No one doubts the importance of ICT in all areas of our society. Nobody doubts, therefore, of the necessity of the extension of the new technologies to the scholastic scope. These can provide a means for the improvement of the teaching and learning processes, for the management of educational centres and communication with families.
But the mere presence of a computer connected to the Internet in class does not guarantee an adequate use of it, even though its possibilities are endless. Let's start from the premise that ICT does not have magical effects on learning, nor automatically generate new knowledge. Sometimes it has fallen into the trap of stopping the technology itself when this tool has to be at the service of education.
In this article, we will try to analyze the causes of the misuse of the Internet in the classrooms and the important points related to it so that it is used as effectively as possible.
My short experience in ICT centres leads me to think that the errors in the approach of the question start from two different directions: the teachers and the students. On the one hand, the poor preparation of the teaching staff and their resistance to a methodological change more in keeping with time, and on the other hand the students, although more skilled from the technological point of view, identify computers only with leisure, and that they use it only to play or to chat, and not as an instrument of work. In both cases, we are facing the need for a deep digital literacy in the school environment.
From all this, it follows that working with the Internet in the classroom requires a new methodology that would result in printing a new rhythm of the classes and give a new role to the teacher, who will no longer be a mere transmitter, but a driver of knowledge. Therefore, for these technologies to be truly at the service of teaching and learning and contribute to training, the technological revolution must be accompanied by a pedagogical evolution.
The new methodology is inspired by constructivist theories, according to which the student is an active agent of their own learning. In traditional pedagogy, the teacher had the answer, and the student limited himself to reproducing it. Now, the student is encouraged to investigate in search of the answer. In this way, the student can produce new learning independently in the future, within the framework of continuous training which is, "learning to learn."
Let's begin by enunciating the undoubted advantages offered by the Internet: The first advantage is, no doubt, the motivation that supposes to the students the use of an attractive instrument and sometimes with playful components. This motivation becomes one of the learning engines, awakening the interest of the students to expand their knowledge.
Another compelling reason is that the Internet allows easy and quick access to information of all kinds as well as multiple digital materials that enrich the teaching and learning processes. One of these interesting materials is the visualization of simulations. Computer programs allow you to simulate physical, chemical or social sequences and phenomena, 3D phenomena so that students can experiment with them and thus understand them better.
For teachers also, the possibilities are wide, both for the preparation of classes, access to educational websites, WebQuest, preparation of materials through Hot Potatoes and other programs. But as it has been mentioned earlier too, nobody doubts the convenience of applying new technologies to the classroom.
Among the disadvantages are:
- Misuse of the Internet in class can lead to distractions and dispersion of students who sometimes play instead of working. This is because surfing the attractive internet spaces tends to deviate from the objectives of your search. A student, then, loses a lot of time in performing tasks and wanders.
- For this reason, in order not to waste time, the teacher has to meticulously plan the classes: tasks, times, groupings, work process etc. and thus avoid improvisation in the classroom.
- We must also count on the fact that not all students know how to search the Internet with judiciousness. The excess of available information, its dispersion and atomized presentation, lack of knowledge related to search technique can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed that blocks the intellectual work.
- We must also add the fact that unreliable and poor quality information circulates on the Internet, as partial, superficial, wrong, obsolete or decontextualised terms have been used on many websites. Therefore, it is necessary to teach the student to select information with care and filter reliable sources.
- The avalanche of written information on thousands of topics can develop in the student the law of minimum effort. Accustomed to immediacy, students resist using the necessary time to consolidate learning, and confuse knowledge with the accumulation of data. In this way, creativity is destroyed, and little effort is made to cultivate written the expression and the articulation of coherent discourse because of which students have to suffer later on.
It is true that the Internet is a means that has never existed to access information instantly. Now, knowledge and information should not be confused. For the information to transform into knowledge, the individual must appropriate a concept and reconstruct it in his or her own version. For this reason, the first thing that must be made explicit is that the incorporation of new technologies in education must not elude the notion of effort.
The solution, in this case, is to guide the research work in a very thorough way or to orally present the research work carried out in class. So at least they will be forced to read and study what they have collected and to defend, make the presented project their own.
However, not all the bad uses of the Internet in the classroom should be attributed to the students. On many occasions, the root is the teaching staff, who sometimes do not have adequate knowledge about computer systems and do not know how to take advantage of available educational resources. This increases the stress in the classroom and educational environments. It is the so-called "technophobia", and we must state that this fear does affect not only older teachers, but also the younger ones, who are supposed to be more flexible and with more significant contact with new technologies.
From the educational administration, an effort is being made to offer training courses in these subjects. The problem is perhaps the lack of interest in these aspects by a faculty that feels overwhelmed by bureaucracy, lack of discipline and some professional challenges such as adaptation to new technologies. What is certain is that the teaching staff must be aware that their role is changing and that adapting to the times is essential to offer teaching services that are not outdated with the times to come.