A look at the history of education reveals a dramatic change in the method of delivering educational materials to students. Initial learning technologies included paper, pen, chalk, slate, laboratories, and visit to the library.
Today, with the advent of the information revolution, this trend has changed. The blackboard has now become a whiteboard; the chalk has become a magic marker; the notebook has replaced the slate; and teachers are increasingly using technology and encouraging collaboration.
There is now an increasing use of instructional technologies, defined by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) as “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.”
Today, different types of learning technologies have emerged to increase access and quality of learning by linking larger numbers of learners, scholars, and resources together in a richer, more effective distributed learning environment. These tools have changed the way educators teach, how students learn, and the way teachers and students communicate.
The educational tools that have emerged can largely be classified under two broad categories-hardware, and software. Hardware such as laptops, tablets, smartboards, overhead and LCD projectors, video cameras and others have emerged to facilitate teaching and learning in the school system.
The educational software used in the classroom (better called learning management and classroom management software) are virtual classroom software that facilitate online teaching and online collaboration anytime, anywhere. They come in various forms.
According to Wikipedia, alearning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology education courses or training programs.
They range from managing training and educational records to software for distributing online or blended/hybrid college courses over the Internet with features for online collaboration.
Both proprietary (e.g., D2L, Blackboard, etc.) and non-proprietary or open source (e.g., Sakai, Moodle, etc.) exist.
Google Classroomhas recently emerged (released on August 12, 2014) as a blended learning platform for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments paperlessly.
It is available to anyone with Google Apps for Education, a free suite of productivity tools. Classroom enables both students and teachers to keep track of the learning experience, assignment due dates, and the ongoing progress of their students.
Also, it facilitates the integration of Google Docs, Google Drive and Gmail in a seamless manner.
In addition to the above management systems, new software have emerged to facilitate the digitization of course content for online delivery. For example, Camtasia Studio is a screen recording and capturing video editing program to facilitate screen capturewith higher quality audio embedded in the programme. It is part of the TechSmith tools for creating video tutorials and presentations directly via screencast.
Screencast-O-Matic is another screen recorder for instant screen capture and sharing. Unlike Camtasia Studio, Screencast-O-Matic is open source and free which could be downloaded at Screencast-O-Matic.com.
In May of 2000, Dominic Mazzoni and Roger Dannenberg at Carnegie Mellon University released Audacity, an open source multilingual audio editor and recorder software that is used to record and edit sounds.
It is free and works on all platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems). It can be used to perform a number of audio editing and recording tasks such as making ringtones, mixing stero tracks, transferring tapes and records to computer or CD, splitting recordings into separate tracks and more.
eLecta Live is virtual classroom software and a real-time online collaboration environment designed for teaching and training over the Internet. One can arrange live classes, online lectures, web meetings, group sessions, individual one–on–one sessions and webinars with this software.
In addition to the above-mentioned tools, teachers are increasingly using social media and other real-time chat tools to connect to their students. For example, videoconferencing technology is currently being used in a number of educational institutions to link students in physically unconnected places to lecturers at different locations.
Lecturers who travel frequently because of their research commitment are able to connect with their students and colleagues via videoconferencing from any part of the world. Videoconferencing in used by faculty members who serve on thesis and dissertation committees to be virtually present during dissertation defense.
Users of chat rooms who want to add a face-to-face contact to the text and audio connection are utilizing computer-based videoconferencing to achieve this objective.
Here, one needs a computer connected to the Internet with a webcam. Even though the quality of the image may be poor, one is possible to make a video connection using this method.
The increasing use of this technology has created an electronic meeting place of students and faculty for the purpose of learning and teaching.
This has led some writers to coin the term “globalization of education.”to describe the new trend in virtual connection, teaching and learning to describe the process.
The Internet now offers the possibility of conducting computer-based training on a global scale. With the availability of the Internet, educators now have access to a universe of resources to support instructions. Faculty could put course materials on the web and use that as a medium of instruction.
As we progress in this technologically charged world, we face a very important question. What is to become of the role of teachers?
Will they become obsolete?Fortunately, the answer is no, but what needs to change is the teacher’s role in the classroom, from the “sage on the stage”to that of a “guide on the side”.
Dr. Osei K. Darkwa