Can you imagine waking up in the morning and not checking your email? Can you fathom not being able to “Google” something that you wanted to know more about? How would it be to hear something tragic happened in a country across the world and not be able to monitor the news as often as you wanted to? We have become so used to having the Internet at our fingertips that many, if not most people, cannot imagine life without it. Yet, many educators do not include Internet resources regularly in their teaching. How can this be? That is like asking students to write a paper and not give them paper and pencil, or asking them to solve advanced math problems without giving them a calculator. Using Internet resources is an integral part of learning for both children and adults.
The value of using Internet resources in education is immeasurable on so many different levels. Information can be communicated to large populations in an instant. We are no longer waiting for the five o’clock news to find out what is going on in the world. At any time we have the capability to look on the Internet to find out what is happening just moments after it happens. The Internet offers not only information in a timely manner, but also resources that would not be available otherwise, such as Google Earth as a tool to learn about geography. Similarly, the Internet allows us to be able to communicate with others in ways that would also not be possible, such as using Skype. Students have the opportunity to learn about many different cultures, not from a book, but rather by communicating directly with individuals themselves from around the world. The possibilities are endless, not only for students to acquire information, but also for them to be able to collaborate with others worldwide. Collaboration is such an important skill for students to acquire, and the Internet provides the vehicle for students to be able to learn from each other beyond the classroom. The social networking aspect of the Internet is something many students use proficiently. An integral part of educating students is instilling a sense of responsibility. This transfers to using the Internet and social networks. It is our responsibility as educators to teach students to be ethical and responsible, whether they are in school or not, when participating with online communication of any type. What a great way to model appropriate online interactions than by using a social networking site as part of a curricular unit!
Yet we also need to use caution when using Internet resources. We must teach students how to effectively evaluate what is posted on the Internet and to be critical and not just accept everything as fact just because “it is on the Internet.” This is a valuable skill for students, not just for using Internet resources but also in life itself! It is equally as important to educate students about online safety and copyright issues. Now that we have all of the warnings out of the way, how do you go about using Internet resources effectively?
Should we let students chat to do their homework? Should we have students work together and collaborate to learn more about the topics we study in school? The answer is yes! However, we keep students from being able to do just that. How? We block the very websites students use to collaborate. Why? I believe it is because many teachers do not feel comfortable using a tool that they are not very familiar with. The issue is if we really want students to be more engaged in learning in school, then we need to use the tools that they are most comfortable using. If you are wondering if students are using social networking activities look at the following chart.
According to the Journal article, Research: Students Actually Use the Internet for Education, “…social networking is increasingly used as a communications and collaboration tool of choice in businesses and higher education. As such, it would be wise for schools, whose responsibility it is to prepare students to transition to adult life with the skills they need to succeed in both arenas, to reckon with it." The following graph confirms it. So let’s get more educators to use Internet resources, and even social networking as tools in the classroom. Who knows, maybe the students will be more successful and even like coming to school!