Disruptive Technologies and Education: Is There Any Disruption After All?

Disruptive Technologies and Education: Is There Any Disruption After All?

Kin Wai Michael Siu, Giovanni Jesue Contreras García
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9577-1.ch028
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With the rapid development of information and communication technologies at the beginning of the 21st century terms like ‘Cloud Learning,' ‘Mobile Learning,' ‘e-Learning,' and ‘MOOCS' have been added to the long list of ‘disruptive' technologies expected to revolutionize education forever. But while it is easy to see how ICT's have put unimaginable amounts of information at the fingertips of students, can we say that this is truly revolutionizing education? Are higher education institutions adjusting their pedagogic practices to make full use of these technologies? In fact, are they using them at all? In this chapter we take a closer look at the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in higher education and report findings from a study asking how these technologies are being used in academic activities. We set up the framework for the discussion by reviewing some of the most important historical developments in educational technology to then move on to present the study's results. The chapter closes by contrasting these results with past predictions about the disruptive potential of ICTs and finally reflecting on the steps that will have to be taken in order to make the most out of these technologies.
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It is common to think of computers when discussing educational technologies, however, while most educational technologies these days are based on the computer, the term ‘educational technologies’ comprises many kinds of technologies and processes (Stallard & Cocker, 2001). In the past however, educational technologies have been seen from two different angles; one that saw educational technologies as teaching aids and in the form of hardware, and the other, that saw educational technologies more as a form of educational science and taking the form of software. In general a holistic vision considers educational technologies to be the application of all kinds of systems to teaching and learning (Bajpai & Leedham, 1970).

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Learning: Term used to designate the type of learning that occurs through electronic devices although it is commonly used to refer to distance educational programs that take place over the internet. It is also often found as synonym with several other terms in the educational technology jargon such as distance learning; however the second does not necessarily imply the mediation of electronic devices or the internet.

Courseware: Term given to materials which are part of an educational course or class. Although courseware refers to all types of materials, it is mostly associated with technology-based materials particularly software, and often times is found as synonym with educational software in general. The term is particularly common to talk about training for computer packages or IT industry’s certification programs.

Application Programming Interface: (API): Is basically a computer program that allows the ‘communication’ between two other computer programs. APIs have become particularly important online as they allow websites to share information amongst each other, for instance allowing a person to share her/his Instagram pictures on Facebook at the same time, in which case an API serves as the interface between the two services. Not to confuse with “academic performance index,” another term also used in the context of education.

Distributed Learning: It could be said that Distributed learning is a form of distance learning; however distributed learning refers to idea of connecting the different elements involved in the learning process through the use of computer networks. These different elements can be persons—not just teacher and learner but a whole range of others—and content, all of which could be dispersed in different locations whether very distant from each other or not. One of the advantages of doing this is that students in special programs do not have to move to special schools—which can be located far away—because all the resources can be accessed online. Another advantage is that schools could offer a wider variety of courses without having to physically bring professors into the classroom, especially when the class size is small.

Data Mining: Data mining is fundamentally a way to search for useful information through large amounts of data being generated with the facility of information technologies. Data mining is also often referred to as ‘analytics’ or ‘knowledge discovery’ because its objective is precisely to generate knowledge or discover patterns of information amongst that data from which useful knowledge can be obtained. The actual mining process is made by software featuring artificial intelligence techniques like ‘machine learning.’ Data mining has become an important complement of other data analysis tools because the amounts of information available these days sometimes are impossible to be analyzed with traditional methods; however it has also become a buzzword which is often miss-used.

Teaching Machines: Teaching machines are devices used to present educational material to a person. The popularity of teaching machines reached its peak during the late 50s and 60s with the advent of programmed education as a result of the introduction of behaviorist theories of education. Teaching machines were suitable for programmed education because they could ‘easily’ present the student with educational materials according to the sequence of the program; this was useful particularly in the training of very specific duties like using Morse code. Teaching machines have taken different forms through time depending on technologies available; some of the very first were electro-mechanical and then electronic, but due to its interactive nature, soon teaching machines based on the computer became predominant. In a way a computer running education software like leapfrog’s different educational programs could be considered to be a teaching machine, but nowadays the term is not widely used and may have negative connotations due to association with behaviorist education.

Second Life: Web site offering a 3D virtual reality environment in which users interact with others using human-like avatars—characters that represent them—in a virtual world that resembles reality. The use of Second Life as an e-Learning platform or Virtual Learning Environment has been explored by some educators who consider that the virtual reality environment offers is ideal to interact with people from distant places; however Second Life has also been criticized for facilitating the assumption of fake personalities by people.

Integrated Learning Systems: (ILS): Is basically set of tools—most often computer-based and on line—used to organize educational materials and curriculum content for a class, so that students have access to them as the progress through the course. ILSs may include information or curriculum content, evaluation mechanisms, communication or discussion boards, and other tools. The term is used in tandem with LMS or ‘Learning Management Systems,’ although the second seems to be gaining popularity. These days there are powerful free and commercial ILS systems; an example of a well-known free ILS system is Moodle with its commercial counterpart—and probably best known system—Blackboard.

Wearable Smart Device: In general, wearable smart devices are clothes or accessories such as bracelets, belts, and necklaces which incorporate some kind of electronic technology. These devices represent a form of ubiquitous computing and communication aiming at integrating technology into everyday life in a seamless manner. While wearable smart devices are a form or wearable technology, not all wearable devices are ‘smart,’ however most often they come together with or can be connected to one, like in the case of a Bluetooth adapter and a smartphone. One of the biggest applications of these wearable smart devices is the monitoring of vital signs such as heartrate and temperature. Popular examples of smart wearable devices these days are Apple’s iWatch and the Google Glass.

Distance Learning: Learning in which the professor and the learner do not share the same space. It is in general agreed that the first forms of distance learning were correspondence courses where the printed materials were sent to learners by mail. Eventually the sent materials evolved as technology allowed giving place to audio cassettes, VHS tapes, Audio CDs, and DVDs—still current these days. With the advent of the internet and advancements in streaming audio and video, sending materials by mail has become less popular. E-Learning most often is a form of distance learning and often times the terms are used as synonyms but are not the same. Also while in most distance learning programs the teacher and the learner do not share the same time, strictly distance learning only implies a spatial separation not of time; examples of online distance learning where the teacher and the professor are in contact with each other at the same time through video are a good example that distance learning does not necessarily mean asynchronicity.

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