According to the CBC, the Calgary Board of Education is beefing up their wireless networks in order to allow students access to the Internet in school. After reading the comments, it seems I am one of the few who believe that this is a good thing.
I’ll go beyond that statement, actually, to say it makes me feel profoundly sad to read the comments and see so many people think of the Internet as something that is unimportant and a waste of time. That the immediate thought of most is that students will do nothing but abuse the access they are given. Yes, some will. Yes, this move will not be easy and yes, it will require that some things within the school and teaching change. It will be disruptive, but in my opinion, we have no choice and the longer we delay giving students this kind of access in schools, the bigger we fail them.
In 1953, Child psychologist Jean Piaget wrote, “The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” We have moved far beyond a world where teaching “the basics” is enough. To not bring this type of access to students in our schools does a grave disservice to our children and their ability to work and live in THEIR world, not our world.
How do we teach students to become critical thinkers in an information age when we shield them from information?
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that web is the greatest educational tool ever created, and to not figure out how to appropriately use it within education is amazingly short sighted. We need to help students figure out how to appropriately use this tool or else we risk abdicating it to the likes of Perez Hilton and mass infotainment. If educators do not stake a claim on the web, it will become exactly the devoid educational environment that those posting negative comments at the CBC site fear.
I am not naive to believe that this will be easy. Teachers will have to develop new skills. New problems will arise that we need to find solutions for. New methods of teaching developed that exploit the affordances of technology. But as a parent, I will firmly support and actively advocate for the appropriate use of technology in the classroom for my children. And I will also actively support any initiative that helps teachers learn the skills to teach my kids how to appropriately use the web.
To the teachers who are pushing for access to technology in the classroom and running into barriers (and I work on the periphery of the K-12 education system and know many of you do run into resistance), keep up the fight. I am with you. And if you are a teacher who cannot understand or see the potentials of the web – who believes that the Internet is a useless time waster full of nothing but LOL and OMG, please consider retiring and opening up a space for teachers who want to teach my kids to live in THEIR world, not yours.