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Technology and Student Learning

Technology and Student Learning

Increasingly educators and researchers alike have come to realise that the educational value of computers does not lie in the computer per se nor the software used, but rather, it is the processes of teaching-learning employed that largely determines its value. In other words, it is the learning culture or environment. Some of these factors are provision of metacognitive experience, teacher instruction, and co-operative learning among learners.

Better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct. The central idea of this strategy is that students learn best by doing, and that students need to be active builders of their own knowledge rather than passive receivers of it. When students can independently access information, the role of the teacher changes. The teacher is no longer the gatekeeper of knowledge - nor are they burdened by the role of having to be the repository of all knowledge. The teacher can successfully say "I don't know ... but let's find out together...". When knowledge is available in this sort of way, then it is no longer linear and structured as in the 'old ways'.

There are many benefits for student learning and for teachers from the use of technology in the classroom. For example, students in schools that have adopted a cross-curricula approach to technology, incorporating computer and other technologies through-out all courses have developed skills like adaptability, creativity, teamwork, communication, and the ability to gather and analyse information.

A major ACOT (Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow) longitudinal study of technology and learning suggests that with support and encouragement, teachers began to re-examine their role as teachers and the nature of their classrooms. Their classes became different kinds of learning places. The direction of change was towards child-centred rather than curriculum-centred instruction; towards collaborative tasks rather than individual tasks; towards active rather than passive learning. Technology in ACOT classrooms, then, did far more than automate or motivate children's learning. With time they saw the learning environment transformed and they saw children accomplish far more than anyone expected.

When technology was viewed as an appropriate and useful way for children to access information, explore ideas, derive meaning, and construct new ideas that they can share with other learners they also found that children developed social and academic skills at accelerated rates and displayed competencies that are critically aligned with 21st century workplace.

The rewards for students are evident. The ‘post-modernist’ student granted by technology in education is that of the reflective, self-assessing student who has a clear idea of the level of knowledge and the ability to generalise that knowledge to particular lifestyle skills.

Career Development

Recently, much has been said about technology based services for job seekers and the unemployed. It may seem an efficient alternative but we also know that those most in need of this service find it difficult and often expensive to access information effectively. The career information needed by students and the unemployed is difficult to extract from the range available in all media, unless guidance is provided. Information is also not enough to fullfil their needs. The phone and email service will not readily provide the support required. The federal government is currently scoping the potential for on-line delivery of careers information. I hope that this scoping will recognise that access will continue to be an issue for many in need of such services. I also hope that the federal government realises that the provision of careers information is only one piece of the puzzle. We all share the federal government’s concern about effective outcomes for job seekers, especially the young, the disadvantaged and the unemployed. Any loss of the free, easily accessible services such as provided by the Careers Information and Job Network Centres around Australia works against effective outcomes for these groups.

The economic value of many of the leading global organisations now resides in their knowledge based assets. Individuals contribute to the net worth of a company in ways that are quite different from the productive processes of the past. Unfortunately, opportunities for Australians to learn the skills required to manage their career in this new environment are limited. As a consequence, Australia faces a competitive disadvantage arising from widely held but irrelevant assumptions of what it means to have a career now and in the next century. What is at stake is the economic and social future of our country.

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