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ICT tools and learning
The education industry has adopted the use of information communication technology (ICT) with the main aim of supporting learning activities within and outside institutions of learning (Schacter, J, 1999). Advancements in the field of ICT have been correlated with improvements in learning outcomes.
Schacter (1999) argues that students choose different tools in ICT based on their levels of convenience and applicability. Also, learning institutions across the world install computerized platforms that support many types of ICT tools that are found to have the greatest impacts on students’ academic success (Waldrop 2013).
Electronic books are reading materials that only exist in digital forms. They are accessed by users from the internet using various internet search tools (Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine & Haywood 2011; Waldrop 2013). In most cases, online companies are dedicated to offering e-books, which either could be free or can be bought at certain prices that are lower than those associated with hard copies (Johnson et al. 2011).
Electronic books are utilized by learners through the application of electronic readers, which are software that is installed on computers or mobile communication devices such as phones. The advancement of ICT has enabled many students to access e-books at increased levels of convenience. The books have three main advantages (Waldrop 2013).
First, electronic books are available at all times, and there is no time they can go out of print, unlike printed copies of books. This implies that students could utilize e-books without the restriction of unavailability. This great spatial advantage is offered to students who use e-books.
Second, online sites that provide the books have software that translates e-books into various languages, so that many students who are characterized by different languages could use them (Johnson et al. 2011). Third, electronic books are offered at relatively low prices, which are lower than the prices of printed books. This ensures that many students could afford books. Some e-books are offered free of charge.
However, electronic books are characterized by some disadvantages. First, learners can only use e-books through the use of special devices like computers and powerful mobile communication devices like phones. This could negatively impact some learners who do not have the equipment for accessing the learning materials.
Second, there have been concerns that students who use e-books for a long time usually complain of eye problems that are caused by straining. Third, students may not be able to troubleshoot technical problems that are associated with electronic readers that are used to access the books. This hinders the proper utilization of e-books.
The use of mobiles in the education industry has been on the increase since the introduction of mobile devices. The devices are applied in learning and teaching environments to increase the quality of learning outcomes. Some of the most recent mobile devices that have been adopted in learning and teaching are iPads and smartphones, which can connect to the internet and download learning materials to be used by both teachers and students.
The relevance of mobiles in learning and teaching is based on the convergence of many technologies such as electronic readers, e-books, and applications for social networks. The use of GPS allows the identification of locations and positioning, which have many practical applications in learning and education environments.
Mobile computing is being applied in many universities to improve learning standards and the quality of learning outcomes (Johnson et al. 2011). For example, many universities are offering their computer science students units that focus on the creation of software applications that could be applied in teaching and learning. Mobiles could be applied in many disciplines such as chemistry, biology, mathematics, and languages.
One of the greatest advantages of mobiles in the context of learning is that mobile devices could be used in classrooms without the need to involve support. This implies that persons with limited knowledge about ICT could use them (Waldrop 2013). Another advantage is that they are portable devices that could be easily carried by learners and tutors.
This merit of mobiles enhances the usability of the ICT tools in learning and teaching environments. One disadvantage of mobiles is that they cannot be purchased by all students because of their relatively high prices. Another disadvantage is that mobiles could develop some technical problems that could not be easily solved by ordinary learners without good knowledge about ICT.
Augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) is the utilization of computer-assisted information in the real world to solve various problems. The earliest form of AR was the use of head-mounted displays. Recent advancements in the field of ICT have led to the adoption of smartphones and browser applications that are based on the running of AR. AR-based applications in learning and teaching are used to enhance the visual aspects of reading materials.
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It is expected that the use of AR applications in learning will increase significantly in the future with the increased adoption and improvements about AR applications. One advantage of AR is that AR-based applications are utilized to improve the interaction between learners and reading materials. AR applications enhance stimulation of dynamic processes that are supported by efficient data flows.
Hence, ICT tools could be used to promote high-quality learning outcomes. Another advantage of AR-based applications is that they can respond to user input at relatively high speed. This greatly enhances the efficiency of ICT tools. However, AR tools are also characterized by some disadvantages.
First, learners have limited knowledge of troubleshooting AR ICT tools. Thus, this great impediment reduces the usage of the tools in learning. Also, devices that support AR applications are quite expensive; hence, many students cannot use the devices. However, it is expected that the devices will become cheaper in the future due to advancements in ICT (Johnson et al. 2011).
Game-based learning tools were introduced in 2003 (Johnson et al. 2011). In higher education, these tools are used to support communication, collaboration, and solution of problems. Thee tools are characterized by software that supports the running of different games that are intended to support various learning themes and outcomes (Waldrop 2013).
Games in learning have been shown to enhance thinking processes and stimulate learners to improve their learning. The adoption of the internet has ensured that learning games are available online and could be accessed by learners at all times. One advantage of learning games is that they could be used to support different learning themes and outcomes.
Also, the ICT tools could be installed in personal computing devices and be accessed at times when learners can play them. This greatly enhances the convenience of the learning tools. A disadvantage of the learning games is that they could be wrongly used by users at different levels of learning and result in unwanted outcomes (Johnson et al. 2011).
On balance (advantages versus disadvantages)
In conclusion, the use of ICT tools has many positive impacts on learning. They have more advantages than disadvantages. It would be expected that improvements in ICT tools in the future will lead to more benefits of the tools in the context of learning.
Johnson, L, Smith, R, Willis, H, Levine, A, & Haywood, K, 2011, The 2011 Horizon Report, The new Media Consortium, Austin, TX.
Schacter, J, 1999, The Impact of Education Technology on Student Achievement: What the Most Current Research Has To Say, Milken Exchange on Education, Santa Monica, CA.
Waldrop, MM, 2013, ‘Education online: The virtual lab. Confronted with the explosive popularity of online learning, researchers are seeking new ways to teach the practical skills of science’, Nature, vol. 499, no. 7458, pp. 268-270.