|Print-based vs. Web-based|
There are several differences to documents being text-based or web-based. Consequently, some of these differences will be advantageous to students, whereas others will not. I believe funschool.com to be a good example of a document that should be web-based rather than text-based.
Funschool is meant to be web-based... Certain advantages to funschool being web-based include the site's interactivity, ease of use and currency. If this site was recreated in text format, it would have to include several different games and stencil like worksheets.
The interactivity found on funschool.com cannot be recreated in a text format. A simple piece of paper will only have a unidirectional interaction. In order to have bi-directional interactions, the teacher or parent would have to step-in. Moreover, this means that the interaction is not instant. Funschool.com gives direct and almost immediate feedback to the child -action = reaction. In the recent past, most websites have not reflected this feature and have mostly made the visitor a passive viewer of static information (Doherty A.,1998). Funschool breaks this mold by creating an interactive, learner controlled environment that gives the user immediate feedback. To Doherty's (1998) standards, therefore being a good website that utilises the Internet's true capabilities.
A major advantage to funschool.com being web-based is its ease of use. In a text format, one could never expect this amount of information and games to be as easy to use. It would have to include many games in order to compliment all the site's activities. These games take up much more space than a website. Also, the students would have more difficulty receiving help. This touches on the interactive aspect of the site, but also on the easily accessible help. Students can easily get help, change activities, work in a risk-free environment, and get support in the form of positive reinforcement when they successfully complete an activity.
Another advantage to having funschool.com as a web-based document is that the user is always receiving the most recently updated document. By creating an easily updateable bank of games and activities on the web, teachers and students will always have access to the most recent version of the activities. If the site was in a text format, a game is only as recent as the date you purchased it. On the web, every time a site is accessed, the information viewed is automatically the most recently up to date version. This cuts down on the amount of money being invested. This also reduces the amount of time a teacher has to invest in order to find the most recent games and activities.
Funschool online is not all good... Though funschool.com has many advantages, it also has one major disadvantage of being web-based. This is the speed at which the user can interact with the material. In a print-based document, interactions are only limited by the speed at which a reader can turn the pages. Whereas a website has more variables controlling its access speed -connection, image sizes, browser capabilities. This could have an impact on the users' motivation and patience.
Another slight disadvantage that comes from funschool.com's web-based design is that it is answers to "flashy", quick education material. Recent concerns have developed for fast paced media in the education world. Like television, multimedia exposes children to small, fast changing bits of information. Concern stems from the fear that we are creating a type of learner that will only be able to learn in this way. Therefore, we are creating students that will be bored in a school's slow paced classroom. This is not one of my personal concerns, since I believe that this form of teaching should not replace more traditional classrooms. As I have mentioned, this type of multimedia should be a support/reinforcement to classroom activities. They should not be expected to replace what teachers bring to a classroom.
In conjunction, text-based and web-based documents set the stage for well-rounded learners to better themselves and interact with the materials they are being presented with. Whether a document is text or web based, each will have its distinct advantages and disadvantages. Some documents will stand better in a text format and others will stand better as a web document. It is up to the teacher to be critical and analytical in viewing websites in order to decide which sites are adequate for in-class use and which are not. In making this decision, one must consider a website's origin, design, content, accessibility and currency. If these criteria are all met, the site is most likely to be better off in the web-based format and is a good website. If a site does not answer these criteria, it could very well mean that the site could be better off in another form -perhaps text based. By evaluating websites using criteria and developing one's own criteria, teachers will be more able to desipher the information found on the world wide web and utilise it in a classroom environment.
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