Information technology has taken the educational landscape by storm, increasing the learning potential of students and empowering teachers with engaging presentation tools and advanced class-management systems. From preschools to institutions of higher education, a plethora of electronic devices -- laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even smart-boards -- has opened access to vast amounts of information. These tools promote wider participation in the academic community and benefit educators and students alike.
A well-known concept to educators, Neil Fleming's multiple learning styles model (See Reference 1) suggests that not all students learn the same way. Information technology addresses individual learning preferences with its incorporation of rich multimedia. With just a few clicks instructors have instant access to thousands of articles, images, audio, and video that enhance their presentations and engage students. For instance, if a student has difficulty picturing a "yurt" -- the portable dwelling of nomadic Mongols -- a quick Web search yields informative articles, professional photographs, 3-D models, and videos about how yurts are made, along with an interactive map showing where the structures are found. Technology supports various approaches to visual learning, auditory learning, reading, and writing through its interactive, kinesthetic nature.
Classroom Management and Interaction
Information technology benefits the management of classrooms by its ability to create and organize in a virtual space. Many schools have adopted Learning Management Systems (LMS) that centralize aspects of courses in such a virtual space (See Reference 2). Teachers can post documents, ebooks, media, and quizzes that are automatically graded. Assignments can be posted and submitted online and grades can be viewed in a single virtual space. Students can access the LMS anytime and never have to worry about losing a paper or carrying a textbook. LMS also facilitates communication, interaction, and collaboration between students and teachers, providing opportunities to send messages, chat, create wikis, compose documents, blog, and share information much like social media sites.
Accessibility and Wider Participation
The emergence of online classes opens doors to many students who could not otherwise participate in educational settings due to time and financial limitations. Working adults, parents taking care of children, and students being home-schooled can earn diplomas and degrees while on the road or from their homes. Online courses offer non-traditional students the chance to go back to school and improve their lives according to their own schedule and at a lower cost than brick-and-mortar institutions. (See Reference 3) Free education services are sponsored by educational powerhouses. In an effort to share its resources with the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed OPENCOURSEWARE (Link in Resources) that gives the public access to many of the school's courses. Information technology makes it possible for anyone with a desire to learn to pursue an education.
Information Technology and Assessment
As educational institutions move away from traditional grading and towards the assessment of specific skills, information technology redefines how to judge whether students have reached their objectives. For instance, by looking at broader collections of student work compiled in student ePortfolios, institutions are able to monitor how students develop over time and whether they have achieved their goals (See Reference 4). The assessment of such skills as writing are enhanced by the use of online software programs such as WriteToLearn (Link in Resources) that compares semantics among large samples of student work and provides specific feedback on items such as content, redundancy, and irrelevancy (See Reference 4). Information technology provides more complete assessment of a students' academic competence and offers feedback focused on the individual.
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