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5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies

by Kelly Walsh on May 17, 2009

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Photobucket photo by 'dtawwab'

In April I wrote a post about 10 internet technologies that educators should be informed about. This quickly became my most read posting. I included some references in this article to why educators should be aware of and informed about these tools, but most of those comments were really about why each specific technology was included in the list, as opposed to why, in a more general sense, it is important for educators to make an effort to embrace these technologies. So that is the topic for this week - why you should care, as an educator, about these tools. What’s in it for you as an instructor, and what’s in it for your students?

Please note that while I have numbered these, this is not to imply that any one of these takes precedence over the other. Which of these factors are most motivating to you as an instructor is rather subjective.

Reason No. 1: Professional Development
As the world continues to embrace and evolve the Internet, businesses and organizations are increasingly looking to tap into this resource. It is in the best interest of educators, and professionals in general, to be aware of what the Internet has to offer. We can choose to sit back and wish it would all just go away because it’s too hard to find the time for it, or we can choose to embrace it, and look for simple ways to learn more about it. Another unavoidable fact is the growing desire for experience and familiarity with the Internet and other computer technologies as a hiring requirement in the educational field.

Reason No. 2: The Power To Engage
Internet tools can be fun! Internet tools are interactive! What a great way to engage students in the classroom. Many of the tools are collaborative, and they are all hands-on. Applications that allow for the creation of cool looking timelines, videos, or other dynamic presentations can be a lot of fun, and when a student realizes that they can easily make the resulting creation available for viewing on the Internet, it can be pretty exciting!

Reason No 3: Students Use Them Already
“Meet them where they live!” We’ve all heard this, and there is a solid undercurrent of wisdom in it. Many students use Internet tools on a regular basis. If you use some of them in the classroom, you will be talking to them in their language. And for those who have not been exposed to a given technology, you’ll be teaching them something they are probably predisposed to learning more about.

Reason No. 4: It’s Not Going Away (It Will Only Grow)
The Internet is here to stay. It’s been well over a decade now that ‘average users’ have had access to the Internet, and we’re now knee deep in the Social Media revolution that has defined Web 2.0. It isn’t going away. It isn’t a fad. It’s only going to grow and evolve. It’s already woven into the fabric of the daily lives of millions of people. Yes, a lot of folks are wasting a lot of time doing things on the Internet that don’t contribute to society or offer much in the way of personal growth, but at the same time, there are countless ways in which the multitude of tools and technologies available on the Internet are being used in wonderfully constructive ways. Come and be a part of it, and contribute your voice.

Reason No. 5: Businesses Want to Hire Workers Who Understand The Internet
Yes, they do. If you introduce your students to technologies like Blogs, RSS Feeds, Wikis, and so on, you will be helping to build their resume. Businesses and organizations are more interested in these types of tools every day. They’re thinking about how to get on board and get ahead of the curve, and how they can offer value in the workplace. Blogs are being used to provide updates about new developments, Wikis are being used as knowledge bases, RSS Feeds are being used to capture a steady stream of information about topics of interest, Social Bookmarking tools are being used for research, and the list goes on and on. Name any Internet technology, and there is a growing list of business applications for it. Go to Google and search “Twitter for business” and see the list of articles on the subject. Businesses want to hire workers who understand the Internet.

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Conclusion
I am not suggesting by any means that every teacher needs to use as many Internet technologies as possible in their classroom every day. In fact, there are some tools, such as social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, that some can make a good case for leaving out of the classroom entirely. What I am suggesting is that you learn a little about the many different kinds of tools that are out there (many of which are free or very low cost) and give a few a trial run. Online interactive whiteboards, Wikis, virtual worlds, workgroup tools, mind mapping, collaborative documents, the list just goes on and on, and the potential is endless. You owe it to yourself and your students to be informed, to participate, and to embrace the opportunities.

In addition to the reasons I’ve listed above for learning about and using Internet technologies in (and out of) the classroom, I’m sure some of you may have other reasons you’d like to see on this list - please comment and let us know what they are!

Next Week
Next week we’re going to take a look at the use of Blogs in instructional applications, then we’ll follow up with some insight into some great Blogs for educators to be aware of. Until then, keep those eyes and ears open for new opportunities to embrace the possibilities!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
10 Internet Technologies that Educators Should Be Informed About
Education Technology – Don’t Lean On It, Leverage It!
8 Engaging Videos Advocating Better Integration of Technology in Education

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About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda De Hoog January 14, 2014 at 1:37 am

I think social networking is a great way to interact with others. It allows to connect with people who may be doing what you are. They may have a new insight for you. It is important to be aware of what people are talking about. It is so true the internet is not going. It continues to grow, and become more technical.

Herfa Campbell January 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

To regain our competitive edge in the international arena we must integrate technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning in higher education.

Simon Lewis November 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Great article. Totally agree regarding engagement for students. It’s amazing how a completely “boring” topic can be made more interesting by adding technology. I’d also add “fun” to this list.

Kristina Campbell October 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

Hi Kristen – I just came across your article in my internet search and I’d like to cover this story on a news website in Canada. There is an interesting debate going on here about the role of educators in teaching appropriate use of technology, which started when pictures of a local teen’s sexual assault were circulated on Facebook.
I would appreciate if you could email me this week for permission to quote you and your story (with attribution, of course). Thanks!

Jackie J. August 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Using Facebook in the classroom is a great idea. Here is an example:

http://sm4edu.ning.com/profiles/blogs/using-a-facebook-group-as-a

Kristen Nicole August 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I disagree with the suggestion that facebook does not belong in the classroom. In my British Literary History course last winter semester, my professor created a class facebook group which we all joined. We’d finish our reading for class and then get online and write a paragraph about what we’d read, focusing our comments on the specific course aims that my professor had created for the class. We would then go to class where my professor would note the ways in which we’d covered the material well and he’d teach anything we missed as well as anything else he wanted us to know.

This way of conducting class was effective because 1) we were socially motivated to complete the reading and contribute to the online discussion, 2) we didn’t spend class time going over that which we already understood, 3) we were able to benefit from insights from peers who generally don’t participate in class discussion, 4) we all learned to focus the vast amount of reading required for such a course to the specific course aims of our professor, 5) through contributions from our classmates, we understood how each distinct text related to the others and to the class focus, and so on.

We shouldn’t discount facebook when it has proven to be a worthwhile classroom tool. I should also note that a class facebook group doesn’t require the professor or students to “friend” each other to participate.

Homti August 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

The way we learn is evolving. It is becoming more internet based or should I say electronic. Since it is in the minds of men that these things are conceived and born, it is the mind that will readily accept the consequence of such a conception.

Parker June 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

K. Walsh,

Great article! In addition to trying to use Facebook/Myspace as a collaboration tool in the class I have begun to use Edmodo as my primary source for teacher to student communication. I would recommend checking it out!

http://www.edmodo.com

Crystal Lynn Cox April 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I completely agree with this post! I have spent the past three years developing and teaching several computer based writing courses for college freshmen. It’s been extremely popular and the students love the courses; they keep returning for more learning. I’ve even had students return to take the next course in the sequence even though they don’t need it for their degrees. I’ve heard a lot of feedback about how excited they are to be working in a medium that will be useful for them after they graduate from college. It makes me feel like I’m doing something that matters too :)

K. Walsh April 8, 2010 at 11:33 am

My apologies Azzurra, I just don’t have the resources to translate posts into Italian. You might want to give Google’s Translate function a shot (translate.google.com) – it let’s you enter any web page address and translate it to many languages, including Italian!

Azzurra Spreafico March 10, 2010 at 5:12 am

Hi! I’m an italian educator. I have a blog about pedagogy and psychology. I read your post and I found it very interesting! In Italy there is not enough information about this issue, so I would ask you to translate your post. Naturally I will link you as the autor of post and I will link your site and your post.
I’m waiting for your answer.
have a nice day,
Azzurra

spa nyc March 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm

As great as technology is today and how far we have really come , it still in many ways makes us use our brains less and less, less interaction amongst people who can simply see you on line or text you without picking up the phone. But I agree proper education of our kids will open them up to proper use of it.

K. Walsh January 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Sally. I am delighted that my blog can be a useful resource for you! Allow me to mentioned a social network that I find very useful as a member – Classroom20.com is a large (over 20,000 members) social network of educators and administrators focused on the use of “Web 2.0″ tools in education. It’s free to join, and in addition to providing a lot of informational resources, it is a community environment, where you can pose questions and get informed feedback. You might want to check it out. Of course, I hope you do come back to EmergingEdTech frequently, and mention it to your colleagues!

Rahul January 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I will suggest to try out MOODLE the Learning Management System which is a complete umbrella of all the teaching learning tool mention above plus many other thing at one stop.
http://www.moodle.org

Sally January 6, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I teach high school math, and although I know about the social networking sites out there, I do not currently use them in my classroom. I can see the benefit that they must offer, but I honestly do not feel like I currently have enough knowledge about them to use them effectively in my classroom. I also do not have a lot of spare time to learn about them. I do completeley agree with the fact that we need to change the way we are teaching to keep up with the times and most importantly, keep our students engaged. I want to find ways to use these sites in my teaching. I am just a little intimidated at this point. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in “Integrating Technology in the Classroom,” so I hope to learn more and become comfortable with using more technology in my classroom on a daily basis. I enjoyed this post. This is the first time that I have visited your blog, but I will continue to read it for tips and ideas for using techonlogy in my classroom effectively! Thanks!

geobart October 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I’m not to sure about that third point, speaking from my own experience. Sure, they all have Netlog and Facebook entries.

I teach them how to make a delicious.com account and they use it in the current project. However, when I look at their accounts a few months later, hardly any url has been added to their accounts. And yes, they’re very resourceful, highly intelligent sixteen-seventeen year old kids.

So you have to take that with a pinch of salt. They roam only some of the outskirts of the internet.

K. Walsh May 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Excellent point Leslie re: accomodating different learning styles. Thanks!

Leslie Miller May 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I completely agree with you. I would like to add that technology can also provide ways to address the variety of learning styles that exist within a classroom. Some students will be visual learners and others hands-on learners, and so forth. By incorporating a few technological tools into your lessons, you can accomodate these differences and provide all of your students opportunties to learn the material according to their individual needs.

K. Walsh May 26, 2009 at 8:14 am

All great points Matt – the requisite “hand holding” is one of the goals I hope I am helping to achieve here. Thanks for the feedback, and keep up the good work on your site (readers – click on Matt Evans’s name in his comment above to check out to his site).

K. Walsh May 26, 2009 at 7:58 am

Mary – This is the issue that plagues people like myself who are strong advocates of the wonderful potential for technology adoption in education – how to get instructors to be open to it, and act. Communication and familiarity is certainly a significant part of the hurdle, hence efforts like mine to provide information and insight in digestible “nuggets” through this blog. Of course, another big part of the challenge is convincing people that it is important enough to warrant the time required to learn new skills. There are various other obstacles as well. We just have to keep spreading the word, offering support, and highlighting successes. I think the momentum builds every day, but it often seems like there is still a pretty long road to travel before technology is truly embraced in the classroom. Thanks for your comment.

Matt Evans May 26, 2009 at 6:31 am

An interesting and thought provoking article. You are of course preaching to the converted with me and I am sure most of the eductors who access blogs on a regular basis. It therefore becomes our responsibility not only to embrace the progression of technology but also to hold the hands of our colleagues as they tiptoe gingerly out of their comfort zones. E safety remains a watchword within schools, yet many of the areas of the internet that pose a ‘threat’ to children are nicely filtered at school. Consequently we have a responsibility to ensure that our colleagues, our students and their parents are aware of what is available both in and outside school and how these tools can safely be a benefit to them both now and in the future.

Mary Howard May 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Your rationale is very practical and reasonable–so why IS it so hard to get educators to embrace technology? Fear? Lack of communication/instruction?

K. Walsh May 25, 2009 at 6:45 am

Thanks so much Lisa for your thorough and insightful comment – this is a great contribution to this dialogue. Your closing sentence certainly drives the point home!

Lisa Thompson May 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

I have to admit that I was one of those teachers who was very intimidated by the “intrusion” of technology. I had to relearn how to record and post grades, record atten-dance, how to maintain contacts with parents whose incessant e-mails I couldn’t reply to fast enough. Instead of taking students to the library to research, we were going on-line into unfamiliar territory. I probably was one of those teachers who just wished it would all go away. I hoped it was just another educational trend sure to be out of fashion in a few years. Technology is certainly not a trend and it is certainly not going away. If anything it is more prevalent every day. Now as an administrator for my school system I am expected to attend “webinars” and work with data on spreadsheets that go on for days. I’m constantly downloading and uploading. I have had to keep up or be left behind. Students today are in even greater need of these basic computer literacy skills. I can hide behind my feeble excuse that I am 50 years old and a relic from a time before the cyberage. Our students must make their future in this world of technology and we ignore that fact at their peril.

admin May 20, 2009 at 7:40 am

I have to love Francis’s comment: “Technology as an integral part of education, not a luxury add on when convenient.” If only we could get instructors everywhere to echo that sentiment! Thanks.

admin May 20, 2009 at 7:38 am

Thanks “Mr. Dooley” for the well stated feedback! (Mr. Dooley’s blog can be found at: http://mrdooley.blogspot.com/)

admin May 20, 2009 at 7:32 am

To Ken’s point above – Fortunately, so many of these technologies have very low cost “entry point”. There are many free internet applications that can be leveraged, requiring nothing more than one computer and projector in the classroom (assuming students having access to computers somewhere, to participate via assignments, etc.). Of course, some level of support is necessary, and it is essential that the focus be kept on leveraging the technology to support the instructional process (and not wasting time and effort on irrelevant tech uses).

Francis Callanan May 19, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I agree with #5. The teachers who lack any real understanding and/or knowledge of technology will never feel the need to introduce their students to them. Then you have kids who only see computers as gateways to myspace or facebook. They don’t impress upon them the importance of technology in their lives and how pervasive it really is.

If a six year old Alex Ross can hack into Reuters and post his own message, we should be able to get grade school kids to use a CLI, navigate the Windows flavor at that time and run the basic office suite without being lost and confused.

Technology as an integral part of education, not a luxury add on when convenient.

Mr. Dooley May 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

This is an excellent post about the need to keep integrating technology in the classroom. My favorite sentence is “meeting them where they live.” We all know that kids are using these Web 2.0 tools on a daily basis, in fact most of them have them on their phones which means they have them ALL day long! It is silly to not be aware and at least make the attempt to use some of these technologies in the classroom to enrich their learning. If you’re thinking that it’s not important to students, you’re completely wrong! Check out my blog, I have a post that shows a video I created with my students. The video is a representation of their responses to Technology.

Ken May 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Could not agree more. The catch is getting administrators on board with the proper levels of support and not wasting money on tech that is either useless or not being used properly

admin May 19, 2009 at 11:59 am

Thanks to John and Andrew for the feedback – and kudos to both for their work blogging on this subject, and their enthusiasm! Stop by and check out their sites (John’s is classroominthecloud.blogspot.com).

John May 19, 2009 at 10:59 am

It’s amazing how many teachers are not even aware of these new technologies. It’s not an educationally sound philosophy to embrace all of them, but teachers need to be informed of what’s out there.

Andrew May 19, 2009 at 10:58 am

YES YES YES! I just wrote about this today on my blog http://iteach20.blogspot.com/

I focused on social networking and how it should become common practice in every school districts. However, to steal a line from Stan Lee and Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. And I think we all need to sit down, take a deep breath and develop a plan for incorporating all of this great technology into our classrooms!

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