Planning for a Web-based Curriculum
The Internet's Benefits for the Educational
Published in the May 1998 issue of Curriculum
© 1998 - Gary S. Stager
The Internet and it's progeny, the World Wide Web, offer you and your students
genuine opportunities for learning in a distributed environment. Toddlers
now identify WWW as readily as they once recognized A&P or the golden
The Internet has had a dramatic impact on most aspects of our society in just
a few years. A similar impact should be expected within educational institutions.
I know, youve heard the hype before. Edison even suggested at the turn
of the century that motion pictures would make school 90% more effective. However,
distributed digital communications is here to stay.
The Internet will benefit the educational process in the following five ways.
Unprecedented access to information
The boundless quantity of information on the web gives students unparalleled
access to information when and where they need it. This benefit has received
the most attention by schools interested in making the net conform to traditional
school practices. The ability to conduct research is often touted as the best
feature of the web. I agree if we define research as a quest for knowledge
and search for truth, not the ability to cut and paste a handful of facts and
clip-art into a school project. The abundance of discrete facts and data available
online makes other primary source materials, including books, even more valuable.
The worlds great literature and big ideas wont be available in
digital form for generations, so be sure your media center budget
contains adequate funds for books as well as digital materials.
Opportunities for collaboration
Teachers and students can join project or interest-based online communities
of practice. Traditional classes are governed by the number of desks you can
fit in one physical space. The net allows any number of kids, teachers, authors
and experts the opportunity to discuss a topic or collaborate on a common goal
regardless of geography, age or bell schedule. I no longer need to require
a text by a living author who will not agree to interact with my students online.
As a result, my students have enjoyed access to an assortment of renowned experts.
The traditional isolation felt my many educators may now be reduced.
Remember, cooperation begins at home. If your students rarely speak with one
another or collaborate on authentic tasks in your classroom, the online project
with Belarus will not succeed.
Learning occurs everywhere at all times
Kids already have access to all sorts of information outside of school via
TV, books, magazines, parents and friends. The Internet provides even greater
opportunities for learning away of school. Pepperdines Graduate School
of Education now requires every student to be online and has reduced face-to-face
contact time by 40-60% while increasing genuine contact time by as much as
500%. Students have access to instructors, peers and class resources all of
the time, not just during a weekly class. The interpersonal interactions have
been more personal, social, thoughtful and constructive than traditional modes
of classroom delivery. As one student remarked, class now travels with
me all week.
Democratization of publishing
This is the most powerful benefit of the Internet. The Bills, Gates and Clinton,
have web sites and so do I. Anyone with access to a computer can publish on
the net. This allows your students to share their work with a global audience,
teachers an opportunity to communicate with parents and the ability to use
the web as your secretary. My web site contains articles, links, materials
and software that I believe may benefit other educators. They have access to
my materials without requiring me to mail them or find a publisher. The fifth
grader with a new math theorem can share it with their peers in research universities
and the school literary journal may actually be read by interested students
on the other side of the globe.
Participate in history
The current information and communications explosion is an important moment
in world history. You and your students may make genuine contributions to this
progress or at least share in the excitement. Its worth remembering that
the World Wide Web didnt exist when Bill Clinton was inaugurated.
Thinking about the Future - The Stager Switch
What if we wired (networked) homes and not schools? Networking your school
is great, but the reality is that Internet access from outside of school out
paces efforts to connect schools. What sorts of opportunities would this shift
afford schooling? If kids access discrete facts and discuss Moby Dick or discuss
the Battle of 1812 with hundreds of peers, teachers and experts during nights,
weekends and holidays what will be the role of school? Perhaps school could
be the place with the great orchestra, kilns, microscopes, drama, soccer teams
and creative play under the supervision of loving educators who build rich
social learning environments in which kids construct meaning.
Heres to the future!
Gary Stager is a veteran educator, consultant and teacher developer who has
worked around the world for the past 21 years. He currently teaches at Pepperdine
University and is Editor of ISTEs Logo Exchange journal. Gary has spent
the past thirteen years working with Australian schools where every kid has
a laptop and recently was named Outstanding Educator by the New Jersey Educational
Computing Conference. Gary was a presenter at the October 1997 Classroom Connect
Conference in Anaheim and may be reached via his web site at: http://www.stager.org or