By Guest Blogger Randy Wilhelm
Educator’s love the internet but they have valid concerns about using it in the classroom. Thinkronize’s study, “Schools & Generation ‘Net” uncovered compelling insights from nearly 1,000 principals and library media specialists. Relevancy, commercialization, information literacy, instructional validity, and children’s safety were all significant issues. Today we look at 5 ideas that can help you rethink your on-line offerings to fit into today’s classrooms.
1. The Internet is a Valuable Instructional Resource
First the good news. Our survey confirmed that educators value the Internet, with 90% rating it as an “excellent,” “very good,” or “good” educational resource.
2. Concern over Relevancy and Commercialization of the Net
The study found that educators are worried about the quality and relevance of sites students find on the Internet with the following ratings:
- 79% expressed concern about useless or irrelevant search results.
- 78% percent expressed concern about students being redirected to commercial or pay sites.
Publishers have an opportunity to create web destinations that are lively and instructionally relevant without overdue commercialization.
3. Information Literacy is Low
When it came to information literacy, there was concern over students’ ability to judge online information sources critically. Our study results showed:
- Only 4% “strongly agreed” that students were equipped to think critically about the accuracy, authority and possible biases of the information sources they encounter, with the rest expressing responses in varying degrees of uncertainty.
- When asked about the teacher’s role, 88% “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that teachers need additional professional development in this area.
These findings correspond to another recent study conducted on behalf of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Their key finding was that 88% of voters say they believe that schools should incorporate 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, technology literacy, communication, and self-direction into the curricula.
4. Web use for Instruction/Curriculum
We asked about teachers’ use of the Internet and student searching being integrated into the school’s curriculum. Our findings included:
- Over one-third of respondents (35%) reported that “almost all” teachers in their schools use the Internet regularly for instructional purposes.
- 81% “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that student searching on the Internet has been integrated into the curricula.
5. Actions Taken to Protect Students Online
Finally, virtually all the educators report that their schools or districts are taking actions to protect students. The most common precaution that schools take is to install filters. A majority of schools also rely on providing information to faculty, students and parents. However, only about one-third have purchased and installed special search engines to keep students safe. Specific actions taken to improve students’ Internet safety included:
- Installing filters – 97%
- Giving students instructions on safety – 79%
- Giving faculty instructions on safety – 75%
- Providing parents with tips and information – 56%
- Purchasing special search engines – 32%
The Web, though a place of immense value, is creating a new front of concern as it is a place where anyone can post content that may be inaccurate, biased and even dangerous. It is vital that we teach our students how to evaluate sites and be critically aware of the ways they are being targeted for potentially dangerous and commercial purposes.
The bottom line – educators believe there is significant room to improve the Internet as an educational resource. And, in order to keep the Internet a valuable resource, tools like filters, training, and safe and contextually relevant search engines, like netTrekker, are critical.