Updated on June, 26th, 2015
The traditional definition of man as "Home Sapiens" has proven to be a misconception as history has shown. This is simply due to the fact that the greatest enemy of man is not the disease he faces, nor the natural factors he contends with, but man himself. Historically man has destroyed more men in history than any natural disaster, and has plundered his earthly abode to the point that his natural habitat is threatened. Considering these submissions, the definition of man as homo sapiens is no more appealing considering the not too farfetched facts that has has extolled all but what is reasonable in his existence, with his emotion playing a veritable role in his reasoning process, echoing the view of Derida, a thinker, which says that rationality has been thrown overboard in this age and time.
In this line of thought, we have come to realize that we are not so reasonable after all as the Eighteenth Century, with its worship of reason and its naive optimism thought us; hence recent thoughts inclines to designate our species as "Homo faber: Man the Maker. But though home faber may not be quite so deceptive as homo sapiens, as a name specific to us, making it less appropriate, when we see that many animals too are makers especially the termites who have built intelligent colonies. According to John Burke quoted by Bill Gate in his book, Business @ the speed of thought, "The moment man first picked up a stone or a branch to use as a tool, he altered irrevocably the balance between him and his environment ...While the number of these tools remained small, their effect took a long time to spread and to cause change. But as they increased, so did their effects, the more the tools, the faster the rate of change. From this we can see, the essential gulf between man and the latter is the sophisticated and numerous nature of his tools. Much more is the computer which I will call the master tool that has converged all tools into one, thereby spelling the fact that even though the termites and other beings are equally tool makers, with the discovery of the computer man has survived a world where the dinosaurs and the Euoplocephalus with far larger brain cavity could not survive.
The journey towards today's computer started with abacus in 80 BC, and also when Pythogoras gave the eternal insight that the content of the universe can be reduced to numbers, since then we have progressed from vacuum tubes to device with billion of electrical pathways processing and transmitting signals in less than one billionth of a second in a hyper treading technology. Though impressive but not comparable to over two billion neurons that controls human mental processes. For if man living to his true term of home faber, who have progressed from the stone age to the age of information technology, and his priced tool, the computer, to rival his natural intelligence and thinking pattern he would require a computer the size of a football field, except of course the miracle of miniaturization and convergence technology receives a celestial breakthrough. When this is attained perhaps 50 years from now or 100 years. According to. Sydney J. Harris. The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers. This saying is supported by the fact that how we work, how we live and even the way we think is constrained by the tools that we use as a being that his tools have defined his essential character as homo faber. Explaining it with a very simple example, as an adult in the world today, we do not have to write anything at all. We just type everything. So, there is really no more call for proper handwriting. More frightening is the fact that many of us cannot do a simple arithmetic without the calculator.
BASIC TERMS AND CONCEPTS
The essential trajectories of this writes up are: Computer, Information Technology, Communication Technology, Education. Each one of these issues are ripe enough to present a paper for a university thesis.
The basic definition which every kindergartens would define is that the computer is an electronic device which is capable of accepting data, process it to produces information. This definition is so elementary and simplistic and have been overtaking with man's progress in computerization. This is because it presupposes garbage in garbage out, but we all know that in today's progress in software technology, garbage in and garbage out concept is no more tenable because computers of today are extremely intelligent and capable of sieving data and rejecting garbage as errors from the point of data entry. For the purpose of this paper I would define the computer as a device which functions by means of programmed software that is capable of performing an assigned task through controlled processes by human, other computer or micro controllers. A common example of this is when an auto-pilot in an aircraft takes over the piloting of an airplane. Computer does this and its other similar functions by means of pattern recognition technology which it reduces to arithmetic and logical codes in binary and hexadecimal signals for processing as electrical pulses and signals and translate them back as intelligent signals and patterns for onward analysis.Information Technology: This is simply the use of computer and other relevant software and peripherals in the management of information within an organization. In most cases this computers are connected to a local area network (LAN) by means of switches, cables and software protocols.
Communication Technology: This is the technology and its related infrastructures that ensures that data, preferably voice is transmitted from one geographical location to another. These transmissions more than the other depend on heavy outdoor infrastructures and equipment. Before the merging of information technology and communication technology called telecommunication into one in 1952, 3000 BC Sumerian writing system uses pictographs to represent words. This language also contains elements of early forms of phonetic indicators used to indicate the pronunciation of a word and to allow a pictograph to represent more than one word when each incorporates a different phonetic indicator.
CHANEL OF COMMUNICATION
Electromagnetic Spectrum: This consists of fields of electrical energy and magnetic energy which travel in waves. In the middle of this, is the radio frequency spectrum that carry communication signals with a range of it called a band or bandwith moving data from place to place by mean of broad band. The wider the band the faster data can be transmitted. This bandwith can be transmitted through wired or wireless channels. Wires are cables of different types and capabilities, wireless could be in the form of super high frequency called micro waves operating at an assigned frequency or short range waves that transmits at different and varied frequencies.
THE POWER OF ICT
With the computer and its associated tools, homo faber can attempt ambitious projects like the ITER fusion which is being finance by 71 countries around the world to generate energy 10 times hotter than that being generated by the sun on earth in laboratory that is undergoing construction at the cost of over 70 billion dollars that would be operational in 2025. Also with information and communication technology we have succeeded in mapping the human genome which was completed in April 2003, this project gave man the ability, for the first time, to read nature's complete genetic blueprint for building a human being thereby spelling possibility cloning and curing of terminal diseases.
When man went to the moon, it took many lunar engineer several years to design the spacecraft, but today with our integrated software technologies like Simulink all we need is two weeks to achieve similar feat. It is a known fact that NASA space mission was one of the driving force that led to the development of the integrated circuit, (microprocessor) where all the components of a system can be put on a chip rather than having a board stuffed with individual transistors and other circuit components. This gave birth to our today's technology which has found itself in our mobile devices, household equipment, transportation mediums and interestingly moving into our biological systems in the form of bionic devices to assist the less privileged. Also, the assembling of the Space Station in Orbit has given man the power to adapt the robotic assemblage of that station to micro surgery to operate on sensitive human organs. The next ambitious project is the mapping of the human brain which stated in this decade with the sole aim of unlocking its secret perhaps this might take us back to the garden of Eden. in this new garden God does not need to place a flaming sword before man that would deny him again the journey towards immortality. (Gen. 3:24). All these are possible because of the ability of the computer to provide a simulated environment which is replica of the natural environment through some specialized simulated software technologies.
RELEVANCE OF ICT IN LEARNING AND RESEARCH
Reinventing the Wheel
"Reinvent the Wheel" is a phrase that people use to telling other people not to do work that has already been done by someone else. This is as a result of the fact that reinventing, or recreating the wheel makes absolutely no sense since somebody has already done the work. This is phrase is timely, considering the fact that as a result of the presence of search engines in the internet like google.com, ask.com, altervista.com, yahoo search we would know where we can start or research from without duplicating what others have done. This is not to say that we are liberty to copy the works of others, however, in as much as we can get materials online through the world wide web which connects millions of computers around the world in a web like format searching for information we must acknowledge the availability of several online plagiarism checker on the internet to checkmate this when this work is submitted for serious academic purposes.
With ICT we have unlimited access to data more than before. This gives us the power of relational data base capability. In split seconds we can compare different data variables and present them in graphical format for easy analysis and understanding.
New Social Ecology
Today we leave in a world of technological social ecology where social media like Face book, twitters, WhatsApp play a crucial role in the education and influence of our upcoming generations and connects us to several individuals around the globe. All these are possible because of the prevalence of ICT and its associated technologies in all our devices. We must examine and be aware of their attendant risks and harness the advantages it presents.
Provision of e-Learning Platforms
There are various e-learning tools presented by information and communication technology: e-library, open school or distance learning, blended learning, teleconferencing and webcasting and podcasting, audio conferencing, video conferencing, web based conferencing, teleconferencing, school broadcasting, and similar technologies. Let us dwell a bit on these components of ICT educational tools.
E-Library: This is online repository of intellectual documents in electronic formats. This may either come in PDF(Portable Document Format), Microsoft Word format or any other universally acceptable format that is downloadable.
Open school or distance learning: This is when lecture materials are published in a school portal to be accessed by registered students at their own convenience.
Blended learning: This refers to learning models that combines traditional classroom practice with e-learning solutions like charts, power point presentation, and email lists. This web base training can be strengthened by once in a while meeting and interactions between students and instructors.
Teleconferencing: This involves the transmission of text and graphics, audio and visual media via the internet; it involves the use of a computer with a browser and other communication equipment. This technology is a useful tool for providing direct instruction and learning support thereby reducing learner isolation.
Webcasting/podcasting: This is the recording of audiovisual resources by a teacher which is hosted on a portal for students to access beyond classroom settings. A podcast or webcast file can be in WAV, MP3, MP4, MPEG1, etc.
Game Based Learning: A cutting edge technique to the use ICT in education, a number of key educationalists and teachers are beginning to explore game based learning solutions. This concerns the use of electronic games in the educational environment to develop learning. Games can provide learning situations that develops a wide range of skills including problem solving, creation of ideas as well as enhanced communication and collaboration between groups of learners. It has also been discovered that games such as historical simulations can also support knowledge development. The benefits this techniques has been found to be immediate. Learners are stimulated by this use of technology to the point of excitement and the results can be astounding; they often don't want lessons to end and will work after school to develop their ideas and thinking. Many teachers comment on the positive change in behaviour. However this games have to be carefully chosen and integrated into planned learning in a meaningful context and without the teacher at the centre guiding the pupils the whole enterprise might be wasted. But as games gradually become one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world then the world of education should deem it appropriate to look for the educational potential in this vibrant and exciting arena.
ADVANCED APPLICATIONS OF ICT
This are machines that can carry out intelligent tasks under a strong preprogrammed format. In fact, the use of robots in various technological tasks is quite encouraging and its applications in various fields of human activities as one of Homo Faber's pricest tools is growing by day. In the near future it could replace teachers in our classrooms with a scenario where a student can communicate with it and chose what he or she wants to study.
A distributed system consists of a collection of autonomous computers linked by a computer network and equipped with distributed system software. This software enables computers to coordinate their activities and to share the resources of the system hardware, software, and data. Users of a distributed system should perceive a single, integrated computing facility even though it may be implemented by many computers in different locations. In functions in Local-area networks, Wide-area networks environment. However, today there is more call for intranet over internet as a result of security issues and challenges the latter presents.
Information technology has taken artificial intelligence to a higher level by setting up neural networks inspired by the behaviour of neurons and the electrical signals they convey between input (such as from the eyes or nerve endings in the hand), processing, and output from the brain (such as reacting to light, touch, or heat). The way neurons semantically communicate is an area of ongoing research. Most artificial neural networks bear only some resemblance to their more complex biological counterparts, but are very effective at their intended tasks (e.g. classification or segmentation). Simply defined in information technology, a neural network is a system of programs and data structures that approximates the operation of the human brain. A neural network usually involves a large number of processors operating in parallel, each with its own small sphere of knowledge and access to data in its local memory, machine learning, artificial neural networks (ANNs) are a family of statistical learning algorithms inspired by biological neural networks (the central nervous systems of animals, in particular the brain) and are used to estimate or approximate functions that can depend on a large number of inputs required in this artificial systems .
In present day scientific research, the preference of simulation based laboratories to the conventional physical laboratories is no more under question. Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. The act of simulating something first requires that a model be developed; this model represents the key characteristics or behaviors/functions of the selected physical or abstract system or process. There are lots of simulation software that would enable us to capture, analyze and make decisions. ICT provides opportunities to access an abundance of information using multiple information resources and viewing information from multiple perspectives, thus fostering the authenticity of learning environments. ICT may also make complex processes easier to understand through simulations that, again, contribute to authentic learning environments.
PROSPECT AND CHALLENGES OF ICT AS A BASIC TOOL
From experience we know that ICT changes the characteristics of problems and learning tasks, and hence play an important task as mediator of cognitive development, enhancing the acquisition of generic cognitive competencies as essential for life in our knowledge based society. Students using ICTs for learning purposes become immersed in the process of learning and as more and more students use computers as information sources and cognitive tools (Reeves and Jonassen, 1996), the influence of the technology on supporting how students learn will continue to increase in with the presence of necessary conditions. Hence, the need for training and retraining of teachers and instructure. However, it may not be sufficient to simply provide training for teachers alone, some experts advocate that ICT training be extended to educational administrators: it has been identified that lack of teacher's technology training has been the failure of most schools trying to grasp technology and harness the power that technology can bring to the classroom. However, successful technology training can be accomplished only through effective administrative leadership These leaders must be knowledgeable in the use of technology and must show support by providing access to the equipment and other materials necessary for successful integration. Even more vital than ICT training for teachers and administrators, there is a continuing need to employed qualified teachers with ICT knowledge to staff schools. Thus teachers and administrator must know how to use these resources:. Email, websites, desktop videoconferencing, utilization of other online resources, technologies and applications..
Shifting of Knowledge Space
In a globalized knowledge society, there are arguably new and more complex interactions between individuals and the tools of information and communication technology as the existing technologies alters "the process of information processing, act upon all domains of human activity and make it possible to establish endless connections between different domains as well as between elements and agents of such activities" (Castells, 2000, p. 65). From practical examples we would see that variables of learning that confronts us has shifted, our children are much more intelligent than us when it comes to the application of these technologies. This calls for urgent revision of our systems of impacting knowledge.
New Breed of Professionals
The development of information technology has resulted in new breeds of professional that cuts across various disciplines and orientations. This has put additional demand on our educational and learning systems visibly signaling that the days of intellectual myopia or what I would call lineal intellectualism is gradually becoming over. The challenges of ICT demands that for any scholar to the relevant in this age he or she must have the basic skill to survive in an ICT driven world where educational convergence made it relevant for us all to be abreast with happenings in the intellectual world of today. Who says that a professor of religious studies should not be an expert in using the tools of ICT for studies, nor a student of languages should not use google translation, or a Professor who is supervising a Doctorate student should not use an online plagiarism checker to scrutinize the authenticity of his student's research, who also says that that a medical doctor using a highly complex medical equipment should not have knowledge of the electronic working of the system or better still be an expert in medical engineering.
To be continued in next edition
Kenneth Ukwuegbu is the Portal and Networking coordinator, IMSU ICT.
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