Why Should We Embrace the Internet in Economic
Economic, organizational and technological changes mandate reconsideration
of learning environments. A user-friendly
Internet questions educational conventions: Do we still need
inflexible semesters, classrooms, class-periods or
textbooks? Does the new technology provide discipline-specific
opportunities for enhanced learning?
A few broad principles or propositions govern the development and evolving
use of the Internet in Economic Geography:
- The boundary-spanning Internet provides endless opportunities for
enhanced learning. We move seamlessly from
courses to programs, to community-based and lifelong learning; from
textbook to online resources; from single prof to
second opinions. Ideas lose their protection and are checked against
competing ideas and evidence.
- CONTEXT: The Internet has the potential of providing the
context for any given class content: Any
10-week course which claims any
degree of depth represents necessarily only a slice of a larger context
and discipline. A system of Web sites facilitates such a broader
perspective beyond the content constraints of an individual class.
- ENRICHMENT: The presentation of any given substantive class
can be enriched by a wider range of examples, illustrations, applications,
alternative interpretations and source materials.
- HYPERTEXTUALITY: The incorporation of the Internet into the
Economic Geography program provides and opportunity to instructor and
experiment and gain experience with hypertextual presentations of
materials or projects and to
learn how to assemble internally and externally generated documents for
most effective learning and project webs.
- CLASS, CAMPUS & COMMUNITY: Facilitate communication and
between disciplines and, as importantly, between campus and community. In
Economic Geography, such outreach activities include accessing
resources supplied by such disciplines as economics, business
administration and urban planning as well as making community contacts
with businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies for
student research, internships and
Service Learning / Community Outreach arrangements. It is expected that
such contacts with the world beyond the classroom facilitate students'
exploration of future job opportunities in rapidly changing labor markets
and an understanding of macro-structural changes in the economy caused
directly or indirectly by information technology developments.
- CONTINUITY & LIFE-LONG LEARNING: Provide more continuity
constraints of an individual
quarter class or students' entire undergraduate program by permitting
early preparation (before start of the
quarter or the student's freshman year) and continued Web-based
"participation" in the class or program-related
happenings after the quarter and the "official" part of the
class or a student's undergraduate program are over.
- JUST-IN-TIME: It is proposed that the new technologies enable
students to organize their increasingly
complex daily (home-job-campus) logistics
more efficiently by having more control over the
distribution of personal learning environments in space and time.
It is hoped that this experience and an increased awareness of such
relationships will also lead to an improved understanding of the impact of
information technologies (IT) on the spatial organization of economic
activities and such concepts as footlooseness or telework.
- CLASS CONTENT: The nature, diversity and depth of appropriate
Content itself is changing in response to new information technologies
on- and off-campus [Findings
of the Technology in Education Task Force, (Seattle) September 1998]
- IT: Information technologies themselves become important class
content through their impact on telecommunications, telework and service
employment. Students' jobs, remote-learning experiences and daily logistic
challenges provide valuable cases for discussion.
- RESOURCE SKILLS: Various active and passive uses of the Internet
greatly facilitate the integration of the learning and practicing of a
broader range of computer-, communications-, library-
and resource skills into the presentation of subject
areas. Such skills are not only useful in students' remaining
academic and social lives, but increasingly expected by
future employers of our economic geography students.
- CORE INSTRUCTIONAL FUNCTIONS: The Internet reduces need for
with logistic matters in class thereby saving valuable class time and
permitting concentration on core instructional functions.
- Students' own learning initiatives and self-management closely
relate to entrepreneurship and professional
creativity. Students start hypothetical, technology-supported
businesses or become "consultants" with opportunities to
volunteer their diverse backgrounds and computer skills in class.
- ACTIVE LEARNING: Encourage students to accept partial
for their own
education and ownership of their learning processes through active,
electronically enhanced learning experiences and creation of a learning
infrastructure in their own system of Web sites.
- MAKING CONTRIBUTIONS: Instill in students the idea that they
through their work on class
projects -- are making contributions not just to themselves, their grades
or my office paper collection but to their peers and, possibly, larger
segments of society.
- Flexible Collaboration, enabled by Internet-based classroom
extensions, supersedes hierarchical task organization and
allows two-way discussions, constructive feedback and multi-channel
learning mechanisms favored by modern activities.
- Active-learning "projects" mirror increased project-orientation of
businesses. Source materials want to be found, while students acquire
research and project management skills. Timeliness, "deliverables" and
"billable hours" demand efficient structure, support and communication of
projects via the Web.