Gone are the days when every school uses textbooks as their base curriculum resource as more and more are opting to go without, leaving the materials to be used in a classroom up to a teacher’s discretion. And as a result the Internet has seemingly become the go-to place for one to find worksheets, lesson ideas, assessments, etc., because why create your own when you can effortlessly print something off instead? While I am willing to admit that the Internet does have its advantages – such as allowing for greater creativity and flexibilty in teaching – I sometimes wonder if it is doing more harm than good when it can be so easy for a teacher to take the first resource they find, instead of assessing its grade-level appropriateness and suitability for the task at hand. And if one isn’t careful, what are the consequences for students?
The consequences are that students can sometimes find themselves struggling to complete an assignment, not because they find the concept difficult, but because the text or source presents it in a manner they can’t understand. For example, my daughter recently brought home an assignment that required her to rewrite a paragraph and punctuate it correctly using capitals, periods, commas, question marks and exclamation marks. As far as homework goes, this should have been a relatively simple task, and yet it wasn’t, due to the difficult nature of the text. Even though my daughter is reading at grade level, the exercise became more than just about rewriting and punctuating – it became an exercise in comprehension as my daughter struggled to understand the paragraph. And don’t get me wrong, improving one’s reading comprehension skills is never a bad thing, however in this instance it took away from the homework’s purpose, because how can one punctuate a text they can’t follow? For this assignment the teacher would have been far better off taking the extra time to find a text that any student in the class could read so they could have focused solely on the task at hand, instead of having to worry about comprehension, to boot.
Now the point of this article isn’t to say that schools should all go back to using textbooks, it’s merely to suggest that perhaps there needs to be a better system in place for monitoring and assessing resources taken from the Internet. Perhaps it involves extra training sessions to help teachers learn how to assess and analyse the quality and content of a resource before using it, or perhaps it involves a school limiting which sites materials can be take from. I am not sure what the right solution is, but I believe it is an issue worthy of discussion for the benefit of our future learners as we move forward in this digital age.
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