With any piece of research there will always be limitations and this is also true for our current project. We tried to minimise these limitations by opting for a multi-faceted approach. A variety of qualitative methods were used including written case studies and spoken prose through the medium of interviews. Quantitative methods were also used and these consisted of numerical responses via questionnaires. Often the data from qualitative studies is richer compared to quantitative studies yet bespoke to the sample of individuals tested, whereas the latter provides less information (i.e. a numerical value) but can be much more easily generalised beyond the sample used – for more information about research methods see: simplypsychology.org
Below we outline the main limitations related to our research:
Firstly, the participants (i.e., teachers and pupils) who completed the questionnaires were not representative of the world's entire population and only reflect a small sample size. In total, we contacted participants in 14 different countries receiving over 200 responses. Thus generalising the findings for application to other countries not included in the study would be difficult. This said, countries identified to take part in the study were selected to be diverse, representing different social and cultural norms, to help overcome this issue. Therefore, overall considering the timescale (i.e., two-week data collection) and resources available, the research is far-reaching in terms of participant recruitment. A related issue is that many of the participants were our friends, classmates, or teachers and so were therefore more likely to share similar viewpoints. Again this latter point is a difficult criticism to overcome considering the availability of participants was always going to be dependent on existing contacts.
Moreover, an internet connection was necessary to complete the questionnaire. This means demographically deprived areas may not have taken part in the study due to a lack of resources. The sample of participants is not random; they were all interested in filling out a questionnaire on the subject of Education and the Internet which may mean that responses were more ‘pro-technology’ then a baseline group would be. However, this is an issue for any piece of research; people who take part are more likely to be interested in the topic under investigation and this may affect the viewpoints identified.
In conclusion, these limitations should not in any way deflect from our project findings and recommendations. Instead, by providing transparent information about how the research process was completed, the context in which the research should be understood is more appropriately communicated.
The yearlong Junior Commission has researched and critically evaluated the role of the internet in education in order to generate recommendations for schools and educational organisations. We anticipate that this will act as a framework for government policy in the future.
The approach taken in conducting this project was both in-depth and scalable in terms of its impact and reflects extensive work with educational organisations, educational leaders, school teachers and school pupils from around the world. The main outcome was related to the provision of wider internet access in schools, which we argue needs to be supported by a more coherent and consistent teacher training programme for effective utilisation of this technology. The development of global online safety procedures and online learning platforms also needs to be more fully addressed by educational organisations. A further important outcome was the requirement for use of the internet and more specifically gamification, to improve the educational experience for pupils with learning difficulties and to assist in bridging the gap between different levels of learning capabilities.
Overall, our project has provided a detailed insight into 'Education and the Internet'. It demonstrates the importance of speaking to those directly affected by the issues they wanted to address. We feel that the strength of this project comes from our group collaboration - as ten global young people who are experiencing the benefits and challenges faced in education today, we were ideally placed to take this topic to a deeper level of understanding. The information and evidence provided in this report will be beneficial to schools, educational organisations and by extension, governments around the world.
Summary of findings
- The internet in education facilitates certain areas of skill development (independent learning more than others e.g., communication.)
- The internet has a positive influence on pupils with learning difficulties and thus online learning platforms should be used more frequently with these pupils to aid development
- The skills acquired from gamification and coding are beneficial for school pupils and should be more widely incorporated into the curriculum
- Online learning platforms should be widely and freely available to all pupils across the globe
- The incorporation of flipped classrooms and MOOCs will shift the way in pupils study, allowing for more flexibility and personalisation in how they work
- The internet should be introduced as a learning tool much earlier in schools than it is currently, e.g., 11 years and below.
- Online safety should be taught more rigorously and consistently across the curriculum
- Teachers need to be at the forefront of integrating the internet into education, i.e., 'digital ambassadors' – to achieve this, teachers need to receive on-going training and support from the government and educational organisations.