There is a significant Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry built around supplying hardware and software for education.Technology can provide the necessary tools for improving the teaching and learning processes. It has a wider effect on parents, future employers of students, and those who supply Internet services. It can open new opportunities and avenues to students.
The positive effects of ICT use in education:
- distance learning, where students can access teaching materials from all over the world,
- the ability to perform ‘impossible’ experiments’ by using simulations,
- the possibility for students to have individual learning programs within a topic, rather than everybody having to do the same thing at the same time at the same pace. More able students can be given more challenging work, less able students can access remedial lessons.
The negative effects are:
- there are large costs involved and poorer students / educational establishments can end up being disadvantaged. This is often referred to as being a factor in the digital divide
- students, and sometimes teachers, can get hooked on the technology aspect, rather than the subject content. Just because a topic can be taught via ICT, does not mean that it is taught most effectively via ICT.
There are a lot of studies done to assess the effectiveness of ICT when used in education. And the results are mixed. Much simplified, it would appear that:
- there is some initial impact of using ICT in that students get a wider range of resources and experience some extra motivation.
- the motivation effect soon fades as using ICT becomes the new normal
- the wider resource range remains a positive factor
- there are some well documented positive effects in specific cases. e.g. simulation and modelling is effective in improving science standards, use of word processing and communication software is effective in developing language skills, but there is concern that large areas of the curriculum are not benefiting.
If the teacher does not adapt their methods in order to make best use of ICT, the students do not gain from that use. The manner in which the subject is taught probably has a larger effect than the mere use of ICT.
The people running the educational institutions may not have the knowledge and experience, or often the money, to enable widespread and effective use of ICT in their schools. The attitude of the educational establishment also seems to have a greater effect.
Countries where the government encourages ICT usage and where the majority of the people use ICT on a daily basis are likely to make better use of ICT in education as well as in the larger society. The attitude of the society or government can have a large impact of how ICT is perceived and thus how effectively it is used.
In other countries, the use of ICT may be prohibited or may be restricted because of political or religious reasons. The use of ICT in education becomes less effective in this environment and may even be seen as a threat to those in power and thus actively discouraged.