Wait…What?!?! The internet is changing the way we think? In 2010, edge.org posed the question, “How Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think?.” Over 120 authors contributed to answering this question. From how the internet is replacing experience with facsimile, to using the internet as a crutch, to attention now being as fundamental a skill as reading, the responses to the question, how is the internet changing the way you think, are surprising, yet obviously true.
I know, for me, the rise of the internet and multiple modes of social communication has
both benefited and harmed the way I go about even the simplest of tasks. Ask nearly anyone on the street a difficult or abnormal question, what do you think their response is going to be? Probably something along the lines of, “I don’t know…Google it.” This shows that we no longer have or care to have a filing system of our knowledge in our minds. We already have too many “tabs” open in our minds to fill it up with other useful knowledge.
Eric Fishl’s Edge.org essay “Replacing Experience with Facsimile” discusses how the internet (as an extension of photography) acts as a substitution of reality with picture or video in our minds. Visual information, he states, is “flattened,” and a sense of scale is lost. Easy access to visual information online creates a “false illusion of knowledge and experience.” So how can educators overcome the limitations of facsimile? I don’t think they can, entirely. An art class in rural Iowa can’t exactly take a quick field trip to the Mona Lisa. And yet, we as educators must still strive to create experiences for our
students that elicit emotional reactions as best we can. While our students may never stand in the presence of the Mona Lisa, we can do our best to convey the love we have for it, and why it is such an important work. We must recognize that while our students have access to nearly all of human knowledge at the touch of a button, it is up to us to provide the emotional context and framework to understand it.
Digital devices and networks can only benefit the people who learn how to use them. They can be harmful to those who do not know what they are doing. It is easy to be distracted and fall for misinformation. This is why we must now train our minds to use thinking tools without losing focus. This mental training is one of the prices we pay in order to access all that the internet has to offer. I worry about the countless number of people who gain access to the internet without the proper skills to find and verify the accuracy of the information they come across. Attention is now a fundamental literacy due to the bombardment of information and stimuli on the internet.
The internet isn’t all bad. As a special education science teacher, I would have a much more difficult time engaging my students without the internet. Due to the increasing natural ability of students to navigate the internet, I use a lot of webquests and virtual simulations in class. Students enjoy these just as much as hands on labs. My students have grown up in a generation where ipads, ipods, and smartphones are easily accessible and are given to them at a young age to use. I use this to my advantage by harnessing my kids’ curiosity online in an educational way.
With students being so comfortable with technology, I hope to implement blogging as a
means of self-reflective journaling. Science journals can help students track their learning from the beginning of a class to the end of class and more. I think blogging would be a fun, comfortable way for students to freely write about their learning. This could also help
show students that the internet isn’t only used for social media. There are productive and educational ways that you can post your ideas and thoughts online. In addition to blogging I hope to incorporate more research and “quickfire” type challenges to allow my students to explore the educational tools that they can use to collect the things that they learn.
Brockman, J. (1996) Edge https://www.edge.org/
Fischl, E. (2010) Replacing Experience With Facsimile https://www.edge.org/response-detail/10436