September 2001
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Technology in Schools
By: Greg M., Grade 10, Oakwood High, Toronto, ON

Today’s schools are becoming more and more oriented around technology and computers. From using computers in the classroom to add to the regular curriculum to distance learning, technology has changed the face our education in Canada.

Distance learning
The Toronto School District as well as other school districts in Ontario and throughout Canada use distance education in their schools including online courses. In our school district students can get credits online. Courses such as English, Business, History, Science, World Issues and World Religions can be taken over the internet with one final in-person exam at the end of the term. The Virtual School allows students to earn credits in their own home.

Of course, the classroom will never go away, but virtual classrooms are becoming more and more popular with students and teachers.

While doing class courses through the internet may be okay for some, it may not work for others. To get the most of our online courses, students should have the following traits:

- They must be able to motivate and discipline themselves to work on their own.
- They should be able and willing to say something if a problem comes up, to contact someone to get help with a problem.
- They must be able to incorporate decision making as part of the online learning process.
- They must have good communication skills - writing, verbal.
-They should be able to use a computer and a modem regularly.
- They should be able to think ideas through before they respond.
- They should be able to feel that they can learn without the traditional classroom.

There are many different sorts of distance learning situations. Videoconferencing and online courses are two.

With videoconferencing you can teach by one-on-one or in groups. You can have the student use remote teaching materials, or you can have the student use remote laboratory equipment or simulations. Students are provided with material for the courses, timelines and assignment. Some schools use videoconferencing to teach HTML, the language used to make web pages. Others use videoconferencing and 'whiteboards' to create an online learning experience. These are all ways in which people can be taught outside of the traditional classroom.

Many schools also have online courses. The student doing the online course is given a password to enter the virtual classroom. As with the traditional classroom, a course plan is laid out by the instructor. Lesson Plans are placed on the website with study guides, assignments and sample tests. Through discussion forums students discuss issues with other students, seek help from the instructor and post assignments.

Technology is really a major part of education, both in the classroom and through distance education. School projects now and in the future are reflecting this kind of technological advancement. Teachers and students get together to use technology to learn. Whether it is talking with astronauts in the Space Station through the internet, building project webpages and using web resources, or taking courses outside the traditional classroom, technology is here to stay.

While technology appears to be a tremendous asset, there are some concerns. Teachers must learn how to use the resources they have. The web is great, but if it can't be used it's useless. The web requires knowledge to be able use it, just like most resources. Teachers need to be trained in how to use it and have an open mind about the classroom and what it can involve. With cutbacks in education funding, providing this training can be a problem. Teachers and parents are also concerned that children spend too much time on the internet.

While there are some concerns about using technology in the education system, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. Online learning provides students with tremendous opportunities --- to think for themselves, become more responsible for their learning and opens up a new way to learn. For both students and teachers.