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How Can Schools Make Better Use of the Internet?

According to a report recently released by the National School Boards Foundation, the majority of parents see the Internet as a powerful tool for education and a positive force in their children's lives. According to Peter Grunwald, whose firm researched and produced the report, those findings present educators with both an opportunity and a challenge. Included: Guidelines to help schools make the most of the potential of the Internet.


The report also revealed that parents are overwhelmingly positive about the value of the Internet and see it as a powerful vehicle for education and communication. Is your school taking full advantage of the possibilities of the Internet? In what ways is your school using the Internet to communicate and educate? Share your thoughts on today's message board.

As educators, we are always acutely aware of the largely unspoken mandate issued by the parents of our students:


Keep our kids safe and
make them smart.

For most schools, the imperative to "make kids smart" through the increased use of technology while keeping them safe from the unique dangers inherent in Internet use has posed a particular dilemma.

In general, schools have responded by focusing their energies almost exclusively on keeping kids safe. A recent survey conducted by Grunwald Associates, a market research and consulting firm specializing in technology, and released in conjunction with The National School Boards Foundation (NSBF), seems to indicate, however, that educators need to devote at least as much energy to making kids smart -- by providing them and their families with greater access to online educational content and more opportunities to communicate and collaborate.


Schools Could Make Better Use of Technology By

According to the report, Safe & Smart: Research and Guidelines for Children's Use of the Internet, many schools are not taking advantage of the Internet's ability to help them reach their educational goals, and very few are taking advantage of its power to foster communication with parents. The report suggests that school leaders could make better use of the Internet's possibilities by
  • taking a balanced, rather than rigid, approach to developing acceptable use policies;
  • paying as much attention to highlighting good Internet content as to restricting bad content;
  • fostering media literacy by encouraging Internet use in preschool and early elementary grades and by developing a plan to educate children about safe Internet use;
  • providing teachers with increased opportunities for professional development and training in the use of technology;
  • promoting online learning by providing parents with suggestions for Web sites and activities they can explore with their children;
  • using the Internet to communicate more effectively with parents and students by creating active -- and interactive -- school or district Web sites;
  • engaging the community by offering Internet training as well as community access to online computers.

"This report is good news for educators, particularly for educators committed to integrating technology into their schools," Peter Grunwald told Education World. "The survey reveals a dramatic increase in the number of kids online at home and demonstrates a great reservoir of support for the use of the Internet in school. It shows that parents are both supportive and optimistic about their children's use of technology."



The survey, published in the report Safe & Smart: Research and Guidelines for Children's Use of the Internet, revealed that the majority of parents view the Internet as a powerful tool for education and communication and a positive force in their children's lives. Most parents, the survey found, trust their children's use of the Internet. In fact, parents indicated that they are more likely to limit their children's TV and video viewing than their Internet use: About 60 percent said they restrict Internet use, and almost 74 percent said they restrict TV and video viewing.

The survey also revealed that

  • 76 percent of low-income families say their children depend on schools for Internet access,
  • 43 percent of 9- to 17-year-olds with Internet access at school say the Internet has improved their attitude toward school,
  • 64 percent of parents would like to be able to use the Internet to communicate with their children's teachers,
  • 56 percent of parents would like to be able to view their children's schoolwork online.

"The results of the survey present educators with both opportunities and challenges," Grunwald said. "The opportunities exist because parents think that schools are doing a good job using the Internet with their children. That confidence allows educators to use the Internet in creative and progressive ways.

"The challenges exist for the same reasons," Grunwald added. "Because kids are online at home, parents have heightened expectations for their use of the Internet in school. Parents expect that schools will use the Internet in well-thought-out, educationally valuable ways. If schools fail to live up to those expectations, problems [could arise] in the future," Grunwald said.

Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World


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