Insructional Technology and the Classroom
There are many challenges facing Higher Education in the years ahead. The new diversity of student populations not withstanding there are a number of focal points that make the coming days, months and years ahead a critical time in the life of colleges and universities. Altbach, Berdal and Gumport (2005) write, “ Changes both within and outside the academy are altering its character—its students, faculty, governance, curriculum, functions, and very place in society." (pg. 115) Among these challenges is technology and its place in the Higher Education environments.
Technology according to Friedman is the great flattener for the world. That is to say it is the place that connects the world from any distance and can potentially level the playing field in this global economy. Technology and its trends outside the learning environment should and will be influenced within the learning environment. What began as a simple records keeping and communication system has now taken on the integration and infiltration of the entire learning environment infrastructure. Friedman (2005) states “…the great challenge for our time will be to absorb the changes in ways that do not overwhelm people but also do not leave them behind." (pg. 46)
So what of instructional technology in the classroom? While cost is to be factored in here, it is not a question of if for technology in education, but rather how and/or when. Instructional Technology like the Smart Board for example, allow for hands on learning and interactive collaboration and is one of the latest innovations in the arena of instructional technology. The advent of touch screen technology has made this technology more fluid and convenient. It is also exciting in that both student and teacher are engaged in a physically active learning environment.
Another piece of Instructional Technology in the classroom is the use of PowerPoint, and interactive platforms like Lectora and Moodle. All of these allow the teacher to present content in a way that is both interesting and challenging. The other half of this type of integration is the use of web based instruction in the way of performance practice and individual discovery. This is of special importance where blended curriculum presentations are present.
The final piece for Instructional Technol.ogy lies in the ability for curriculum to expand and in effect reach an even more diversified community of learners. Instructional Technology is not just about enhancing content delivery. It is also about reaching a population that without it could not or would not be actively engaged. There is a wealth of software and presentation materials available but the bigger picture for Instructional Technology is availability and closing learning gaps.
Altbach et al (2005) states, “With the potential to enrich traditional classroom settings and to extend the boundaries for teaching and learning in higher education, the possible applications prompt us to rethink some fundamental beliefs about the nature of colleges and universities as places, communities, storehouses of knowledge, and sites of learning" (pgs 417-418). Instructional Technology will never be a replacement for traditional learning but it will most certainly have an impact on the nature of future collaborative learning endeavors. For those who would not go quietly into that good night understand that quietly or not after the night comes the dawn and that light burns brighter because we do.
Altbach, P. G., Berdahl, R. O., & Gumport, P. J. (2005). American higher education in the twenty-first century; social, political and economic challenges (2nd ed.). Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.
Friedman, T. L. (2005). The world is flat; A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Strous & Groux.