Internet and Teaching: Lost in cyberspace or a dynamic junction?

Frode Ulvund
Assistant Professor
History Department, University of Bergen
Sydnesplassen 7
5007 Bergen

Curriculum guidelines require the implementation of ICT as a teaching-tool in primary and secondary school, and the importance of ICT in university teaching is also increasingly emphasised, also in humanities. To many schools and teachers implementation of ICT means connecting to the Internet and searching it for information. This is however a very unfavourable approach, and the result might as well be a poorer teaching quality. First of all, implementation of ICT, and the Internet especially, in a pedagogical useful way is impossible without developing a dynamic teaching universe or junction, closely integrating different sets of tools and resources. Using the Internet as such for random search of information might do more harm than good. The search engines available are "stupid" agents that do not consider the relevancy, quality of the material, or how apt it is for pedagogical purposes. The material the students are exposed to are abundant, fragmented and complex. The Internet is lacking authorised information, which cause the need for continuous evaluation of relevancy and quality. This is good experience and an important part of the learning one might say. No doubt being critical and assessing the relevancy and quality of material train the students to a more active learning than the passive consumption of facts. But it is good for the "strong" student and tough on the "weak" student. Students who read well and grasp the contents of information will quickly improve in this setting, while student with reading disabilities will fail. Using the Internet outside the context of teaching applications will thus easily produce losers. Though this last part is especially a problem at the non-university level, the university student also suffer from the same weaknesses. Looking up and evaluating information is only parts of the skills expected from a student, and the implementation of ICT as a tool will be very imperfect.

Teaching applications or teaching packages are thus necessary both to limit the information exposed to the students, as well as to be a guide through the material. This is necessary, not only because of the information overload, but also because the lack of time demand efficiency. The students will still make the decisions, they will still to a large extent ask the questions and they will be interpreting the sources and producing the final result.

In order to fulfil the requirements of curriculum guidelines and utilise the Internet as a teaching tool in general, a dynamic teaching junction should be created. This junction should contain teaching material such as online teaching packages and primary sources. Teaching packages might be hyperlectures on the web, different sets of assignments for students to do, utilising a primary source material, both large quantitative databases such as censuses as well as qualitative material. Furthermore, the junction should be a meeting-place for both teachers and students. Different classes, teachers and students should be able to find partners for co-operative studies, and they should have the possibility to discuss their work through electronic seminars and easy access to publishing student's work on the Internet.

This paper will both present ideas on how such a dynamic teaching junction, or universe, can be implemented, and demonstrate modules in such a junction. The demonstration will be interactive, using a hyperlecture on the Internet to explain the concepts of hyperlectures on web, as well as presenting other features of a dynamic teaching junction already developed at the Department of History; teaching applications, primary sources, electronic seminars and student publications.