Middle school students' classroom Internet use: An ethnographic study of technology use and constructivist learning
The Internet affords opportunities for constructivist learning and the potential for a fundamental change in the relationship between teacher, learner and knowledge. Ethnographic methods were used to explore two research questions. First, what words and phrases do students employ to describe their Internet use? Second, do students' descriptions of their Internet use indicate constructivist learning? Participants are 34 eighth-grade students in a private independent urban middle school with adequate technology resources for teachers to require all students to use the Internet. Data sources include staff and student interviews, classroom observations, and online student discussion.
Analysis revealed that students have no special lexicon to describe their Internet use. Experienced Internet users do not distinguish between their online and offline activities and relationships. Students' knowledge of the Internet extends well beyond their school technology use, which is limited to Web searching. In school, students do not use the Internet communication they rely on for constructivist learning outside school. For students, the value of the Internet as a learning tool lies in online communication around shared information. Students understand that experts and information on any topic are conveniently available online. The students' Internet use calls into question the assumption upon which the teacher-student relationship is traditionally based: that the teacher's authority in the classroom is founded on his/her role as dispenser of knowledge to which students do not otherwise have access.
Teachers have the opportunity to engage students in renegotiation of this relationship to bring classroom learning into closer alignment with students' online learning. Before this can happen, students need to see teachers as experienced online learners. School support of teachers' own online learning may help address the incongruity students recognize: that teachers are expected to guide students in learning with innovative technology which was not part of the teachers' own experience as students.
EDUCATION, TECHNOLOGY (0710); EDUCATION, SECONDARY (0533); INFORMATION SCIENCE (0723)
"Middle school students' classroom Internet use: An ethnographic study of technology use and constructivist learning"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).