The Internet in schools
I sat down with Chris Wilson, a professor in the Teacher Education Department, to discuss the internet and how it has affected both teachers and students. We also discussed what advice he has for students in deepening their understanding of technology and what he hopes for in the future.
Chris Wilson: [00:00:00] Most people would go to the desktop computer or something like that but really it’s the internet.
Ben Jewett: [00:00:05] Why so?
Chris Wilson: [00:00:08] Well the internet allows the connection of devices and the ability to move information in a way that had never happened before. Because schools couldn’t afford one-to-one devices in the beginning, but they could all be a part of the bigger world of knowledge and learning by tapping into the Internet. And so that’s been a slow and continuous way. The technologies of how to get to the Internet have changed quite a bit. But the internet itself gets faster. You know we went from dial-up to fast internet and the devices got smaller, but I would say the technology that drives it is the internet.
Ben Jewett: [00:00:53] How are you seeing the internet affect students in the classroom?
Chris Wilson: [00:00:58] Both good and bad. I mean, when I was in school we would go and they send a lab assistant, of one of the roles of the person in that class would go to move the computer through all its stages so that they could actually communicate on the internet. And it would take 15 minutes before we’d go to computer time and then once we got there, there was a lot of downtime trying to get it to work the way it is, and I still see that today. I go into a classroom and watch students who know that if the computers aren’t working they don’t have to perform as well. So that becomes a challenge for teachers to manage. I also see things in learning that I’ve never seen before. Kids at very young ages doing research on a topic that they would have never been able to gain access to before. There’s both good and bad putting in the implementation of technology in schools. That’s why I think it’s really important for teachers to understand a lot more about the whole picture than maybe they do.
Ben Jewett: [00:02:03] And what do you mean by the whole picture?
Chris Wilson: [00:02:05] So, I often see teachers who know a particular program and use it well. But somebody who can translate file types and deal with hardware connectivity issues, there’s a set of skills that isn’t common. In most of the programs, most of the educational experience is program-based, and we moved kind of from that as we’ve done apps and it moved from software in the computer to cloud-based computing. There’s just almost a whole language of computers that’s somewhat inaccessible to a lot of teachers. It would be nice to have everyone, being able to access what they need. And obviously teachers are getting better as they’ve been around technology for a longer period of time. But the overall gist understanding of how the internet works — that’s something that has been a challenge.
Ben Jewett: [00:03:04] What advice would you give to a student here? What could they do to better their understanding of the internet and also every program that’s out there?
Chris Wilson: [00:03:15] The technology and the internet continues to change. And so without a lot of class time set in that, I think it’s really important for them to see an ideal tech classroom. And that’s one thing we started towards. But they should be able to look at the different technology models out in the world and see there and then identify skills that they could do traditionally. You know, anybody can do the PowerPoint but could they do a Sway for example, or a more advanced program to do their work in. And that’s difficult for teachers to ask because they’re not necessarily up to speed on all those programs. You have to make it matter. So what makes something matter? Well, a vision of where it fits. And then instead of just doing what’s comfortable in the program or the way that you’ve done it, watch other ways to give it a try.
Ben Jewett: [00:04:13] How will future teachers understanding these programs help them actually teach the students and not the standards that we talked about?
Chris Wilson: [00:04:21] One of the things that’s interesting is when you talk about a standard, a standard is a kind of a gateway, it’s not usually the high bar. It’s, “this is a grade AA egg.” It fits this standard. So the ability to use technology obviously helps them to meet standard, but it helps them to move beyond that standard.
Ben Jewett: [00:04:44] What is your hope for what teaching can become in the future?
Chris Wilson: [00:04:48] So right now my hope would be that teachers are more skilled, more aware of what’s possible, more comfortable in learning with students with technology. My hope and dream would be that we become much more able to learn from every possible outcome instead of the one that we ask our students to memorize or the one that’s the standard. As we start to do that I think in every subject, whether that’s math, English or science, it doesn’t matter. We have considered more possibilities which help us to get to answers that are more closely aligned to the reality and the to the truth of things.