SECTION TWO -
This section is structured around four successive readiness skills for using the Internet. It is a logical, practical approach to self-empowerment and is supported by self-directed learning resources from a wide variety of Internet sources. These skills are related to the four historical firsts and are presented as four levels in the following section lessons. We know we all learn best through direct hands-on exploration, and the numerous examples and suggested web sites listed are designed to give you plenty of opportunities to explore. Have Fun!
A Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Empowerment
By Robert Sibley (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Frank Odasz
Getting a handle on what the Internet Style of learning (ISL) entails is a more difficult task than it might at first appear. This is because it is such a new and dynamic phenomenon. Internet learners are literally redefining ISL every day as they explore new technologies and new ways to use and combine technological and pedagogical approaches. One way to understand the Internet Style of Learning is to examine the new resources and capabilities that the Internet provides and then to explore how these capabilities are and might be used to change the way we 'do' teaching and learning.
1. Access to Vast Information Resources
The most widely known fact about the Internet is that through it you have access to all kinds of information, from up-to-the-minute weather reports to copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. If it exists, you can probably find something about it on the Internet, and you may find it fast.
2. Technology-Based Information Processing
That's a mouthful, but think of it as taking word processing and expanding it to all forms of information from numbers to images, to sounds to every conceivable combination of these, and from a single file located on your hard drive or floppy to all the information in every computer that can be connected to the Internet anywhere in the world. With all that information out there, you need powerful tools to help you find and make use of the small fraction that interests you. Luckily, the technology is doing a fine job of keeping pace. Web-based search engines and directories help you find your needle in that very big haystack. Once you find what you are looking for, your Web browser goes to the electronic address and brings it to your computer and displays it for you. If the information is what you want, you can copy it and paste it into another software application on your computer, like a word processor, spreadsheet or database, and analyze and manipulate it there in many ways. For example, if you have imported columns of data into a spreadsheet, you can compare it with other data and create a chart to visualize it graphically. You can import large amounts of text into a word processor and search through it electronically for a word or phrase, and find and export to another document those few sections that are relevant to your interest. Image, sound, and video processing software provide equally as powerful tools in those media. And the power and ease of use of these technologies increase constantly.
Internet email may be the most underrated communication and collaboration tool in history. It is easy to use, extremely powerful, available world wide and usually very inexpensive. Information and documents can be transferred, commented on, edited, analyzed, manipulated, etc., by one or any number of people, any number of times, in truly global collaboration. And email is just the beginning.
4. Internet Publishing
The ease, both in terms of work and of cost, with which information can be published, in a growing number of formats and media over the Internet, especially the WWW, is astonishing. What is less well understood, is the publishers' ability to target his or her audience. A publisher (any one who can create a Web page and access a computer to 'host' it) has the ability to broadcast the address (URL) of his or her site by registering it with all the search engines and promoting it on or off the Net, or he or she can distribute it to a selected audience, perhaps another school or class, or just one other person. In addition, the growing interactive nature of many sites means that the "audience" can also be "participants." Put in an historical perspective, these are awesome publishing powers, and they are the same for text, images, sound, animation, video and any combination of these. And, at the current rate of change, who knows what additional capabilities we will see next week or next month.
5. Realities and Possibilities
It is the process of using and combining these capabilities in powerful and innovative ways that makes Internet style learning so exciting, for all learners. This is still largely uncharted territory. It is what learners do with these capabilities, not software companies or curriculum designers or boards of education that will determine the ultimate success of Internet Style of Learning (ISL) in our schools and lives. While the technology is exciting and a strong motivating force for learners, the fundamental characteristic of Internet style learning is that the technology does the grunt work; it provides the capabilities for learners to cut to the chase and engage in high level, intellectually challenging learning. What follows is a very short list of some of the ways that learners are using these capabilities to transform the very nature of teaching and learning. But I must stress that we have only scratched the surface of ISL potential.
6. Inquiry-Based, Global Research
Internet search engines allow learners the ability to perform research using global resources. An educator can solicit topics of interest for learners to research and helps learners develop successful search strategies by giving examples and focusing on two or three different search tools.
7. Resource-Sharing and Collaboration
The Internet allows learners many options to access expertise and to collaborate with peers. For example, single classroom or multi-classroom collaborative projects can be text-based (non-web such as email and listservs) OR web-based such as hypernews and web-conferencing. Web pages can be edited or contributed to as text documents and uploaded from almost anywhere. Email, Listservs, Newsgroups, etc., also allow access to experts and expertise in almost any field. In addition, individuals and small groups can combine and leverage the knowledge and skills of each member to create deeper and richer understandings and works. ThinkQuest Entries are prime models of this kind of collaboration.
8. Teacher as Facilitator
Because the Internet can provide learners with unlimited amounts of highly specific information, the role of the teacher shifts from being the primary content provider to that of facilitator of the process by which learners access and build their own knowledge. It quickly becomes apparent that learners will soon collect specific knowledge beyond the expertise of the teacher, which is a truly wonderful outcome.
9. Student: From Consumer to Producer
Youth are lead change agents these days due to their attraction to, and proficiency with, information technology. Since students, particularly those with home Internet access, have far more time for exploring the Internet than teachers do, individualizing their self-directed learning activities makes good sense. As students build their own knowledge, particularly with others in small groups, they can learn how to share it by posting resources on their own content-related web pages and through a growing number of interactive and collaborative software tools and multimedia options.
10. Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom
Distance learning and home-based learning are both alternatives and additions to classroom learning. In Internet style learning the walls of the classroom expand to encompass the world in every imaginable way. Information, experts, collaborators, and teachers are available to you from wherever you are, and vice versa. This encourages students to become self-sufficient and self-directed learners, to recognize and create value from raw information, to develop collaborative, time management, and project management skills (to name just a few) that will prepare them for the great challenges of adult life in the 21st Century.