What can you find down the back of the Internet?

by Emily

Education today is inextricably linked with the use of Information Technology. This reliance has developed very swiftly in the last ten years or so and has seen IT move from a fringe benefit, useful in studying, to an absolute essential. It's even used increasingly for online tuition.

The Internet is probably the biggest symbol of this increased bonhomie between education and IT. It is an invaluable research tool, bringing a wealth of information on any given subject to a student in a one click, instant search. It can save huge amounts of time in identifying dates, sources, and synopses, checking references and even - within reason - sourcing images.

At present, the Internet cannot help students access most secondary sources and modern set texts, especially for A-level and university studies. These texts, essential to a curriculum, have to be sourced more 'traditionally' from the library or bookshop. In the coming months and years that may change, thanks to Google Books and the rise of e-reader devices.

In a way, the weakness of the Internet lies in its trustworthiness. It is a free resource which anyone can use, meaning that wrong information can be made available just as easily as accurate information.

A student fluent in Internet use will quickly learn what sites are to be trusted and which are not. This allows them to find their way around the myriad sources of information on the web with ease. Today this is a key research skill, as important in the workplace as the classroom, but is this reflected in current IT teaching? Should we be embracing the web as a research tool and providing lists of reputable online sources to our students? After all, if knowledge is power, then the Internet is the most potent resource we have.