It is not just the teaching and learning methods that have undergone a fundamental change over time, the way a school functions and presents itself has also changed significantly. Just like in all other sectors of life, personal computers, e-mail and Internet have become an integral part of our school culture.
Our school has had internet facility for a many years now, but its use was limited to teachers occasionally browsing the web for ideas in the classroom. Today, apart from gathering teaching-learning materials, we also use the Internet to reach out to parents, making our communication with them faster and more effective. Updates regarding parent-teacher meetings, circulars and notices are regularly sent to parents via sms and emails. The school website today also works as an interface between parents and the school. The website is constantly updated with important information including assignments/worksheets that students have to do. With parents busy at work, these modern day methods of communication have become very necessary. Now neither the parents nor the school have to wait until scheduled meetings to communicate with each other. Most parents want to be involved and these new ways of keeping in touch enables the teachers to make parents partners in their child’s learning and development process. Networking with peer groups and other schools on various topics related to learning and teaching pave ways to enhance teachers’ professional development as well.
I am a class V math teacher and find the Internet an essential classroom resource. Material on the Internet can help students visualize certain concepts that might be hard to demonstrate and thus accelerates their learning process. It is true that technology enhances the pedagogical capacity of educational systems. I like exploring new websites and seeing how they can be used to improve my teaching and learning ability. Many instructional programmes are interactive, giving children an opportunity to answer a question and receive immediate feedback.
There are many good quality websites specific to education and they offer online student and teacher magazines, textbooks, lesson plans, and question banks. Our school librarian plays an important role in sharing e-articles and good educational website information with the teachers. For example, “ASSET question -a-day” (http://www.ei-india.com/asset-question-a-day-aqad/) is compiled and shared with respective grade teachers. Such resources are very useful to teachers and help enhance the quality of lesson plans and assessment exercises.
It may be noted that NCERT recognizes the benefits of the Internet and has provided a lot of learning material and information on their website which is very useful for teachers and children.
The potential of the Internet appears limitless, however the authenticity of the information it provides is never assured. Anyone can put up information on the web — good or bad. This is a challenging situation for teachers who realize the benefits of the Internet for teaching and learning. Most importantly, we need to deal with information that is not appropriate for children and teachers.
When the Internet was extended to our schools, the major concern was users’ access to harmful websites. Current concerns deal more with what users are posting, as well as how and with whom they are communicating. There were stray incidents where users posted material on certain websites that harmed others. Hence, Internet safety and responsible use is a matter of serious concern. Most children use the Internet at home. Considerable concern focuses on the possibility of sexual exploitation on the Internet. Our school doesn’t encourage Internet based assignments especially for primary children.
The dangers of misusing the Internet and its consequences are well documented. Most of what we preach regarding internet safety is not well received by the users. Hence, some of them get into trouble while using the Internet. Most children think that internet communication is quite private. But this is not so. The fact is that even an e-mail deleted from your computer may be sitting on servers elsewhere. An “anonymous” e-mail or facebook page can be traced to its owner. It is foolish to maintain an ostrich attitude and assume that no one can see what you send and do online. Hence, we maybe endangering our children by allowing them unrestricted access to harmful material on the Internet. Our school has put in place measures to restrict access to certain websites. Also, external e-mail communication access is provided only through authorization. This brings in accountability.
We have safety measures to protect our children from danger in different areas of life. For instance, we insist that children use safety gears while playing cricket, that they fasten their seat belts in cars, and we censor their movies. In general, they are dependent on parents or teachers to provide some control in their life. This is a good way to protect children from any harm. Providing a clear boundary becomes very essential to strike a balance between exposure to website content and the protection of children. Blocking and filtering the Internet will become ineffective when children grow up. Naturally, these protective boundaries should be extended in age-appropriate ways.
Children know how to navigate the online world. They are smart users of facebook. Many children are safely and responsibly engaged in such network communities. However, our experience in the past has proved that it is not appropriate for children to be participating in such social networking sites while at school. We need to step up our vigilance to counter the negative impact of the Internet. The role of a teacher is very important here. In classrooms, the teacher’s role will shift from that of the transmitter of facts to a facilitator; coaching children in how to find and use facts specific to a particular context.
In order to keep our children safe, we need to ensure that they become responsible users of the Internet. Find time to actively engage with your children online, understand who they are interacting with. Teach them social responsibility and discuss about online sexual exploitation and other potential areas of risk. This does not mean scaring children or banning them from using the Internet. Assure your children that you will extend your full support if problems arise. Never allow them to get caught in the web.
The author is Assistant Coordinator, Primary-2, K D Ambani Vidyamandir, Reliance Greens, Jamnagar. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.