In the 21st century, “technology has found its way in to every corner of the world—crossing the divide between the rich and the poor—and has become a part of life for many.”1 The speed of change brought about by new technologies has had a significant influence on the way people live, work, and play across the world. Technology has transformed every aspect of the society ranging from banking to administration, agriculture, arts, architecture, and so on. New and emerging technologies restructure the traditional method of carrying out numerous activities. Information technology, to be precise, has revolutionized the world of teaching and learning. The question to ask: is the influence of Information Technology on education “a blessing or a curse,”2? Is Information technology itself an asset or a liability? I attempt to answer this poser, drawing reference from my personal experience.
Conceptual clarification: Information Technology
Information Technology (IT) is the application of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data, often in the context of business or other enterprises. Though the term is commonly associated with computers and computer networks, it comprehensively encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephone.
Education developed from the human struggle for survival and enlightenment. Either formal or informal, it refers to the general social process by which human beings acquire the knowledge and skills needed to function in their culture.3 Education is a universal concept in the sense that virtually everything one knows comes through education irrespective of time, day, and place.
However, my conception of education in this essay is limited to formal education, a kind of education which refers to the process by which teachers instruct students in courses of study within institutions— a system of formal teaching and learning as conducted through schools and other institutions.4
Today, just like other sectors, educational institutions have bowed to the overwhelming influence of technologies, schools (at all levels) have become technologized. How technology affects education is what the next section of this essay shall focus, using as template my own experience.
Education and Information Technology: A personal reflection
In my hometown, there was—and still is—a limited access to information technology. The ubiquity of information technology in the world today is only witnessed in my town through the proliferation of cell phones. Even the private nursery school I attended that boasted of a comprehensive computer education only taught us Mario game! So I was a greenhorn as far as IT is concerned before year 2007 when I travelled to Ibadan (a city in Southwestern Nigeria) to stay with my brother after having completed my secondary school education. With the need to register for JAMB (Nigeria’s entrance examination to higher institutes of learning) and subsequently to check for my admission status online, it became unavoidable for me to graduate from the life without IT knowledge. How utterly embarrassing it was seeing secondary school students operating computer system ingeniously while I was forced to engage the service of computer operators at cyber cafes who collected extra charges for helping me in the online activities—I paid for my ignorance!
After so much disgrace at cyber cafes I summoned courage one day and instead of employing the service of the computer operator as usual, I bought a ticket and browsed the internet all alone. Thus, my voyage in the IT world begins. My admission to Obafemi Awolowo University (one of the ICT leading universities in Nigeria) sped up my IT knowledge greatly. In OAU, almost the entire system is automated. So, basic IT knowledge is essential for every student. After struggling to buy textbooks, novels, and begging senior colleagues for academic articles in my first year, my IT knowledge got upgraded when in the second year I offered a course in Information and Communications Technology (CSC 221). Then I got a laptop and within few days, I became a reference source! In full swing, I started going to cyber cafes to download textbooks, novels and journals online. At times I subscribed for data on my phone to download pdf files online and send it through Bluetooth application to my system for convenient reading. My school wrapped up the enjoyment with the introduction of wireless system which enables students and staff to surf the net with ease anywhere anytime on campus at extremely reduced cost compared to the cyber café charges. Imagine! The ownership of a laptop and a GPRS enabled phone revolutionized my learning. With IT, solutions to academic problems are just the click of a mouse away!
Information technology, no doubt, aided my education, particularly my higher education. I had access to relevant books and in most cases I read ahead and far above my class. I had access to variety of learning resources, free/cheap access to authentic and resourceful information from online libraries. IT saved my time and reduced my educational expenses drastically. More so, IT also aided the lecturing process, very greatly. Instead of the traditional note-writing on the board, some of our lecturers made use of Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations in the class. It saved our time, eased the job of lecturers and immensely enhanced our learning and assimilation process. Through IT, I enjoyed productive interaction with colleagues from different schools—we shared our academic experiences. Information technology turns teaching and learning into a collaborative exercise, which, ideally, it is supposed to be.
Besides, through subscription to newsletters from resourceful websites, I had access to essay contests, some of which I participated and won, and thereby enriched my curriculum vitae. A remarkable contest I participated was the one that earned me an Apple Ipad which I found very useful when writing my final year project.
Then, it is important to stress that Information Technology contributed positively to my educational career because I made (and still make) use of it wisely and productively. In my undergraduate years, I knew of someone whose educational career was jeopardized because of his inability to use IT wisely. This student could not see the (symbiotic) connection between her educational career and IT; she thought IT was all about entertainment! All she knew about IT was social networking—Facebook, Twitter, Eskimi, 2go and others. She was always busy with video games and chatting (BBM was in vogue then!) while classes were on. Reckless use of IT jeopardized her career!
At this juncture, I hope I have not created the impression that social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and others are not good. No! What I mean is that they should be productively used— as resources for not only entertainment but also education. This was what I and my colleagues did while in school. While I created a Facebook page titled “Yoruba Language and Literature” where we discussed matters bordering on the history, language and literature of the Yoruba people, my friend created a page titled “Grammar Shop”where issues concerning the grammar of the English language are discussed. I also created a blog where I report news and upload my essays for public consumption.
IT largely assisted my educational career; it contributed enormously to my success and I look forward to enjoying it more in my postgraduate studies. If I am therefore permitted to use my own experience to generalize, I would say that IT enhances education by providing; easy/free/cheap access to variety of educational resources, timely access to productive information, effective collaborative learning system, free/cheap access to educational software, speeding up research works, and so on.
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