An digital-aware student can rely on the Internet (I’ve started to de-capitalise “internet” but am in two minds) to help them complete schoolwork. Most I have talked with use the Internet as a research tool to write essays, finish class work or assigned homework, using a number of varying metaphors to describe how they use the Internet for school: the Internet as a virtual set text or reference book, as a virtual tutor, as a virtual study group, as a virtual counselor, and finally as a virtual ring-binder or exercise book.
Most schools or teachers, however, are yet to recognized or start these new ways to interact with students, with students in my school telling me that there is a real disconnect ion between how they use the Internet for school and how they use the Internet at school with teacher direction.
Most students report that most of their educational use of the Internet happens outside of the school gate, and away from their teachers direction. There are many challenges in providing Internet access to students, let alone teachers at school, and these ‘road-blocks’ may even discourage them from using the Internet either as much as they wish, or as creatively as they would like. Of particular note is quality of access (especially in rural schools where ISBN, or twin-coil lines are the standard), heavy filtering of traffic and content, and the inequalities of home availability mean that students often find major barriers to Internet use in and for school.
Students’ experiences, and those of school, teachers and parents, strongly affect how the Internet used in school. In discussion, many students report the how, why, where and when, of their out-of-school use of the Internet is changing, as is their reliance on the Internet. Tech-savvy students are arriving at school with different expectations, different and various skills, and access to different resources. I have students who have their own laptops, pda’s (PalmPilot and such), and a couple talk excitedly of the possibilities of the new Apple iPods soon to become available.