Before students even enter their first classroom, many have already been using a computer for a year or more. This generation of children born into the digital age is often referred to as the 'Net Generation'. And while the World Wide Web is just a kid itself (not even 10 years old), it has already had a significant impact on the children we teach. Students today are technologically savvy, quick to demonstrate their skills, and at ease in cyberspace.
Most teachers in the classroom today, by contrast, grew up without computers in their homes, schools, or even teacher colleges. As a result, many are rushing to catch up with the technological innovations that have made their way into the classroom. In addition to acquiring new technical skills, teachers also must decide how to best implement these new teaching tools into the curriculum.
The Web is responsible for enormous shifts in the ways students seek and build information. The Web is, by nature, an interactive medium, which responds to the instructions given by the user.
To effectively teach the 'Net Generation', teachers should reflect on how the Internet and hypermedia technology (the ability to link a word or picture to another set of information) has changed the way students respond to and seek information. Consider the following shifts in learning styles and what you can do to adapt to them.
From Linear to Nonlinear Learning and Thinking
Whereas previous forms of learning usually involved linear or sequential forms of information, nonlinear information rules in the online environment. Hypermedia allows the user to quickly and easily jump from one ‘chunk’ of information to another, putting together bits and pieces like a puzzle.
- Plan, plan, plan! Structure your lessons so that there are multiple hypermedia resources for students to access.
- Set parameters for their learning experiences. You be the judge of what constitutes a valid material or resource.
- Be flexible–understand that self-directed learning requires you to allow students to build their learning experience. Careful planning of lessons and media will allow you the increased confidence to do this.
From Print to Computer Technologies
The digital revolution requires that teachers be both familiar and comfortable with a wide range of CD-ROM and Internet technologies.
- Educate yourself. Request training from central administration. Get on the Internet from home or from your local library. Ask a friend or spouse for technology tips. Many libraries and community centers offer free or low-cost courses in technology—enroll in one.
- Utilize the Web’s many education–related web sites (like Teaching Today and Glencoe Online). Many textbooks have supporting Internet sites with suggested activities. See the resources listed below.
From Teacher-Directed to Self-Directed Learning
Because digital technology is ideal self-directed learning, students need to learn new skills that help them become discerning consumers of the Web. You can facilitate their learning by helping them to develop their Internet skills.
- Hone your navigation and researching skills and then teach your students to do the same.
- Help students learn to assess the validity and reliability of Internet sources.
- Encourage students to create multimedia projects to demonstrate that learning objectives have been met.
New technologies require that teachers rethink much of what they do, from their role in the classroom to the way they present information and assess their students. The good news is that there are many useful resources on the Internet that can help teachers incorporate aspects of new technology incrementally and successfully.
Ultimately, both teachers and students will benefit from creating a Net-friendly classroom. Learning will become more interactive for students. Teachers will benefit from increased access to information online. When used properly, learning activities that integrate digital media can help promote higher-level thinking skills.
Read More About Learning on the Internet
The Virginia Department of Education provides a discussion of acceptable use policies that may be helpful to teachers and administrators.
Educational Resources Information Center
Now in its 10th year of operation, the AskERIC Virtual Library provides access to literally millions of educational resources. Teachers will find over 2000 lesson plans in the AskERIC Lesson Plan Collection. The lesson plans published here have been submitted directly to ERIC for publication on the Web site. They are all carefully reviewed by ERIC and are available at no cost to the user. Additionally, AskERIC gives users access to the comprehensive ERIC database, which contains over 1 million education abstracts.
Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education is a national repository of current mathematics and science resources available to educators, students, parents, and others. Its web site contains a rich collection of links to science and math benchmarks, lesson plans, and related educational Web sites.
Glencoe Internet Resources
Glencoe Online is your connection to a wide array of activities that supplement Glencoe textbooks.
Techlearning.com is a project of Technology and Learning Magazine, the Well Connected Educator, and the SchoolTech Expo. This site is dedicated to ideas and tools that help teachers use the Internet in the classroom.
This site provides first-hand examples of Web projects that teachers have conducted in their classrooms.
ThinkQuest is an annual worldwide competition for students to create Web sites on specific topics. The site provides links to many of the prize-winning Web sites, which are also sources of information.
Virtual Reference Desk is an Internet-based question-and-answer service that connects users with experts and subject expertise.