Tuesday, April 10, 2012

internet in the classroom

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The Internet in the Modern Classroom


The human need for current information and knowledge continues to grow as each year passes, and is presently as high as it has ever been. At the center of this basic need is the Internet, “a system of linked computer networks, worldwide in scope, that facilitate the transfer of data” (Hackbrath 1), and the World Wide Web, “a system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents containing text, graphic, audio, video, and other types of files” (Hackbrath 1). The Internet and the Web have already changed the way modern society lives and functions, and will continue to do so as they evolve further. Of all the institutions that make up modern society, it is perhaps the field of education that stands to change the greatest because of the Internet (Churchman ). It is already evident that the introduction of the Internet and the World Wide Web into the classroom dramatically alters the traditional methods of teaching, instruction, and learning (Draves 7). While some educators view the Internet as a valuable and necessary technological tool, others see it as a potential threat that has no place in today’s classrooms (Relan and Gillani 45). This paper will discuss why this debate is important, outline, analyze, and evaluate both sides of the issue, and finally, defend one side of the issue against the other with reference to current and accurate information.


The issue of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the modern classroom is one of great concern for students and instructors of all kinds. One way to examine just how important this issue is to education in general is to imagine all the possibilities, both positive and negative, that open up to a classroom that has integrated the Internet and the World Wide Web into its structure. (example WEB CT) Students are able to research almost anything at the click of a computer mouse, and no matter how complicated or detailed the topic is, will have returned to them a bounty of online information. However, unlike the printed materials found in libraries, there are no guarantees that the information is accurate; it is up to the student to decide that (Crossman ). Students are also able to take part in a virtual classroom, in which everyone is connected via the Internet and lessons are provided online. Hundreds of students can now be a part of one, single classroom, and the teacher can respond to each individually via e-mail (Draves 7). This eliminates the face-to-face interaction found in today’s classrooms, and replaces it with virtual interaction. As well, students in these types of classrooms can learn independently and at their own pace, if they are so inclined (Hiltz 1). However, there may be little the teacher can do to regulate students who are using the Internet inappropriately, or to provide motivation and discipline to students who aren’t keeping up with their studies. It is plain to see that the introduction of the Internet into the modern classroom has both advantages and disadvantages, and that the future of the field of education depends largely on whether or not the Internet is implemented in the classrooms of the future.


As mentioned previously, there are two basic sides that the majority of educators take in response to this issue - those who favor the inclusion of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the modern learning environment, and those who do not. There are varying degrees as to how much of a role the Internet should play in the classroom amongst members of the first group, but the consensus is that effective use of the Internet and the


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World Wide Web enhance the learning environment exponentially. To provide evidence for their view, pro-Internet educators point to many things- Web-based links provide students with additional and valuable resources, classroom discussion boards may be used as a forum for online topic debate, and in the case of fully integrated online classrooms, students may learn at their own pace and at their peak learning time of the day (Draves 1-1). Those against the use of the Internet in the classroom generally point to one or more of these issues- the problem of ensuring appropriate access for students, the decrease in personal, face-to-face contact between student and teacher, and the inaccuracy of some information found on the World Wide Web (Futoran et al 1) Although some who believe in this line of thinking may acknowledge the Internet as being a valuable addition to society, they feel it has no place in the classroom and would be a negative influence if implemented to any degree (Crossman ).


There is clear, detailed evidence that supports the inclusion of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the classroom. Not only does the Internet improve the teacher’s ability to teach, it provides students with the opportunity to learn more efficiently and effectively. In order to best illustrate this idea, two types of classrooms must be studied - the “traditional” classroom in which the Internet is used only in moderation, and the online classroom, in which the learning environment is entirely online.


One of the main advantages of having the Internet and the World Wide Web available as an instructional/learning tool in a traditional classroom is the exponential increase in easily accessible and cost-effective research information. Without the Internet, the student would be restrained by the resource facilities in the school and the times at which those resources were available, and the teacher would be restrained by a lack of instructional possibilities and by the types of learning activities he/she could use in the classroom (Hiltz 56). The inclusion of the Internet changes all this; students have an inordinate number of resources available online that, unlike materials found in libraries, may be accessed by any number of students at any point in time. To illustrate this further, the teacher now has the opportunity to improve the quality of his/her instruction, either by using these same resources in preparation or as part of an instructional lesson (Hiltz 58). Another advantage to the classroom as a result of Internet use is that students are required to become active learners. Instead of sitting at a desk, listening to a lecture and taking notes, students can be given an online objective and be forced to think on their own about to achieve it. Not only does this promote self-direction, discipline, and critical thinking skills in students, it gives the teacher more time to assist students on an individual basis (Draves 0). Other advantages include the fact that the use of the Internet may prepare students for their future careers, it provides users with a common ground in which they may practice intellectual freedom, and enhances the collaborative ability between different fields of study (Ely and Plomp 1-14).


The positive effects of Internet usage in the field of education are even more prevalent in the case of the online classroom. This type of teaching and learning environment is entirely online; instead of attending a formal class session, students complete Internet-based assignments, and send them via electronic mail to the instructor for evaluation. One obvious advantage for students in this type of classroom is that they may learn at their own speed, at times convenient to them, and in any manner that they deem to be productive (Draves 7). These concepts are very beneficial to students, and help to maximize their learning experience in ways not available to those who are part of a traditional classroom. For example, a student may spend more time on one aspect of a particular topic than another or “attend class” as early as six in the morning or late into the evening; options not available to most students (Draves 7). In most cases, this flexibility enables students to learn more, and to learn it faster than in a traditional setting (Hiltz 57). Online learning is also fairly inexpensive, aside from the cost of a computer and Internet access. Course fees are generally cheaper in online courses than in traditional ones, and costs such as transportation and extra materials may be eliminated completely (Khan 16). Another major benefit of the virtual classroom is, contrary to popular belief, an increase in both the quality and quantity of student-teacher interaction. Because the teacher presents the student with the bulk of the material to be covered in a particular unit (and in some cases, the entire course) before any learning takes place, the teacher spends less time instructing, planning lessons, and directing students, and more time interacting with participants in the course (Draves 11-1). Some other advantages include courses being globally accessible with availability for hundreds of students, the opportunity for students to test themselves on a daily basis via online quizzes, and a secure learning environment free from discrimination by race, gender, age, or other such factors (Khan 1-15).


The positive benefits provided by the implementation of the Internet and the World Wide Web into the classroom are undeniable. They increase the learning opportunities available to the student, and provide the instructor with tools to make their course instruction more interesting and effective. If one of the goals of education is to develop intellectual curiosity and instill a thirst for lifelong learning in the student, the use of the Internet and the World Wide Web enhances the educator’s ability to do so.





References


Churchman, C. West. “On the Design of Education Systems.” Classic Writings on Instructional Technology. Eds. Donald P. Ely and Tjeerd Plomp. Englewood, CO Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 16.


Crossman, David M. “The Evolution of the World Wide Web as an Emerging Instructional Technology Tool.” Web-Based Instruction. Ed. Badrul H. Khan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Educational Technology Publications, Inc., 17.


Draves, William A. Teaching Online. River Falls, WI LERN Books, 000


Ely, Donald P., and Tjeerd Plomp. “The Definition of Educational Technology A Summary.” Classic Writings on Instructional Technology. Eds. Donald P. Ely and Tjeerd Plomp. Englewood, CO Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 16.


Futoran, Gail Clark, Janet Ward Schofield, and Rebecca Eurich-Fulcer. “The Internet as a K-1 Educational Resource Emerging Issues of Information Access and Freedom.” Computers Educ., Vol. 4, No. , pp. -6. Great Britain, 15.


Hackbarth, Steve. “Web-Based Learning Activities for Children.” Web-Based Instruction. Ed. Badrul H. Khan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Educational Technology Publications, Inc., 17.


Hiltz, Starr Roxanne. The Virtual Classroom Learning Without Limits Via Computer Networks. Norwood, NJ Ablex Publishing Corporation, 14.


Khan, Badrul H. “Web-Based Instruction (WBI) What Is It and Why Is It?” Web-Based Instruction. Ed. Badrul H. Khan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Educational Technology Publications, Inc., 17.


Relan, Anju, and Bijan B. Gillani. “Web-based Instruction and the Traditional Classroom Similarities and Differences.” Web-Based Instruction. Ed. Badrul H. Khan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Educational Technology Publications, Inc., 17.


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