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The Role of Technology to the Classroom Environment

The classroom milieu is a concept provided under the education system for teachers and students to interact educationally, socially, culturally, technologically, and spiritually. It serves the purpose of building the students’ self-identity and educational experience to prepare them for the society and their careers. However, due to development in the modern world, technology seems to be creeping into our every facet of life, and spreading its roots faster and more intricately than how it can adequately adjust to its proliferation. Therefore, this paper will focus on development and look at how technology has influenced the classroom milieu both positively and negatively in relation to how education is being dispensed to students.

To understand how deep technology has crept into the classroom environment, it is vital to first look at the different mechanisms that it has utilized to achieve this objective. One of the most notable is the use of an online education system. This is a multifaceted area that covers several educational measures, media, and modus operandi (Shindler, 2010). Online education involves the dispensation of education through audio, visual, or print media that is accessed or posted online by both the students and the teachers. In America, statistics indicate that approximately 45% of students have used online education in at least one of their courses. These students range from those in the kindergarten level, to those in the university or college.

Another method in which technology has become ingrained into the classroom milieu is the use of computers to perform daily classroom work and learning. Through student’s portals, teachers can upload materials, books, audiovisual materials, and emails to communicate with the students. This materials can be accessed during class hours and provide a face to face interaction, coupled with a computer aided learning tool, where the teacher explains the materials uploaded, while the students strive to look more intricately into it. Additionally, the students complete typed or drawn assignments, which are printed, or sent to the teacher as a digital copy, marked, and returned to the students as another digital copy with grading and comments from the tutor.

Another method in which technology has become ingrained into the classroom milieu is the use of mobile phones and the internet. The latter has being covered marginally through the online education explanation. The mobile phones have a multiplicity of functions, which can be used by the students to perform various things while still within the classroom milieu such as when learning is ongoing. This can be such as texting, taking pictures and videos, playing games, using eBook readers, or using the internet to surf, access, and share information. According to a study conducted in the US, each student sends an average of 100 texts in a day, which could take up a lot of their time (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2009). Additionally, either the use of social media is on the increase and has even crept into the classroom milieu through the use of mobile phones, or computers provided within the school.

Positive Effects of the utility of Technology

The use of online education has provided an avenue for students to increase their knowledge experience via an increase in accessibility to educational content. According to a study by Allen & Seaman, “ Conflicted Faculty and Online Education, 2012”, the number of people taking online courses in the US was 1.6 million in 2002, and this figure has risen to more than 10 million in 2012. Another business guru, Peter Drucker explains that it is vital that educational institutions begin the use and adaptation into their curricula and educational systems since its growth and applicability to learning is phenomenon.

Another study by Doyle indicated that a majority of the students in the online education system are mainly drawn from independent people aged above 25 years and having stable careers and families (2009). This shows the ease of accessibility to these online courses has a large to these unique students. The main attraction to online education is its ease of accessibility, which allows users to structure their time and schedule to learn in a manner that does not affect their lives. Since lecturers are posted online, students can view them when their schedules offer time, which provides for an effective methodology for learning controlled by the student.

Another advantage to the use of online education is that it offers online discussion forums with people drawn from various backgrounds, locations, and with different levels of career development. Therefore, students can use these platforms to form close relationships with fellow professionals who can have a positive contribution to their career development. Aside from this, these online discussion forums can be a useful tool for students to engage the knowledge experience of others as a means to understand the course content. These online discussions are usually on a digital platform where the contents of the discussions are not deleted for a certain period. This allows for students to access older discussions that they could have missed, as well as provide their views regarding the issues under discussion.

In tandem with these online discussion forums is the use of smart phones for texting, chatting, and accessing social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, among many others. According to scholars, technology use among the youth is being used to change the cultural values and behaviors of students and the younger population to become more social. Psychologists contend that using smart phones and social media has changed the development of the communication process for children, since a majority of them can be considered as being too open, too social, and too trusting to interact with anyone, they meet either in real life, or online. For instance, the students have found an avenue to talk about issues affecting their lives on open forums and seek information and advice from their peers in real time. Talking about issues or problems that one is facing, be they physical, emotional, social, or psychological, is believed as one of the primary means to develop intellectually in a manner that conforms to societal values and standards.

The application of technology to the classroom milieu is also important to prepare the students for survival in a world that is quickly embracing digital technology. For instance, in 2012, approximately 28% of the global population had access to a mobile phone and this figure is growing at an exponential rate (Starr and  Ricki, 2005). Use of computers, smart phones and other electronic gadgets is continually being researched, developed and integrated into our every facet of life at overwhelming speeds. Therefore, children have to be ready to use these newer technologies being developed and one of the means to achieve this objective is the adaptation of technology into the educational system. Taking a case in point of Australia the federal government seeks to invest approximately $202 billion to aid in the purchase of equipment, training of teachers and students, and funding research into how technology can be adapted into the classroom environment. Therefore, this shows that the utility of technology within the classroom milieu is beneficial to the student and teaching population.

Another useful application to the utility of technology is for helping the disabled to access education in the same manner as their normal counterparts. For instance, development in technologies has allowed for software and devices that can convert in print material to audio format to aid those whose eyesight is impaired. It is also possible to convert audio content into printed material for those students with hearing problems. This application of technology for the disabled that allows them to learn in normal classroom milieu is important in building self-esteem and a sense of belonging for these disabled children. It acts as a source for preparing them for survival in the world, in spite of their incapability or physical disabilities.

Negative Effects to the Use of Technology

In spite of the useful nature of the use and adaption of technology into the classroom environment, there are several drawbacks to its use. Foremost, technology use slowly and methodically negatively influences the development in different. It aids in the prevention of acquisition of crucial learning tools such as reading and writing, connecting with others and been self-reliant (Allen & Seaman, 2012). This is because technology offers tools that can be used by the learner to perform basic tasks such as offering spelling checkers with autocorrect options, typing which causes the child not to learn how to write, among many others. Overindulgence to its use could result in the student becoming overly dependent to its use to perform even the most basic of tasks. This reduces their self-sufficiency and deviates from the core principle of the education system that seeks to prepare students to be independent in the accomplishment of their tasks.

Another negative impact of the use of technology in the classroom milieu is that it reduces the student’s social skills. Constant interaction using devices is crucial for enhancing social skills, but limits the attainment of essential skills for physical communication of the students and their peers, as well as other members of the society (Starr and  Ricki, 2005). Overindulgence in this form of communication during a child’s development could result in low self-esteem, poor communication skills, and deviancy in later life.

Additionally, this form of communication has been proven to cause health issues relating one’s mental condition, as physical health. For instance, sitting on a computer for long periods results in muscle and neck pains that could induce poor muscle coordination. Eyesight is also affected during long periods of use of computers and starring into the screen. In children, this could have adverse effects to their eyesight in future. Finally, the utility of technology such as smart phones has induced a new culture of wearing headphones and earphones to access audio and audiovisual content that has been uploaded. Doctors have condemned this culture and ear specialists since it could result in poor hearing for the child, as they grow older.

The dynamic and multifaceted application to the utilization of technology is also causality for acting as a distraction when used within the classroom environment. The availability of the internet for the acquisition of educational materials can be easily infringed when the child begins deviating from this endeavor to access other more entertaining materials such as videos, pictures, or the social media. This loss of focus is compounded by a child’s low focus on any particular tasks, which means that they can be easily distracted to engage in other social entertainment. Therefore, to avert this loss of focus, some teachers have resorted to constant monitoring of the students’ access to technology. In some schools and educational institutions, software has been installed on computers that limit right of entry to some sites that are believed to cause loss of focus to the students. However, these endeavors have had little effect since the students became tech savvy that they can easily bypass any firewalls using proxies, IP hiding software, among other crooked, yet innovative means.

Responsibilities for tutors, Parents, and the School Management

Teachers are considered as the gateway bridging between the parents, the school administration, and the students. Therefore, they have the primary role of being at the forefront of utilization of technology in the classroom and impacting this knowledge to the students (Doyle, 2009). This is crucial in ensuring that these students manage to not only learn the use of some crucial technology for learning, but they learn how to use them appropriately to achieve the desired objective. The teachers are responsible for looking into more innovative ways through which current and future technologies can be integrated into the classroom milieu to enhance the learning experience.

The school administration is responsible for the provision of technologies that can be used within the classroom milieu to increase the value of learning. This is important to ensure that the students are well educated technologically to become easily integrated into the fast developing digital age. The school administration is also responsible for the provision of tools that limit the improper use of the technologies available such as creation of rules and regulations regarding its use such as timing and number of students using one particular technology (Starr &  Ricki, 2005). Additionally, they are responsible for the provision of interactive portals and infrastructure that can assist in developing current school technology. The parents are responsible for encouraging their children to learn the use of some technology by supporting the school to make purchases for some technologies.

Conclusion

The role of technology in the classroom milieu is an ongoing debate regarding its applicability to add value to the learning experience for the students. Numerous researches have been conducted to assess its impact on the learning environment, which has produced varied reactions as to it has or abuse. However, one key factor that should be considered is that the world is moving towards a technology driven culture, and it is vital that the students acquire the essential skills to survive in this fast-paced changing environment. Majority of both teachers and students have attested to the usefulness of technology for learning and this means that it should be embraced more by schools and learning institutions. However, rules and regulations regarding its use should be created to avoid being overly dependent on technology to perform some basic functions.

References

Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2012). Conflicted Faculty and Online Education. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Doyle, W. R. (2009). Playing the Numbers: Online Education: The Revolution That Wasn’t. Change 41 (3), 56-58.

Starr, R. H., & Ricki, G. (2005). Learning Together Online: Research on Asynchronous Learning Networks. New Jersey, US: Routledge.

Shindler, J. (2010). Transformative Classroom Management: Positive Strategies to Engage All Students and Promote a Psychology of Success. San Francisco, US: John Wiley and Sons.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, DC.