Executive Summary: There is emerging research on how the Internet can be an important component of a program that significantly increases student learning. This type of program requires students and teachers to have appropriate access to the Internet and instruction in its use. It also requires changes in curriculum content, instructional practices, and assessment to take advantage of the communication and information storage and retrieval strengths of the Internet, and to appropriately assess the types of learning these strengths engenders.
The Internet, a global network of networks connecting millions of computers and computer users, is a relatively new resource for educators. In fall 1998, 89-percent of U.S. public and private schools and 51 percent of all classrooms had Internet access (Wirt, 1999). The Internet’s rapid growth and dynamic nature has educators asking research questions that are still in the process of being studied. Researchers are only beginning to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Internet in the classroom. However, even at this early stage, there is emerging evidence that the Internet provides a variety of valuable aids to education.
The Internet provides up-to-date information on a variety of classroom-related topics unavailable from other sources. The content of textbook, library, and teacher knowledge is enhanced by this new medium. Computer networks are increasingly serving as an aid to communication and to the storage and retrieval of information. In that sense, the Internet can be thought of as a natural extension of 5,000 years of progress that began with the development of reading and writing, and has included inventions such as the movable type printing press, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, VCR, and communications satellites (Logan, 1995). Some of the educational research on print materials, telephone, radio, television, and video carry over to the Internet. However, since all of these media are combined on the Internet, this is a new and challenging area of educational research. Never have such powerful aids to communication and to the storage and retrieval of information been made readily available to so many people. However, the Internet is an open system with relatively little control on content or usage. Thus, teachers need to know both the potential benefits and the potential pitfalls of using the Internet in their classrooms.
Goals for Internet Use in Education
The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) profile expectations for technology use by students. The following examples identify some Internet-related expectations for students in elementary and middle schools (International Society for Technology in Education, 1998).
(PreK-2). Use developmentally appropriate multimedia resources (e.g., interactive books, educational software, elementary multimedia, and encyclopedias) to support learning.
(Grades 3-5). Use keyboards and other common input and output devices (including adaptive devices when necessary) efficiently and effectively.
(Grades 3-5). Use technology tools (e.g., multimedia authoring, presentation, Web tools, digital cameras, and scanners) for individual and collaborative writing, communication, and publishing activities to create knowledge products for audiences inside and outside the classroom.
(Grades 6-8). Design, develop, publish, and present products (e.g., Web pages and videotapes) using technology resources that demonstrate and communicate curriculum concepts to audiences inside and outside the classroom.
Many individual states have developed Information Technology in Education standards that include similar expectations (Developing Educational Standards). As with the ISTE NETS, often the expectations are that students have developed substantial Internet skills by the time they finish the eighth grade, and that they then routinely practice these skills...