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Emergent learning technologies have reshaped the educational system. The technology’s capacity to come up with symbolic representations has transformed the the way students and educators conceptualize knowledge. According to Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993), the incorporation of technology in learning institutions was prompted by evolution of cognitive psychology. Over the years, these technologies have been utilized in the creation of enhanced avenues of learning, a situation which has resolved the challenge of teaching in a pluralistic school environment.
The advent of technologies, such as personal computers, has ushered in a transformation in education. Proponents of such technologies predict that they will enable learners to construct and test tentative insights into complex systems. The introduction of learning technologies is presumed to have the capacity to alter the relationships between teachers and students. For instance, it is hoped that teachers will turn into interdisciplinary enablers of learners’ creativity. Educators will have the ability to create a legitimate space for experimentation with the intention of guiding learning toward the intended results. This paper addresses the current, as well as the future impact of learning technologies in schools (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993).
How Technologies Have Shaped Teaching and Learning
The need to introduce learning technologies in schools necessitated massive investments. Such investments were made in an attempt to ensure the universal access to these technologies by students. Several studies on these investments have been conducted so as to evaluate the manner in which they can revolutionize classroom practices. Since the conception of these technologies, learning institutions have spent enormous amounts of funds on digital technologies and networks. By 2000, for instance, enough resources had been utilized that the ratio of learners to personal computers dropped from 25:1as of the rate 1980s to 5:1. This success was attributable to, in part, the enormous government investment in educational technology. In fact, according to statistics from the Department of Education, over $8 billion was spent for this purpose between 1995 and 2000. This facilitated the rise in Internet access for students in public schools from 35% in the early 1990s to over 95% by 2000 (Department of Education, 2000).
The perceived advantages of learning technologies have prompted the educational community to restructure schools in a manner that spurs quality and scalability. According to Khosrowpour (2000), teachers are being encouraged to enhance their commitment in the progressive approach to teaching and learning. The zeal for technology has resulted into the invention of constructivist science and mathematics educational projects. These projects include the UC Berkeley Thinker Tools and the Northwestern University’s Learning Technologies for Urban Schools. Innovative and technology-based curricular have been developed in line with the teachers professional development. Since their unveiling, projects such as UC Berkeley Thinker Tools, have had a significant impact on teaching, as well as learning in the collaborating schools. In this regard, technology has facilitated curricular innovations in a manner that integrates innovation with learning opportunities (Gardner, 1985).
According to Orey et al. (2011), traditional forms of learning and teaching have persisted in some learning institutions. They criticize technology as a waste of time and a derailment to normal learning. They, therefore, campaign for students to be restricted to less than an hour of computer use per day. There are some instances where teachers fail to integrate learning technologies into their normal teaching practices, a situation which hinders supplemental learning activities. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions in certain levels of schooling. For instance, the utilization of drill-and-practice tools has been common in most learning institutions where pupils, especially the third, fourth, and fifth graders, participate in math games.
The Advent of Accountability
In response to the philosophical shift, the use of learning technologies improved during the early 2000s. Utilization of these technologies resulted into an enhanced structuring and predictability in education, a situation which led to standardization of teaching and assessment. The utility of learning technologies was boosted by the passage of the No Child Left Behind, NCLB, Act in 2001. The law required all students between grade three and eight to undergo tests in core subjects so as to allow states to develop data-driven accountability. This was hoped to improve demands for information and communication systems, as it would help transform the administrative practices in the learning institutions (Department of Education, 2000).
Since 2000, schools have been utilizing learning technologies during the collection, management, and analysis of learning data. This has enabled schools to stop outsourcing data whose implementation would lead to ambiguity in their strategies. Schools have been acquiring technologies, such as customizable databases, so as to facilitate data querying and warehousing. Beside their improvement of classroom learning, these technologies have been useful tools for communication between parents and teachers (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993).
Various local and state data systems have enabled schools to access learners’ achievement information. Schools use achievement information during their decision making processes. Transforming assessment data into applicable information enables school administrations and teachers to improve the processes of identifying performance gaps amongst the learners. As such, schools are able to reform and refine instructional practices, and this enables the creation of benchmark systems that help to gauge advancement in learning. Learning technologies have, therefore, enabled teachers to integrate a standardized diagnostic, as well as summative assessment in the normal teaching practices (Pratt-Adams et al, 2010).
The availability of information beyond the normal schooling tests and quizzes has enabled many institutions to maximize the use of distributed networks. Learning technologies have been considered to be liberators of curricula, as they provide tools that enable students to conceptualize complex and dynamic representations of systemic and mathematical processes (Bruer, 1993). As facilitators of creativity, teachers permit students to turn disciplinary studies into interdisciplinary investigations. Learning technologies facilitate the use of statistical and data procedures in the application of proven procedures. In fact, teachers have increased the amount of time that is spent on teaching tested subjects (Papert, 1980). Data-driven administrative technologies have, therefore, turned learning into occasions, where research-proven practices can be measured and applied.
Learning Technologies at Present and the Future
According to Pratt-Adams (2010), the impact of learning technologies has been felt in and out of the learning institutions. While some are best suited for a classroom environment, the others flourish outside such institutions. In this regard, technology has facilitated the beginning of home schooling, as well as new learning centers. Technologies help in defining the goals of learning. They facilitate the development of structures that guide students through the provision of sophisticated learning processes. Learning technologies are designed in a manner that enables any learner, irrespective of his/her motivation and ability, to participate in the learning processes (Papert, 1980). They facilitate the measuring and delivering of outcomes, as they control the learners’ instructional processes.
The use of learning technologies presents the learners with the ability to define learning goals. These technologies have structured activities that enable learners to decide when and how their learning goals are to be satisfied. In situations where learning technologies are applied, success is determined as par the degree by which they support and satisfy the learners’ agency. Learning technologies emphasize on the use of resources like search engines, blogs, and wikis. These resources enable learners to browse for and retrieve information in a timely manner, a situation which enhances incidental, as well as participatory learning (Pratt-Adams et al, 2010).
In the nearest future, learning technologies will enable learners to construct representations based on the emerging hypotheses through incorporation of visualization and programming tools. However, misapplication of these technologies would divert learners from their original goals, and this would, in effect, thwart learning in general. Nevertheless, a significant number of schools will enhance the visualization and communication technologies that they utilize in their regular schooling programs. In that case, institutions such as visual charter schools will gain prominence, and this will, therefore, revolutionize education (Papert, 1980).
Learning technologies have enabled teachers to form collaborative teams that work alongside the traditional classroom settings. These technologies have facilitated accountability during the reshaping of learning environments, as credible data is utilized in measuring results. Institutions have been co-opting the rewards of technologies in the expanded context of education and society. Therefore, the advert of learning technologies has facilitated the flourishing of learning communities outside the limits of the normal schooling environment. The evolution of communication technologies has enabled schools to enhance their equity and reliability as centers for learning (Khosrowpour, 2000).
In spite of their benefits, learning technologies have a number of drawbacks. For instance, extra time is required for the training of personnel after the application of these technologies begin. Effective utilization of learning technologies necessitates the understanding of how human behavior is affected by technology. As such, teachers are required to undergo extra training so as to ensure effective integration of the classroom technology in the learning environment. This makes the implementation of technology difficult and time consuming, a situation which has led stakeholders in education into abandoning their implementation in schools (Orey & Branch, 2011). Nevertheless, their future implementation will be easy and cost effective as colleges are preparing the tutors in advance.