Internet Learning

My wife showed me a video that she found via social media. It was a plea for internet access for all students, something like bridging the digital divide. It’s a good intent, but a bad way to reach the goal.

The goal, I presume, is better education for lower-income children. Their plan (whoever “they” was) is more computers and internet. Before I get into that, though, let me describe the video.

There were two tables of several students each. The tables were separated by a sheet or screen so the two groups couldn’t see each other. One moderator read a question aloud and the first table to answer correctly would get a point.

One table had laptops and internet, whereas the other table had encyclopedias. The results were, of course, dramatic. The moderator would read a question, and a couple of seconds later the laptop table would shout their answer. The video would then show the annoyed faces of the encyclopedia table. Another question, and another answer from the laptop table, followed by dismay from the encyclopedia table. Question, answer, frustration.

Then they removed the screen from between the two tables and the encyclopedia table was relieved to see it was a setup with the other table being given an advantage.

The video then had someone give an impassioned speech on how students can’t learn if they don’t have the internet.

My response: they’re going down the wrong road.

Sure, the internet lets you look up things quicker. But the goal of the people behind this video is presumably not quicker answers to trivia. I’m also going to presume their goal is not simply more funding either. Rather, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say their goal is better education, with the goal of better education being to improve the lives of disadvantaged kids.

The kids who got the questions right – what did they learn? How much processing did their brains do? It seemed to me like they were plugging in a question and spitting out an answer. I did not see how the learning was happening.

If this were a homework assignment, and one group had encyclopedias at home and one group had the internet, the encyclopedia group would have taken longer to complete the assignment, but their education would have advanced by that amount.

Learning is like most everything else in life – you get out of it what you put into it. If there is little effort required to produce the answers needed, then there was little learning involved. No pain, no gain – only we are talking about mental muscles instead of physical muscles.

That is not to say that we should make homework more difficult than necessary, but if the goal is learning then the process should involve thinking. Plus some memorization, but that’s another topic.

A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.

Proverbs 14:6

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This little article thingy was written by Some Guy sometime around 11:35 pm and has been carefully placed in the Life category.

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