Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

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Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby Eric » Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:09 pm

Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

28/12/2012

As children become increasingly dependent on the internet in both their educational and social lives, the long term effect this could have on their development has become the topic of debate.

Trevor Bayliss, who invented the wind-up radio, has voiced his concern over the emergence of what he calls the “Google generation”, saying an over-reliance on the internet will result in many children becoming “brain-dead” as they lose their creativity and their ability to think for themselves, the Telegraph reports.

Mr Bayliss’s comments come as a new study by Oxford University’s Department of Education concludes that children who do not have access to the internet are likely to be “missing out educationally and socially”, by not being able to make use of an essential resource.

Dr Chris Davies, one of the researchers who conducted the study, is now urging the older generation to revise their negative stance on technology and encourage their children to make greater use of the internet.
Eric

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Re: Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby Rich Douglas » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:38 pm

The biggest challenge isn't the introduction of cell phones,the internet, the World Wide Web, computers, laptops, tablets, and other devices into the learning environment. The reason why traditionalists resist these things is that they don't understand the changing nature of human learning and how people leverage these new tools. If they taught and tested critical thinking skills, requiring their students to create good ideas and solutions, they wouldn't have to worry about laziness or plagiarism. They could relish in the advanced results achieved by leveraging these tools instead of trying to lock them up.

Life is "open book." Assessing learning needs to be, too. When we cut off students from these things--sitting in a classroom, faced with a multiple-choice test and a #2 pencil--we cheat them and our ability measure their true learning. It's lazy.
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Re: Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby Hungry Ghost » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:14 pm

Eric wrote:As children become increasingly dependent on the internet in both their educational and social lives, the long term effect this could have on their development has become the topic of debate.


It reminds me of that TV advertisement, where a teenage girl expresses her concern about her parents, suggesting that they need help -- They only have a dozen friends! I have five thousand friends!! ... then the scene shifts to the parents and a few of those pitifuly few friends enjoying some off-road adventure, in real-life, in-person, non-"virtual", driving some brand of sport utility vehicle that the ad is selling. It's funny... but there's also some truth to it.

Trevor Bayliss, who invented the wind-up radio, has voiced his concern over the emergence of what he calls the “Google generation”, saying an over-reliance on the internet will result in many children becoming “brain-dead” as they lose their creativity and their ability to think for themselves, the Telegraph reports.


That's shamelessly overstated. ("Brain-dead"? "Lose their creativity and their ability to think for themselves"?) Whatever valid point is lurking in there is lost in the overwrought rhetoric.

Mr Bayliss’s comments come as a new study by Oxford University’s Department of Education concludes that children who do not have access to the internet are likely to be “missing out educationally and socially”, by not being able to make use of an essential resource.


That's probably true for high-school and college-age kids, but I'm not convinced how vital the internet is for younger kids. But there's no denying that the internet and search-engines are extraordinary new innovations with real educational and intellectual implications.

Dr Chris Davies, one of the researchers who conducted the study, is now urging the older generation to revise their negative stance on technology and encourage their children to make greater use of the internet.


Again, the overstatements. The "older generation" doesn't have a "negative stance" on technology. (They invented much of it.) It's just that as people get older they are apt to gain a little perspective and are less prone to imagining that the latest innovation (whatever it happens to be this time) is going to transform everything and usher in some paradisical new age.
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Re: Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby SteveFoerster » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:17 pm

Very well said, Rich. Although I think I have better regard for multiple choice tests than you do; they're perfectly fine assessments in some cases.
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Re: Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby Rich Douglas » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:06 pm

SteveFoerster wrote:Very well said, Rich. Although I think I have better regard for multiple choice tests than you do; they're perfectly fine assessments in some cases.


I agree, especially when limited to the cognitive domain. But my main beef against them is that they're often a lazy substitute for more robust assessment. Also, the multiple-choice test is, by its design, a lying tool. For each question, the answer is in plain view. So in order to make the test difficult, the test designers must fool the student into selecting one of the other answers. (This is why the incorrect selections are called "distractors.") Also, the value gained from guessing must be accounted for, either by adjusting the test score required to pass, penalizing for wrong answers, or by adjusting the difficulty of the test.

BTW, you should always, always guess. The penalty for guessing--when there is one--is mathematically the same as not guessing. If you can eliminate even one distractor, your guesses will have a net positive advantage. But see? Test-taking skills become a huge part of the game, skewing results. Takers with these skills score higher than their knowledge would otherwise produce. The reverse is true for those without these skills. That's why, at good test prep schools, they teach a lot of test-taking skills.

Now, the same could be said of essay exams, except that good writing is an important skill in and of itself. You can't say that about taking multiple-choice tests. No job pays more because you can do that.

(NB: I did almost my entire two bachelor's degrees by standardized exam, all with multiple-choice questions. Two also had essay sections.)
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Re: Role of the internet in education comes under scrutiny

Postby Hungry Ghost » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:35 pm

Rich Douglas wrote:The reason why traditionalists resist these things is that they don't understand the changing nature of human learning and how people leverage these new tools.


It seems to be a further continuation of a very long-term ongoing intellectual trend.

In the ancient world and in the middle ages, books were copied word-for-word, by hand. So each individual book was the result of great labor and was an absolute treasure. Even famous libraries of the day were tiny by our standards.

University educations centered around the study of a very small number of canonical texts. A class of low-level professors called "readers" (that title is still used in British universities) would do exactly that, slowly reading a text in front of a classroom, while students laboriously produced their own copies word-for-word. Scholarship consisted in the line-by-line close-reading of the texts which were sometimes memorized, and by production of elaborate commentaries. The point is that the form in which the texts were reproduced helped to shape the broader intellectual life that made use of the texts.

Printing revolutionized all that. Bookshops appeared, filled with mass-produced books. People had access to many more books at prices that suddenly made them affordable for the middle classes, so literacy spread. And as the numbers of books available multiplied, readers naturally devoted far less time and attention to each one.

A trend began in which education became broader and simultaneously more shallow.

I see the internet and online texts as basically another step in that change. Now it isn't just a bookshop full of printed books that's at our command (bookstores seem to be in the process of dying out), it's instant online information about just about anything conceivable. Do a Google search and there are the links.

And once again, as learning becomes broader, understanding becomes shallower. Just as the ancient process of copying books by hand tended to shape the kind of intellectual life that formed around the books, the reproduction of text on a screen is probably once again changing the kind of intellectual life that makes use of the electronic texts.

Text on a computer, cell-phone or e-reader screen starts to seem long if it's anything more than just a few paragraphs in length. As our access to instant information on any conceivable subject continues to grow, our attention span and our ability for focus on a single line of thought is in risk of shrinking. Many high-school kids today seem to expect to learn everything that they need to know about any subject in a few minutes by reading a short essay that's a few pages long at best. My sense is that actually reading a full-length non-fiction or scholarly book through, cover-to-cover, is growing less frequent even at the university level. Studying the text carefully, line by line, consulting scholarly commentaries and perhaps even memorizing large parts of it, has almost been forgotten in the contemporary intellectual world (outside religious textual studies perhaps).

Rich again wrote:If they taught and tested critical thinking skills, requiring their students to create good ideas and solutions, they wouldn't have to worry about laziness or plagiarism.


Yeah, that's right.

My concern is that as knowledge is reduced down to countless little bite-sized factoids, the conceptual context and the logical cohesion that justifies and explains what's being said drops out and runs the risk of being lost entirely.

So education in the Age of the Internet will probably need to place additional emphasis on training students about the need to seek out the conceptual, logical and evidenciary basis behind the out-of-context snippets that they read, as well as training them in crafting sound and persuasive extended-length arguments of their own to support their own ideas.
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