Technology can equip students to independently organize their learning process. So, instead of being passive recipients of information, students using technology become active users. At the same time, technology transfers some responsibility for learning to students. Through online learning (which provides increased access to course content, more scheduling flexibility, and better access to alternative education choices) and alternative media (such as digital games and project-based learning), students have the flexibility to direct their individual progress.
However, integrating technology into educational practices has proven to be a slow and complex process. In fact, it can take four or more years from the time new technologies are first introduced to the point when changes can be observed in students. To date, the most prevalent barriers to successful integration include organizational support, teacher attitudes and expectations, and technology itself.
School culture and structure don’t support specific uses of technology. Often, technology is not aligned with a school district’s vision, mission and curriculum. As a result, there is no foundation in place to provide consistent access to—and use of—technology throughout the K-12 years. Using technology to support student-centered learning requires leadership, administration and the community to collaborate and set an agenda for technology that reflects local needs, focuses on a common set of learning standards, and connects students to real-world audiences.
Most teachers lack confidence in technology as well as their technology skills. According to a National Center for Education Statistics study, only 23 percent of teachers surveyed feel prepared to integrate technology into their instruction. Those who use technology do so primarily to present information rather than to provide hands-on learning for students. Some are unclear about policies governing the use of technology. Others are uncomfortable with investing instructional time to deal with possible equipment failures or slow Internet access. Clearly, more of an investment in technology training and technical support needs to be factored into K-12 funding and resource allocation.
To date, educators, stakeholders, parents should look for ways to integrate technology in the educational system because it can support key practices of student-centered learning. This includes emerging technology already prevalent in the consumer and business worlds (such as digital books, cloud computing, collaborative environments, and mobile devices).