Children, Education and Internet

Even though we had several interesting discussions in class last night, I believe I was most interested in Howard Rheingold’s concerns about children’s education. I have asked myself before how the internet has been changing the way kids learn and research.

I remember when I was in elementary school our research sources were basically limited to magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and encyclopedias. We would photocopy the material (especially figures), would glue them to our notebook, and would have photocopied illustrations with a handwritten subtitle. The homework text would be a summary of three to five resources and my classmates wouldn’t turn in different work.

Today, with Internet and web tools, children are able to look for very specific themes, have information from different sources from all over the world, and contrast diverse points of view. They can watch videos to make the homework more interesting, listen podcasts, participate in virtual communities, and use virtual environments to discuss lessons, such as the world Second Life.

Moreover, children can communicate to their classmates much more quickly and easily than we could do in the past. I still remember that when I was a kid and had to call my classmates to discuss a group project, my mom would be controlling the time I was spending on the phone. Today, children have cell phones, laptop computers, Skype, and all kinds of tools that facilitate interaction.

I believe professor Howard had an interesting point when he said that children need to be taught how to question authority. Even though there are procedures to check information, people –especially young people – have difficulty adopting a critical attitude regarding the accuracy of information. When there are thousands of hits for a term search on an engine, it is impossible to guarantee veracity. I wonder if it was not actually easier to have fewer options to look at…

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