Try telling a kid today about having to read through all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica when you were a kid, and they will race off to the computer and use their favourite search engine to find out what it was, and what it contained. Now, the entire 32 volumes, along with the “bonus” set and anniversary editions can all fit on one DVD ROM, or one high-storage volume data stick. Never has one thing had more of a profound effect on education, other than the creationist theory of evolution than the Internet.
The Internet gives a child the entire knowledge of the human race at their fingertips (well, the information we allow them to know!). The Internet allows a student to research a subject thoroughly, use proper accreditation, format and add pictures to their essays and papers. The students can sit and type into their laptops along with the teacher, as opposed to having to try and write longhand what information the teacher is writing on the chalkboard, or, more likely, is displaying on the monitor. They can then save the information, and use the portions that they do not understand, copy and paste it into a search engine, and presto! Instant tutoring!
Problems with calculus? No problems, there’s an Internet site for that. Hard time with Algebra? The Internet again. Can’t remember which countries border Afghanistan for that paper on whether the war in the Middle East is justifiable or not? Yup, the Internet again. Unless you are attending some hyper-advanced school, there just is nothing taught in a middle school, high school or college course that can not be found on the Internet. Twenty years ago, there was not so much information on that information highway, though, and this new generation is the first to fully use the Internet in the education field.
Students not only find information and learn mathematics from the Internet, it also allows them instant access to all of their friends who are online at the same time. Without constant supervision, the teacher can not be sure what their students are doing anymore. It used to be easier for them, they just looked down the classroom’s aisles. Now the students are all hidden behind their monitors, typing away. There are spying programs that record each keystroke and website visited while the students are connected to the Internet, but that is after the fact.
With WiFi connectivity, students can even connect to the Internet over their cellular telephones, and can send and receive text messages, pictures, streaming live video and music straight to their cell phones and listen to them on earphones that are so small an inattentive teacher would never see them. Makes for easy cheating, which makes testing students a more rigorous adventure, especially if they are given computers with Internet access for their test taking.
All of a sudden, learning is more about being able to surf the Internet than about remembering the periodic table of elements.