the web as the problem? (and children’s education)

Well. web is problem mr peabody-and-sherman


My project global generation may never go anywhere … but it certainly puts me within some of the most interesting conversations with regard to educating the youth.


Let me share the part of the conversations that is a head scratcher <at least to me>.


But it is a consistent head scratcher part.


Like in the over 90% of the time consistent.


My conversations begin with ‘it is a web based global children’s education’ and always <and I mean always> veers very quickly to someone stating unequivocally … “how the world wide web has made things more difficult-worse-insert some negative comment here.”



The web is destroying reading skills.


The web is destroying cognitive skills.


The web is spreading criminal (lower value-ethic) attitudes to a broad audience.


The web facilitates laziness.


The web is diminishing attention spans.


The web is giving voice to thoughts that are encouraging the destruction of character.


All, some, most and more.


The majority of older people want to go back to the “way it was before” because it was better (definition of better would be “we weren’t lazy, had broader attention spans, stronger character, less people thought criminal like thoughts, we read more … ).



The majority of older people seem to think of the past as ‘simpler.’



“How many people long for that “past, simpler, and better world,” I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world about them?” – R.A. Salvatore



Well. after scratching my head … In the beginning I used to just chuckle and try the “it is what it is today … we cannot ‘undo’ the web so why waste energy looking backwards?”




Experience has taught me that (a) that is not the A response (b) that response got me nowhere very fast (c) there are a shitload of people – people with leadership roles, smarts and influence – who are dedicating a shitload of energy into trying to reintroduce past plans of action <albeit at least focusing on those which can often be associated with some success thank god>.




I have regrouped. While my path of least resistance would seem to be to find those who don’t want to go backwards but instead embrace what is and move forward , alas, I can’t.


Maybe I am too stubborn <yes>.


Or maybe in some semi smart way I have realized there is a significant group damming up the flow of progress. And this ‘stubborn against change’ group are creating a double fold issue:


web is problem teach 


(1)    – They are increasing creating an ever increasing gap between age generations.


While there is always friction between age generations as innovations occur something like the web (just as the printing press and maybe the automobile did) is a lightning rod of paradigm shifting attitudes and behaviors. Generations have never been further apart.



(2)    – They are increasing the problem gap.


Issues are being exacerbated as they balk at moving forward. No solution behavior translates into issues being permitted to gain momentum (which I feel obligated to point out from a physics perspective that a faster moving object is more difficult to slow down, stop or change direction than one moving at a slower pace).





Let’s try some of this thinking out.



          1. Kids read more today than ever before.


Oh. And reading is reading.




Reading is reading (with regard to cognitive skills). I was part of an online TED forum on this subject and I was getting the shit kicked out of me (by people who were arguing the web/texting/twitter was destroying cognitive skills in children) until this gentleman stepped in (or ‘up to the plate’ or ‘to stand by my side’ or whatever phrase indicative of a sigh of relief on my part) and said this:




“but … I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I have a PhD in reading. Not that this necessarily means I’m smart, it’s just that I’ve studied and continue to study reading. So here goes…it doesn’t matter what a person reads, in what form, by which author, on which device. Reading is reading.
My first “Crayola secret” for you is that we all read on 4 different levels: instructional, informational, recreational , and frustrational. Not any one is better than the other. Just read. The definition of comprehension? It’s still being worked on. No one, not even the experts and researchers, can seem to agree.”
Marti Dryk, PhD





Reading is reading. And between tweets, social media, web searches, e-books … and good ole fashioned paper literature … kids are absorbing more words and thoughts than ever before.



          2. Young people have always had short attention spans.


<note: and I could argue changes in parenting style have affected children’s attitudes and behaviors – including attention span – more than the web>.




A teen brain has always been a teen brain. As I have written before in that stage of development it simply gets overloaded (with stimulus) and it is wired for short bursts of stimulus. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be teaching the value of “make haste slowly” but on the other hand we do not have any research proof suggesting teaching USING how their brain works (of which the web provides that opportunity where an adult teacher is not readily capable (their brains are built differently) is not effective. If you search for data you will find it is mostly negatively anecdotal (obviously from adults). All I am suggesting is that sometimes a classroom is less effective because we are teaching one way and the recipients natural way of absorbing is another way. That misalignment creates inefficiencies. Why not use a tool and educate in a way that is aligned.



          3. The web is not encouraging laziness <or lazy thinking>



When we were young we were exactly the same type of ‘lazy thinker’ we older folk claim the web is creating. In our youth we wanted to get to the solution <or whatever would get us the good grade> as quickly as we possibly could. The web is a double edged sword. Quick solutions or answers  are easily at your fingertips. Now. They may not be the right solutions or answers but they are right there. On the other hand … multiple solutions or answers are at your fingertips. Some right and some wrong. I have to be honest … I see as many adults today seeking the ‘shortcut’ to answer as I do the youth.



I actually believe the web is creating a more vigorous thinker … albeit a different type of thinking than we old folk were. The web makes such a myriad of factoids <and semi-factoids> available so quickly that the young are becoming more discernible analyzers, evaluators and thinkers earlier than any generation before.


Who gets the credit? The web <note … with some good guidance from teachers>.





Moving on. 


I always hesitate to say this <as a nonparent> but I am not sure it is any more difficult to bring up children today than it was in the past.


Different? Absolutely … more difficult? I think not.


Kids are kids.


And they have always been kids.


They are adults in training.


As adults we want what we want. Kids are the same. The web has simply given them a new tool to do what kids do and have always done. The web has probably made it more difficult for a parent to be lazy thinkers (as parents) and at the same time make it more difficult to be “opinion selective” when sharing thoughts.


I think of it as a balance sheet. The web has increased both assets and expenses. But it is still a balance sheet.


I just tend to believe that the value of the overall balance sheet has increased with the advent of the web.



gg thinker and girlAnyway.


I cannot remember who wrote this <it was an author> … “the web … it is just a matter of time before some kid from North Dakota decides to blow past the popular kids … just blow them out of the water … with something spectacular.”



Maybe the greatest aspect of the web is the fact it is an equalizer. It can level the playing field so that all kids … whether they are popular or not … whether they live in upper income New York or rural North Dakota … whether … well … whatever … can do something spectacular.


And, geez, who the heck wouldn’t want that for our kids?



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Written by Bruce