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Erno Lehtinen: On the impact of educational technology: Theoretical promises and practical experiences

In the public information society discourse, the arguments for the use of ICT in education are typically based on various self-evident benefits of information and communication technology. For example, the possibilities for an interactive relationship between the learner and the system are assumed to be beneficial to learning. Similarly, it seems obvious that the multimedia features of ICT that opens new possibilities to illustrate learning tasks facilitate the understanding of the phenomena. The possibility to use ICT in simulating real-life phenomena is one of the features of this new technology that has held out hopes of its educational value. The usefulness of the ICT based simulation has been self-evident in many special training situations, as in training jet plane pilots or nuclear power plant operators. Very fast world-wide access to information sources is currently one of the most promising feature of ICT that raises enthusiasm among educators. Educators also rely on the Internet as a useful tool for synchronous and asynchronous communication between teacher and students and among students. ICT has played a noteworthy role in developing new theoretical approaches on learning and instruction. One source of the desires of ICT's impact originates in the current learning research. The adaptation of constructivist epistemological principles, in particular, has encouraged learning scientists to analyse how technology-based environments would provide learners with new opportunities for exploratory activities which are beneficial for knowledge construction. Many learning scientists have assumed that information technology can be used to mediate real life problems to schools in a form that makes it possible to connect the practical problem solving with the learning of theoretical ideas and general thinking skills. Most of the recent research on the use of information and communication technology in education is more or less explicitly considering technology's possibilities to facilitate social interaction between teacher and students and among students. Appropriate representations are important elements in any learning and construction processes, but the problem of relevant external representations is highlighted when complex concepts and skills are the content of learning. Representational tools provided by the ICT should help the students to externalise their idiosyncratic and informal hypothesis and to compare this hypothesis with scientific concepts and culturally shared definitions. Thousands of experimental studies on the educational impact of ICT have been carried out since the first attempts to assess the educational use of information technology in the early 1970's. All together, the reviews and meta-analyses of the experiments show that ICT students have learned more and faster than students in control groups. In these experiments ICT has also improved student motivation and social interaction. The quality of learning depended on the type of ICT application. It is, however, an open question how much the optimistic desires are based on general enthusiasm or limited experimental evidence. Large evaluation studies in everyday classroom situations do not fully support the positive conclusion raising from theoretical considerations of laboratory type experiments. In this paper I summarise some findings of the recent research on the impact of ICT, give explanations for observed obstacles in applying ICT in regular classrooms, and present some ideas of effective implementation of ICT tools in regular classrooms.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 101. Number 4. 449-459. (2001)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Erno Lehtinen, Torun Yliopisto, kasvatustictieden laitos. Lemminkäistenkatu 1, FIN-20520 Turku


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia