Picture a classroom then and now. Notice how it changed in the last two or three decades? From a blackboard to a Smart Board, from students holding notebooks to kids toting laptops and tablets, from traditional print-book storytelling to digital storytelling – times have changed and so is pedagogy.
We now live in a digital world and it is very evident how technology changed our lives in countless different ways. The education sector had its share of changes or innovation and it’s obvious it isn’t just about integrating gadgets in methods of teaching. New technologies such as free cloud applications for uploading lessons and documents, video-conferencing tools for communicating with colleagues, web-based tools for tracking students’ progress and digital forms are all part of education technology which when integrated meaningfully in the school system can provide opportunities to enhance students’ interest in learning, improve collaboration among students and teachers, increase teachers’ productivity and prepare students for the digital future.
But why is it that, even with all these benefits, the education sector lags behind in making the most of technology? Are schools tech-phobic? How hard is it for the education sector to completely adopt technology in their system?
Well, introducing education technology into the classroom and curriculum can be quite complex. There are a number of factors to be considered and although most of the perceived issues are solvable, majority of them can’t be solved overnight.
Let’s take a look at each of the reasons why education is slow to adopt technology.
Not everyone has technology at home, that’s still a fact. Developing countries experience difficulty in increasing Internet access because of politics and budget constraints. Without the government’s commitment and genuine support from private enterprises such as mobile phone operators, increased Internet accessibility is unlikely to occur. So up until access to the World Wide Web is equal for every student, integrating technology in education will remain a challenge.
Large Number of Stakeholders
You see, it isn’t the teachers who will decide which tech to use or invest into. The end users are also not part of the decision-making process during tech procurement. Those who will decide which ed-tech a school will invest into involve a large number of stakeholders so just imagine how complex the procurement process can get.
Education technology can be a risky investment, too, so acquisition can’t be rushed and must be based on relevant research and assessment, and grounded on best practices.
Print VS Digital
Now, it only takes a mouse click to produce and disseminate copies of copyrighted works. If people can now easily send e-books or reference materials on the Internet for free, who will pay for print copies? What will happen to the creative expression of academic authors and editors?
And now that students have access to academic texts from their home computers, will they still go to the school library?
The education sector might be holding back its complete acceptance of digital media because of how technology affects intellectual property and how it seems to cause “the end of library.”
Teacher Training & Professional Development
It isn’t enough that advancements in technology are present or simply available for educators to use. Teachers must also be given the necessary training and professional development to understand how technology can make teaching and learning more effective. Hands-on experience to help teachers adapt and apply technology in their profession must be present.
This is where the concept of quality over quantity best applies. We need not just increased bandwidth or faster Internet connection or laptops for every student. Government bodies must also focus on competence development equipping teachers with enough training within a good period of time to master a technology and effectively integrate it into their classes. Skill development for faculty and teachers is inarguably complicated but not impossible.
Obtaining Technology For The Sake Of Technology
School administrations appear to see ed-tech as simply the use of digital devices in the classroom. We can’t measure technology’s performance in education with a simple student to computer ratio or percentage of classes/courses using technology. The education sector also needs to understand the impact of technology on information dissemination, boosting teacher productivity, and reducing waste and inefficiency.
This only means that schools must invest in technology because of all of its added value and not simply because they need to tick a box that says they’ve modernized and have invested in some tech devices.
And when all the above-mentioned barriers have been addressed, the next concern would be how will the technology be sustained? What will happen after the initial funding? What happens after the new tech-based instructional methods have been implemented? Can the school district continuously support and maintain it? It’s a given fact that tech improvements occur every few years so can the education sector keep pace with the changes?
It appears all of these barriers to technology integration in education sum up to one thing: fear – fear of improper implementation, fear of students becoming submissive to digital technologies, the threat of deschooling, fear of relinquishing teacher control, fear of losing the “traditional schooling experience,” and fear coming from being unsure of what to expect from technology integration.
Until education experts find the courage to handle their fear of the unknown, the education sector won’t be able to maximize technology’s potential for transforming teaching and learning.