Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Value of Using Internet Resources

        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!


  1. Your post and the graph are quite interesting and helpful to the question. The Internet is so much more than "information," and the kinds of activities that social networking sites afford are very much the activities (collaboration, communication, shared inquiry) that can support higher-order thinking. But can educators get to the point that they are willing to allow in the wheat WITH the chaff of idle chatter and/or potentially harmful information or activities? My guess is, probably not. So students will explore on their own, out of school, and will be less likely to learn how to use such sites appropriately.

    Okay, I'm feeling pessimistic today....

  2. Great post. I have been thinking about setting up a ning social network for my students, now tha I'm teaching 5th grade. It would be private and I would use the gmail trick of setting up the dummy email accounts to create the ning accounts. (I'll post that trick later. I'm sitting at the PADS shelter right now and can't access the wireless. It's on my computer.) then we could use the site for collaboration Nd communication on many levels. But what I would emphasize at the end of the year is that we can use it over the summer to keep in touch, and...and...are you ready for this...they can continue in the conversation when they move on to middle school and beyond. As I add new students each year, the community grows. Now there are older students who can contribute to the conversation. They can help with answering homework questions. They can offer a different perspective to discussions. They can comment on posted student work.

    If any of the older students turn ignorant and use this as a place to post inappropriate comments or material, I can suspend their
    membership. However, I think many of them that actuLly continue to be involved will see it as a cool thing to be a mentor and "expert" to the younger kids.

    Who knows. It's just an idea I have been toying with. And, of course, I'll have to make sur that the tech department knows what I'm doing so they don't see ning hits on the server logs and panic and block it.

  3. This really brings up some interesting ideas. I cannot agree more that we need to teach students how to use social media appropriately and these types of activities are engaging, collaborative, and necessary in the world we live in today. However, this is a bigger undertaking than many think and really needs to be thought through.

    Two years ago, I set up a Ning site for our fifth graders and it was powerful. We had very interesting conversations about photos from the 1960's on the Civil Rights movement. The conversations were richer than I had heard fifth graders have in the past. The teachers were involved. The lessons extended past the walls of the school, and we were hitting curriculum standards.

    Then, a few things happened that the teachers were not prepared for.

    1. Students were posting things not on topic on each others pages.

    2. Students started creating their own Ning sites and they were not school appropriate.

    3. Some students did not have Internet access at home and were not a part of the group in the same way that the rest of the group was. They were missing part of what was social about the experience and then the academic part was not as effective.

    The teacher’s lounge was filled with stories about how the students were all “talking” on their ning pages. And the teachers were not happy that they were not talking about school. This surprised me. I guess I didn’t really see why they couldn’t “talk” to eachother on the Ning. As long as they were not being inappropriate, it didn’t really need to be about the topic given by the teacher. Who cares, if anything, it helped them to learn how to use the technology better. It made them excited about signing in and using it.

    I think what makes this type of technology exciting is the authentic conversation. Some things need to assigned, but other topics should be generated by the students. This makes some of the teachers (and principals) uncomfortable. What this says to me, is that the process, project and obstacles need to be thought about.

  4. Wow, a lot of errors when typing that much on an iPhone. The capital letters come after I hit shift instead of "A."