The Internet and the Classroom - Friends or Foes?
The classroom of today has the potential to be so much more than a teacher and a chalkboard. In this Information Age, the Internet is the ultimate teachers' resource and an educator can decide how to harness the way this treasure trove of information can help with the teaching process. Given that the Internet brings the world to the classroom, there are some inherent dangers. The trick is to balance the good and the bad and to ensure that the students benefit from the use of technology.
The Internet can be brought into the classroom at different levels depending on the age of the children. There are Smart Boards which work as a sort of virtual chalkboard which allow a teacher to show links that connect with a given lesson plan. So, if the topic is European history there is the option to share links which show some of the exhibits at the Louvre or even to take children on a virtual tour of ancient Greece. The immediacy of these images shown in tandem with the lesson can help create a sense of connection between the past and the present. This will make it a lot easier for children to relate to the subject matter at hand. Geography lessons can also be much enhanced by the use of Internet in the classroom. It can be so much more gripping to get the sense of the differences between a desert landscape and an Amazonian rainforest in visual terms rather than just as descriptions in a book; and there are many sites such as National Geographic that offer these visual treats.
It is also possible to use the Internet as a friend in the classroom if children can work in small groups on individually on computers to finish projects. This will allow for team work and research in a controlled setting. They can use the Internet to get the information whether it is on Victorian literature or the different winter sports. It can make it easier for the teacher to guide the children in the projects if they are working inside a classroom and yet accessing varied kinds of material. It gives the teachers a great opportunity to teach students about resources with different degrees of credibility. It can be an occasion to emphasize the need for rigorous research and an introduction to the idea of evaluating source material.
While the Internet in the classroom can be beneficial, it does have a flip side that should be acknowledged. In an era where children are raised on technology, using the Internet in the classroom can make them see it as more of the same. There is also the danger that they may not learn other forms of research and can become lazy about equating typing search strings to doing actual research. Internet in the classroom can also be potentially distracting. If a teacher has to go from group to group, there are times when one group is unsupervised and can use the time for playing games or for looking at inappropriate content. While a school can set up firewalls to block access to some sites, the truth is that an Internet savvy student can always find ways to work around that.
In dealing with a generation that thinks of the Internet as an indivisible part of their life, there is no real way to avoid encountering it. It seems advisable for a teacher to embrace this reality and figure out ways to integrate it into the lesson plans for the year while keeping in mind that Internet use will require active monitoring.