Active Teaching Lab Recap: Engage students with the internet

Thu March 25, 2021


The March 25, 2021 Active Teaching Lab focused on ways to engage students more actively during remote instruction by integrating internet research and critical thinking into lessons and activities.


We’ve probably all seen articles like The Internet is NOT the Best Place for Kids to Learn After the Coronavirus Pandemic (tl;dr — upset that the teacher isn’t in control) and agreed with many of the points there. And we’ve heard of inequitable access and been encouraged to use Low-Bandwidth Teaching Strategies in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic to address them. So, why aren’t we discussing how to avoid the internet in learning? In a nutshell, the internet for all its shortcomings also provides better options than the classroom to empower learners to explore good problem spaces that reveal systems that underlie the practices and applications of our disciplines.

Why engage with the internet?

  1. Expanding Familiarity: The internet is huge, and our familiarity with it is generally limited to our daily practices. By building on a familiar foundation, we can guide students to improve their digital literacy and research skills. See: Colleges want students to think critically about digital tools in the classroom and beyond
  2. Multiple Modalities: Text, images, expository videos, animations — the internet supports many more techniques to engage than an instructor can reasonably be able to provide. See The UDL Guidelines: UDL.
  3. Empowerment & Personalization: The internet probably has more current and correct information on most topics and concepts you teach, and it’s presented in a multitude of formats and modalities. Rather than trying to determine and choose the one best format that will reach all our students, why not let them do the work of sifting and winnowing to find the correct information in the format/voice that best connects to their values, experiences, skills, and interests? See Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Affective Domain.
  4. Critical Thinking/Evaluation: Because there is so much information, some of it is wrong. Learning to analyze and evaluate information is a deep learning skill. See Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Cognitive Domain.
  5. Inspiration: We are best at inspiring ourselves and people who identify with us. Many of our students do not see themselves in us. Drawing from a larger and more diverse population, the internet often can represent voices and perspectives that we cannot — voices that speak to and inspire a broader swath of students. See: Representation Matters.
  6. Transfer: In addition to providing multiple voices that represent the work, the internet can provide examples of our course content applied in multiple contexts outside of the learning environment. See: Learning Transfer: What is it and why does it matter? 
  7. Participation is Learning: “The participatory, communal nature of many social Internet applications and activities is aligned closely with the fundamental qualities of how humans learn, not least the practices of creating, sharing, collaborating, and critiquing.” See: The Internet and Education | OpenMind.

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.