Learning is a complex process. We learn by building on past experiences; by trial and error; by starting with simple tasks and combining them over time to accomplish more complex tasks; and, by gaining insight and understanding of the relationship between various parts of a problem. Research demonstrates that for teaching to be effective, a learner must be able to create meaningful relevant patterns. The process of learning must be maintained within a context of appropriate and challenging standards.

If our children are to realize the promise of American life, we must accept the premise that standards are the surest route to excellence. Parents and educators should inculcate that ethic of excellence in schools by raising standards of performance for both students and educational professionals. Higher expectations for students, teachers and educational systems are critical. Technology is a means of attaining a higher level of learning. With excellence in education as a national priority, educators are assessing how new technologies can be harnessed to support evolving communication patterns and the student/teacher roles that are characteristic of the new teaching methods. These teaching methods allow students to investigate their questions in a number of ways.

As the use of technology becomes more prevalent in our schools, there are significant environmental characteristics that ought to exist in order to maximize the benefits of educational technology:

– District-level involvement and a school-level computer coordinator are key factors in developing a school environment conductive to effective use of technology. Leadership and technical support are key elements to successful programs.

– School districts and teacher preparation programs must provide the incentive, time and support system for teachers to realize the benefits of technology and feel comfortable with utilizing it in the classroom.

– Instructors must allow the student to pursue interests, develop understanding and communicate findings. Students need to be encouraged to be creative and explore their questions.

Educators are realizing the importance of fostering within students independent judgment, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Student learning can be enhanced by tutorials and various communication technologies that allow the investigation of real-life issues confronting professionals. While complex, these teaching strategies provide the learner with authentic experiences and challenge personal exploration, resulting in student-directed learning with the teacher functioning as a valued resource and guide.

The rapid increase in government and business sponsorship of educational technology has led to numerous studies on the subject:

– Technology has a positive effect on student achievement (both in regular and special education) from preschool through high school.

– Technology has a positive effect on student attitudes towards learning and on students’ self concept.

– The introduction of technology into the learning environment can make learning more student-centered, encourage cooperative learning and stimulate increased teacher/student interaction.

Technology can make the learning process more efficient without detracting from established educational objectives. Once the individual is proficient in the basics of reading, writing, computations and oral communication, then the learning experience can be further enhanced by computers, distance learning, computer-assisted instruction using integrated learning systems, computer-based labs, presentation software and telecommunications.

The integration of technology into instruction provides very significant benefits. With more effective planning sessions and greater accommodation of different learning styles, teachers can focus on the needs of individual students. This emphasis also allows the teacher to establish developmentally appropriate expectations for each student, thus enhancing the individual’s learning. These efforts find teachers orchestrating the learning rather than serving as the dispenser of knowledge. Classrooms can contain more collaboration and small-group interaction, allowing for a student-centered focus.

While educational technology includes numerous modes of delivery and support mechanisms, the computer is often a major component. Several researchers have investigated the impacts of computers on the learning process. The research confirms the advantages technology brings to the learning process. However, its availability and utilization are issues confronting educators. Among the more significant challenges is the day-to-day integration of these tools into the instructional process.

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