This article provides advice to parents interested in learning about creative ways in which they might integrate their child's internet usage with school studies.
There have been rumors circulating that President-elect Obama’s projected $750 billion stimulus plan will be heavily weighted toward education and that a huge chunk will be spent ensuring that there are ‘internet hook-ups in every classroom.’
Shift From Classroom Lecture to Unconventional Methods of Teaching
As a professional serving administrators, parents and children, it has always been my view that the less television, the better; the less video game playing allowed, the better; the less time spent surfing computer internet sites; the better. Like other parents, I have been quick to applaud calls for increases in educational spending by states and the federal government. Privately, thought I tried hard not to fight against the changing tides, those who dared to advocate for the unconventional, such as internet connections and the like. Perhaps in the first two instances, advice has been well placed. In the latter, though—my views were too rigid- and dare we say "old fashioned?’
Rationale for such an outdated viewpoint is based in part on the following research (Roschelle et al, 2000):
(1) Variances in software and hardware resources on a school-by-school basis made it hard to generalize the positive affects of increased spending for internet availability.
(2) Sole reliance upon increased spending in technology to the detriment of corresponding concentration on curriculum and, teacher professional development (two indisputable methods for increasing academic performance).
(3) Lack of longitudinal studies to support the contention that there is a positive correlation between internet usage and better grades.
(4) Studies fail to control for parental income and education, which is linked to home computer ownership and also has a significant effect on school performance.
Now—as of today—at the start of this New Year, I’m the first to say maybe I was wrong.
President-elect Obama’s purported stance has made me take up the issue again, objectively.
Internet Usage May Increase Scores on Standardized Reading Tests
A recent study by Linda Jackson (et al, 2006) argued that internet usage does enhance student academic performance for the following reason.
* Children who spent more time online were also ‘spending more time reading compared with their unconnected peers. Students participating in the study used the web to surf. The authors found that as web pages are heavily text based, children who were searching the web were reading more. Students who spent more time reading accounted for improved performance on standardized tests of reading and higher GPAs.
Findings were similar regardless as to whether the child searched the web for information to assist with a research project at school or used the web to find information about teen celebrities, a personal interest or a hobby.
These findings are couched with the acknowledgment that the subjects within this study were poor socio-economically and performing well below average in school prior to taking part in the study. Additional research is needed to determine whether internet usage has similar or no effect for middle or upper middle class students who are performing at the average or above average level.
Internet Usage- Not Your Typical Stand-Alone Method of Instruction
Roschelle and colleagues propose that the positive effects of home internet usage are more likely to emerge when the following supports are in place:
(1) Active Engagement
(2) Participation in Groups
(3) Frequent Interaction and Feedback
(4) Connections to the Real World
How Parents Might Facilitate Learning
Parents, we can do much to facilitate this process in the following ways.
* Refrain from always directing them to the World Britannica Encyclopedia as the first source of information. Yes, we need to get with it and change with the times. Perhaps we should work with the flow rather than swim against the tide. So, inform your child of the academic/professional engines for searches (Lexis/Nexis) or numerous open access journals found on Wikipedia.
* Engage your kids before and after Internet Surfing. Routinely discuss internet search topics. Comment, ‘Is that so? Oh, I didn’t know that little detail about Eminen, Bon Jovi, Yolanda Adams, or Ludicrist.’
* Link internet usage with you, the real world and possible solutions Throw caution to the wind. Use computer time as a chance to get to know your child. Not necessarily to snoop, but to let her know that internet surfing isn’t so bad after all. Be inquisitive. Use her interest in the internet as a way to explore the world together, try new facts and try new things. Need a new casserole recipe? Ask your son to help you do research. Need to know how to hang a wall picture or remove a stain? Ask your daughter to do a quick check on the internet.
Finally, we must
* Set limits. Yes, you knew this was coming. Too much of a good thing is addictive. So, establish household rules regarding internet and computer usage in general. By the way, kids learn by imitating the behaviors we model. Parents (myself) included use the internet from time-to-time to disengage family members while engaging strangers anonymously. Don’t let this happen to you, as you may be inadvertently undermining your message of restraint and reason.
Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya.ishareknowledge.com
Jackson, L.A., Eye A. von, Barbatsis, G. Biocca, F. Fitzgerald, H.E. & Zhao, Y. (2004). The social impact of Internet use on the other side of the digital divide. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, 47(7), 43-47.
Roschelle, J.M, Pea, R.D. Hoadley, C.M.., Gordon, D.N., & Means, B.M. (2000). Changing how and what children learn in school with computer-based technologies. Children and Computer Technology. 10(2), Fall/Winter, 76-101. Retrieved September 3, 2001, from http://www.futureofchildren.org