THE RHETORIC OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION
Information technology is used extensively in the United States in schools from grades K and above. Students are taught how to access information in different classes from math and science to English, history and other subjects (How Has). Its use is constantly growing such as offering online classes to students who may live far away from a school. New uses are constantly being tried such as 3D, digital cameras and smart phone apps (Critical Issue: Using). Public schools are spending huge amounts of money to obtain and use technology in classes. In 2004, more than $66 billion was spent by United States public schools to purchase technological equipment, software, etc. (Critical Issue: Technology). “Ever since the invention of the blackboard each new communications system has been hailed as an educational revolution (Does Technology, ¶ 2). The benefits of technology for schools is praised, and in some cases that rhetoric is true, but there are problems that go along with the expanded use and also the exaggerated praise of how much technology can help students succeed.
In schools, information technology has improved the ways of communication between teachers and their students and teachers and the school administration and parents. Teachers can use a wide variety of technological devices including software, such as PowerPoint, cameras, and film presentations to help students understand lessons. Students today like to watch the presentations not just listen to lectures (Critical Issue: Using). Technology is now available to almost all students in public schools in the United States. The variety and usage of technology is also increasing. Some of the advantages for students are the ability to get their homework done faster, to be able to look up information or get help online if they don’t understand something the teacher said or something in their textbook. Using technology also lets students become better at time management because of the speed they can use to get information and to get their homework done which leaves them more free time (How Has).
Teachers and professors have conducted research on the use of information technology in schools. They have looked at many advantages such as tutoring and word processing. Some of this research has good results. In science, students who got technological help were able to increase test scores by 22 percent. Elementary school students who used word processing to write improved 14 percent in reading (Does Technology). Students today are able to use these technological tools because of the increase in technology in their home life as well. Many students either own or have used video gaming, cell phones and social internet sites like Face Book or Twitter. Texting helps students learn to use keyboards so they are familiar with them at school also (Critical Issue: Technology).
Another advantage to using information technology in schools that has been published and advertised is an increase in self-esteem for students. One reason students feel good about using computers is that for the most part they are able to use them much better that most adults like their parents or their teachers. They also feel good about the technological social sites as they let students create a world where they can communicate with their friends in a place where a lot of adults can’t access (Critical Issue: Using).
Many teachers have reported and advertised the fact that using computers has increased cooperation between students. Students who are good at using technology seem to want to share more with other students and help these other students learn (Critical Issue: Using, How Technology). This advantage also helps increase students’ self-esteem for both the student showing how to use computers and for the one learning. In one study, students reported that they thought using technology did help them do better in their classes (Critical Issue: Technology).
The United States government has also been advertising how technology can help improve students’ performance in school. The No Child Left behind Act states that all students in the United States become computer literate by the time they finish middle school and also states that this learning must be available for all students of all races and of all economic levels. The No Child Left behind Act gives definitions for being computer literate:
- to use technology to communicate
- to understand facts and be able to tell what facts they find on the internet are useful and what facts are just hype
- to understand how computers work
- to be able to set priorities for their various assignments
- to solve problems
- to keep their information secure and backed up (Critical Issue: Technology).
There are other education advantages to information technology that are used in schools and are studied and published by researchers. For example, computers help students learn English. This is important since there are so many immigrants in our schools, especially in California where there are many students who come here speaking only Spanish. Computers also help disabled students learn and help them show what they’ve learned if they cannot show that because of their disabilities. Schools are encouraged to let disabled students use computers because of the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which makes computer access a law for schools to obey. For example, students who have limited vision can use software that reads written text to them out loud (Critical Issue: Technology).
Information technology has some disadvantages too. For one thing, students go to their teachers less often to ask for help or for further explanation. Students just try to find the answers on the Internet. Technology is distracting to students. Many students text in class instead of paying attention to their teacher. Many students spend their time at home playing video games or communicating with their friends on social sites instead of doing their homework. Many students, while they know how to read, prefer to look at graphics or play games instead of reading off their computers. Students have discovered new ways to cheat on tests or on homework assignments. For example, students can use cameras in class to photograph a test and send it from their phones to someone who can look up the answers and send them back. Students can buy written papers for any class off the Internet (Critical Issue: Using, How Technology, How Has).
Research studies have shown that in the United States some student skills are going backward. For example, the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy reported that in 1992, 41 percent of college graduates were proficient in their major, but by 2003 that number dropped to only 31 percent. This same study also published that the figure of high school seniors who demonstrated below average performance had increased from 20 to 27 percent (Bauerlein 29). Another problem that has been published is that students ignore knowledge of their surroundings including politics and economics in favor of social networking. This leaves them without many skills that will be needed to succeed at work throughout their lives (Bauerlein).
The twenty-first century is universally called the “Information Age.” There are terms we all know such as “Information Super Highway” and “Digital Revolution” that are positive terms, selling the benefits of information technology for our world and our education system. In 2006, President Bush spoke that the economy of the country is based on knowledge made through the use of information technology. But as research shows, information technology in schools is not building the kind of workforce the economy of the Unites States needs to get back jobs that have been sent to other countries. “In fact, their technology skills fall well short of the common claim, too, especially when they must apply them to research and workplace tasks” (Bauerlein 9). Just because students are learning in a digital revolution doesn’t show that they are learning skills that will help them succeed after they are done with school. The Information Super Highway is leading students into social media, electronic gaming and spending huge amounts of time texting their friends rather than using the technology to improve their knowledge and enable them to succeed in the rest of their lives. The rhetoric of the power of information technology may not prove to be the best for the future for students who use it today.