The internet isn't going anywhere

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As anyone who owns a laptop knows, you don’t really notice the internet until it isn’t there – until there is no wi-fi available or you’re out of 3G coverage. At this point your computer becomes a glorified typewriter and you suddenly realise your laptop is not as useful anymore.

The internet has reached such ubiquity that, much like electricity, we take it for granted.

Our students have been quick to exploit this ubiquity by incorporating the internet into the way they communicate and into their leisure activities. To them the internet is not so much an alternative cyber world, but rather an extension of the real world.

As a result, our students skills sets are changing right in front of our eyes faster than we can say digital natives.

Teachers, however, have been by and large slow to incorporate the internet into teaching and learning. Contrary to what one might initially assume, what prevents them from using the latest technologies isn’t lack of skills. More often than not, what really prevents teachers from using technology in the classroom is the fact that many of them remain pedagogically unconvinced of its benefits.

There are many reasons for remaining unconvinced – some very valid and others less so. But what these teachers all have in common is this: they have all failed to realise that the internet isn’t a transient fad they can afford to ignore.

The internet is here to stay.

What do you think?

Photo by mikeleeorg

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13 Comments

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  1. Hi Jose, I agree in part, but maybe there is an argument that lack of provision in schools is a significant handicap to the ability to make it as central to learning as it deserves to be. Unless every child has their own access point, then its difficult to make the same extension of the real world in the classroom.

    Kenny

    1. Thanks for your comment Kenny, you make a good point. From my point of view, however, the very lack of provision is the clearest sign of teachers remaining pedagogically unconvinced of the benefits adopting the internet as a tool for teaching and learning can bring. If teachers bought into this “ubiquity model” provision would not be an issue, it would have been a priority a long time ago.

  2. Ubiquity comes at a cost (even if only a monthly fee).

    I wonder how many teachers aren’t yet convinced because it *hasn’t* yet struck them as such – they don’t all do their weekly shop online, or keep up with family online, or any of the myriad reasons that it has become, in our family at least, an essential part of life.

    Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that the internet is ubiquitous for the current school generation, but I’m the one of the oldest people I know that grew up using computers – and that was down to my father’s interest from the opportunities he had at his work (he was a policeman).

    I wonder if, like the mobile phone, a large percentage of people that have one only use it for emergencies and only have it turned on when they think they’ll want it?

    1. Thanks for your comment Ian. Age is not the issue, I think. Neither is the lack of skills. Some of the most pedagogically unconvinced teachers I know are of my generation or younger and can handle themselves admirably with whatever the internet throws at them.

      As you point out, the internet is increasingly becoming an essential part of life but many teachers are not making the connection: education is part of life. A very important part.

  3. Good posts and interesting comments from Kenny and Ian. Think there are a number of reasons for many teachers not engaging but I am convinced they are cultural rather than technological or societal – for example:
    1) Exams, and by default, curricula are largely pen and paper based – more importantly they are conducted in a way that is the antithesis of how the internet works and that may be used as a ‘get out’ clause.
    2) Using the Internet inevitably means relinquishing a position as a gatekeeper of knowledge and expertise.
    3) The Internet does not sit easily with compartmentalised learning spaces or the lockstep of timetables. It does sit well with collaborative knowledge building, personalised learning and publishing online whether that be Facebook or
    e-portfolios.

  4. Some very valid points – and I believe the best thing that we teachers who do ‘get’ it is to ensure we make every stride to illustrate why the internet is such a fantastic resource for learning and supporting learners. In terms of Continuing Professional Development a teacher who uses Twitter and the internet to support their work is getting literally that – ‘continual’ professional development. I can also clearly see how the situation has changed in schools in the last 10 years – the internet has gone from being something nice with potential to something essential.

    However, even in schools that do see the benefits, many schools are using the internet as a source of information – i.e. using the internet in its web 1.0 state. Such practitioners are also missing out. Many schools use the internet for the administration / promotion side of things but they are still missing out.

    The greatest resources schools have are their students and their teachers. The range of expertise across a school can be phenomenal – this is where schools need to be supporting and encouraging sharing, discussion and content creation – using the web in its 2.0 state.

    As for those teachers who don’t see the need or importance – not a problem. If they haven’t got it yet, I don’t believe they are going to. We need to strive to do the very best for our students and colleagues. We don’t need to convince naysayers as they probably won’t ever be convinced. There probably do remain some excellent teachers who are fixed in their ways yet still support students extremely well. Such practitioners are becoming fewer and fewer though. Those remaining, who don’t take advantage of new technologies are making the job harder for themselves, let alone letting their students down.

  5. I agree with you that we should be ensuring we engage with pupils through media that are meaningful to them and allow them toe expressthemselves creatively. I love seeing the mixed media work pupils come up with. Or having them tell me how they have been in constant touch with Spanish exchange partners through facebook – if that isnt meaningful communication I don’t know what is!
    The major stimuli g blocks I have fiund are merely access to hardware in schools and the fact that many school networks are underfunded and so unreliable.
    Perhaps it does just come down to needing to have reliable access.

  6. Interesting discussion. Language teachers have been using ICT in secondary education since the early 1980s. It began with the boom in sales of the BBC Microcomputer. Using a computer was a lot easier in those days. There was no Web, but we did use email. I was evaluator of a project that began using email in 1985. Eventually, the project led to a group of five schools in England, five schools in German and five schools in France working together using a closed email system: the ELNET project, co-ordinated by Southampton Institute of HE.

    Using a computer was a lot easier in those days. BBC Microcomputer users just had to slot in a floppy disk, hit SHIFT + BREAK and up popped a set of interactive exercises. This was primitive by today’s standards, of course, but it worked. The advent of the Web in 1993 was a major breakthrough, and then Web 2.0 apps turned the Web into something rather different. The Web became more “democratic”, more interactive – two-way rather than one way, but in line with the developments that Tim Berners-Lee predicted many years before the term Web 2.0 was coined. Web 2.0 is great, but it’s also a bit scary for many teachers, and a lot more work needs to be done in training them in the relevant skills that Web 2.0 apps demand. It’s not just a case of seeing how useful the Web is in education

    Age is not an issue. I am fast approaching 69, and I have lived with computers since they first became widely available. Life online is “normal” for me – see my blog posting, “My life online” in the ICT4LT blog:
    http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-life-online.html

    Regarding the question of “normalisation”, Stephen Bax addressed this issue in his 2003 article “CALL – past, present and future” (System 31, 1:13-28) and again in 2006 (with Chambers A.) in the article “Making CALL work: towards normalisation” (System 34, 4: 46-479). Essentially, Bax argued that CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) will not become embedded in everyday practice and hence “normalised” until using a computer is as commonplace as wearing a wristwatch, writing with a pen or wearing shoes. In 2003 Bax claimed that there was still an element of fear and awe and exaggerated expectations surrounding ICT, and that this had to be overcome in order to achieve a state of normalisation.

    I have just got back from a meeting of the EUROCALL Executive Committee at Nottingham University, part of which was dedicated to planning the EUROCALL 2011 conference. The main theme of the conference is “The Call Triangle: Student, Teacher and Institution”, and the sub-themes include the use of new technologies for language teaching in schools and promoting the use of new technologies amongst language teaching professionals:
    http://www.eurocall2011.eu/eurocall/index.aspx

    It was a useful meeting. I used my laptop in the meeting, but my iPhone was my main lifeline. I was able to pick up emails, follow Twitter and Facebook discussions throughout my train journey to and from Nottingham and send text messages to my wife to let her know that I had arrived safely and when I would be home. A couple of hen parties were accommodated in our hotel in Nottingham – young women aged between 18 and 30. Every one of them was using a smartphone. This is the direction in which we are heading. This is “normality”. To the younger generation computers are already old hat.

What do you think?