Why Is Comparative Research on Technology-Based Learning in Educational Institutions Important for My Audients?
As a college student studying computer science, I have for a long time been thinking about what good learning in classrooms entails, and how the good learning can be enhanced with the help of technology. With regards to the question of what good learning entails, I believe this is quite a subjective issue, and various stakeholders respond to this question differently, based on their contexts. Before giving my perspective on this issue, it is important that I identify the main stakeholders who may be interested in the question.
In the context of learning, the key stakeholders are educators, students, parents, education policy makers and the government. To educators, particularly, students need to collaborate and discuss the ideas and possible solutions, and this can be enhanced through technology (Groff & Haas, 2008). Moreover, students need to be engaged in technology-based learning environments that revolve around the real world context, as enhanced by technology. To the students, connecting with their peers all around the world, and accessing the topics of study in different parts of the world spurs the great need for technology in learning. Government and policy makers are concerned with immersing students into a learning experience, which would enable them to grapple with learning problems, and spur the need to gain higher order thinking skills, as they pursue different solutions. While discussing the use of technology in schools, all these stakeholders are targeted audiences, who this study directly addresses. Regardless of the context, each of the stakeholders needs to understand the role that he/she has to play in enhancing the use of technology for effective learning in learning institutions, and, particularly, in India.
What Is the Exigency of This Research?
With regards to its exigency, this project compares the low use of technology in Indian learning institutions against the high use of technology in the U.S. learning contexts. Despite the fact that India has made some considerable investments to enhance the use of technology in learning institutions, especially in higher learning institutions, there are significant gaps in educational technology that can be addressed through the critical inquiry and comparison of the use of technology in India and the U.S. schools and colleges. The project is relevant at a time when there is an increased use of technology to seek and offer information, create resources, and communicate across the globe. The critical inquiry research is mainly concerned with understanding the differences in technology use in institutions of learning in India and the United States, with a view to recommend strategies for closing the gap that exists between these two contexts. In brief, the critical inquiry question for this project is: why India’s learning institutions use less of technology on a daily basis, as compared to the U.S. learning institutions?
Why Is This Topic Relevant?
As a first generation college student, I have developed interest in the use of technology, and, especially, on the ways technology can be effectively utilized to achieve effective learning in schools and colleges. My choice of major in computer science has been important in helping me to realize my interests in this field. My interest in technology got a boost when I moved from India to the United States for my studies and noticed the differences in the use of technology in learning institutions between the two contexts I experienced. Today, I understand that the United States is more technologically advanced, with the use of technology in learning institutions much more enhanced than in India. The fact that the United States uses more technology for teaching and learning interests me a lot, and I would like the same to be replicated in India. Consequently, I am conducting this critical inquiry research of why Indian learning institutions use less technologies than the U.S. schools with a view to presenting my findings for consideration.
The rapid influx of technology in education sector throughout the world in the last few years has seen a significant transformation in the industry. The infiltration of technology in learning has attracted the interests of different stakeholders, including governments, educators, students, and even entrepreneurs (Klopfer, Osterwell, Groff, & Hass, 2009). Despite the widespread implementation, growing extant literature has identified a gap in the use of technology in schools and colleges within the developed and developing country contexts (Klopfer et al., 2009). This section particularly highlights the extant literature on the differences in implementation of education technology in U.S. schools and colleges, and Indian schools and colleges, but the next section explores the significance of comparative studies in technology use.
What Does Extant Literature Indicate About Comparative Technology Studies?
Hamidi, Meshkat, Razaee, and Jafari (2011) identified that many countries across the world have been attempting to implement technology in education. The study findings suggest that more countries across the world have attempted to equip their learning institutions with equipment that would enhance technology learning, such as computers and internet connection. Commenting on the significance of comparative studies on technology, Hamidi et al. (2011) importantly noted that comparative research on the use of technology in education is one of the key strategies through which educational systems can remove deficiencies and weaknesses in their implementations. This view justifies the current study approach to compare the use of technology in the United States and Indian schools and colleges, as this will enhance the identification of weaknesses and deficiencies in the implementation of technology in Indian schools.
In another study, Naresh and Reddy (2015) sought to expand an understanding of comparative studies, defining comparative studies to entail the discovery and analysis of similarities and differences in practice and theory of education among regions and countries, with the goal of enhancing the development and learning in both contexts. The review that is conducted here, therefore, qualifies as a comparative study, since it analyzes the differences and similarities in the use of technology in education between the United States and India.
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What Are the Key Features of Educational Technology?
As Nawaz, Awan, and Ahmad (2011) noted, conducting a comparative study requires a prior understanding of the features educational technology possesses. Understanding of the key features of educational technology, particularly for this discussion, is important in eliminating the possible misunderstandings with regards to purpose, nature and domain of the practice. Nawaz et al. (2011) further explained that educational technology entails the practice of scientific principles in the learning context. Moreover, educational technology emphasizes the development of modern teaching-learning methods in schools and colleges, particularly with regards to the use of modern technology in order to enhance teaching and learning. Educational technology enhances learning through control of educational methods in use, regulation of learning environment and media use in schools and colleges. Having highlighted these features of educational technology, as enshrined within the extant literature, it is important to understand what literature suggest of educational technology in the United States and India.
What Is the Current State of Educational Technology in the U.S.?
The U.S. Department of Education identifies the role of technology in ushering the structural changes that are integral to achieving productivity in education. The department’s adoption of technology in learning is inspired by the fact that technology infuses classrooms with digital learning equipment, makes course offerings expansive, enhances student experiences, supports learning during the 24 hours of a day, accelerates learning, tends to increase student engagement during the learning process, and, most importantly, enhances the 21st century skills for the learners in the technology world. In the United States, the classroom learning is integrated with technology, so that teachers are linked with their students and the professional content, which helps in improving the content delivery within the U.S. learning systems. As a result, the U.S. education department has made a number of initiatives towards achieving technology learning in schools.
Today, 48 states of the United States have fully implemented online learning opportunities, including dual learning environments, remediation classes, summer programs and advanced placements (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). In these systems, students can learn both the core subjects and electives through online education, most of which are supported by online education materials. The number of institutions in the United States continues to increase and to offer full-time online schools, where students who enroll in such schools do not engage in on-site learning, but receive all their instructions through online instruction delivery. More schools and colleges in the United States have also developed blended learning approaches. Blended learning entails integrating face-to-face and online learning in the same learning context. The tendencies to blend face-to-face learning with online learning are utilized in the US to accommodate the diverse learning needs of students. Clearly, online learning has improved educational productivity due to reduced costs and due to the fact that more people accessing education in the United States. In the last two years, schools throughout the United States have embraced the use of Chromebook and iPads, with the Federal Communications Commission fully supporting this course. In 2013, the U.S. e-learning market recorded a total worth of $40.6 billion, and this was projected to grow to $51.1 by 2017 (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).
Sharma, Ekundayo, and Ng (2009) identified that the United States has more open educational resources for learning than in any other context. Open educational resources are the research and learning resources that the public can easily access. Although these resources are not specifically tagged to learning institutions, they are infrastructural elements that support technological learning in schools and colleges. The United States, for instance, has multiple digital libraries, such as CK-12, which support technological learning throughout the country. In addition to open educational resources, Sharma et al. (2009) noted that the United States use digital resources in most of its institutions to enhance learning. Such technology supported digital resources include electronic grade books, digital-based real-time feedback on student and teacher performances, as well as other learning portfolios.
For students to experience information technology, and get adapted to them in their early life, the U.S. Department of Education encourages two approaches to learning; group projects that entail the use of technology, and special activities technology in communication. Most of the technology related special activities that are encouraged in all learning institution across the United States includes the use of computer graphic programs; using computers in doing homework and assignments, and utilizing educational CDs for learning. In addition, schools in the United States have modern and state-of-art equipment to support the learning processes across the country. In brief, the United States has demonstrated increased application of technology in its learning contexts, including schools and colleges.
What Is the Current State of Educational Technology in India?
While Indian youth have recently become technology driven, technology implementation in Indian schools is still in its nascent stages (Naresh & Reddy, 2015). The sluggish nature of technology implementation in Indian schools mimics a growing demand and huge potential for the effective implementation of technology-based learning in Indian education system, which visibly requires an overhaul. The government of India, having recognized the significance of technology in education systems, started a scheme that grants every public school district Rs. 5 million every year (“Technology Enabled Learning,” n.d.). The grant is, however, not based on the number institutions within a district. While this is a good gesture, these resources are usually not sufficient to cater for the technology needs of institutions in the each school district.
Indian universities and colleges have demonstrated the potential for technology-based learning through the noted success of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which have been on the increase recently. However, Mathur (2006) notes that this technology is more fuelled by the favorable student population in India market, than being a government initiative. Although supported by the government of India (through Digital India), the services are largely anchored US MOOC portals.
While the private education sector in India has made many attempts to adopt the kind of learning technology that is used in developed countries, such as the United States and U.K., the longevity and quality of these products is not uniform. These institutions poorly respond to the rapid shifts in technology that happen in the market. Despite the introduction of educational technologies, such as Educomp Solutions to aid learning in Indian schools and colleges, these programs fail, notably due to lack of training for school heads and educators on efficient use of these technologies (“Technology Enabled Learning,” 2016).
In brief, India lags with regards to quality of technology implementation in schools, when compared to the U.S. context. The lag is largely attributed to insufficient financial resources to adequately equip learning institutions with up-to-date technologies, poor training of educators, and lack of readiness to embrace technology-based learning in India.
The reviewed extant literature in this comparative study clearly identifies an existing gap in the use of technology in the U.S. and Indian schools and colleges. The review suggests that the use of technology in schools and colleges in either context is influenced by the availability of technology in schools, learning culture in schools and colleges, and the readiness of students and teachers to embrace the technology in each context. It is apparent that the U.S. government has comparatively invested in technologies and equipment that support learning in schools and colleges. Moreover, the U.S. education department trains its educators on the use of technology in learning, resulting in technology embracive culture among teachers and students. India, however, lags with regards to investment in technology and technology supportive equipment in schools and colleges. Further, the government of India, through education department has not done enough work to help teachers and students embrace reliance in technology-based learning.
The three factors given above (availability of technology, culture and readiness/experiences of teachers and students to embrace technology) entangle with each other in the Indian learning context, and the influence varies from case to case, impeding the use of technology in schools and colleges. As the governments supply schools with technology relevant tools to support learning, the school contexts gradually evolve, changing the characteristics and experiences of teachers and students, as well as their attitudes towards the use of technology. With such a culture that is consistent through all learning institutions, a country’s education industry is regarded to actively embrace technology in learning. While this has happened in the United States, India is yet to achieve the acceptable use of technology in learning partially due to the unavailability of the relevant resources to spur the right culture and readiness of the students and teachers.
Similarly, apparent from the extant literature is the fact that technology use in schools and colleges constantly change based on the market changes. Given the relationships that learning institutions have with the job market, especially colleges and universities, there is no ‘once and for all’ implementation of technology in learning institutions. Education policy makers and educators must understand that technology implementation plan that works today may not be relevant in the market tomorrow. As a result, governments must develop a dynamic plan for the implementation of learning technology in schools; such a plan must reflect the changes that work to prepare students for the market with regards to technology. While the U.S. government has marshaled the sufficient resources to continually update equipment that support technology-based learning in schools, India has been unable to adapt to the swift changes in market technologies, and reflect the same in learning context. This results in the differences in the manner in which learning institutions use technology in the United States and in India.
Although India has good policies to support technology learning in its schools and colleges, sustained implementation of these policies requires specific models and goals to emulate. Currently, there are no specific goals in India educational technology policy for long term technology learning, except the intermediary goals, such as those that help in determining the amount of hardware requirements, connectivity rates and computer ratios (Naresh & Reddy, 2015). Moreover, most institution leaders in India lack the clear sense of how to evaluate effective use of technology in their school contexts. Educators in India also understand less about their schools’ visions to use technology for learning. Consequently, attempts to implement technology-based learning in India are given the wrong measures and efforts, resulting in a relatively impeded use of technology in India.
How Can This Gap in Use of Technology in Learning Institutions in India and the U.S. Be Bridged?
The first step to bridging the gap in the use of technology in Indian schools and colleges is to initiate effective ICT planning in education sector. Poor technology planning in India might be responsible for the lag in technology learning in Indian schools and colleges. In ICT planning, not only the education sector, but all learning institutions must develop their technology expectations, goals, actions, and contents. Individual school plans must coincide with the country plans and must include elements, such as professional developments, evaluation methods, and vision building. ICT planning is intended to stem a lack of guidance that is characteristic of Indian technology learning.
It is important to understand that technology plans are never static; technology changes are rapid, and the plan must reflect all of the anticipated shifts in technology implementation in school and college learning systems. Other characteristics of technology plan that are currently lacking in India, and that can bridge the gap in technology implementation in schools and colleges is support, commitment, and collaboration with the system. Educators and education policy makers need training in order for them to establish a relationship with technology learning systems within education sector.
Learning from the U.S. implementation, the government of India must invest adequately in technology for the learning institutions. This investing must consider the rapid nature of changes in technology; financial resources should be available to update software and hardware requirements for technology learning in schools.
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The paper explored why India’s learning institutions use less technology on a daily basis, as compared to the U.S. learning institutions. This critical inquiry reveals that there is indeed a gap in the implementation of technology between the two countries. This inquiry has further identified the main features that characterize technology learning in institutions and noted that Indian schools lack these features, as compared to American schools. This results in lesser use of technology in Indian schools, as compared to schools in the United States. While the Federal Government of the United States, through the U.S. Department of Education invests satisfactorily in technology-based learning in schools and colleges, the Indian government investments in technology-based learning do not meet the sector’s requirements. Poor investments and insufficient infrastructural development in India education technology translate to poor culture by the teachers and students to readily embrace learning technology in schools. The inability of the Indian government and learning institutions to plan effectively and keep up with the rapid changes in technology impacts the use of modern technology in schools. Moreover, educators who handle the available learning technology in Indian schools and colleges lack adequate training and clear vision to spur the development of such technologies to the next level.
Despite the identified challenges and the gap in the use of technology learning in the United States and Indian schools, the Indian education sector bear great potential to succeed in the implementation of technology-based education. The country has strengths in its high student population, which can be reached through technology-based learning.