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Carrington's (2001) study focuses on a diversity of learning strategy potentials that is constructed not by way of race or ethnicity, but by individualized media preferences and sensory strategies for learning. Carrington presents the conclusion that such methods of literacy development which occur in one's formative stages before school will reveal learning dispositions. For example, her examination recognizes that early exposure to the internet bears a positive correlation to one's media literacy, cognitive proficiency and capacity to identify and locate content suited to their individual learning strategies and needs. The underpinning of this study, as it pertains to our larger purpose, is that one means through which to help include all cultural backgrounds in literacy instruction appears to be to diversify the media used in class and to largely incorporate computing advancements at every level. In addition to the benefits discussed here throughout, we can see that the present challenges in education such as those related to addressing a diverse range of ethnic and cultural needs can be met through the integration of already existent computing technologies. Access to a wide array of information in almost limitless contexts (linguistically, nationally or otherwise) renders the internet the most singularly empowering aspect of an increasingly integrated computing aspect of general education. For those at the impressionable age upon which this consideration is drawn, it should seem that the availability of an educational chaperone, as it were, through the virtual world would provide considerable insight and protection in simultaneity.
In order for educators to achieve this necessary level of integration, however, the introduction of and instruction with new computing technologies must be paired with an active reflection of such in the instructional and reading content as well. This is because "research on teaching for developing students emphasizes the importance of social constructivism and context for literacy strategies" (Conley, 49). This contributes to a major demand of future educators pertinent to the cultural demands and technological opportunities discussed here throughout.
We find that at an early stage, reading must be assimilated into the everyday life of a student if it is to become and naturally and appropriately integrated tool. The promotion of this habituation will manifest in a balance in the selection of in-class learning materials where classic examples of early-literacy literature will be complimented by student-directed selections of literature. With older elementary school students, this approach can be expanded to include the selection of and reporting on compositions produced for a diversity of media and the opportunity for independent literature selection. This latter initiative can be instrumental in allowing opportunities for young learners to approach reading within topical and cultural contexts that make them comfortable and promote interest. Essentially, this is to recommend that curricular administrators attempt to resolve ways in which early educational curriculum -- in subjects such as literacy as well as mathematics, social studies, etc. -- can incorporate the opportunities provided by e-learning technology to the optimal benefit of developing minds.
That said, the research conducted here would most prominently point us in the direction of the way that technologies are now being used in higher-education contexts. It is here especially that the truly expansive potential of e-learning has become apparent and has already levied its most significantly transformational effect on the state of education in general. The practice of 'distance education' has come ever more to be integrated with traditional modes of learning as a way of expanding the classroom both in terms of the time and space which it can occupy. Here, classes may be conducted either partially or exclusively over the internet. Using virtual bulletin boards, chat forums, file servers and lecture simulcasts, it is now possible for instructors to conduct entire courses without ever coming into physical proximity of the students. The result is a decidedly cost effective and time-flexible way of engaging students that in some regards enhances their dedication through its convenience. Indeed, according to the text by Bates & Bates (2005), "distance education is one of the few areas of education where for over 30 years technology has been central to the teaching task. A feature of distance education institutions is that they are deliberately designed and structured to exploit the cost and educational benefits of technology." (Bates & Bates, 4)
This is quite naturally a condition which invokes something of a mixed evaluation of the impact of e-learning on education. Of course, distance education has been more commonly adopted because of the enhanced reach and improved flexibility which it promotes in instruction. But a concern over its economic prerogatives emerges with consideration of those institutions which are strictly distance learning educational groups. The most prominent example of this is Phoenix University, a strictly internet-based educational institution which allows individuals to take classes and courses of study to achieve accredited degrees. The nature of such for-profit education groups, facilitated by distance learning realities, tends to draw scrutiny from many traditional educational institutions for its methods and the caliber of its instructors. In spite of this, the affordable nature of Phoenix University courses and the appeal of distance learning to working individuals and students of limited financial means has made Phoenix markedly successful.
In a recent article by Snyder (2009), "while few will argue Apollo (the Phoenix parent company) boasts the best programs on the market, it is impossible not to admit the company has the sector cornered. With the biggest name in online education, the University of Phoenix will be an industry power player as long as online education remains popular and, most importantly, accredited." (Snyder, 1) Perhaps the most important implication of this trend is the massive increase in enrollment experienced by the University of Phoenix and others like it over the last decade as students, if not the academic community as a whole, has come to embrace its possibilities. By 2009, Phoenix had turned a 21.8% increase in enrollment over the previous year. That rate of growth is indicative of the impact that e-learning has had on the public's interest in how best to received instruction, education and degree credits.
As a result of the implications of such patterns as that at Phoenix, as well as in response to a growing consensus that distance learning is a valid and beneficial way to engage student populations, the method has emerged as both acceptable and increasingly proliferated in many respected and renowned colleges and universities. Indeed, it would not be inaccurate to contend that distance learning methods have achieved a mainstream level of acceptance, especially when conducted by institutions with already established reputations. According to the Snyder article, "as just about every traditional college and university in the nation concedes to the online-education push, more and more students will turn to schools that look better on their resumes. Eventually, the University of Phoenix's powerful brand could erode, taking some of its 420,700 enrolled students with it." (Snyder, 1)
As this occurs, so too will an evolution of e-learning methods whereby the economic benefits are self-apparent and more abstract benefits begin to surface. Thus, beyond simply functioning as a model for the financial success of private, for-profit organizations like Phoenix, distance learning is coming to be seen as a necessary offering in the well-heeled university. To traditional universities, its intrigue is not just in the practical implications which it has on instructional methods and reach. Beyond these, e-learning boasts in such incarnations as distance learning a set of faculties and access points for the student that were previously unavailable in the static environment of the classroom. In Anderson's (2003) description, "the essential feature of e-learning extends beyond its access to information and builds on its communicative and interactive features. The goal of quality e-learning is to blend diversity and cohesiveness into a dynamic and intellectually challenging 'learning ecology.' This interactivity goes far beyond the one-way transmission of content and extends our thinking regarding communications among human beings engaged in the educational process." (Anderson, 3)
To Anderson, the web's inherent tendency to promote independent expression, free exchange and discourse unrestricted by the conventional structures, cultural biases and social decorum of the classroom denotes a new way for students and instructors to engage one another. In higher education, the prospects hereby made possible for depth of discussion, free exchange and personal revelation are -- if not necessarily better than those made possible in the classroom -- at least different. This is to indicate the e-learning can, in the form of distance education, function as an alternate mode of learning that will often compliment classroom experiences. Especially for students who, according to Anderson's report, are often not receiving the type of stimulation or tool-sharpening anticipated through higher education, e-learning can be a bastion for ideas where traditional classrooms can…[continue]
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