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Information and Communications Technology in Education Introduction In this chapter, I will offer a brief historical background of the developments in computing over the last fifty years that is intended to set the context of my enquiry. I argue that these developments have implications for teaching and learning in higher education. I explore findings of an international study that deals with the current uses of ICT by youth and highlight its implications for my enquiry e. g. ts conclusion that institutions need a strategic view or policy on the use of ICT. I set out my findings from a quickscan of the literature on good/best practice that relates ICT policy to practice in the contexts of teacher education. The benchmarks that the scan offer supports my argument that ICT can shape new ways of teaching and learning in the context of the professional development of teachers. As Oblinger and Rush say,

“These new tools challenge the education establishment to rethink itself and education as well” (Oblinger & Rush, 1997, p. 5). It is appropriate that I adopt a critical stance to the appraisal of my own pedagogy and that this should be informed by insights arising from researching into my own practice in the use of ICT to optimize the teaching and learning process. Developments in Technology Fifty years ago saw the invention of a computer, which modern computing is founded upon with ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer) at the University of Pennsylvania. ENIAC was the world’s first electronic digital computer.

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It had 30 separate units, plus power supply and forced-air cooling, and weighed 30 tons in total. Its 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors consumed almost 200 kilowatts of electrical power, took up a large room, cost millions and had the processing capabilities of a modern pocket calculator. But ENIAC was the prototype from which most other modern computers evolved. From ENIAC grew the computer industry, which allows us to be connected and able to receive and transmit text, sound and pictures instantaneously over the globe.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. Microprocessor performance has been approximately doubling every 18 months. If we look back to how word-processing was done on 8080 processor machines and on the 286 machines, it was very much the same. But with the introduction of the 386 machines, the point-and-click interfaces superseded the keystroke commands.

With the Pentium processors, one can use voice to open and close applications. The 1980s saw the introduction of desktop personal computer (PC) and the1990s saw the arrival of the Internet on existing narrowband telecommunications infrastructure that had been designed for telephones. Telecommunications involves the exchange of information in any form, for example, voice, data, text, images, audio, video, and that information can be transmitted over computer-based networks. The narrow bandwidth however, confined transmissions to asynchronous modes of communication.

In other words, outgoing and incoming communication could not take place at the same time. Past technologies such as radio and television did not allow us to interact over distances. However, the telephone was interactive but it only allowed synchronous communication and only carried sound. Narrow bandwidth meant that the dynamic communication that was possible in a traditional classroom proved difficult to emulate online. Traditional classroom communications allowed for rapid spontaneous interaction and face-to-face allowed subtle sensory cues, e. g. esture, expressions, position and voice to be communicated. The arrival of devices such as PCs that could store, process and reproduce large bodies of data, supplemented the library function in educational establishments and permitted a limited dialogue between machines and their users. Advanced communication systems that enabled each PC and its user to interact in real time with other PCs and other users through the internet opened wide arenas of educational conversation that could eventually replicate and even extend most forms of classroom communication.

With the developments of the Internet and advances in networking a unique opportunity for interactive education emerged that offered at a distance and to a large number of people. These developments have opened up the possibility of collaboration with experts worldwide. The added value of the internet and its potential to deal with different forms of representation, such as, graphics, audio, video and moving images opens up to other forms of representation beyond text.

As the full potentiality of human computer interaction is developed there is likely to be a further explosion of the use of multimedia and the ability for people to communicate in more dynamic ways. Myers (1996, p. 3) points to the emerging technologies that are a result of research in human-computer interaction. These extend from the mouse pointing device, windows, computer applications such as drawing, text editing and spreadsheets and hypertext, and to the new technologies of the future, such as multimedia and 3D, gesture recognition, natural language and collaborative learning technologies.

Myers believes that user interfaces will most likely be one of the main ‘value-added competitive advantages’ of the future, as both hardware and basic software become commodities. Indeed his prediction is being borne out as one can see that yesterday’s advanced system is today’s commodity. Further advances in technology such as, high-resolution displays, 3D graphics and animation, handwriting and speech input, and natural language understanding are likely to improve the endusers interface.

We are still witnessing the pursuit of a developmental paradigm whose eventual outcomes can only be guessed at. Bandwidth is integral to the opening up of new technologies for teaching and learning. Broadband allows for greater speed in communications and greater flexibility. The International Society of Ireland report on ‘Ireland’s Broadband Future’ (2003) highlights that current communications by computers/other devices have hitherto been restrained by the lack of bandwidth/broadband for network intensive applications.

They point to developments in consumer devices, which require networking for interoperability. This allows the many different end users to use the different types of computer systems, software packages, and databases provided by a variety of interconnected networks. The report ‘Ireland’s Broadband Future’ (2003, p. 71) traces the waves of development that have taken place: The First wave (1985 – 1995) centered on email. In this case, the internet is connected as a stand-alone application on specific computers. The network is subservient to the computer.

The Second wave (1995 – 2005) focused on the Web. In this case, the applications and services are accessible by anyone using the World Wide Web. Organisation, data and application are location specific and the computers become dependent on networks. The Third wave (2005 -2015) is expected to involve Networked Applications. Here, the technology trends are towards more extensive use of Internet, digital fiber-optic, and wireless technologies catering for high-speed local and global internetworks for voice, data, images, audio,and video communications.

This will have huge advantages for education. In this case, the data and applications are uncoupled from specific locations or machines and can be accessed and directed from many locations. The computer is subservient to the network. Data and application exist in ‘cyberspace’ this means that they are completely in the network and are not attached to any specific machine or location. Computing and communications industries have merged with the networking of computers. Wireless access to the Internet is growing.

With the agreement on a standard wireless application protocol (WAP) there are many developments of wireless Web applications and services. These developments will raise the wirelesss transmission speeds to allow for streaming video and multimedia applications on mobile devices. This brief overview suggests that telecommunications and network technologies are developing dynamically internetworking and bringing about new ways of doing work in business, education and society.

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