Access to a global network can bring an extra dimension to the classroom:
Access to these resources is gradually reshaping the image of a classroom from the standard four-wall self-contained structure to a global classroom, and expanding 'educational practice from didactic, classroom-based instruction to problem-solving based student generated learning in open classrooms across the world'. (Morton, Mojkowski, Roland, and Copen, 1989, p.126)
As the interest in Internet intensifies, and more schools begin to consider establishing connections, it becomes essential that we evaluate the impact such a connection has on the educational program, and especially its impact on teachers. If teachers are to successfully incorporate the current Internet into their classrooms, then teachers, administrators, and educators who influence teacher training and reform activities need to have a firm grasp of the phenomenon associated with 'being connected to the Internet'. At the very minimum, teachers need to learn and understand how an Internet connection can become a part of their classrooms; they will need support in identifying and locating sources of information that contain resources of interest to them and relevant to their academic discipline; and they will need to learn how to acquire this information and incorporate it into their teaching.
Open Access Support Centre is managing a project which aims to examine and describe the professional and educational interactions of a small group of primary teachers who have access from their classrooms (and homes) to the Internet. This project seeks to explore the barriers these teachers encounter when using the Internet; how and when they elect to use the Internet; the factors that influenced their continued use of the Internet; the resources they found most useful and the professional growth they experience from using the Internet.
Preliminary findings indicate that teachers value the opportunities for professional support that access to the Internet can provide. For a number of teachers in the trial, access, particularly to electronic mail and discussion groups, has removed the feelings of isolation these teachers were experiencing. While appreciating the value of the Internet, experience has highlighted the need for professional development and training in the use of online services generally. A key issue which has emerged for these teachers is allocating time to explore all the options and services available.
As schools develop interest in and discover the value of global connectivity, the role of the teacher in facilitating classroom change is highlighted. The outcomes of this project will provide valuable information on the benefits of Internet to the professional role of teachers. Given the demands of teaching and administrative responsibilities typical of classroom teachers, many are unlikely to perceive the value of a global network connection until they experience the benefits at a personal and professional level.
Broadband Services Expert Group. (1994) Networking Australia's Future: The Interim Report of the Broadband Services Expert Group.
Morton, Chris, Mojkowski, Charles, Roland, Mark, and Copen, Peter (1989). The global education model (GEM) and the New York state US/Soviet school program. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 328 233.