The Net is the new frontier

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Gillian Macdonald reports on the issues raised at SETT 2001 in Glasgow

THE impact of the Internet means teachers need to rethink completely how they teach, a leading US expert said in Glasgow last week. Those who train them need to "redesign staff development".

Alan November, a specialist in integrating technology across the curriculum, also urged all teachers to develop their own website. Mr November, who has advised US schools and government organisations, was addressing the Scottish Education and Teaching Technology show, organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and supported by The TES Scotland. It was attended by 2,400 teachers.

He believes the advantages of the Internet far outweigh the disadvantages but warned: "What worries me is that we have people who are paper trained, who aren't thinking globally, asking students to use the Internet as if it were a major encyclopedia.

"The real work in schools doesn't stop with adding technology. It's looking at the relationship of control between teacher and student. How much control in the management of learning can be shifted from the organisation of schooling to learning?" One site (www.4teachers.com) allows anonymous teachers to be sent essays or poems by students anywherefor marking.

Teachers should show their pupils projects by other students around the world before embarking on their own, Mr November said. Children had a natural curiosity about what other children are doing, and could e-mail them, asking how they did their project and where they did their research.

"That's teaching students to be interdependent. The only way to do interesting work is with lots of people on one big project," Mr November said.

The idea was not to limit a project to one teacher and one class, but to get two teachers working with a team of students from two schools. The role of classroom teacher would change to student advocate interpreting the other teacher's criticisms. Mr November suggested every teacher needed their own website. "The work of a teacher, the portfolio of a teacher, will be their website. It would contain every test and quiz. By the time the teacher has taken the class, every student will have taken every exam on that teacher's website."

Fears of plagiarism from the Internet were brushed aside by Mr November who urged teachers to introduce students to www.schoolsucks.com, an archive of essays that could be copied.

One American teacher put her own undergraduate paper on the site and gave the topic to her class. When they handed in their homework, her own essay was submitted by one student.

Plagiarism was much easier to detect now, Mr November said, with websites such as www.plagiarism.com, where a teacher could submit a paper and if four words showed up in the same order, the plagiarist was caught.

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