The Internet has changed the way that we do pretty much everything, from how we stay in touch with each other to how we collaborate on a team to get work done. Nowhere have these new capabilities been more evident than in education, where the needs for new and interesting ways to share lessons combine with a young, tech-savvy audience ready to put new technology to the test.
At the heart of all of this is the Internet’s power to change the game when it comes to how students learn. The ways that students connect with teachers are increasing, as well as deepening and enriching our ability to explain complex subjects more directly. Here’s how the Internet is changing the future of education.
The Power of Video
It used to be that the teacher would wheel out the video cart, and you’d have an hour off from school to watch a movie or documentary. While Internet access can’t guarantee that the video choices we make are all 100 percent on-topic, it does open up the door for a broader, more varied approach for how we integrate visual learning into education.
Integrating short videos into a lesson plan makes it easier than ever to engage students in new ways. The access to video streaming services that broadband provides means a teacher can pull up a video to illustrate what they’re talking about easily.
Not every student is great at getting all of the information they need from a lecture, and visual examples can help explain things more clearly. Here are some of the best educational YouTube channels around.
Teachers have been using web apps to handle tests and homework for a while, but bigger organizations are getting in on the act to make things simpler and easier. Both the SAT and ACT are moving to online versions of their tests, although they still need to be taken on school-issued computers due to (understandable) security concerns.
Learning New Languages
The Internet’s power to connect people across the globe has great potential for new frontiers in education. One natural fit for broadband’s power to connect in new ways lies in learning new languages.
Immersion has always been a key component of gaining mastery over a new language. The challenge, of course, is finding a way to get that immersion without spending months in the country in question.
With italki, however, you can get free language practice by exchanging time teaching your native language for time learning a foreign language. Browse through people around the globe to find the teacher who works best for you, and the extra practice can help you achieve that mastery.
Not everyone learns a subject at the same rate. It’s hard, however, for one teacher to address the differing needs of 10 to 20 students with one syllabus. Math, in particular, presents a lot of challenges for people with different levels of understanding and backgrounds.
Companies like DreamBox, Zearn, and ST Math have responded with adaptive learning web apps that adjust their course plan in response to the student. For students who are further along with math, these apps also let them work ahead and explore further. Adaptive, web-based courses have also been developed for writing and literacy, using the Internet to offer flexible new ways of displaying information and judging students’ progress.
Virtual Field Trips
One of the biggest changes of the past ten years is that everyone now has a high-resolution camera in their pocket, capable of streaming video to anywhere else in the world. While that generally means a whole lot of cat videos, it also means that classes can take behind-the-scenes peeks at things that previously were prohibitive for a field trip.
Through the Skype in the Classroom partner program, your class can get not only visit the zoo but get a backstage look at what animal care is really all about. There are lessons in journalism, documentary filmmaking, publishing, marine sciences, and more, as well as virtual tours through Aztec ruins, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the Abraham Lincoln Library. These tools make it easier than ever to find new and exciting ways to connect your classroom to the world outside and offer new perspectives and possibilities for students.
Lack of Broadband Hurts Students
A 2017 Florida report showed that “the lack of high-speed internet services in many rural areas is one of the challenges hindering Florida’s efforts to increase college degrees and spur economic development.” Reliable Internet service underlies almost everything we do these days, and not having access means barriers to learning opportunities, even for activities as simple as reading the news each day. Connectivity is essential to staying relevant in the future of education.
What You Can Do Right Now
The Internet is a vital part of our everyday lives, and it’s even more important in an educational setting. The future of broadband is rich, full of videos, language lessons, virtual field trips, and adaptive courses that can be run from anywhere and are adjusted to meet individual students’ needs. It’s time to take advantage of these innovations.
- Take advantage of video that helps explain what you’re learning or teaching in a more direct, visual way.
- Be ready for the SAT and ACT to move to online testing.
- Use Skype to learn a new language or go on a virtual field trip.
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