Effective Use of Virtual Technology BY wiocke226 ABSTRACT This report explores recent literature in the fields of E-Learning, Technology in the classroom and modern theories in learning strategies and recent developments in virtual classrooms in order to inform the research question: How effective is the use of a virtual technology to improve the learning of key educational groups? Although there has been much debate into the positive and negative aspects of the use of technology in the classroom and the effect on students, there seems to be little into the impact on key educational groups.
It was concluded that a controlled study nto the effects on students was need to ascertain if technology can improve learning for different groups of students. INTRODUCTION There is an increased use of information technology in todays classrooms and a growing trend amongst some educational theorists that education should be reflective of the students’ underlying social environments, (Downes, 2012). There is also a fear amongst some educationalists that tech-free classrooms are not the most engaging learning environment, (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2013).
Educationalist have hotly debated the merits of a virtual environment for education here there is a reduced personal interaction inherent in an online learning system. (Elearning-companion. com, 2013). There is little literature and evidence which is directly related to the question of the effectiveness of a virtual environment in education. However, there is a considerable amount of material on the topics of ICT within the classroom and also current educational theories about the changes in learning paradigms and the use of virtual worlds.
These areas can be investigated further to establish an academic background to qualify the future research which can be more specific. This report herefore looks at recent literature from leading authorities in education practises and theories as well as the positive and negative aspects of using a virtual learning environment. E-LEARNING E-learning is a term that describes educational technology that electronically or technologically supports teaching and learning. Bernard Luskin, a pioneer of e- enthusiastic, emotional, extended, excellent, and educational’ in addition to ‘electronic. , (Luskin, 2010). Luskin also suggests that e-learning ‘still revolves around gadgets and gizmos’, (Luskin, 2010), but that e-learning should be driven by theories of behaviour and uman experience, (Luskin, 2010). E-Learning encompasses multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning (TEL), computer-based training (CBT), computer- assisted instruction (CA’), internet-based training (1ST), web-based training (WBT), online education, virtual education, virtual learning environments (VLE) which are also called learning platforms, (Chukwunonso and Binti Ibrahim et al. 2013, p. 7 to Cull and Reed et al suggest students are more likely and more motivated in an e- learning class as, students are free to log on and complete work any time they wish. They can work on and complete their assignments at the times when they think most cogently, whether it be early in the morning or late at night (Cull and Reed et al. , 2010). However, many teachers feel they have a harder time keeping their students engaged in an e-learning class. A disengaged student is usually an unmotivated student, and an engaged student is a motivated student. Dennen, V. P. , & Bonk, C. J. 2007). One reason why students are more likely to be disengaged is that the lack of face-to-face contact which makes it difficult for teachers to read their students’ onverbal cues, including confusion, boredom or frustration, (Cull and Reed et al. , 2010). Kushnir informs that some students often report feeling overloaded in courses that utilise an e-learning environment compared to traditional face-to-face courses. (Kushntr, 2009).
TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM In teaching, we seem to have reached the point Where the use of technology is expected, by both students and their parents’, (Lavin and Korte et al. , 2011). The adaption of traditional teaching methods to a more ICT based classroom activities are due to the students ‘ability to think and process information fundamentally ifferently (Berry, 2001), according to Presnky ‘students have changed radically and that todays students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. (Prensky, 2001, pp. 1–6). This is due to modern students being ‘native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet’, (Prensky, 2001, pp. 1–6). Mavers commented further that “As digital technologies proliferate and become established in the everyday world of home, work and community, schools are inhabited by young people who are experienced users of a ange of media and whose use is characterised by agency and adaptability. ” (Mavers, 2007, P. 52).
However, recent research would tend to indicate that only a small sub-set of the population fits this characterisation’, (Bennett and Maton et al. , 2008, pp. 775–786) interests of young people’, (Bennett and Maton et al. , 2008, pp. 775–786). There is an ‘argument that aptitude with technology is not necessarily related to age but to other personal characteristics’, (Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005). These personal characteristics can be defined as ‘age, gender, socio-economic background, and discipline of study, Bennett, S. 2012).
There is a debate about technology in the classroom being detrimental to the students with excessive access to technology ‘consequently leading to increased frustration’, (Martin, 2013) and the possibility of ‘a negative impact on all aspects of student behaviour’, (Lavin and Korte et al. , 2011). There is also a growing concern for students writing skills as the use of technology in the classroom has meant they have totally forgotten about improving their writing skills’, (Martin, 2013). To be effective technology-based tools must ‘accompany appropriate pedagogy, (Laurillard, 2002).
Conversely technology can ‘better support diverse needs and capacities of students’ (McCombs, 2000). A 2001 national study in the USA showed that 87% of university lecturers believe computer technology enhances student learning, (Epper and Bates, 2001). Hiltz debates that controversy exists about the nature of human communication via a computer. Although there is the possibility for a greater flow of information, given the ability to upload and download from computers and to search or browse through items at a rapid rate, ‘There is an agreement that the lack of nonverbal cues can diminish or distort social presence, Hiltz, 1986, pp. 5??”104) and ‘a sense of depersonalization often occurs when individuals are restricted to technology-mediated written communication’ (Hiltz, 1986, pp. 95??”104). TECHNOLOGICAL LEARNING THEORIES The use of technology has assisted teaching for many years now and ‘has been embraced by a range of educational theorists and, significantly, applied by teachers and policymakers’ (Smith, 2013). One key element is a method of teaching to each learning style with the use of technology.
Howard Gardner originally devised seven intelligences (Smith, 2013) now eight intelligences (Nolan, 2003), these eight ntelligences can be summarised as (Pearson, 2012): ??? verbal linguistic (strong ability to use words), mathematical logical (ability with deductive reasoning), ??? visual spatial (ability to use images and graphic designs), ??? musical rhythmic (ability to express through music and rhythm), ??? bodily kinaesthetic (ability with movement and use of the body), ??? intrapersonal (awareness of internal moods and thoughts), ??? interpersonal (ability to learn and express through relating to others), ??? naturalist environmental (affinity with nature and living things),
Teachers are encouraged to use these intelligences ‘as a tool to reach students with skills in each intelligence’, (Smith, 2013). Nolan argues that ‘in order to address the need for different teaching strategies, we must first realise there are different learning styles’, (Nolan, 2003, p. 115). academic literature. (Driscoll and Driscoll, 2005) define learning as ‘a persisting change in human performance or performance potential which must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world’. Seimens suggests that the three traditional learning theories of behaviourism, cognitivism, and onstructivism ‘are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned’, (Siemens, 2005, pp. 3–10).
Seimens proposes that Connectivism ‘presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity, (Siemens, 2005, pp. 3–10), but rather than modern students are used to the integration of learning and that Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era. Kop and Hill comment that while connectivism is not a new pedagogy itself, it does lay an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, Where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner’ (Kop and Hill, 2008).
VIRTUAL CLASSROOM A virtual classroom is an online learning environment that can be web-based and accessed through a portal or software-based and require a downloadable executable file. Students in a virtual classroom participate in asynchronous instruction, which means that the teacher and students are not necessarily logged into the virtual learning environment at the same time (Rouse, 2010). Salman Khan, the creator of the Khan Academy, argues that to give students video lectures to watch at home within a virtual environment, and do ‘homework in the classroom with the teacher available to help (Khan, 2011), thus turning the classroom format completely opposite to the traditional teaching methods.
Hannon argues that all teaching requires students to be motivated to engage and this enthusiasm is sometimes lacking in traditional classrooms, ‘most children arrive at school curious, but when lessons are reduced to a series of abstract tasks, they lose their eagerness’ (Hannon, 2013). Although virtual classrooms have become the preferred modern teaching system they are not a perfect method, they have significant limitations and disadvantages. According to Brady these include ‘Technical requirements’, students who have slow internet connection or older PC will have difficulty in participating in the virtual classroom. She also talks about ‘Students’ Characteristic and Skill’ these are students who have low motivation or have bad study habits who will more likely be left behind since there are no teachers that will personally motivate these types of students to study harder.
She goes on to describe ‘Limited Instructor Assistance’ these are instructors who are not always available when students are studying to assist them CONCLUSION Whilst conducting research into the question highlighted using the latest research into the use of technology in the classroom it has become apparent that although technology has a place in developing the classroom into a suitable learning environment for todays students it is not a one size fits all solution. The individual needs of students must be taken into account and also the different ways in which students learn and the skills they already possess. A virtual educational environment transcends the boundaries of location, time and space providing a flexible learning environment for all students because it is an excellent way for teachers to teach a diverse group of students, from multitude of backgrounds and skills without hassle. It also allows students to take control of their learning, allowing them to revisit topics and lessons they are unsure about as well as providing an environment which they find exciting and intuitive.
There is a concern that the virtual classroom should not Just mirror the physical classroom. Papert and Caperton commented that educators have tried to use new echnologies to solve the problems of school-as-it-is instead of seeking radically new opportunities to develop school-as-it can-be’ (Papert and Caperton, 1999). The research would seem to suggest that a new viewpoint is required when constructing a virtual classroom where the normal rules of ‘lecture, homework, lecture, homework (Khan 2011), need not apply. However to ensure students do not lose motivation an online teacher presence should be established. The way students learn is changing and developing.
Students today are immersed in technology and although education establishments need to take into account student ackground and skills, it seems to be an ideal tool to engage students with their learning. REFERENCES Bennett, S. , Maton, K. and Kervin, L. 2008. The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of educational technology, 39 (5), pp. 775–786. Berry, B. 2001. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently? By Marc Prensky From On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol. 6, December 2001) l. 9 NO. Brady, J. 2010. The Disadvantages of the Virtual Classroom. [online] Available at: http://www. articlesfactory. com/articles/education/the-disadvantages-of-the-virtual- lassroom. html [Accessed: 9 Dec 2013]. 2013.
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