Academic journal article Education

Imperatives and Dissonances in Cyberspace Curriculum: An Australian Perspective

Academic journal article Education

Imperatives and Dissonances in Cyberspace Curriculum: An Australian Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

As teachers make increasing use of computers, what may have been seen as speculative science fiction is now reality. Relentless societal pressure provides an imperative for schools to adopt innovatory computer technology, particularly in areas such as the Internet and the use of hypertext. Recent research on computer use at home and at school, has identified trends in the evolution of a within and across school cyberspace approach to class-room-level curriculum development.

However, a human tendency to minimize the effects of unsettling innovations finds its expression in teachers' attempts to minimize the dissonance arising from the introduction of computer technologies. Consequently, while there are strong pressures from outside the school for a cyberspatial approach, there are also concerns that resistance by teachers and administrators may retard its introduction.

What is a cyberspace curriculum?

The term "cyberspace" owes its origins to science fiction author William Gibson, whose protagonists in novels such as Neuromancer (1984), Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) and Virtual Light (1993) interacted with a futuristic global network of information resources. We define cyberspace curriculum as an approach to teaching and learning which involves all those planned and unplanned learning activities and outcomes which result from the integrated use of computers in school for the purposes of communication, interaction, information retrieval, and knowledge construction. When used in this sense, the notion of cyberspace curriculum is related to the regular use of computers by teachers and students for educational purposes which were once confined to print-based texts, or which previously did not exist. Examples of this concept include the use of world wide web browsers, electronic mail, CD-ROMS, hypertext and multimedia. Interestingly, some of the discussions on the nature of cyberspace themselves exist only as a stream of electrons or as files on remote computers.

For example, Lemke (1993) has defined cyberspace as "the space of interactive computational possibilities - available to the users of any participating computer, anywhere." The original article from which this definition was taken was retrieved from the Internet, and is not widely available in conventional print form. Similarly, links between curriculum and cyberspace are explored on the World Wide Web (HREF 1).

"State of the art" information technology has the capacity to enable schools, TAFE Institutes and Universities to be linked electronically and provides an option for the cooperative development of cyberspace curriculum through innovative teaching and learning approaches. Students are able to use the World Wide Web to locate information on millions of computers around the world and may collaborate with other students and partners in the learning process by sending electronic mail and computer files around the globe. Portable laptop computers can be used effectively both at home and at school, and encyclopedias and databases which once were available only in print form are now accessible on CD-ROM, (or electronically, via the Internet.) Constructive hypertext software and interactive multimedia facilities present the potential to allow teachers to implement exciting and more relevant teaching approaches to a cyberspace curriculum.

Research imperatives: Some perspectives from Australia.

We argue that the use of computers in homes and schools in Australia is continuing to increase, as it is in US and in other developed countries. This provides a perspective from which we can extrapolate trends and predict how computers will be used in the US and other countries in the next few years. A select review of recent published findings on the use of computers in homes reflects the issues facing teachers. Over 23% of all Australian households use a computer regularly, with the percentage expected to increased dramatically. …

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