The Promise of the Web

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As a result of various Web activities and trends, the use of the Web in education is growing at a phenomenal rate. For example, a Web-based commission was established by Congress to develop policy recommendations for maximizing the educational use of the Internet in pre-K, elementary, middle, secondary and post-secondary learning. Chaired by Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, its members were appointed by former President Clinton, Education Secretary Richard Riley and the Democratic and Republican leadership of Congress. Since November 1999, the 16 members of the Commission have met with many education, business, policy and technology experts. The report, "The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving from Promise to Practice," was recently published (www.webcommission.org), and recommends the following actions:

 

  • Make sure that Internet resources, especially broadband, are widely and equitably available to all learners.
  • Provide continued and relevant training and support for educators.
  • Establish a new research and development framework around learning in the Internet age.
  • Develop quality online educational content.
  • Remove regulatory restrictions to e-learning.
  • Protect online learners and ensure their privacy.
  • Provide adequate funding.

 

The New York City Board of Education announced that it will develop an educational Web site and supply all teachers and students in grades 4-12 with an Internet device or computer for use at school and at home. It is projected to cost around $900 million over 10 years. Initially, the school district projected that the effort would be self-funded and perhaps generate about $4 billion in revenue through advertising. However, with the recent decline in online advertising, the Board is seeking ways to finance the endeavor.

With so much on the Web, more energy is being directed toward Web-based teaching and learning. Students can now access course material, academic records and financial assistance online. They register for classes, receive assignments and take tests using the Web. Campus portals are providing personalized information and resources to students with different interests and needs. (A portal can be defined as a gateway that allows information available on numerous Web sites to be organized and customized through a single Internet entry point.)

An increasing number of educational institutions are using the Internet to provide courses they don't offer on-site to their students. At least 12 states allow public schools to grant credit to students who take courses online.

The growth of the Internet has also led to new career opportunities. Information architecture is a new profession that seems to be gaining recognition. It is concerned with the whole structure of a Web site. People who fill this position come from various backgrounds: human resources, library science, graphic design, filmmaking and editorial. There is no formal training available for this position yet.

According to International Data Corporation's research, business Web developments will be responsible for about 80 percent of new Web development over the next four years. The government has the technical experience and the money required for Web development. For many government agencies, the Web is becoming an increasingly important vehicle for extending access to critical information, both to internal customers and to the general public. Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Defense Logistic Agency are placing sophisticated data query and analysis tools online. However, large companies say they have only just begun their strategic use of the Web. Until recently, most were too busy focusing on Y2K issues.

The promise of the Web is still ahead of us, but proper use of the Internet is already changing the delivery of education, making lifelong learning a reality for everyone.

I would like to take this opportunity to remember Mr. William Hewlett who died last month at the age of 87. I had the good fortune to have met with him a number of times over the years, and was always impressed with his interest in education and the role technology and his company could play. Hewlett-Packard served the education community well. Helping the needy, supporting the arts and philanthropic endeavors were all part of Mr. Hewlett's thinking. He gave away millions to his alma mater, Stanford University, started a public policy foundation and left the bulk of his estate, estimated around $9 billion, to a foundation. He was a true believer in the value of technology for education.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.

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