Tools of Technology

Technology has become an important instrument in education. Computer-based technologies hold great promise both for increasing access to knowledge and as a means of promoting learning. The public imagination has been captured by the capacity of information technologies to centralize and organize large bodies of knowledge; people are excited by the prospect of information networks, such as the Internet, for linking students around the globe into communities of learners.

There are five ways that technology can be used to help meet the challenges of establishing effective learning environments:

  • Bringing real-world problems into classrooms through the use of videos, demonstrations, simulations, and Internet connections to concrete data and working scientists.

  • Providing “scaffolding” support to augment what learners can do and reason about on their path to understanding. Scaffolding allows learners to participate in complex cognitive performances, such as scientific visualization and model-based learning, that is more difficult or impossible without technical support.

  • Increasing opportunities for learners to receive feedback from software tutors, teachers, and peers; to engage in reflection on their own learning processes; and to receive guidance toward progressive revisions that improve their learning and reasoning.

  • Building local and global communities of teachers, administrators, students, parents, and other interested learners.

  • Expanding opportunities for teachers’ learning.

An important function of some of the new technologies is their use as tools of representation. Representational thinking is central to in-depth understanding and problem representation is one of the skills that distinguish subject experts from novices. Many of the tools also have the potential to provide multiple contexts and opportunities for learning and transfer, for both student-learners and teacher-learners. Technologies can be used as learning and problem-solving tools to promote both independent learning and collaborative networks of learners and practitioners.

The use of new technologies in classrooms, or the use of any learning aid for that matter, is never solely a technical matter. The new electronic technologies, like any other educational resource, are used in a social environment and are, therefore, mediated by the dialogues that students have with each other and the teacher.

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