A recent assignment for my “Foundations of Learning Technologies” course asked what five changes would we make to the Internet. My coursemates had such great ideas about what they would change, and almost all of what I would change had already been discussed. So I thought I would take a different approach. I polled several of my more computer-savvy students to see what they would change, and I was completely surprised and enlightened. So much so that I just had to share it with my readers!
1. People need to not be so mean – cyberbullying is becoming a huge concern among educators and parents. We now have teens committing suicide because people made rude comments on their Facebook status. Just this past week, a coach in Utah suspended his entire football team over poor behavior and character, including cyberbullying. On a more personal front, my son described a different kind of cyberbullying – he plays MMO-style sandbox games such as Minecraft and Roblox. Because other people have access to your creations, they often destroy them just because they can. Imagine spending hours creating your perfect house only to find it destroyed the next morning. He is looking into ways to protect his creations. The Internet has created a way to be both anonymous and unaccountable for your actions, and we must find a way to include Internet character development when raising our children.
2. What is with all the ads when I search for something – both of my children are well-versed in searching the Internet for any question that pops into their head, but they are not so great at is sifting out what is GOOD information and looking past the BAD information. Typically the first few results of a simple Google search are advertisements that do not answer the question but are instead a company trying to sell you something related to the search. What’s worse, many of the search results take you to virus-ridden websites. Not fun! My husband and I refuse to give up cable and jump on the Internet TV bandwagon because of advertisements. On cable, I can record the shows I want to watch and skip forward over the ads – not the case with Internet TV shows. And inappropriate or over-target-marketing is the worst! Just because I bought my mom flowers for Mother’s Day does not mean I want to buy them EVERY day, or even three times a day! I spend more time deleting the daily barrage of emails from places that I only shop from once or twice a year than I actually shop. BUT, if I ask them to stop sending the emails, then I don’t get the deals when I do need that “20% off your entire order” email. And I seriously want to know what searches I have done on the Internet to make Facebook believe I am both single and over 50; why would I need an over 50 dating site ad? It has become way too commercial. I digress . . .
3. How many logins and passwords am I expected to remember – I now have three login/password science learning websites for my students to use. They also have at least two reading programs and two math programs. Each of these web-based learning environments have their login and password parameters, so we cannot make them all the same, which has become quite cumbersome for the average 10-year-old. I didn’t even know what a social security number was when I was 10 much less have it memorized, but my students are expected to have all these various logins and passwords memorized. With as advanced as technology has become, isn’t there an easier way to streamline the process – perhaps a fingerprint recognition device in the mouse?
4. Why can’t I get on YouTube at school – despite the advertisements and inappropriate material, YouTube has considerable educational merit, especially in the science classroom where small budgets often limit educational opportunities. We’ve been talking about properties of matter such as density, mass, weight, and gravity these past few weeks, which can be difficult for kids to wrap their heads around, especially those with limited language abilities (I have two non-English-speaking students on my team right now). I have quickly and easily pulled up videos of watermelons and pumpkins floating in swimming pools, lumberjack competitions portraying HUGE logs floating on water even with heavy men standing on them, and my favorite, footage of the astronauts on the moon. I would love to have the students seek out videos on their own and present them to each other, but alas, students are blocked. We must find a way to make websites with such educational potential safer for students.
5. Why is the Internet so slow – last year I had my GT class do a book report on Glogster, it was a brilliant activity combining technology and research in education. I have posted one of the examples in a previous blog. However, it takes great patience to work with fabulous Web 2.0 programs on slow-processing computers and limited Internet access in such an old building. Students often have better technology and Internet services at their homes, so they do not understand why it takes so long at school. Most of my GT students just stopped working on their Glogs opting for a paper-based product because they could get it done faster. What a terrible shame!