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The Internet's impact on the American economy
The digital divide
One of my students recently told me about how he e-mailed his Christmas thank you notes by using a fill-in-the-blank form. He was very proud of how fast he took care of the job. The value of a personal message seemed to be lost on him.
Now, most nine-year-olds don't like to do boring social chores. So I was surprised to find out that his parents showed him how to do this. The whole family sent all of their thank you notes this way.
Trouble interacting with humans
What worries me is the way
language-dependent activities that
I see the effects all the time in my classroom. More and more children have trouble with traditional classroom activities that require listening and interacting with others. For some children, video games and online companions have replaced family, classmates, and friends.
A few years ago, it was easy to read a book to calm a class down or to inspire a discussion. I can still do that, but its so much harder. When I talk or demonstrate a task, Im like a screen image. They can look and listen or not, as they please. They watch me teach or read as if theyre watching television or a computer screen.
Cutting and pasting words without ideas
Technology is also changing how students do their work. Research means cutting and pasting factoids from different sources, usually the internet. I think students are having a hard time assembling their own ideas. Volume and rapid recall are everything. Reflection and evaluation take too much time.
Many of the problems existed before computers. For the most part, they result from confining children to one room for most of the day, and from the ordinary growing pains we all encounter.
But today, these same problems tend to be more plentiful and more serious.
The case of Joe
Let's look at the case of Joe*. Joe's parents think of themselves as great parents. They provide him with a great computer loaded with learning programs at an early age. They are proud of his computer skills. They leave him alone on the Internet for hours every night.
Instead of listening to him, playing with him and arguing with him, Joe's parents push him to become a computer whiz-kid. He desperately wants to have companionship, but doesnt know how.
His social interactions are like video games. He constantly tries out new strategies and looks for new entry ways.
I can help him in the classroom,
but we cant undo his home environment. Joe is the non-participant
that scares me.
At the same time, they will have to learn to deal with people like Joe. They will have to cope with his isolation, anger, and hacking skills.
Our goal as teachers, students and friends is to identify those people who can't tell the difference between computer and human interaction. Sometimes we will have to take action and it might not be easy. But if we make the effort to keep thinking about the larger issues, we can take advantage of technology instead of being scared.
*I don't have a student named Joe, but I have many like him.
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