Extracts from an article from the book Change: 19 Key Essays on How the Internet Is Changing Our Lives, published on www.bbvaopenmind.com.
In many ways, it is difficult to discuss any aspect of contemporary society without considering the Internet. Many people’s lives are saturated so thoroughly with digital technology that the once obvious distinction between either being online or offline now fails to do justice to a situation where the Internet is implicitly always on. Indeed, it is often observed that younger generations are unable to talk about the Internet as a discrete entity. Instead, online practices have been part of young people’s lives since birth and, much like oxygen, water, or electricity, are assumed to be a basic condition of modern life. As Donald Tapscott (2009, 20) put it, “to them, technology is like the air.” Thus, in many ways, talking about the Internet and education simply means talking about contemporary education. The Internet is already an integral element of education in (over)developed nations, and we can be certain that its worldwide educational significance will continue to increase throughout this decade.
That said, the educational impact of the Internet is not straightforward. At a rudimentary level, it is important to remember that well over half the world’s population has no direct experience of using the Internet at all. While this is likely to change with the global expansion of mobile telephony, the issue of unequal access to the most enabling and empowering forms of Internet use remains a major concern. Moreover—as the continued dominance of traditional forms of classroom instruction and paper-and-pencil examinations suggest—the educational changes being experienced in the Internet age are complex and often compromised. In addressing the topic of “the Internet and education” we therefore need to proceed with caution. As such, this chapter will consider the following questions:
What are the potential implications of the Internet for education and learning?
What dominant forms of Internet-based education have emerged over the past 20 years?
How does the educational potential of the Internet relate to the realities of its use?
Most importantly, how should we understand the potential gains and losses of what is being advanced?
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