The Internet In Classrooms
How Advanced Technology Is Changing the Face of Education for Students and Teachers
The first thing a college student typically does when he or she goes back to
their dorm room or apartment is sit down at their computer and go online. They proceed to either, read their e-mail, check their online courses for new assignments, or go on one of the many communication websites or programs that are available currently to this generation. None of this would be possible without the readily available Internet access
that we often take for granted. The Internet has proven not only useful for entertainment purposes, but has also dramatically changed the educational approach, for both students and educators, and the way knowledge is being obtained.
Internet access in schools has experienced an extreme increase within the last decade. By the fall of the year 2000, 98% of the public schools throughout the United States reported to be connected to the Internet (NCES, 2000). This is a reported 63% increase since the year 1994. Also in 2000, the ratio of computers to students was one to six, an increase from the 1994 ratio of one computer for every eleven students (Mendels, 1999). Aside from having Internet access in school libraries and computer labs, the abundance in individual classrooms
has dramatically increased. This allows for Internet learning to be more readily available to students on a daily basis. Statistically over 70% of schools have this access in at least one of their classrooms (Mendels, 1999).
Many schools have made the decision to go high-tech and create their own web pages
via the World Wide Web. This allows them to advertise themselves to the virtual community. There has, also, been a change in how the Internet is being accessed by the various school systems. Dial-up Internet access has often been replaced by the high speed or cable Internet.
A large portion of the increased Internet use, accessibility, and popularity as an educational instrument in the classrooms has been aided by the “Education Rate Program”, also known as the E-Rate Program (NCES, 2000). As of 2001, $5.8 billion has been committed to the growth of Internet access through this single program alone. It was established in 1996, with the goal of making Internet access, service, and connections more readily available to schools at discounted rates, in both urban and rural settings. By the year 2000, the schools with high poverty levels and the schools with higher incomes revealed that they had virtually no difference in the amount of Internet accessibility (NCES 2000). The Internet has proven to be a learning mechanism to almost everyone.
The Internet and computers in the classrooms has changed the dynamics of
learning in many ways. First, they have caused a change in the roles of both students and teachers in the classrooms. Students now can take an active role in making decisions regarding how they generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information.
Students have the ability now to become active recipients of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or other communication form by using technology as a learning tool. This upgraded technology allows students to actively think about information and execute skills that may not have been necessary in strictly teacher-led lesson plans. Students are able to make their own evaluations, define their own personal goals, and achieve their optimal progress (Singh, 2005).
The teaching style of educators has, in addition, been transformed by the
increase of technology in the classrooms. Teachers no longer are the primary source of information or the center of attention. They now have the responsibility of working in close conjunction with technology resources, especially with computers and Internet programs. Their job now includes facilitating assignments and helping students on an individual basis to recognize proper resources to use, the fundamentals of the computer, and challenging students to broaden their skills (Singh, 2005).
Teachers believe that students have a much higher level of motivation and willingness to participate in the classroom when learning is technology based. Students have the underlying desire to master computation skills because it is something that they use often outside of the classroom. They find it to be relevant to their current lifestyles and therefore take the time to properly learn it. Another key aspect of technology-based learning is the immediate feedback that it can provide to both students and teachers. Students get excited to see how well they did immediately following the completion of an assignment rather than having to wait a set amount of time while teachers manually grade work. There is, also, less chance of error in grading when it is done electronically.
The Internet allows students to investigate almost any educational topic by the click of the mouse (Feldman, 1999). The information that they are able to acquire far surpasses the knowledge of any single teacher alone. Unlike in the typical textbook the information that students learn on-line is updated frequently and would almost always hold more relevance. Teachers would also be given the opportunity to be able to pick from a large selection of sources to model their lesson plans rather than following a pre-planned curriculum from a teaching manual. Both students and teachers would be exposed to many more options.
Before the advent of the Internet and other computer technologies, it may have been hard for people with disabilities to access the information available in libraries or other research facilities. The computer and the Internet make it easy for handicapped or disabled individuals to access a world of information that would otherwise not be available or easily as accessible to them (Parette, 2000).
An unexpected result of incorporating technology into the classroom is an increase in peer collaboration (Singh, 2005). Students when using computers have the tendency to work cooperatively with each other and be more willing to provide peer tutoring to those students who are having trouble. In many classroom settings there are not enough computers for every student, so often times projects or assignments will be given in groups. This gives an opportunity for students to work closely together, sharing ideas, and deciding collectively on final solutions. Computer-based learning is much more open to comments from peers then written, individual assignments. Having the work easily accessible on the screen allows for students to receive comments and suggestions from their fellow classmates and teachers. It is much easier for them to then go and improve or make corrections to their work.
When completing creative projects with text, video, or animation on the computer, the Internet has been found to help students gain a better knowledge of the audience’s needs and expectations. The Internet has helped students in creating more professional looking projects and draws a focus on improved design skills. It offers them the opportunity to better manipulate the way information is presented. It has been found that students with more experience in technology classes focus more time on the design aspect and audience presentation issues of their projects. Students now have more tools and unique ways to help them express their personal style.
Another advantage to the use of Internet in classrooms is an introduction and increase to outside resources other than textbooks (Singh, 2005). Students are able to work with such telecommunications sources such as satellite broadcast, telefacsimiles, the telephone, and video imaging. Experiencing these forms of communication at a young age could assist them in later schooling or job training.
There are many more positive aspects to the use of the Internet and technology in classrooms, which include team cohesion, collaboration, open expression, and technical reliability (McKenzie, 2002). However, there are many critics who oppose this alternative teaching style. Some believe that the such a strong usage of the Internet and technology take away from human interaction which they believe should be the central role in learning (Feldman, 1999). Critics believe that for Internet learning to be even somewhat effective, the teacher needs to be highly knowledgeable and up to date on the new advancements. To master such technology and to be able to teach it to others could take many years. They also believe that while the Internet is a forum containing mass amounts of information, this could sometimes be a disadvantage. Students may have trouble finding information that is actually relevant and appropriate for the topic of research. It is sometimes hard to navigate a search that is specific to their needs. Also, the Internet is uncensored, and open to all post their websites, so students may come across information that may not be factual or appropriate.
Older generations sometimes believe that the Internet and computer technology has taken away from hardworking ethics. Many believe that students have become lazy because of the readily available information at their fingertips. While people used to do active research in a library setting with proven legitimate information, now students are relying only on the Internet opposed to books and other published works (Sherman, 1998). Studies have shown that plagiarism has increased with the rise of Internet usage. Many students are tempted to copy and paste information they have found on the Internet into their papers or projects without citing, learning, and understanding the information. Instead of putting the information into their own words, which shows they have understood and comprehended the information, they simply take someone else’s thoughts and use them as their own. This has caused teachers and educators to become more suspicious and doubtful of the legitimacy of their students work. This can be a disadvantage for students who actually take the time to translate author’s words into their own along with their own personal input.
Along with the educational information that can be found on the Internet, it is also a large haven for entertainment through games, advertisements, and communication with others. With the click of a button, students can switch from an educational website to an entertainment venue. This takes the students mindset completely away from school to mindless, sometimes addicting distractions. Also, pop-up advertisements can pose as more distractions to students. Even if the student is trying to focus on a particular task, pop-ups will be constant interruptions taking the focus off of their work.
The Internet and the use of technology in classrooms clearly has both advantages and disadvantages. Regardless if individuals support or criticize this teaching style, there is no denying that the Internet and technology are playing a pivotal role in today’s education and learning. This technology has made its mark in society and will continue to be prominent in the education world.
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