Professional Development

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It was agreat honor and privilege to be the U.S. representative to a workshop on thetopic “Internet Usage in Education” in Minsk, Belarus, on March 1-4, 2000. Theother invited attendees represented Germany, Kazakaton, Russia, the CzechRepublic, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Belarus and the United Kingdom. The meetingwas organized by the Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE)and held at the National Institute for Higher Education of the Belarus StateUniversity. IITE, located in Moscow, was established as an internationalmechanism to assist United Nations Educational Scientific and CulturalOrganization (UNESCO) member states in the application of information andcommunication technologies in education. Its function, among many others, is tomonitor and support the use of information technologies in the educationalprocess at all levels.


In 1999, IITE launched a project to research the current useof the Internet in education. “An Analytic Survey — Experience of InternetUsage in Education,” has been completed and is available as a 90-page booklet.The purpose of the meeting in Minsk was to review the material and makesuggestions, and to share ideas on applications and trends in the utilizationof the Internet in education.


The survey, conducted by a few authors from “UniversityNetworks of Knowledge” (UNICOR) in Moscow, is to be published as an UNESCOdocument (www.unesco.org/education/). Itreviews about 90 studies from different countries published in recent yearsregarding experiences on the use of the Internet in education (Russian andEnglish were the languages used). Thirty universal and more than 70 specializedinformation systems in education on the Web were examined. A brief descriptionof each universal system is given, along with content features. Also includedare:


 

· descriptions of the various Internettechnologies used in education;

 

· statistical data on Internet distribution indifferent countries, social groups and age groups;

 

· achievements and problems in Internetutilization; and

 

· a database of 100 information systems ineducation on the Web.

 

In studying the experiences of Internet usage in educationduring the last three to five years, various successful activities are listed.For example:


 

1) Information Retrieval

 

· Increased accessibility of referencematerial and data for all categories of users.

 

· Possibility to decrease the gap in thequality and quantity of information provided between developed and developingcountries.

 

· Decrease in cost of information delivered tousers.

 

· Quantitative growth and qualitativediversity of the remotely delivered material.


2) Individual Learning and Teaching

 

· Quicknessof delivery — not dependent upon distance or time.

 

· Developmentof communication and writing skills.

 

· Increaseof motivation for learning and self-reliance.

 


After reviewing the 30 universal systems surveyed, thereport concludes that it is impossible to recommend a single system foreducation. To obtain better resources, it is necessary to use a specializedinformation system, along with a Universal International Research System. The70 specialized information systems and numerous universal databases analyzed inthe report consider only systems with English and Russian language interfaces.The report also states that the ERIC system is one of the best specializedinformation systems on education available via the Internet. It is also notedthat support of the administrative level for information resources is not atthe same level as those for teaching and learning.


The study is extensive and characterizes the interest in theuse of the Internet in education. All developed countries of the world have orare developing extensive programs of Internet integration for education. Anoverwhelming majority of the developing countries seek to take part in theglobal educational community, and the use of the Internet is of greatimportance to them. The report also recognizes that the development prosperityand competitiveness of the developing countries will depend more and more onthe level of education of all citizens, and the degree to which use of newinformation and communication technologies is part of their present and futureeducational plans. For example, representatives from various countries at theworkshop, whether developed or developing countries, stated that other nationalgoals include:


 

· Providing education for students so thatthey gain adequate mastery of information processing using new information andcommunication technologies.

 

· Developing a high-speed research network.

 

· Extending national networks of open andlife-long learning and connecting them to existing educational structures.

 

· Learning from the best foreign experiencesand results in the field and applying them nationally and locally.

 


Access to the Internet by the developing and developedcountries is narrowing. Plans for utilization of the Internet in education areproceeding at an unprecedented rate. Its use is of global significance.Countries are hoping to use new technologies in education to lessen the gapbetween the haves and have-nots. International cooperation and exchange ofinformation and knowledge would benefit all. The U.S. also has a great deal tolearn.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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