SECONDARY EDUCATION AND COMPUTER USE IN BELGIUM, TANZANIA, AND THE UNITED STATES
InterFuture (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
What cultural factors influence decisions made by students and teachers regarding computer use as a means to achieve educational objectives in secondary schools in Belgium, Tanzania, and the United States?
Brief Introduction and Purpose of Project:
Whether teachers and communities approve of increased computer technology in the classroom, educational institutions from Tanzania, to Belgium, to the United States are experiencing growth along with the global technological community.
During the past decade, groups aiming to provide affordable computer access to students across the globe have come into the limelight. MIT’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) website, for instance, says: "One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful."
With the spread of technology comes a growing awareness of cultural factors that influence availability of computers for students; these machines promising to ‘bridge the digital divide,’ may only gain the opportunity to become great social equalizers once all students of the world are given equal access. Yet, it is apparent that some students are exposed to computers for educational purposes with greater frequency than others.
Through participant observation in secondary schools in three nations, I have noted significant barriers to the integration of computers into physical classrooms, and into curricula. Oftentimes, political or religious groups that provide computer resources to classrooms are the very same groups that seem to stifle integration of computers into the learning environment, and into the curriculum.
As a result, the general availability of computers to secondary school students no longer begs the question, “How do secondary school students and teachers use computers to achieve educational objectives;” the question to ponder becomes, “What is encouraging, and what is discouraging, the integration of computer use into the secondary school classroom and curriculum?” In depth interviews with over twenty secondary school teachers, and interviews and questionnaires from over 100 secondary school students have led me to conclusions that many organizations and groups are willing to provide schools with computers, but are unwilling or unable to see through the integration of computers into the secondary school educational experience.
The purpose of this research paper is to unearth real feedback, from real teachers and students, regarding what actually happens in secondary school systems when computers are made available for educational use. In many cases, these interviews and questionnaires have brought to light honest feelings regarding the sense of abandonment by teachers of students, and by administration of teachers; the lack of support and training on a multitude of levels has left many school systems with computers, and without a practical means for utilizing them. There is a need for constantly evolving dialogue about the ways in which computers can best be used to achieve the specific educational objectives of each school. Through effective integration of computers into education, students and teachers will experience a positive learning environment that speaks to visual and sensory learners of the current generation, and still requires active teacher-student communication.
Keywords: computers, computer use, secondary schools, education, technology, curriculum integration.