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Can Computers be Effective Tools to Foster New Ways of Teaching and Learning in Malaysia?

This article shows how computers can be used in teaching and learning activities in Malaysian schools.

Technology involves the application of knowledge, resource materials, tools and skills in designing, producing and using products, their physical structures and systems extending human capability to control and modify the natural and human-made environments. Technology can be an effective catalyst for education reform when used with tested instructional practices and curriculum. As a result, the classroom is no longer a place where information is delivered to passive students. The introduction of computer (also known as ICT or IT) has changed the scenario to that of an interactive, collaborative environment where the quest for information knowledge is created actively by students. As information is very important in every human activity, in this case, teaching and learning, the use of ICT provides the means of finding the information whenever the need arise. One very important ICT tool that is used extensively by many teachers and students in Malaysia is the Internet. Various types of information in the forms of e-texts, e-journals, articles, home pages and others are often sought by teachers and students in the process of teaching and learning to enrich their knowledge and enhance learning. Becker (1999) pointed out that most teachers use the Internet as information-gathering for lesson preparation. This is also echoed by Starr (2004), “The Internet can provide teachers with a vast resource of information to create contextual learning environments for multi-cultural learners and learners with different levels of skills and abilities.” As Postholm et. al (2002 ) stated, “The computer is not as a simple tool as an overhead projector or a book the pupils intend to use. When you open a book you know how to leaf through it and you can gain an overview of the contents in fairly quick order. The computer is a far different case.” Postholm et. al further noted that the amount of information is also so enormous that it is difficult to gain an overview of it.

There is no doubt that ICT can be utilised as a tool to help students learn more effectively and to assist teachers to carry out their teaching duties more efficaciously. The Smart Schools project, which started operations in January 1999, is described as a means of revolutionising learning from a memory-based, teacher-centred education to one that is creative and learner-centred, and capable of addressing the different needs and learning capacity of students as pointed out by Arunachalam and Nathan. As Yusuf stated “…the computer has had tremendous impact on the school social system. It has engendered more constructivist approaches to teaching, improved overall student motivation to learn, to stay and behave better in school, and it has radically changed teachers’ professional development through constant update of their knowledge on the latest technologies, and the latest use of computers in content areas”. Kmitta and Davis (2004)agreed that, “computers have been useful as tools in ensuring a safe school environment as improved communication is facilitated among parents, teachers, students, and administrators’” Lee (2000) also mentioned that computers assist in creating learning environments which support experiential learning, learner and teacher motivation, enhanced student achievement and effort, authentic teaching and learning materials, individualization, multi-source information and global understanding.

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