Internet usage has grown so much in recent years that the growth is nothing short of a miracle. In 1993, there were only about 130 web sites in the world and the number reached to nearly 57 million in just over a decade! It would be farfetched to think every single one of these sites is a fountain of wisdom but just think of all the possibilities in the context of teaching and learning.
In Canada, while accessing the World Wide Web is universal in cities and urban areas, only about 85% of the people have Internet access in rural areas, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. There are six million people living in rural Canada so simple mathematics tells us there are almost one million individuals that don’t have Internet access in the country. Yes, a million!
This is all happening in spite of the fact that Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) estimated that as early as 2011, Internet access in rural areas would go up and everyone there could have at least 5 Mbps on downloads and 1 Mbps upload speed. Not much luck there.
Needless to say, with the influx of learning coming from the Internet, learners from rural areas are at a disadvantage. FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) says Internet service, in general, is getting better but they still acknowledged the need of hi-speed internet access in rural areas.
What do our friends in rural areas miss out on, especially kids at school? First of all, they won’t develop the research skills they would need to do better if they decide to pursue higher education. In places where dial-up connections are still used, the dilemma of having to contact someone on the phone (perhaps a parent) comes to mind because the receiver couldn’t answer the phone and use the Internet at the same time.
On the other hand, how do stable Internet access in rural areas enrich learning? Consider three ways:
- 1. Just Having That Technology
There is a stereotype with students in rural areas that they just can’t brush off especially when being compared against their urban counterparts. Some call it inferiority complex, some say lack of self-confidence. Simply having that kind of technology– Internet access in rural areas– may help them overcome that challenge. The Internet’s vast database of knowledge is open to all, doesn’t matter where you live and how much is in your bank account.
2. Individualized Learning
Internet access in rural areas will help ensure students have an individualized learning environment. While they can benefit from interaction with fellow students, it’s undeniable that each of them have their own capabilities. The thing, though, is you can’t stop every lesson and focus on one student and keep the others waiting. Because of the Internet, some schools have found a way to minimize that problem.
For example, one school district in North America uses a website that teaches the student basic arithmetic. This program uses timed practices to evaluate how a student does on a certain operation. If the student answers incorrectly, the system will focus more on that specific operation so that the student can master it and then move on to the next level. This way, students learn to address their own subject weaknesses while also allowing the teachers to teach different levels of students.
3. Increased Productivity And Efficiency
Having Internet access makes possible the luxury of pulling up real-time information that otherwise wouldn’t be available if you solely rely on printed material. This saves a lot of time for teachers and students alike, not to mention the up-to-date knowledge they can tap into at any given time. Additionally, it does maximize efficiency by reducing the expenses on printed material, allowing teachers to teach multiple student levels, and improving the level of communication between students, teachers, and parents with easy access of online school portals.
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