Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Internet 2.0 in Schools

Next-generation school desks

We live in a highly connected world, and the use of the internet and public networks extends downward into lower age groups, even to 8 and 9 year olds. Kids in primary schools today have effectively grown up in a connected world, and going to school cannot be a return to 1990 if the learning environment is to be effective. If we look to Internet 2.0 for the schools, it’s consists of a combination of more school centric content and integration of web based resources into the curriculum.

In order to work well, moving to Internet 2.0 requires making a few changes at the same time so that there is no negative impact on learning and to mitigate confusion. The goal is consistent steps of improvement, not a massive “jump shift” from one year to the next. In addition, while fundamental new technology that changes the game like the “Star Trek Classroom” is nice, the budget realities make this an unlikely outcome.

One of the biggest problems facing next generation access in the school is the issue of budget. It’s also where we need to start thinking outside the box. Going to some sort of “sponsored” model is the most common, and potentially it can be very attractive. Selling “ads” increases the opportunities for revenue enhancement. Imagine a two month ad cycle for a store that sells prom gowns during prom season. This approach does require someone to work with local businesses, and can be a member of the PTA as a volunteer. Grants are also available, but harder to come by. If the budget can be augmented by just $10,000, it makes a big difference.

While we’ve seen some really cool examples of new uses of the internet within the schools, there is more that can be done. With so many students looking for activities that will attract colleges, consider ways for them to bring their web creativity to the school. One local school here has “web shows” every day with interviews of a student athlete, the first chair in the band, and even a student that has made an impact in the community. And another place that I think creativity can be brought to bear is on the school’s website. Does yours look the same as it did in 1990?

One of the best ways of ending hours of Facebook is to have the students use their computing tools for other tasks and drive focus there. This is where curriculum that leverages the internet can make a difference. This shouldn’t become a case where a teacher spends hours finding resources, but start with a task or knowledge set and have the students showcase what they’ve found. Let’s not determine the outcome before we start.

Re-thinking the role, usage, and value of the internet in primary schools is possibly the single biggest challenge facing educators today. This blog is not meant to provide every possible change or new approach that can be delivered in the concept of Internet 2.0. There are also some very useful functions that can be built in like location sensing, and the use of chat/skype/Facetime and other tools that enhance collaboration.

However, if we start from the perspective of how we find some budget, what new things are possible, and how to enhance learning, it’s a good start. And never bite off more than you can chew. Small incremental improvements, on a regular basis, are the way to go.

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