In (U.S. Department of Education, 2004, p.22). When looking

In today’s society, a life without technology is
unimaginable. Already years ago, it became evident, that the change of media
has an impact on many different areas. The most significant progress regarding
technol­ogy was made in industrialized countries. As the USA is one of the pio­neers
when it comes to information and communication technology (ICT), it is not remarkable,
that they were one of the first countries, which integrated technology in
education (de Moura Castro, 2004, p. 40). To be specific, com­puters
have been present in U.S. elementary schools already in the 1950’s (Parker
& Davey, 2014, p. 204), but they gained
more and more significance in the early 1980’s, as Becker showed:

Between mid-1981 and the fall of 1983, the percentage of elementary
schools with one or more microcomputers jumped from 10 percent to over 60
percent. During that same period, the per­centage of secondary schools with
five or more microcomputers grew from 10 percent to well over 50 percent.
(Becker, 1984, pp. 22-39, as cited in Parker & Davey, 2014, p. 204)

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In recent years, boundaries existed, which kept American
schools away from the development of tech­nology use in education. The main
issue was insufficient expertise when it comes the usage of ICT, in order to
enhance the study achievement. But the U.S. Department of Education has enacted
changes regard­ing this problem. Many schools in the U.S. have undergone budget
and resource reorganizations, so as to improve teaching methods (U.S.
Department of Education, 2004, p.22). When looking at the past, most teachers
in the beginning of the 1990’s had access to only one computer. Meanwhile, the
majority of U.S. schools offer more than one computer device per five pupils on
the elementary and high school level. (Kleiner & Farris, 2002, as cited in
Kim & Bagaka, 2005, p. 318).

According to Downes (2002), most of the children
nowadays have their first contact with different tech­nologies at home, but
there is still a certain number of students which do not have this privi­lege
of having computing facilities in their households. Therefore, one possibility
to encounter ICT is at school. Those technological facilities, such as
computers, can be found for instance in com­puter laboratories or libraries.
The access to computers is for the majority of lecturers in pri­mary and
secondary schools restricted. Most of the time, they cannot approach the
technolo­gies when needed. In learning institutes, where more resources – such
as notebooks – are available, the usage is significantly higher, in comparison
to those schools, which cannot facilitate enough desktops for every person (p.
30).

Regarding the
use of technology, Levin and Bruce (2001) created a “taxonomy of uses of
technologies for learning”, which focuses on four different groups. The first
one is called “Media for inquiry”, which concen­trates on the use of technology
in general for the schematic analysis, especially for scientific and arithmetic
subjects. The second, “Media for communication”, explains, that students can
learn through collaboration with other students and teachers. For instance, teaching
is a specific form of communication, and techno­logical devices are supporting
this way of learning. The third group is called “Media for construction” where
“the current constructivist approaches emphasize knowledge construction; in
fact, the new “construction­ist” approach explicitly focuses on the
construction of ex­ternal artifacts sic
as important for learning” (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, as cited in Levin &
Bruce, 2001, n.p.). The fourth taxonomy is the “Media for expres­sion”, which
talks about editing pictures and vid­eos with different programs, which is con­sidered
as a manner of expression.

Downes (2002) emphasizes that there are ordinary tasks in schools which
do not vary a lot, such as “typing things up”. Nevertheless, there exist special
activities, such as using digital cameras for pro­jects, cre­ating websites and
editing pictures, which are used in the normal curriculum (Downes, 2002, p.
31). For teachers, Microsoft Word is one of the most used computer programs,
since it highly sim­plifies the creation of worksheets (Muir-Herzig, R., 2004,
p. 121). This software also shows the highest usage rate within stu­dents, as
they edit English writing tasks in this program (Muir-Herzig, 2004, p. 122; Lei
& Zhao, 2007, p. 290). Students further use Microsoft PowerPoint, in order
to create presen­tations. Other software, for example science probe, are
interesting for students, but in most cases schools do not have the budget to
provide a large variety of this kind of software which means that the usage is
not frequent (Lei & Zhao, 2007, pp. 290-291). Lei and Zhao (2007)
investigated, that middle school students use computers primarily for solving ex­ercises
(“homework”), information collection, mailing, private surfing, chatting and
special software usage (Lei & Zhao, 2007,p. 290). When compar­ing
elementary schools with secondary schools, it results, that teachers from the
for­mer one instruct pupils to use the computer for problem-solving, whereas
the secondary school teachers expect stu­dents to gather in­formation over
internet (U.S. Department of Education, 1999, p. 2).

The U.S. Department of Education is convinced, that technology can lead
to a massive progress when it comes to the efficiency of teaching and learning.
Therefore, there are several free “educational resources”, which can be online
accessed, such as the CK-12 FlexBook, a digital textbook (U.S. Depart­ment of
Education, n.d.). It is proven by Lei and Zhao (2007) that the academic
achievement of stu­dents increases when using topic relevant software, because
they focus on a specific subject and apply different study methods, which are
not common in usual classroom environ­ments (Lei and Zhao, 2007, p. 293). Furthermore,
students can increase their grades while doing projects. For instance, after
researching a specific field, they have to present a website as a result of the
conducted research. During this process, they engage with the chosen topic and
thereby internalize the new ma­terial. Further to this, elementary school
children can work more independently on a topic, with indi­vidual support from
the lecturers, when having computing technology available. (Dynarski et al.,
2007, p. 19). As Anderson and Dexter (2003) explained, laptops and Wi-Fi-connection
can be considered as powerful technologi­cal resources, which help students in
their learning process while doing projects. Teachers especially highlighted
the betterment of school children in communicating their results of the pro­ject,
their gen­eral commitment in class, as well as in team works and profound
comprehension of the topic (Anderson & Dexter, 2003, p. 10). Nevertheless,
the decision if a student is allowed to use a computer for a certain task rests
with the teacher. This might lead to injustice, because students only receive
per­mission for using the computer, if they complete for instance a “classwork”
fast. Another problem which students encountered was the lack of practice time,
especially those ones, which have no access to computers at home. What has also
been noticed is, that teachers tend to give simple exercises such as typing
texts and gathering information (Downes, 2002, p. 31). How ICT influences
students depends also on the amount spent on the computer. As soon as student’s
usage of technology contains more than 3 hours, it affects them negatively when
looking at their grades (Lei and Zhao, 2007, p. 288). However, Lei and Zhao (2007)
argue, that even though the number of hours matter when looking at the learning
improvement, it is important to consider the fact of how efficient the time in
the internet is used (Lei & Zhao, 2007, p. 289).

In their nationwide study “Closing the digital divide: understanding
racial, ethnic, social class, gender and geographic disparities in Internet use
among school age children in the United States”, Cleary, Pierce and Trauth
(2005) point out, that although the accessibility for computing technologies
rises in the U.S., the issue of a “digital divide” remains. Despite the
existing investigations regarding this prob­lem, there are still un­known factors
when looking at the question why this disparity in internet access occurs among
pupils (p. 354). In the same study, the researchers found out, that several
elements, such as the residential area, the ethnic background or financial
position, can be responsible for the ine­quality in computer access among
school children. With regard to these points, “the most critical dis­parities
in Internet use among school age children occurred among children from Black
(non-Hispanic), His­panic, and non-citizen households” (p. 370). This result
shows, that the children of those families have reduced experience of computer
technologies, because they do not have those facilities at home, mostly due to
lack of financial funds. Even if enough technological devices would be
available at school, the digital divide would still exist, because the
households from one stu­dent to another differ (Kim & Bagaka, 2005, p. 327).
Kim and Bagaka (2005) highlight, that the gap in the usage of tech­nology
between stu­dents depends also on the teachers, as some of them show more
experience and proficiency with education technology than others. Further they
suggest, that “teacher education programs” should be implemented, in order to
improve this issue (p.327).

 

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