Teaching in the New Millennium;
Internet Professional Development Visions and Strategies
From the Frontier of Online Learning
Galena, Alaska is a Native Alaskan village on the Yukon river hundreds of miles from the nearest road system. They are literally on the frontier of online learning. The Galena City School District hosts Project Education, an innovative charter school where every student has an Internet-connected multimedia computer on their desk.
The ten Native Alaskan villages who have partnered with Galena through the Yukon-Koyukuk Regional Consortium all have two-way Internet via satellite dishes. The best of what the Internet has to offer is now being aggressively sought on behalf of their students who are no longer too remote to have access to the best resources the world has to offer them.
When I first arrived at the villages to introduce them to the Internet I wasnt sure what to expect, other than that I was likely to learn a great deal. Sure enough, I learned from the second-graders that they are definitely not too young to learn to use the Internet. With their eager openness and spirit of experimentation they learned faster than their teachers, who after seeing the excitement of their students, asked for a private training session at a much slower pace. When the elders came in the evening to try their hand, they were prepared with specific topics they wanted information upon, and within minutes after finding quality information, particularly on personal health topics, they were asking about their options for Internet in their homes.
Galena has put 80 computers into students homes to create the opportunity for intergenerational learning. If the elders do not learn right along with the students about what computers and the Internet offer them, an unnecessary, and potentially culturally disasterous intergenerational rift will occur, creating a generational schism between young and old. The wisdom of the elders can now join with the passion of the youth for global cultural self-expression and renewed cultural pride.
The Galena City School district is extending their vision beyond the village through a new K12 correspondence program called IDEA "Interior Distance Education for Alaska." http://www.galenaalaska.org During 1998, 3000 students have signed on, from 1700 families, to receive home computers and Internet access. Alaskan schools do not offer hands-on Internet access 100% of the time as this home-based learning program does. As a result, the traditional school districts have lost a total of 10 million dollars of their budgets with the mass exodus of motivated families seeking the best learning solution for their kids.
An online handbook modeling how to broker the best Internet learning experiences has been created for the IDEA program and the ten Yukon-Koyukuk Consortium villages "Making the Best Use of Internet Resources for K12 Instruction." http://lone-eagles.com/guide.htm This handbook utilizes the best tutorials and resources other teachers and students have made available on the web through hands-on self-directed activities.
A Cross-Cultural Model
An Alaskan-specific WebTour of K12 collaborative projects and innovative use of web pages for school and community self-expression is a key component of this otherwise generic and cross-cultural guide (http://lone-eagles.com/alaskan.htm ) in the customized edition titled "Native Alaskan Cross-Cultural K12 Internet Guide." With 15,000 cultures slated to receive Internet via new low-cost satellite systems over the next couple decades, in a world where half the population has never yet made a single phone call, the issue of how best to introduce the empowering components of the Internet within the context of individual cultures is an interesting challenge.
Three Historical Firsts the Internet Brings to the Classroom
Though the Internet is very new to most teachers, our joint mission remains the same; to do the very best we can for our students. Exactly what this entails is a broad topic for discussion. There do, however, appear to be some clear indications of what new skills and visions a teacher will need in order to meet the needs of students given the real changes the Internet has brought to communities and the world of work.
There are three biggest advantages, which are also historical firsts, that the Internet brings to your classroom, can you name them? Do you utilize them?
1. With a little training on search engine strategies, the Internet brings fingertip access to much of the world's knowledge base. Using keywords and searching commands, very specific knowledge can be available in only a few seconds, but most teachers are still well behind their students in their knowledge of the use of these searching tools.
2. Students and teachers can self-publish their work for an authentic global audience with the same global distribution power as the world's largest governments, corporations and universities. Multimedia authoring can be as easy as taking two minutes at http://www.bluemountain.com to create an animated, musical, greeting card web page to email to a friend, or creating a globally accessible web page in five minutes at http://www.geocities.com
3. Students and teachers can communicate globally anytime, anywhere to share information and/or engage with other learners in collaborative projects of their own design. Focusing on real world problem-solving, with new access to expertise, K12 collaborative projects are rapidly becoming more and more elegant, relevant, and motivational for both students and teachers.
Home VS School Learning
As reported by the National Telecommunications Information Agencys (http://ntia.doc.gov ) Falling Through the Net II report, 23% of American households have Internet access. Most teachers have already become aware that some of their students know far more about how to use the Internet and computers than they do. This creates an opportunity for teachers to engage these students in peer mentoring, and even to enlist students as their first line of technical support for the classroom.
Students spent 19% of their time in school and 81% outside the traditional classroom. For an increasing number of students, much of this time is spent in interactive engagement with Internet resources that match their learning interests. This creates greater disparity of learning levels in the classroom, and the disparity is growing. Those students who spend hours daily engaged in individualized Internet interaction at home are rapidly gaining skills that will make them highly valued in the workplace. These students watch significantly less television. Those students without home Internet access are dependent on the number of hours per week the school allows them Internet access, and are more likely to average six hours a day of passive television viewing than those with home Internet access.
One of the greatest questions regarding both home schooling and online instruction is that of what happens to the development of social skills? Recent research shows 20% of school age children report fear of violence on their way to schools. Are schools the best place for building social skills, or are the other alternatives?
The Relationships Age VS the Information Age?
One secondary impact of the information age is that people are finding that through email and other collaborative tools the quantity and quality of relationships are increasing. If every time you hear the word "information" you substitute the word "relationships," you may be surprised at the clarity it provides. Instead of the "information age" we have the "relationships age." "Information managers" become "relationship managers." At the core of most Internet innovations is a collaborative relationship.
While the use of any of the ten dominent Internet collaborative tools (http://lone-eagles.com/collab.htm) can accentuate relationship differences, many new forms of collaborative0 relationships become possible.
Networking values are beginning to appear, "Network unto others as you would have them network unto you." More than just another netiquette guide, people are creating new and original cultures based on shared interests, values and technologies. Changing the properties of the shared social space, often defined by the technologies, changes the properties of the collaborative potential.
As search engines using "If-Then" logical systems become more sophisticated and people learn better " Here-to-There" ways of sharing information, it becomes more and more feasible to have people serve as intermediaries between whats out there, and the people searching for specific information. The AskERIC system which introduced human intermediaries to assist searching the ERIC educational databases has spawned a long listing of similar "Ask-a-Person" services which are listed on the A+ Locator at: http://www.vrd.org/locator/alphalist.html Another version of service offered a $7.50/month subscription to ZDnets tutorials, creating an online community of learners at http://www.learnitonline.com
Increasing Disparity in Learning Levels
How can a teacher adequately deal with the increasing technological and social disparity of todays classroom? Adult education research has shown that adults prefer to have control over their own learning; selecting which learning task they take on, and when. For motivated students with Internet access, the same is true. This creates the opportunity for teachers to broker the best self-directed learning experiences available on the Internet for their more motivated students and refocusing their classroom time for working more closely with their under-motivated students to bring them to the point where they too can become self-directed, motivated, lifelong learners.
Teaching as brokering the best available learning experiences
Just how does a teacher learn to broker the best of the best of existing Internet resources when over a million new web pages are posted each month? Knowing where to go for the best directories of K12 online courses, collaborative projects, and self-directed tutorials requires some new type of intermediary. More than another Yahoo search directory or Altavista search engine, theres a need for a third party to do an initial preselection of the best of the best.
A few corporate-sponsored resources are: The AT&T Learning Network http://www.att.com/learningnetwork/ Apples Interchange http://ali.apple.com and Heritage online http://www.hol.edu . A government-sponsored site is the WebTeacher Resource site; http://www.webteacher.org While exceptional, these resources are not as exciting for teachers as the teacher-created resource by Kathy Schrock; http://www.capecod.net/schrockguide
Where will a student find the best education and where will teachers learn how to be a part of delivering it? The issue of how best to broker resources, as well as brokering the best visions for the future, are everyones challenge. If youre not online, you need to consider what youre missing! In the next section are some things to think about.
Online professional development opportunities are listed at http://lone-eagles.com/self.htm
Creating an Online Course on Brokering Internet Learning Resources
The IDEA program is gearing up to identify and provide the best possible online education opportunities. At the same time, a national debate has begun about online diploma mills and what are termed "Online HS diploma scams." Through the Alaska Staff Development Network, http://www.asdn.org/~asdn which serves over 5,000 Alaskan educators, an interesting online course model is being developed. The handbook mentioned above will be the basis for a self-directed online class for teachers. Teachers will have the choice of eight four-hour units which will emphasize structured hands-on activities.
1.Browsing and Searching Effectively
2. Listserv Discussion and Groupwork Basics
3. Creating Instructional Webpages
4. Key Issues on K12 Internet Use
5. Project-based Learning Models
6. School and Community Networking Synergies
7. Online Instruction Basics and Design Considerations
8. School Technology Planning, Training, and Grant-writing
Mentors will mediate the course logistics of receiving and evaluating the lesson submissions of the teacher, allowing hundreds of teachers to take the course simultaneously. The instructor s role will be to keep the online handbooks resources as current as possible while updating the teachers regularly via one or more listservs. The teachers will have the implicit opportunity to build their own peer learning community for sharing the best of what theyve discovered through their hands-on experiences.
This model builds on what we know about the preferences of motivated adult and student learners. This model also creates a level of financial incentive for the very best teachers to create very high quality self-directed learning opportunities for large number of motivated students. No longer limited to the confines of the traditional classroom, a teachers impact can now extend to thousands of students worldwide.
With the coming teacher shortage, and the expectation that billions will have Internet access within our lifetime through major advances in technology, optimally scaleable models of education will be necessary to meet the huge need for quality instruction. This raises important questions of the appropriateness of online instruction depending on the students needs and delivery mediums available.
Assessing Quality Online Education:
The graphic below represents a quick overview of considerations in designing and/or
evaluating an online class. Each line represents an entire spectrum of choices.
A low budget, low tech class might involve text-only using slow modems and older computers, with a high budget, high tech class involving advanced multimedia and interactive television
A class can be self-directed or instructor interaction intensive, with a whole range of options inbetween such as small group interaction with a high level of one-to-one student interaction, or a large group interaction with a low level of one-to-one student interaction
A course may be focused on teaching content and/or skills such as desktop-publishing, or may focus on conceptual instruction such as adapting the seven intelligences for multimedia instruction.
A course may provide interactivity via interactive software on CDROM or Internet, or may focus on interaction with people.
A course may offer a choice of learning styles, or may offer only one choice.
The three historial firsts the Internet brings to students with Internet access are indisputable benefits, and the reality is that the student/computer ratio is often inadequate to bring this benefits to all students all the time. Teachers often do not have the training or motivation to lead in the best use of these new capabilities.
While there are many issues surrounding what constitutes a quality education, it is becoming clearer that the collaborative Internet skills, combined with the ability to find specific information whenever the need occurs, are essential employment skills required for the next millennium.
While inappropriate Internet information is a key concern for many, its a fact that our students, who constitute the first digital generation, are growing up in a world with unlimited access to information. Character-building curriculum has begun to appear as a means of addressing the values and role models students will need to develop for making a life while making a living.
One utopian vision is that well all learn to share what we know such that well all have access to all knowledge, all the time through the goodwill of others. However, many young techno-whizzes working for computer and information companies model a very different value set; they keep what they know to themselves as a competitive advantage. The kind of world well be living in will depend on which of these two models becomes the core of the global culture.
Were all ignorant; only on different topics
If we all learn to share what we know, well all have access to all our joint knowledge. If we keep what we know to ourselves, well each know only what weve learned individually. Which world would you like to live in? (Author)
Teaching how to Build Learning Communities
School-to-work programs have sprung up attempting to address the readiness of students to enter the emerging knowledge economy. No longer can students train for a job they can expect to stick with for life, but instead students must be ready for short term work opportunities based on a continually changing workplace with Internet collaboration becoming more and more a required skill. Theres too much information thats changing steadily to make teaching content the core of a good education. Instead, teaching the process of just-in-time learning is most important with growing recognition that being an active participant in the emerging social info-structure is key to success.
What should we teach our students about "building learning communities?" What role model do teachers today represent regarding sharing their knowledge? Do teachers post their lessonplans on the WWW for learners worldwide, or do they keep them locked away? Where do community networking visions and skills fit in todays curriculum?
Since ongoing training is a fundamental part of most jobs today, wont our students need to know a good deal about creating and delivering original curriculum for others? The Thinkquest competition has motivated students to create over 1,000 outstanding instructional websites viewable at http://www.thinkquest.org
Resources to Review:
Electronic Democracy and Community Networking WebTour: http://lone-eagles.com/democracy.htm
Hotlist of Student Entrepreneurship Sites http://www.fif.org/sec/seclinks.htm
Internet Style of Learning Tutorials http://lone-eagles.com/isl.htm
K12 Collaborative Project Directories http://lone-eagles.com/projects.htm
The Ten Collaborative Tools of the Internet http://lone-eagles.com/collab.htm
K12 Curriculum Clearinghouses http://lone-eagles.com/curric.htm
Essential Issues for K12 Use of Internet http://lone-eagles.com/k12.htm