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The introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning has received a propagation of research at all levels of education and training. Initial efforts tried to provide comparison of technology-based teaching with more traditional teaching with the quasi-experimental design becoming more popular. Nonetheless, recently there has been the urge to investigate deeply into the processes involved in technology-based learning environment which aims at illuminating, comprehending, and extrapolating to the same situation using qualitative inquiry methodologies. The main reason for using qualitative method is due to the shift in theoretical emphasis from a behaviorist perspective of technology appliance to a more constructivist view concerning teaching and learning. Therefore, it is not surprising that the participant surveillance procedures, interview, and ethnographic modus operandi have been widely applied in the process of data collection in the technology-based classroom. This paper discusses impacts and the evolution of technology in education, the accompanying theoretical constructs and influence on teaching and learning.
Evolution Conception of technology in Education
Technology is the systematic appliance of scientific or any other organized knowledge to practical tasks and in most cases in the history of education. Technology has been introduced with the hope that it will enhance teaching and learning. In the past few years, Roblyer, & King (1988) identified three foremost conceptions of didactic technology such as: Educational Technology One (ET1) which emphasizes the use of machines, equipment and other aids in instruction. It is in quintessence a hardware approach to education. In this case technology is viewed as a means of mechanizing or automating the process of teaching with devices that transmit, amplify, distribute record and reproduce stimuli materials. This has really played an important role indeed by increasing the teacher's impact as well as widening the potential audience". Researchers refer to this as the Audio-Visual Archetype where technology performs functions such as helping in classroom presentations, improving demonstrations by giving admittance to actuality or simulations of veracity which the teacher alone can’t provide and has thus helped in solving logistical problems. However, the ET1 approach has frequently been applied in piecemeal and uncoordinated fashion and as a result often does not match, in practice, the words "systematic application" in the broad clarity of technology provided at the onset.
The second one is the Education Technology Two (ET2) which is actually concerned with the application of the principles of behavioral science with the aim of improving on learning. Even though hardware might be used, it basically focuses on the learner and is also referred to as software approach. Technology is viewed in the sense that it provides the necessary know-how for designing new or rather renewing current worthwhile learning experiences. In this case machines are viewed as components of presentation and transmission (Capper, & Copple, 1985). This approach initially developed in the area of programmed learning in 1960s as a result of Skinner on operant conditioning. This was first applied to the design of learning materials and soon after applied to cover curriculum and course improvement and was referred to as the Engineering Archetype. The archetype takes the form of a specific series of steps which typically includes a clear first step, selection of instructional strategies and resources, and a terminal step of assessment of output. However, it is also important to note that feedback is almost always a part of the process as well. ET2 represents a maturity in outset with respect to educational technology since it is viewed as more systematic in its approach, more precise in its reliance on "scientific and other organized knowledge" and more focused on learning as compared to teaching (Capper, & Copple, 1985).
Thirdly, Educational Technology Three (ET3), which combines the ET1 and ET2 approaches but without retaining stiff devotion to a fixed succession of procedures characteristic of ET2. As pointed out earlier, it rejects 'systematic advancement as the only way of proceeding, in favor of a systemic set of procedures that focus more deeply on the processes as well as on the products of teaching and learning. Therefore ET3 is fundamentally a systemic approach to education. Whether at the level of preparing an instructional series or developing a curriculum, the approach will try to ive the definition of the boundaries of the system being considered and consider all the factors involved. These factors may cover many miscellaneous aspects such as ethical considerations of values which are very significant to instill, policies and societal needs. The approach is therefore said to be total, integrated and human in character. The archetype that is linked with it is the Problem-Solving Archetype. Discontent with definite educational situation provides the context in which a problem is identified. For one to resolve the problem, ET3 creates diversity of skills associated with observation, analysis, and diagnosis among other things. While ET3 may use hardware and software linked with ET1 and ET2, its approach is a bit flexible and all-inclusive compared to the other two technologies. Consequently, it does stand for a supplementary advancement in origin of enlightening technology.
As a result of the extraordinary rate of technological advancement, particularly in internet interactivity, capabilities of multimedia and shift in classroom dynamics towards learner based approaches provides for the materialization of ET4 or the Technology-Based Learning Environment Archetype which is a combination of ET1, ET2 and ET3. The systematic approach is usually used in the advancement of stand-alone computers that run short electronic lessons. Different conceptions and explanations of learning are required in the access to the global network of multimedia information and online learning communities. Although ET4 is still in its infancy, early research efforts show that technology use is most triumphant when used for strategic purposes in particular contextual settings and content areas (Capper, & Copple, 1985).
In addition, Capper, & Copple, (1985) affirms that such uses of technology are successful when teachers and students engage in teaching-learning relationships that uses data-driven content decision making. Enormous amounts of information accessed through the internet generate new opportunities to learn in a worldwide context. It also increases capacity and expand connectivity thus making learning with this new medium both achievable and powerful. Nevertheless, educators' knowledge of how to use that power requires substantial attention and best practices. As the amount of information from the internet has increased and the quality of connections has improved, it is vital for teachers to be able to differentiate the form the invalid information and personal opinion. It is clear that computer-supported communication brings prominent experts and community members into the classroom and enables them to both learn from one another. They offer real-world examples, model performances, and offer the occupied enrichment prospects for students.
Conception of Learning and Direction of Research
Over the decades, the direction of research in educational technology has been influenced by both hypothetical viewpoints and progressions in technology itself. The advent of the personal computer in the classroom focused on Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) which refers to any kind of computer use in educational settings and includes drill and practice, simulations, instructional organization, auxiliary exercises, database development, writing using word processors, tutorials, and other appliances. As a result of Skinner's involuntary instructions, tasks are broken up into convenient units and arranged in order to cater for the learning pace of an individual. Usually learners were required to complete one task before moving on to another, immediate feedback is provided, and these tasks are usually graded in accordance to their level of complexity. Nonetheless, more recent authoring tools enable the development of non-linear lessons and also incorporating multimedia facilities such as: audio, animation, and video aimed at enhancing interactivity with the learner (Capper, & Copple, 1985).
Generally, in most of these studies, with the efforts of comparing the effectiveness of CAI with 'traditional' teaching methods such as the lecture, small group discussions, chalk and talk, problem solving sessions, and the outcomes measured tended to be performance on pre and pos-tests. The correlation method is usually employed to establish causal connection between various pedagogical techniques using technology and leaner attitudes, locus of control, attendance and motivation in the learning process. As these research approaches continue to be popular the findings tend to be inconclusive with regards to the efficacy of technology in enhancing learning. Progressivelly, a shift in research approaches is being used with the term 'learning environment' and consequently the 'technology-based learning environment' archetype (TBLE) discussed earlier on (Capper, & Copple, 1985). In trying to compare the existing teaching methods with the TBLE maybe somewhat of a futile effort since the processes taking place in the latter are differentiated from what happens in a 'chalk and talk' situation. In most cases, it becomes unclear concerning what learning outcomes emanate from a technology-rich learning environment.
Research in a Technology-Based Learning Environment: Shift towards Qualitative Methods
According to Valdez, & Anderson, (1999) the Technology-Based Learning Environment Archetype is usually based on a cognitive-constructivist theoretical perspective which is usually concerned with the way learners individually and collectively interprets the social and psychological world. It is also vital to note that knowledge and truth are created, not discovered. Many of the tools of technology have been viewed to have created environments that impersonate situations in the factual world and thus providing learners with prospect to apply the concept, principles and skills learned. For instance, telecommunications and the internet provide access to promising remedial and interdisciplinary databases, real-time phenomena, and social communities that is not available through print-based curricula. Cognitive Flexibility is the aptitude to represent data from diverse perspectives tailored to the needs and levels of the learner. For example multimedia technology permits information and skills to be presented in a variety of diverse ways. Also, the interactivity of computers enables students to adopt content with the aim of meeting their individual student needs.
Valdez, & Anderson, (1999) asserts that the discovery is pushing learners to try out unlike theories, stratagems and methods with the aim of determining their effects. Internet technology provides powerful tools that enable learners to make discoveries while working on their own. Computers and subsidiary electronic devices assist the exploitation of data as well as the visualization processes which assist with experimenting and understanding actual, innovative, and hypothetical concepts, principles, relationships, and probabilities. In the cognitive-constructivist TBLE, Cooperative Learning is buoyant as learners work in groups and engaging in discussions and sharing information with the aim of solving problem. Collaborative Learning is the situation when groups of learners engage in discussion and trying out their ideas and challenge the ideas of others. For instance, a group of learners in Canada could be working on a project in cyberspace with other groups in Malaysia. Furthermore, cooperative and collaborative learning practiced in the TBLE are skills can also be employed in the workplace.
Articulation can be termed as the methods of getting learners to make their tacit acquaintance open or clear. When learners make accessible to others what they have done through the internet, learners are therefore capable of comparing their strategies and provides insight into alternative perspectives. Reflection is when learners look back over what they did and analyse their performance and in doing so through the internet Learners will be able see the thinking processes they used in solving problems and be able to establish if their strategies were suitable.
It is therefore evident that most of educators maintain that information and communication technology is a tool or teaching aid. Yet, with the increased capabilities of technology, its status has been raised to that of a learning environment with manifold abilities with the aim of supporting and enhancing learning of most students. Constant advancements in information and communication technology (ICT) such as virtual veracity, fast speed access, networked communities, sophisticated computer graphics, plentiful and noteworthy online resources will relentlessly change learning environments and provide for different ways humans learn. The shift towards more qualitative methods of inquiry is likely to yield in-depth considerate teaching-learning processes in a technology-based environment. In other words, research should focus on understanding what, when, why and how learning takes place in the technology enriched environment and is equally vital since it will be the pedagogy of the future teaching and learning according to Valdez, & Anderson, (1999).