Students are more technologically advanced than ever – when they’re not taking notes on their laptop from the electronic whiteboard, they’re using their electronic dictionaries and reading the latest news on their iPhones. But are these
gadgets useful when it comes to legitimate learning? As more schools embrace new technologies and shift their curriculums online, beijingkids asked students at the Sino Bright School whether the Internet and electronic tools were helping or hindering the learning experience.
Do you think the Internet makes it easier for students to plagiarize other people’s work?
Allen: I think it is easier, but when your professor looks at your paper, they can tell if it’s not your writing style. All they need to do is google the sentences to find out if they’re not yours.
Outlaw: It’s much easier to copy, but I don’t think it’s a problem. If the
student likes studying and wants to do well, they won’t plagiarize.
Helen: Some students are lazy and want more time to be with their friends, so they copy other people’s work. It’s very easy.
Viahsta: You need to think – if you can find it online, so can your teacher.
Do you trust what you read on websites like Wikipedia?
Allen: People should think critically when they use information from the Internet. The Internet is a source to gain information, but it’s not verifiable.
Outlaw: I don’t use one source, I compare information from many
different sites. I don’t trust anything 100 percent; you can’t believe everything you read, even in books.
Helen: I don’t think I trust all the information I read online. You can just take it as a starting point.
Viahsta: No one’s responsible for what’s online. You don’t know who wrote it, or where it came from. I wouldn’t just look at one article – I’d compare.
Do you use the Internet for every homework assignment?
Allen: No. We have so many different types of assignments, and we can’t use the Internet for all of them.
Outlaw: The Internet can’t help us do practical assignments like we have in film studies. It can’t shoot the film and edit it for you – you have to do that yourself. It can be very helpful with other kind of assignments, though.
Helen: I do search the Internet to help me with my English poetry
homework. It’s helpful to find out more about the language and be able to make comparisons about it.
Viahsta: I use Wikipedia to find out about history. It helps me look into the past and find out more about what happened and how it evolved.
If you couldn’t use the Internet, what would you do?
Outlaw: Even if we didn’t have the Internet, people will always find ways to get information. People are so creative.
Helen: I totally agree with Outlaw. There’s always other ways of getting information. We can go to the library, or ask our parents and our teachers. I think going to the library is good for students.
Viahsta: China is different from other countries – a lot of students don’t have the Internet. I didn’t have the Internet until I was in middle school. I used to always use the library.
Is it too easy to study and do research online?
Allen: I don’t think so. Researching requires creativity; you still have to be able to think critically.
Outlaw: It depends on what you want to learn. If you just want to know your ABCs, then you can just research online. If you really want to learn and you want a degree, you’ll have to study properly.
Helen: Sometimes I like to search online for information, but most of the time I can’t find it!
Viahsta: I think researching can be a little too easy, but the harder you have to look for the information, the more you’ll remember it. I forget a lot of my English vocabulary because I can just search online and find what I want instead of going to the library and asking my teachers, which takes time and effort.
Should class be taught online?
Allen: It depends. When China had SARS, for two months we had to study from home on our computers. It can be a good thing.
Outlaw: It’s better in a classroom. Students need to learn how to interact and get along with each other.
Helen: It’s not good to put all of the courses on the Internet. I don’t think it’s healthy for students to spend all day sitting and studying at a computer.
Viahsta: Going to class is not just for learning; it’s for getting along with other people. To learn properly, you need the right atmosphere.
Is there too much technology in the modern classroom?
Allen: I don’t think so. Besides, technology isn’t such a bad thing.
Outlaw: I think it’s a problem. Sometimes if you rely too much on technology to help you, it can be bad for studying.
Helen: We have lots of technology in class now, but we don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just part of going to school.
Viahsta: People bring mobile phones and PS2s, and when class starts you can’t control yourself – you have to play with them! It can be bad for the class.
What would you like your classroom to have?
Allen: I think the classroom is perfect now, but perhaps more teachers?
Outlaw: I prefer to study alone. I’d like to study with a private tutor.
Helen: I’d want more books, as well as some magazines. We work so hard – it’d be nice to relax and read a magazine sometimes.
Viahsta: I’d like a fridge. I spend so much time studying and I get really hungry, so it’s be good to have somewhere to put food in the class.
How has technology changed what we learn? For example, do we still need to know how to spell if we have spell check?
Allen: Just because you have a computer, it doesn’t mean you should stop using your brain.
Outlaw: We gain a lot from technology, but we’ve lost many things. I think I overuse spell check and now my spelling isn’t very good. It’s a bit of a problem.
Helen: In China, some students spend so much time on computers they’ve forgotten how to write characters. I think that’s really bad.
Viahsta: I think students should know how to spell. Language is the culture of a country. Also, before I had a calculator I could calculate complex numbers by myself, but the other day I was in class and forgot how to add 22 and 9 in my head. It was terrible!