A New Tool in the Arsenal

The Role of the Web in Curricular Reform

THE ADVENT of the World Wide Web comes at an exciting, yet controversial juncture in American education reform. Though more detailed information on education reform policy can be found elsewhere within EdWeb, certain basic trends and terms should be mentioned briefly. Possibly the most important point that must be addressed is the current emphasis towards interactivity in the learning process. The term "interactivity" has become somewhat of a buzzword in American pop culture, teaching and commerce - for example, some educational software packages attempt to add to their appeal by emphasizing the product's "interactive" nature. In other words, passive learning doesn't work, yet interactive learning works wonders.

Yet beyond all of the hype and rhetoric surrounding interactivity in education, there is a solid backdrop of empirical analysis to support the positive nature of interactive learning. Simply put, students of all ages learn better when they are actively engaged in a process, whether that process comes in the form of a sophisticated multimedia package or a low-tech classroom debate on current events. Over the years, social scientists and education researchers have attempted with reasonable success to debunk the traditional notion of the passive classroom environment. But considering the nature of that notion - one teacher lecturing to a large class, encouraging informational absorption and regurgitation, and finally assessing the students by a series of simplistic standardized tests - it doesn't take a reformer with an PhD in educational psychology to recognize that the old ways of teaching and learning need some serious restructuring. In order for today's young people to become competitive in tomorrow's marketplace, yesterday's pedagogical methodology is no longer enough.

One of the key problems in education reform is that traditional teaching fails because students have no use or interest in much the material as it is presented, yet in order to expand their understanding of a given subject, they must become involved in the entire teaching process. For example, producing a physics experiment in order to actively discover the results, in addition to exploring the social context in which the original experiment was performed, has more educational value than merely hearing a lecture about how some scientist first attempted the experiment several centuries ago.

Engaging students from a variety of angles and allowing them to feel as if they are a part of the subject matter will often lead to them becoming more interested in (or at least more willing to discuss) that subject. Therefore, they invest more mental energy and thus commit the concept to memory with a better comprehensive understanding of it. Roger Schank (right) of Northwestern University's Institute of the Learning Sciences proposes that learning be attained through the use of goal-based scenarios - the teacher, with a set of learning goals in hand, allows the students to explore the subject from their own particular point of view. Students, when encouraged and given the proper opportunity and medium, can express a wealth of opinions on nearly any subject. And by giving them the chance to articulate and share their thoughts, they can grasp the meaning of the subject and thus understand it better.

In order to better explore the potential role of the Web in education, and as a basis for future discussion, I would like to offer four essential roles the web takes on in relationship to education. These roles include the following:

Follow each of these links to learn more.

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EdWeb: Exploring Technology and School Reform, by Andy Carvin. All rights reserved. marble popper gamesshooter gamesdownloadable pc gamesbrain teaser gamesmanagement gamesadventure gamesmatch 3 gamesaction games