If the recent COVID crisis has taught us anything, it’s that instructional technology is not just important but a vital part of teaching and learning.
Teachers and learners from all over the world were obliged to transfer the learning and teaching experience into the online environment. Unfortunately, not everyone managed to adapt timely.
UNICEF has recently reported that while “approximately 1.6 billion or 91% of the world’s enrolled students” were involved in some form of distance learning, there is still an urgent need for education systems to have a “plan B” that they could implement efficiently.
Namely, as outlined further, distance learning has an “opportunity to shine,” but it needs to have equal access to technology and proper teacher training as preconditions. In other words, not every educator was fully prepared for using instructional technology in teaching, and not every student had equal access to lessons delivered online. Consequently, we now have to rethink the use of technology in education and integrate it into the curricula from the very start, not just as a crisis management tool.
Put otherwise, the ability to overcome the challenges of the 21st century is the reason why technology is so essential in education.
What is Instructional Technology?
Before we dive into the benefits of using instructional technology in education, we first need to define our operating term.
Instructional technology is the theory and practice of developing, implementing and managing technological resources in educational environments.
There are many forms educational technology can take, but their purpose is unique across all variations: it’s to facilitate the teaching and learning process.
Some of the most common types of technologies used in a classroom are:
- The use of various equipment
- Software tools
- Integrated multimedia
- Integrated learning systems
- Distance learning
- Audio and video conferencing
- Virtual reality
The list isn’t final because the EdTech industry is constantly evolving and producing new educational tools. As the 21st century imposes new challenges, we might expect to see some new learning facilitators on the horizon.
Benefits For Educators
The recent health crisis has only emphasized the weaknesses of traditional education and accelerated the changes that had to be made.
According to the World Economic Forum, instead of sharpening the traditional skills that might be outdated and irrelevant today, instructional technology can help educators develop critical thinking and adaptability in their students – skills crucial for their future success.
But, how exactly can instructional technology help educators and improve the learning process?
There are several keynotes here.
#1 Classroom Management
On a basic level, using technology in the classroom reduces the manual work, paperwork, and record keeping undertaken by teachers. This means that they can spend more time focussing on the essential part of their occupation – transferring knowledge to students.
In more pragmatic terms, the benefits of using technology in the classroom come down to:
- Lesson plan management
- Facilitated assessment procedures
- Record keeping
- Closer collaboration between fellow teachers
#2 Improved Learning Outcomes
However, all these benefits would be worthless if there wasn’t for the crucial one – the ability to engage students more effectively. For centuries now, student engagement was a magical word for educators, often tied to a lot of anxiety and uneasiness.
That’s why many teachers embraced instructional technology with excitement – it has given them a more direct path to their students’ minds. Consequently, they were able to define more ambitious learning outcomes and be more confident about their realization.
In a nutshell, because instructional technology improves the learning process (which we’ll explore in the next section) – it enables the teachers to perform their role much more efficiently.
#3 Improved Teacher’s Productivity
Somewhat naturally occurring from the previous benefit is the fact that educators will be more productive at what they do if they’re able to manage a classroom, engagement levels, and learning outcomes with equal efficacy.
Colloquially speaking, a teacher who is satisfied with their classroom performance is a happy teacher. And happy teachers tend to educate happy students.
With the recorded decline of both teacher’s and student’s productivity in recent decades, this benefit couldn’t be more up-to-the-minute.
Benefits For Learners
Coming straight from the heart of all the previously listed benefits is how instructional technology improves the learning process. What are its enhancing mechanisms, which it uses to boost students’ performance?
In the section that follows, we’ll try to explain what’s behind the power of instructional technology in the process of knowledge transfer itself.
#4 Ease of Access
For starters, the EdTech industry has globalized education by removing the barriers of space and time. As a result, many previously unavailable educational programmes have become accessible to a broader body of aspiring students.
For example, distance learning platforms have made it possible for a student in Lusaka to enroll in a postgrad programme in London. Likewise, their colleagues can choose from some of the many educational opportunities in Zambia.
If that doesn’t seem like much now, try imagining studying law on another continent two decades ago. What was virtually impossible is now at the fingertips of our screens.
#5 Self-Paced Studying
It might sound like an exaggeration to claim that self-paced learning will soon be the educational model replacing the traditional ways. The classical brick-and-mortar institutions still hold significance and authority.
However, with the rapid pace our lives are taking each day, it comes as no surprise that such a model is a preferred choice of many students, especially those who have families or are already in the workforce.
The self-paced studying, supported by the open distance learning systems, has grown insignificance. They enable people to gain new skills and knowledge without sacrificing work and family commitments.
The greater education accessibility and flexibility in the learning process are the main precondition for the next benefit on our list – personalization. Instructional technology has enabled students to choose what they’ll learn, which particular skills they will advance, and how they’ll do it.
If learners want to specialize in a single area, they don’t have to circle it for years before they can dive into the matter of interest.
Likewise, if they find a particular learning section hard to overcome, they can stay there longer without imposing a delay on their peer’s learning paths.
In a word, instructional technology gives them control over the learning curve, which will eventually yield better performance.
#7 Immersive Learning
We still haven’t mentioned the benefit the educational technology is probably the most known for – engagement.
It’s no secret that “digital natives” are born with a scrolling finger on their hands. But even those who are not born when technology has completely gotten over the world find it easier to adopt new knowledge through the tech-mediated presentation.
The key to immersive learning today is to explain concepts into a form that is familiar and digestive. The use of technology in teaching does just that – translates far away concepts into multimedia information, thus giving “flesh and blood” to often distant theoretical insights.
#8 Skills For The New Era
As we noted before, many experts have emphasized the urgent need to update our education system with job readiness and a focus on relevant skills today. We learn in a system based on memorization and standardization principles while the world seeks dynamic intelligence ready to compete against smart machines.
And this is not just a metaphor.
To quote the World Economic Forum once again, “60% of future jobs haven’t been developed yet and 40% of nursery-age children (kindergarteners) in schools today will need to be self-employed to have any form of income”. (see: Our education system is losing relevance. Here’s how to unleash its potential)
In other words, we need an educational system that is urgently relevant, continues the article, accessible, equal to all, and based on a different definition of success.
The notion of instructional technology is not mentioned here, but its spirit is sensed between the things outlined.
#9 Overall Student Performance
The same source reports some staggering statistics about the overall learning success. Evidence suggests that:
- Students retain anywhere between 25% and 60% more material when learning online (compared to only 8-10% in a classroom)
- Compared to the traditional classroom setting, e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn
The math seems obvious here: technology can lead our education to new heights. If we learn how to keep up the pace.
UNZA: In Search of Tomorrow
Many of the authoritative sources we quoted here – UNICEF and the World Economic Forum – tend to raise slightly predictive tones in their writings. They speak of “essential vigilance in education” needed for “future crisis,” mention smart machines we’ll have to “compete with,” and conclude with “the challenges that await them [students] tomorrow.”
Perhaps such tones are exaggerations, warnings, or something else.
Either way, one thing is sure – the arriving century will be full of challenges that we can all address only through relevant knowledge. Instructional technology is important because it has the power of leading us towards a more meaningful education that will create more meaningful experts.
Contact us today to start exploring the educational world of tomorrow.