The role of technology, in a traditional school setting, is to facilitate, through increased efficiency and effectiveness, the education of knowledge and skills. In order to fully examine this thesis, we must first define several terms. Efficiency will be defined as the quickness by which we obtain knowledge, while the term effectiveness is associated with the amount of imparted knowledge that is operationally mastered. When technology is directly applied to an educational setting, such as a school, both the students and teachers can be viewed as learners. Thus, we can operate under the assumption that any increase in teacher knowledge and utilization has the impact of increased learning in students. Ultimately, technology should serve to increase student achievement in schools.
Technology can aid in educational achievement through two primary methods: the removal of physical barriers to learning and the transition of focus from the retention of knowledge to its utilization. Each of these methods must be examined in the context of their relation to both the student and the instructor in order to see their value and effect in educational settings.
The removal of physical barriers has allowed teachers greater accessibility in regards to professional development and graduate education. Before the age of the internet and the advent of distance learning, engaging in a learning community, such as a workplace network or a school, required a close degree of physical proximity amongst community members. Presently, there are multiple examples of the use of distributed learning technology in the educational field. First, many graduate schools have begun transitioning into programs that allow for distance education. No longer is it a necessity that teachers have geographical proximity to a university in Technology and its use in Education: Present Roles and Future Prospects 4 order to pursue higher education and certification. This trend towards online classes and educational opportunities has even become so prevalent that there are universities which consist of only online classes, allowing a teacher to complete an entire course of study through distance learning.
In addition, internet based technology allows for teachers to form their own learning communities that are not confined to the local school site. For example, science teachers may use a wiki or content delivery system to network and share information with teachers at other schools both within and beyond their local school district. Even more exciting, is the premise that teachers can not only receive information and training from a central authority, such as district or state personnel, but that teachers may develop content and share their information amongst their peers. This leads to situations of reciprocal teaching and mentorship that are part of a larger informal learning community. In terms of design, online learning communities allow for a multitude discussions and socialization that adhere to a constructivist learning principle, in which people effectively learn information when experiencing and defining knowledge through social contexts