and gathering information (Downes, 2002, p. 31). How ICT influencesstudents depends also on the amount spent on the computer.
As soon as student’susage of technology contains more than 3 hours, it affects them negatively whenlooking at their grades (Lei and Zhao, 2007, p. 288). However, Lei and Zhao (2007)argue, that even though the number of hours matter when looking at the learningimprovement, it is important to consider the fact of how efficient the time inthe internet is used (Lei & Zhao, 2007, p. 289).In their nationwide study “Closing the digital divide: understandingracial, ethnic, social class, gender and geographic disparities in Internet useamong school age children in the United States”, Cleary, Pierce and Trauth(2005) point out, that although the accessibility for computing technologiesrises in the U.
S., the issue of a “digital divide” remains. Despite theexisting investigations regarding this problem, there are still unknown factorswhen looking at the question why this disparity in internet access occurs amongpupils (p.
354). In the same study, the researchers found out, that severalelements, such as the residential area, the ethnic background or financialposition, can be responsible for the inequality in computer access amongschool children. With regard to these points, “the most critical disparitiesin Internet use among school age children occurred among children from Black(non-Hispanic), Hispanic, and non-citizen households” (p. 370). This resultshows, that the children of those families have reduced experience of computertechnologies, because they do not have those facilities at home, mostly due tolack of financial funds. Even if enough technological devices would beavailable at school, the digital divide would still exist, because thehouseholds from one student to another differ (Kim & Bagaka, 2005, p. 327).Kim and Bagaka (2005) highlight, that the gap in the usage of technologybetween students depends also on the teachers, as some of them show moreexperience and proficiency with education technology than others.
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