The world we live in is a result of constant change. What might be there one day is never there the next. Look at what has happened with Covid-19!
The changes that we have all born witnessed represent a significant period in our lives. For myself, these changes have been technological in their nature. With most of the world in lockdown, due to the pandemic, people are working from home if they can, students are learning from home in an online format, and parents are picking up the slack from teachers and supporting their children.
This unprecedented event has changed the world and has brought it into a new era - the time of online learning for all people.
Before we delve into why ICT in education is so important today, let us first understand the fundamentals of what ICT is.
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What is ICT?
It was not until later on in my teaching career that the term Information and Communication Technology (ICT) materialised before me and opened my eyes to what this meant in education. The term ICT simplified means any technology that has to do with information and communication.
Information can come in many forms such as sound, video, text, and images, so when you think of what technology it is available that produces these aspects of information and sometimes a combination of all these, we refer to such technology as mobile phones, digital cameras, video cameras for example.
Today information and communication technologies are the one thing and so the repertoire of technologies expands further to encompass computers and computer-related products, email, MMS, and other forms of communication (Finger et al., 2007).
The Importance of ICT in Education
Today we do not need to go any further than our own home or even room, to see some form of ICT in our lives. Whether it be a computer, plasma TV, or mobile phone, we all have them in some part of our lives. In today’s society, people as consumers of ICT, all strive for the one dream – the dream of a connected life.
This makes ICT a lifestyle choice for much of the population. In addition, this lifestyle choice is changing the way we communicate, increasing the rate of consumerism, and changing how we interact and gather information (Sherringham, Dec 2008/Jan 2009).
ICT has invaded and transformed many aspects of our lives to the extent that we live in an environment that is dominated by technology which itself is consumer-driven (Semenov, 2005). No matter how we perceive its presence, there is no denying that it is an important part of our lives and that it is here to stay.
Key issues to remember in relation to the importance of ICT in Education are that:
- E-learning or Online Learning: The presence of ICT in education allows for new ways of learning for students and teachers. E-learning or online learning is becoming increasingly popular and with various unprecedented events taking place in our lives, this does not only open opportunities for schools to ensure that students have access to curriculum materials whilst in the classroom but also allows them to ensure students outside the classroom such as at home or even in hospitals can learn.
- ICT brings inclusion: The benefits of ICT in education is of such that students in the classroom can all learn from the curriculum material. Students with special needs are no longer at a disadvantage as they have access to essential material and special ICT tools can be used by students to make use of ICT for their own educational needs. Despite this, it opens up new issues related to the 'digital divide' and providing access to ICT tools and resources for those who are less fortunate.
- ICT promotes higher-order thinking skills: One of the key skills for the 21st century which includes evaluating, planning, monitoring, and reflecting to name a few. The effective use of ICT in education demands skills such as explaining and justifying the use of ICT in producing solutions to problems. Students need to discuss, test, and conjecture the various strategies that they will use.
- ICT enhances subject learning: It is well known these days that the use of ICT in education adds a lot of value to key learning areas like literacy and numeracy.
- ICT use develops ICT literacy and ICT Capability: Both are 21st-century skills that are best developed whilst ICT remains transparent in the background of subject learning. The best way to develop ICT capability is to provide them with meaningful activities, embedded in purposeful subject-related contexts.
- ICT use encourages collaboration: You just have to put a laptop, iPad or computer in the classroom to understand how this works. ICT naturally brings children together where they can talk and discuss what they are doing for their work and this in turn, opens up avenues for communication thus leading to language development.
- ICT use motivates learning: Society's demands for new technology has not left out children and their needs. Children are fascinated with technology and it encourages and motivates them to learn in the classroom.
- ICT in education improves engagement and knowledge retention: When ICT is integrated into lessons, students become more engaged in their work. This is because technology provides different opportunities to make it more fun and enjoyable in terms of teaching the same things in different ways. As a consequence of this increased engagement, it is said that they will be able to retain knowledge more effectively and efficiently.
- ICT use allows for effective Differentiation Instruction with technology: We all learn differently at different rates and styles and technology provide opportunities for this to occur.
- ICT integration is a key part of the national curriculum: The integration of digital technologies or ICT is a significant part of the Australian Curriculum for example, and this is a trend that many global governments are taking up as they begin to see the significance of ICT in education.
- We live in a “knowledge economy": This is an economy where it is vital to have the ability to produce and use information effectively (Weert, 2005). It is a time when ICT is pervasive and permeates throughout all industries in the economy whether it may be health, education, environment or manufacturing (Moon, Feb/Mar 2007). The significance of ICT in the Australian economy was emphasised in the recent article by Alan Patterson, CEO of the Australian Computer Society, in his statement that the “ICT industry now rivals mining in terms of the contribution to the economy” (Patterson, Jan/Feb 2013, p. 8).
ICTs will continue to be a significant part of our future as it connects itself to more and more parts of our lives. It will continually evolve and change because as consumers we all like a choice. We like to use ICT for personal growth, creativity, and joy, consumption, and wealth (Semenov, 2005).
Importance of Students Engaging with ICT
It is important for students to engage with ICT so that:
- Learn 21st-century skills and develop their ICT capability and ICT literacy.
- Improves their attainment levels.
- Prepares them for an integrated society dominated by ICT developments.
- So that they learn the notion of using ICT as a tool for lifelong learning.
If you put a lot of thought into your planning, you will notice a higher degree of engagement and this can lead to the development of 21st-century skills such as complex thinking, creative problem-solving, and collaboration.
Technology integration in the classroom is an instructional choice by you, the teacher, and should always involve collaboration and deliberate planning.