Overview of Effective Uses of the Internet in K-12 Education

The Savvy Cyber Teacher®:

A Professional Development and Turnkey Training Model for the Use of Internet in K-12 Education

Introduction

Over the last four years teachers have heard everyone from Former President Clinton to their local school principal talking about the importance of using the Internet in education.  Every time the issue is raised educators ask, “But why should I use the Internet in MY classroom?”   This is a critical question whose answer lies at the heart of the Alliance Project and the Savvy Cyber Teacher® training materials.

The focus of the Alliance Project comes from the experience of the Stevens Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), which is the principal developer of the Savvy Cyber Teacher training materials. In 1994, CIESE launched a three-year, $3 million National Science Foundation project to pioneer the use of the Internet in K-12 mathematics and science classrooms throughout the state of New Jersey.  This project was called the New Jersey Networking Infrastructure in Education (NJNIE) project.  In setting the directions for NJNIE, CIESE staff (a group of former classroom teachers and university scientists and experts in the use of technology in education) asked themselves the question: “Why should teachers use the Internet in the instruction of students?”  As this question was investigated, it became clear that most educators saw the Internet as one gigantic library resource where students could conduct research and search through endless volumes of information.  

As we explored this question, we began to realize that other technologies and school resources were already playing this “library research” role in most schools.  The question then became, why use a web site to do research when students could use a CD-ROM, textbook, encyclopedia, or software package to conduct the same investigation faster, cheaper and more effectively?  It soon became clear that although the Internet could be used as a pure research tool, even more compelling applications of this unique technology could vastly enrich the classroom environment.  

These unique and compelling applications finally gave us an answer to the critical question, “Why should teachers use the Internet in their classrooms?”  The Internet can provide invaluable resources which cannot be delivered using other technologies, books, or other school resources.  This fact IS the compelling reason that should motivate the educational community to invest the time and money required to integrate the Internet into schools through the country.  It is also the underlying theme throughout the Savvy Cyber Teacher® training materials which assist teachers to use the Internet effectively in the K-12 Classroom.

The four unique and compelling applications of the Internet in K-12 education  which come from CIESE’s work with more than 3,000 teachers from 700 schools in New Jersey are: 

  • Use of the Internet as a Communications Tool: Using the Internet to communicate with experts in various fields or other classrooms from around the world via Internet-based Collaborative Projects.
  • Use of the Internet to collect Real Time Data/Information: Students now have access to the same information which was accessible only by scientists just a few years ago.  The data ranges from real time weather satellite images, to data from ships at sea, to hourly air quality readings to images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • Use of the Internet to Publish students’ work: Teachers and parents already publish students’ work on school walls, in school newspapers, on home refrigerators, and at special events to motivate students and demonstrate that their work is meaningful.  They can now use the technology to take this fantastic student motivator one step further and publish their work online where the whole world can see it, comment on it and interact with the students about it.  (Detailed information about Internet safety for children is an important theme throughout these materials.)
  • Use of the Internet to find Unique Sources of Information: This might be a diary kept by an African-American slave which is only available on the Internet or a web site where you can use your zip code to find out who your Congress person is, how he or she voted and what the bills were about.