Impact of Technology on Education
Whether for better or for worse, we are currently living in a world driven by technology. From the 1980s onward, technology has continuously advanced and found increasing use in various aspects of our lives, including businesses, institutions, and even our homes. The advent of cellphones, which were portable and could easily fit in our pockets, was a game-changing development in the history of technology. Technology has continued to progress at an unprecedented rate, and this trend is set to continue in the years ahead. Thanks to the internet, we are now more connected than ever before, and vast quantities of information are at our fingertips in the form of text, audio, images, and videos. Anything that comes to mind can be searched on an internet-enabled device, and related information will be readily available.
Thanks to technology, we are now able to handle tasks both simple and complex. Whether you want to learn how to cook a meal, study music, read a book by your favorite author, or repair a device, there are endless resources available online, from recipes and instructional videos to eBooks and online courses. Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, including health, housing, transportation, and agriculture. However, the impact of technology on education is a topic that remains largely unexplored.
Although many basic features of education have remained the same for centuries, some changes have occurred due to the integration of technology. For instance, physical textbooks are being replaced by digital ones, and some classrooms are now equipped with laptops and other digital devices. However, the fundamental system of a teacher instructing students remains unchanged in many cases, with the teacher serving as the primary source of information.
Despite this, technology has still had some impact on education. It has facilitated learning for students and teaching activities for teachers. In the following section, we will explore some of the ways in which technology has changed education.
Consider the traditional system of face-to-face education, which is still prevalent in many regions worldwide. In this system, a teacher and students must be physically present in the same location for learning to occur. However, technology has enabled teachers to hold lessons with students who are located in different parts of the world. For example, when schools were forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many institutions in developed countries like the USA, Australia, Canada, and Europe seamlessly transitioned to online learning platforms to conduct classes.
Moreover, individuals are now able to pursue higher education online and receive Bachelor's, Master's, and even PhDs without ever setting foot in a physical classroom. Websites like Udemy, Coursera, and Khan Academy offer online courses that allow students worldwide to access new information beyond what is taught in traditional classrooms. These online education systems have successfully eliminated geographical barriers that have long hindered students from accessing education centers of their choice.
As adults, we may have other commitments but still want to pursue further studies in a particular field or acquire a new skill such as cooking, art, or knitting. Online learning offers a solution by allowing us to pursue our interests without having to take time off from our primary obligations. As an online student, we can customize our schedules according to our needs, which means we have the freedom to learn at any time of the day or night. Unlike in traditional education, where physical books and reading materials are a must, online learning provides access to all learning materials, which can be easily shared among students with the click of a button.
In some cases, such materials may require purchase before use, and this is where various payment platforms such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa cards, and M-Pesa come in handy. With over 20 major payment platforms available, one can purchase learning materials from the comfort of their home. For instance, if you are interested in J.K Rowling's new book, you can buy it on Amazon, a popular online store, and have a hard copy delivered to your address or a soft copy sent to you via email. This is the extent to which technology has revolutionized education and learning.
Interactions Between Students and Teachers: Communication and Collaboration
In the past, students had to wait until they got to school to ask their teacher a question, and if it was homework-related, it could result in late submission. However, with today's technological advancements, including email, SMS, and messaging systems such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, students can interact with their teachers online and get help while the question or information is still fresh in their minds.
For example, a student could encounter a math problem, take a picture of it using their mobile device, and send it to an older sibling on the other side of the country for assistance. This technology could have helped many of us score higher on our homework. While this unlimited form of communication is beneficial, there are concerns about the loss of non-verbal cues and the impact on the original message.
In physical schools, group work involves pulling chairs around a table to discuss an assigned topic. Online collaboration tools such as Google Docs allow members to work on a document simultaneously.
Advent of Online Tests
The use of technology for testing purposes is often deemed unbiased. In traditional classroom settings, tests are administered on paper and timed, with the teacher observing for authenticity. However, with online tests, there is concern regarding the authenticity and honesty of students. It can be difficult to verify if the student taking the test is actually the one on the other side of the screen, and if they are not accessing external resources such as books or the internet. Unless these tests are taken within the school premises and monitored, they are susceptible to being compromised. As a result, online tests are often used as a preparation tool for a final onsite test, and are typically multiple choice, as open-ended questions would require a teacher to grade them manually.
To conclude, we have explored how technology has transformed the traditional teacher-centered education system to a more student-centric approach. While technology has provided easier access to learning content and information, the teacher's role has shifted to that of a guide. However, there are concerns about the potential negative impacts of technology on education, including the distortion of student-teacher relationships, isolation of students in a virtual world, exacerbating social inequalities, and eroding basic competencies in reading, writing, and math. In a subsequent article, we will delve into these negative influences of technology on education.