In this short paper, I compare and contrast teaching practices before and after the availability of the internet in schools. As part of my research, I interviewed a veteran teacher with 41 years in education.
The Change of Education: From the Industrial Age to the Information Age
Students walk into the classroom today with a different set of life experiences than kids back in the 70’s and 80’s. In Mrs. Wilt’s 41 years of teaching experience, she has concluded that students “still need to feel special, inspired, and challenged” while being prepared to succeed in life. However, teaching practices utilized during the industrial age have changed in an attempt to prepare students to be successful in the continually changing, fast-paced information age. Some teachers prepare their lessons differently, teach differently, and communicate with parents differently. Teachers now have a wide variety of resources available that can assist and guide the planning process. Teachers can see what others teachers are doing miles away and utilize proven techniques and lessons. The internet has removed the stigma of the teacher being alone in the classroom with no guidance or assistance. The internet provides teachers with resources to make lesson planning easier. Teachers can access teacher made lesson plans and modify them to meet their individual needs. There are also “web sites dedicated to providing and designing rubrics” (Pitler, 2007) that can be used to provide students with clear expectations. We used to teach propaganda, now we teach to evaluate sources. Before the internet students just needed to know how to read or decode the text. It used to be that the librarian and the classroom teacher would decide what books and reference material to make available to students.
Students can now access books and encyclopedias on the web. In the article “Literacy in the New Information Landscape,” Warlick states “The containers that we once guarded—the libraries, book shelves, reference books, and file drawers—can no longer hold the information that most of us actually use. We can no longer be the gatekeepers. We must, instead, teach children how to be their own gatekeepers and this is an ethical imperative” (2007). With the large amount of information available on the internet students, have to learn how to evaluate the source for accuracy because the teacher can no longer protect them from inaccurate info. Pencil and paper drills and memorizations are no longer the norm. During the earlier years, the teacher was the sole source of knowledge. Now teachers use strategies such as online games, simulations, and online videos to guide students learning. Virtual field trips, web quests, and simulations are allowing teachers to take students to places they would have never been able to take go 20 years ago, due to cost and safety issues. The internet allows students to explore a variety of topics and solidify learning. During the 70’s and 80’s students were grouped based on abilities. This allowed the teacher to move at the pace required by the group as a whole. All students in the group received the same scaffolds. Now all students —from Talented and Gifted to those with Learning Disabilities —are included in the same classroom. The internet allows teachers to individualize the instruction and change the classroom to a dynamic learning environment (Pitler, 2007). The internet allows advanced students to dig deeper and allows for scaffolds for students with disabilities. According to the “Texas Long Range Plan for Technology”, “Learning no longer can be “one-size fits all,” It must be tailored to the individual and accomplished through a multitude of learning resources, digital content, and multimedia resources in a variety of learning environments” (TEA, 2006). Communication software such as email and blogs allow for two-way communication with students and parents. The use of the internet to communicate with parents depends on the Socio Economic Status of the students. Teachers can email a class newsletter to parents. The newsletter can include the objectives for the month and examples of student produced products. The newsletter can also be posted to a class blog. The class blog allows for a discussion between the teacher, students, and/or parents. Mrs. Wilt pointed out that the potential of the internet is often clouded by a lack of adequate computers and bandwidth. In 2004, Douglas Levin and Sousan Arafeh also stated “The single greatest barrier to Internet use at school is the quality of access to the Internet”. So while the internet can provide a wealth of resources to teachers; can provide an individualized and dynamic path to learning; and improve communication among parents, teachers and students, not all teachers are able to utilize the internet.