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Essay I Submission for Commonwealth Education Trust Course

Introduction: Technology has the potential to increase teaching and learning outcomes. Researchers claim that best practices associated with technology are associated with student-centered practices (e.g., collaborative, authentic, situated learning, problem-based work) (Hannafin, Hill, & Land, 1997; Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003; Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997). Although technology has the capacity to “make it quicker or easier to teach the same things in routine ways,” it also makes it possible to “adopt new and arguably better approaches to instruction and/or change the content or context of learning, instruction, and assessment” (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007, p. 581).

Culp, Honey, and Mandinach (2005) reviewed 20 years of educational technology policy and found technology described as the catalyst for change:

Many reports present strong assertions that technology can catalyze various other changes in the content, methods, and overall quality of the teaching and learning process, most frequently, triggering changes away from lecture-driven instruction and toward constructivist, inquiry-oriented classrooms...Although these reports also reference the importance of adequately trained and motivated teachers, they foreground the potential of the digital tools themselves to change the learning environment and the teaching process, making it more flexible, more engaging, and more challenging for students. Technology Today

The classrooms today experience and emphasize critical thinking, teamwork, compromise, and communication-the skills valued in today's workplace. Teachers, in contrast, change from being the storehouse of all knowledge to being guides or mentors and facilitators, who help students navigate through the information made available by technology and interactive communications. They help students gather and organize information, judge its value, and decide how to present it in varied forms. Technology is altering lives in a great way. Linking people to other people, ideas to realities and distances to destinations, it is gradually becoming an integral part of the human evolution. Evolution, without education is meaningless. Schools, all over the world, are beginning to understand the importance and benefits of technology in education. The schools now thus, have a new dimension of education-Technology. In a statement, I coined in 2006, I emphasized the importance of integrated ICT and stressed using it across the curriculum to make learning meaningful for students. ICT is used to support all curriculum areas?, to support collaborative and co-operative learning?, to develop higher order thinking skills in students and to develop students who are information literate, critical thinkers? and committed to life- long learning?. 

A lot has been said and written about the value of using ICT in education to improve the efficiency of planning and lesson delivery in educational institutions. There is little doubt that the emerging technologies do have a potential of arresting and captivating students as technology provides intrinsic motivation. In a country like India, there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into account before any ICT Integration model is developed and implemented. The challenges are many- professional development of teachers, infrastructural changes, cost of ICT tools, regular upgrading of equipment, availability of relevant teaching and learning material, ongoing maintenance and on-site technical support, to name a few.

Professional Development for Teachers While information and communication technology (ICT) is not a panacea for all educational problems, today’s technologies are essential tools for teaching and learning. To use these tools effectively and efficiently, teachers need a vision of the technologies’ potential, opportunities to apply them, training and just-in-time support, and time to experiment. Only then can teachers be informed and confident in their use of new technologies (Bowes, 2003).

ICT integration may not be the solution to all relevant pedagogies of today, but the fact of the matter remains that that's the direction learning is taking and the paradigm shift is there for everyone to see. It has been observed in many countries, that the teachers integrate ICT in their teaching only if they have been exposed to the methods in their own learning. Hence, the need for a system where the trainee- teachers are made to use ICT tools in their training and that develops into a way of life for them. Unless and until the use of technology is integrated into the teacher-training programmes, it is a futile fight for any government, which has been working on making ICT an integral part of the curriculum. The importance of such a stance can be justified by the fact that many years into the programme; we are still struggling to find ways to the effect.

There are other obstacles, as well, like huge budgets, expensive peripherals, out-dated hardware and software, out-dated CPD programs and most importantly staff which is too comfortable with the traditional way of teaching and learning. We have to keep in mind that our learners are moving ahead and we are training them to cope with a scenario, which is all out technological oriented. The so-called "Digital Natives" have been brought up using gadgets and systems, which were a novelty in our times. According to research done in this area, it has been found that using ICT in classrooms is a complex process and requires more than expensive gadgets and in-class support. This potential is being explored by quite a few IT companies in India, which are developing content to match hardware. But is this curriculum “intelligent”? Are we giving the students set curricula, well-defined objectives and a few strategies to tackle tasks? Where then is the challenge for them? The Way Forward 

Every teacher’s mission should be to impart skills to students, so that they can reflect and take control of their learning. The need of the hour is self-reflection, self-regulation and empowering the students with tools that can enable them to take charge and personalise their learning experiences.

“On my summits of calm, I have brooded with voices around me.” -SRI AUROBINDO