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Education and the Internet

DanielI grew up in a time when the internet was starting to become a basic need of households, but not as widespread as it is today. In elementary school during the 2000s and high school during the early 2010s, I had barely touched the internet especially in school, but as time went on and the technology evolved, so did my internet usage. However, it was more at home than at school and I am a little disappointed by that and wish it were the other way around.

The school I attended did start to encourage more internet usage when dealing with schoolwork, but not in a way that I think is very beneficial. They taught us to use computers in ways to aid us in doing work, i.e. teaching us how to operate the Microsoft Office Suite, how to do quizzes online etc. These lessons only taught me the basics of operating a computer, how they can help with our lives with skills we already rather know (e.g. excel calculations). The high level of computer literacy and the interest in computers I have is greatly credited to this, which I am thankful for. But they never really taught us how to utilize the internet to study and research any topic we want, we were taught to use textbooks as the main source of education, which I think is very limited.

However, I was lucky to have one teacher who did see the potential of the internet to not only aid his class materials but also show us that there are other ways to learn. He introduced us to khanacademy.org, a great source of educational content mainly for maths and science. I personally loved the website and it basically helped me throughout the rest of my high school for those classes and It would have been lovely if all the teachers had provided us with something similar if not better.

Anyways, even though this was all great, I do not think it is enough at all. Teachers can give us all the materials (websites, books, etc.) we need and we would do great in school. However, all we would learn are the topics we need to succeed in school. The jump from high school to university is enormous, we get nowhere near the amount of support we get earlier in life. This can be daunting to many and give up higher education, just because they get lost in assignments and do not know how to find solutions to solve them. What I am saying is that we are not taught how to learn or research by ourselves. We are used to being handed what we need to pass school, but what about the real world? Not so much. It may have been because of the norm we are used to, not having internet accessibility like we have today. The experience of studying in university really had put a spotlight on this.

Thus I am proposing that the education systems all around the world find ways to implement a new way of teaching, teaching students to self-study. Not exactly replace the way education is being taught today but for example, add classes/lessons into the school schedule, where students are taught how to use the internet to do research, best practices of doing research, even how to google better (specific words to search, query the right things, etc.). Then later in school, make research projects for different subjects. Getting them more engaged in ways that are fun and engaging but requires self-studying. Many students find research projects boring and daunting, mainly because they do not have a clue on what they. They are just thrown in deep waters of research, not knowing how or what is the best way to do research because they have not learned how to at all.

Early research projects for children can be for the research specific classes. Give them freedom on the topics they want to study, let them present to the class what they find passionate, anything will suffice. Just as long as they learn to study and research a topic. Provide them with tools on how not what to do. Not all research is fun, but I believe providing children with the foundation on how to do research and self-study using the internet can be very beneficial to everybody in one way or another. In a nutshell, we have been utilizing the internet in early education in the wrong manner. Not using the infinite potential it has. So we should really be thinking how we can teach students to properly use the internet, not what they should use from the internet to do tasks.

Höfundur: Daníel Ekaphan Valberg nemandi við Háskólann í Reykjavík

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