Since the beginning of time, the development of technology has helped advance society in many ways. From the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison to the making and remodeling of today's common vehicle, the constant improvements in technology have allowed the world to advance far beyond belief. One of the most important aspects of life in which technology has made a difference is education. For instance, in the mid 1960's computers were about the size of a three-bedroom house and had to be cooled by fans the size of cars. Nowadays, in an elementary school classroom a computer can be found for every four kids (Milshtein 1998). Still with the advancement of technology on what seems to be a daily rate, the integration into education raises a lot of questions. Many of the questions, which are raised in today's culture, deal with equity and teacher comprehension (Mageau, Kenney 1994). The question is asked in today's world how do we improve the integration of technology in education and address all the issues at the same time?
To improve education, one must first recognize technology is the main instrument to use. Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft Incorporated, believes in creating learning communities to enable students as well as teachers, parents, and administrators to enhance their knowledge of today's technological advances. Gates feels these technological learning communities will remove the distance between computers and people and allow individuals to expand and explore only what they could imagine. However, the integration of computers and other types of technology does not replace what a teacher can do. Such processes in the learning communities can and will only be accomplished if and only if teachers comprehend and integrate such exercises into daily learning objectives (Gates 1996). According to recent studies conducted on teachers, around 50% of the teachers questioned stated they were unqualified or ill-prepared to integrate many of today's technologies in their lesson plans, and a low percentage, around 20%, testified they could adequately incorporate technology in their daily instruction. The information from these studies raises a lot of anxiety among the administrators who set the curriculum. The reason for the rise in concern is the way technology has become the basis of today's society particularly in education and colleges. Many of the young teachers who have chosen to integrate their lessons with technology tend to do it only with activities in which they have complete control. According to the OTA, Office of Technology Assessment, there are many teachers who still are hesitant to insert new technology into lessons; these teachers insist they are content with overhead projectors and videotapes (Duhaney 2001).
In order to encourage teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum, they need to be taught more about technology and the various ways it can be incorporated into their daily lesson plans, according to the OTA. A major leader in addressing this procedure is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, NCATE. NCATE is responsible for creating and introducing training programs for teachers who need to develop new approaches, philosophies, as well as overall attitudes in regards to technology in the classroom. A positive change in direction toward integrating technology occurred when the NCATE teamed up with the International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE, to design standards intended for teachers to be taught about technology in education as well as a means to persuade institutions of education to accentuate the use of technology throughout the educational system. According to the ISTE, teachers should be confident in their basic computer skills as well as in the function of technology in lessons. The standards established by NCATE and ISTE are the only guidelines encouraging the integration of technology into today's classrooms. The implementation of these guidelines are essential because the NCATE plans to release another set of guidelines which will emphasize teacher preparation revolved around technology (Duhaney 2001).
A great number of challenges will arise with the integration of technology into education. The challenges, which will interfere with integration, include accessibility to equipment, minimal funds to support programs and maintenance of equipment, as well as technical training especially for those educators who have been in the field for several years. A report conducted by Grabe and Grabe in 1998 found three main reasons teacher programs are not getting the job done. The first being that many institutions, where teachers graduated, were less outfitted with technology than many of the elementary schools where they could teach. The next reason deals with the failure of college faculty to integrate technology in the college classrooms. Finally, the last reason why teacher programs failed is do to the fact that the everyday curriculum, where technology was being used, happened to deal with only a particular subject using technology instead of technology being used on every subject. A region in teaching programs where NCATE noticed extreme shortages was teacher reward. For instance, a survey conducted by a Campus Computing Project in 1999 found while around 70% of college institutions had educational technology centers as well as centers for faculty support, only 15% had ceremonial recognition for faculty who put in long hours and made break through strides in integrating technology into the classroom (Duhaney 2001).
Although many of the surveys conducted about integrating technology into education have proven that teachers are ill prepared, there are a great deal of institutions of higher education who continue and try to prepare teachers for the future with technology. According to a report by NCATE, many colleges are teaming up with surrounding schools to allow future teachers to watch current teachers who integrate technology in their lessons. This is a great aspect for future teachers because not only can they learn from current teachers, but they are also put in contact with the technology with which they will teach. Mark Gillingham and Andrew Topper, two professors from two different colleges of education, agree there are many ways a teacher can be taught about integrating technology into lessons. One of these ways deals with a single session in which an educator with an emphasis in technology lectures on ways to integrate technology. Another way deals with placing technology in every aspect of learning during a course, where future educators are being prepared. In addition, the professors believe a teacher can learn about technology by having a set of courses with interactive performances in each one. Lastly, the professors think a case-based approach will allow teachers to learn from current teachers about technology integration. In a case-based approach, the future teacher is given a foundation of thought for a classroom. With this foundation, a teacher is allowed to analyze and develop his or her own guidelines for integrating technology. These examples for which a prospective teacher can learn how to integrate technology are by no means all the ways in which this can be done. However, with these techniques as well as the combination of others, a teacher can effectively learn the proper ways of integrating technology on a daily basis into their instruction of students (Duhaney 2001).
The integration of technology into the classroom will have the greatest impact on students who are the number one reason for advances in educational technology. Classrooms, which effectively integrate technology, are constantly changing and the students are directly affected by these changes. A student should now be viewed as hands-on learner, whose main goal is dissecting material to gain knowledge to answer questions, which are presented to them in their daily lives. The responsibility of viewing students this way is on the shoulders of the teachers. Teachers need to be taught how to apply technology to theories of education. There are two theories today, which allow for integration of technology into education. In the constructive theory, it is accepted that a learner does not only receive the knowledge from teacher but rather he or she is taught to develop unique learning experiences using prior knowledge with new experiences given to them by their teachers. Where this theory allows for students directed learning, the behaviorist or directed approach theory states that a student gains his or her knowledge from teacher lessons where the instructor directly influences what the learner can or may experience. For the idle classroom experience, a combination of both theories should be in place when integrating technology into an educational lesson (Duhaney 2001).
Another very important aspect of education in which technology has advanced the classroom is in areas dealing with students with disabilities and assistive technology. Assistive technology is defined as " any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of children (Assistive 2003)." This type of technology is a tremendous help because it allows every student to receive the greatest quality of education in which they are available to obtain (Blackhurst 1997). Augmentative communication devices such as voice output systems and non-electronic language boards help disabled students to become a regular part of the average classroom. Common day technology that is also considered assistive includes VCRs, DVD players, computer software, magnifying glasses, and tape recorders (Blackhurst 1997). An important aspect of assistive technology, which is commonly misunderstood, is the fact that this technology is not only for students with disabilities. Students who have major struggles reading or completing other common studies can use computer programs, which improve these areas, and those are considered under the category of assistive technology (Lankutis, Kennedy 2002). Students with disabilities gain a great deal of confidence from technology. Dr. Ted Phillips, who is a principal at an elementary school, believes technology integrated into education builds motivation for all students. He feels technology not only helps them academically, but also helps the disabled student have easier interaction with the "normal" students. He considers technology as a remover of built in frustration, which the students have had since they gained true knowledge of their disabilities (Holzberg 1994).
However, a problem which arises from the major integration of technology into education is the fact many families will not be able to have access to many of the common necessities of the classroom (Mageau, Kenney 1994). According to the census conducted in the year 2000, 54 million households or 51%, reported the use of a computer during the year (Census Bureau 2000). This figure leaves 49% of households without a computer, which handicaps a most of the low-income families. According to the Census, households in which the family grossed $75, 000 or more, 88% had at least one computer. On the other end of the spectrum, households in which the family grossed $25, 000 or less, only 28% had a computer (Census Bureau 2000). The survey did show however that children tended to use a computer or Internet at school more than at home. These figures give a little hope to children who do not have access to the computer at home because of the access available at school. This data shows that a child who lives in a household of $25,000 or below was able to access a computer at 48%, which according to the figures is a 20% increase from the household number (Census Bureau 2000). The issue of equity is raised because people believe it is unfair to place standards, if the resources needed are not available to every child. A very valid point is that standards are set so we have something to work towards, but does not mean they are automatically placed into action. Implementation of standards takes time and as time passes, more ways to access technology become available (Mageau, Kenney 1994). According to the figures of the Census of 2000, access to computers to the people increased from 47% to 71%, an increase of 24% (Census Bureau 2000). Art Bardige, a member of ISTE, gave a very strong argument concerning technology in the classroom. He stated that at the turn of the 20th century about 100 years ago, the issue of textbooks came into the picture. At this time in history, recitation boards were being used. The issue back then happened to be "what would happen if only the richer kids had books and poorer kids didn't? And you know what happened? Libraries were built. We will have to solve the equity issue and not block technology because we have not resolved it. We cannot let the equity issue define our education system because we don't know how to put a computer into every home or classroom. If we had thought that way at the turn of the 20th century, we would still have recitation boards in classrooms (Mageau, Kenney 1994)."
If and when technology is completely integrated into education, a big change in academics will occur. Back in the mid 1990s, standards written for academic subjects did not include using the Internet or any type of digitized media. For instance in history, the old standards included searching through old newspapers and copies of letters and diaries as well as going to the actual historical sites. These sources could only be found at a local library and historical museums. However, in the standards that are slowly being created and accepted today, the Internet is a major influence on the development. The proposed standards include locating sources about related data from e-mail, online libraries from around the world, computer networks from schools, and digitized media (Mageau, Kenney 1994). With the Internet and computer network communities, the children of the future will have the world at their fingertips. Children can browse the Internet and find out more than they could ever find in a library. Not only will children benefit from these changes, but teachers, as well as parents, will too. If connections are put in place, parents will be able to communicate with the teachers on a daily basis. Parents can check for homework, grades, and even lesson plans. In addition, teachers can review other teacher's lesson plans and gain knowledge from teachers all over the world as well as discuss different ways to introduce a new subject (Gates 1996).
The benefits of technology in the classroom for students, teachers, and parents far outweigh the cost for equipment and extra training needed for the educators and administrators of the technology. When children are able to take their imaginations and bring them to life not only at home, but also at school, it does wonders for their minds (Lankutis, Kennedy 2002). Technology is the only way which can further intellectual capacity of today's students. With technology, new ideas are imagined and created. If technology is not integrated into educational standards, the world is telling the children their dreams cannot come true.
"Assistive Technology." Encyclopedia of Education. 2nd ed. 2003: volume one 149-151 Blackhurst, A. Edward. "Perspectives on Technology in Special Education" The Council for Exceptional Children. (1997): 40 pars. . "Census 2000." United States Census Bureau. (2000).
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