Nearly every classroom in America's schools can access the Internet, a number that grew from 35 percent in 1994, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Some teachers use the Internet with every assignment while others take a different approach. As with any education technique, classroom Internet usage comes with both advantages and disadvantages.
A major advantage of the Internet is the ability to access all types of information from library resources all over the world, including magazines, books, newspapers and journal publications, instantaneously. This information increases the learning potential by providing students with the latest information. It also expands the resources of a smaller library tremendously. Students using search engines can find information quicker and more tailored to their specific needs.
As a disadvantage, educators may consider this information overload. With all of the information available to students, they may find it difficult to choose which information is most important to a topic and also when to stop looking. In addition, the validity of Internet sources varies considerably from website to website, which means students can very easily acquire inaccurate or out-dated information online.
An online education provides students with the convenience of going to class and completing assignments on their own timetable. Students can take classes from a college or university nowhere near their home and get an education experience not available to them locally. Students who travel with a job can take a class in a house, hotel room or coffee shop. Students save on housing, gas money and travel expenses.
However, an online education means face-to-face instruction does not exist, nor does the ability to get instant feedback on class assignments in many situations. They also can't hear questions from other students (or ask questions themselves), which often can give clarification to a student struggling with the concepts of the material.
Virtual Field Trips
An advantage of a classroom Internet connection allows students to take a virtual field trip without ever leaving their school building. Students studying the animals of Africa, the Great Wall of China or the Egyptian pyramids, for example, never have to get on a plane. For schools struggling with budgets and for schools in rural locations, going to an online museum or virtual zoo gives them a unique opportunity they might not otherwise have without Internet access.
Disadvantages of this experience mean students can't ask questions of the zookeeper or touch a snake at a zoo. They can't take pictures or create memories with their classmates. For younger children, a field trip can teach them how to behave in public and respect adults; since virtual field trips don't leave the classroom, they only learn to respect their teacher.
The Internet allows students to meet people from all over the world at the click of a button. Suddenly doing a tenth grade literature project on Irish literature with the help of students in Ireland makes the project more interesting and thus a huge advantage. Artists studying Italian architecture can email experts in Italy about the vast amount of artwork.
While these opportunities provide great details and resources, they also can damage social skills. Students who reply primarily on the Internet for information and interaction don't talk to people in person as much; rather they just email back and forth. This can make it hard to develop listening skills, especially when interviewing someone, or to acquire appropriate social skills for face-to-face interactions.
- National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts
- University of California Berkeley: Effective Assignments Using Library and Internet Resources
- Campus Serve; Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education; March 2011
- Prentice Hall; Why Use Virtual Field Trips?; Dr. Scott Mandel
- Edutopia; The Edutopia Poll; Laila Weir
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images