Life has distinctly undergone some very dramatic changes ever since the dawn of the Internet era and with each passing day there is a growing dependence on it. Those who are used to it would know the helplessness experienced when deprived of riding on this superhighway of information. It has also had a tremendous impact on the sphere of education.
Learning is the act or process of internalising knowledge and acquiring new skills. Modern, web-based learning and computing spells a revolution in the way the tutoring is delivered to students. Imparting education through the Internet involves multimedia learning resources combined with CD-ROMs and workbooks. It is an attempt to explore the fundamentals or the essential concepts of a course by tapping the full academic power of multimedia. Many educational websites use different features such as interactive examples, animation, video, narrative etc.
In the face of fast evolving technology, phenomenal quantum of information that is processed each day and the demands of an ever increasing population; the arena of education seems ready for some real changes. Traditional pedagogy has always focussed on the learning content that is to say the what’ factor of it. With the technology taking active role now, the focus is bound to shift to the how’s’ and a more realistic approach. The requirement from a pupil also has changed. The education through this medium requires a willingness to learn that to cram information.
Online education is growing too fast to track. Hundreds of universities have been putting some basic courses up on the Web, colleges and schools have also incorporated some web element into their curriculum. The day is not far when ours will be a society where education becomes a life long process, with the young and old, pursuing some knowledge. The need is to adapt to the technology aided interaction. It will take considerable effort to acknowledge the new method of instruction. Teaching face to face is the most effective method. With the Internet that kind of interaction is possible and it can be effective even with the instructor and the learner at different locations.
The power of the medium to transcend the constraints of infrastructure, timings and distances has increased the hopes too. There is the ease of reaching out without the limitations. It is not only limited to that, thousands of schools across the world have integrated the traditional way of instruction with the learning through the Internet. Children often surf through sites for supplementing information available in the textbooks, to read extensively on the topics that interest them and also to aid project works they are required to do. It is often about accessing an online encyclopaedia and looking up a subject.
The magic of Internet is that it is a powerful instructor and is fantastic at the task of motivating and engaging students. There is a link possible with anyone world over, a certain dynamism is imparted to all that is being donebasically, there are no limits. The scouting for information does not require handling heavy tomes, scouring through catalogues, spending hours in libraries etc. It can be done all at home with the click of a mouse. It is the quick results and the range of choice that seizes the imagination.
However each time a huge technological breakthrough happened, the enthusiasts spelt the end for the existing ways. There is no doubt that the effect has been incredible. But like every other thing this has more than a single aspect to it. As with all else there are concerns that crop up here too.
It is a rather ponderous issue if students are able to outsource home work and projects for a small fee. Apart from the regular information sites, there are sites that are designed specifically to aid with homework. Some online services provide specific areas to assist with assignments, including the ability to send questions or homework problems via e-mail to experts in a subject area and receive responses in as little as three hours.
If this flourishes, children are unlikely to develop skills in the fine art of analysing, thinking or even constructing thoughts or ideating for that matter. It raises the issues of validity of such instruction as the independent thought process is hindered owing to the awareness that all can be readily taken off the Internet and need not be arrived at. Modern technology cannot substitute for a thorough reading of the great classics in literature, philosophy, and political history. Being technologically advanced and sophisticated is not the same thing as being literate and civilized.
Experts on education also feel that computer technology and the Internet are brilliant means and they should not be made the end. Why do we forget that the masters of their craft like, Mozart, Shakespeare, Monet etc. could create even when the Internet was not there! The brain flourishes freely and ideas blossom marvellously when they are given an open sky and a broad horizon. To the contrary, a broadband is only capable of flooding with existing information and even curb the ideas that could have been.
The other doubt relates to the veracity of the information on the Internet. It should not be taken as accurate and true unless verified. Teachers while encouraging the use of the net as a tool should also teach the students to evaluate information, judge what is credible and what is false. Change may not be easy, but it is necessary, unavoidable and often beneficial. But if the ability to discern is not imparted by the teachers, the entire process of education is just a transfer of information with out any value. Another problem is that the teacher is not able to size up students abilities as closely as one could in a real environment and thus determine the correct approach to go about teaching.
Nevertheless, education is a process of intellectual growth. The biggest impact of the Internet has been to change the point of view that education is something can and should be delivered. The essence of education lies in learning and not in teaching. The best teacher is one who never ceases to be a student himself/ herself. Teaching is not about holding on to huge amounts of information; it is more about giving direction to the thought in individual minds. The Internet is best treated like a tool rather than glorified as the next great teacher.
Abhy is a communication expert and also has a keen interest in all that is new age. She has been writing for the last 11 years on a variety of topics. God, Books, Food and Love in different order, depending on the mood and need sum up her life. She has two children, elder aged 7 years and the younger one all of 4 months.