Magazine article District Administration

Hollowed out Schools: The Importance of the Internet to the Future of K12 Education

Magazine article District Administration

Hollowed out Schools: The Importance of the Internet to the Future of K12 Education

Article excerpt

It's understandable. Today's schools severely underutilize the educational power of the Internet. The impact of Internet-based technologies on school organization, student groupings, interactions between teachers and learners, teaching methods, learning activities, and curriculum resources is minimal. It should be transforming school district operations and providing individualized learning plans customized to the needs and interests of every student, but it isn't--and that's understandable.

It's understandable because the World Wide Web and the graphical browser interface are barely as old as my teenage daughter. At the birth of the modern Internet, way back in 1993, most of us were focused on the personal computer, which was just coming into its own as the centerpiece of the technological universe. As PC-based client-server local area networks displaced mainframes and minicomputers, school districts and homes across America pursued PCs as everyday information and education resources.

A Hollow PC?

It was quite a coup for the little PC, considering it was barely 15 years old. Yet, even then with the PC in ascendency, along came Eric Schmidt (now CEO of Google, but then chief technical officer for Sun Microsystems), claiming that advanced wide area networks would "hollow out the computer," making it a mere peripheral to near limitless resources housed across a vast network of networks.

Of course, Schmidt could not then have fully envisioned today's Internet, so it's understandable that many saw his claim as far-fetched. We knew that the information-delivery capacity of the PC and its connection to other PCs through local area networks was strictly limited to local resources (i.e., those available in software in individual PCs or on local servers) but we were content with that. It fit nicely into the traditional organizational structure of K12 education, which was--and for the most part still is--based on the physical co-location of teachers, students, and curriculum materials. The PC added value to the model, and there was no compelling technology-based reason to change. …

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