The Internet: diamonds, warts and everything else in between

Why focus on the crap when brilliance is only a click away? This was a short opinion piece in the Age, on Saturday 4th Oct.,  about the place of the Internet, the benefits and the drawbacks, in life today. read more | digg story

The article struck a cord because I identified with much of what the writer had to say. I know that the Internet can be a difficult place if you are unfamiliar with it but it also offers great opportunities.

I have spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to teach students that, if you want to get the best use from the Internet, you have to be very clear about what you want to find/know about first. The research skills I taught when I first became a teacher librarian (pre-Internet) are even more important today, where there is now a plethora of information at our fingertips, on our tvs, etc. Yes, I know there is a lot of junk  out there  on the internet but that is where the teacher librarians’s/teacher’s role comes into play again. We need to explain to our students about being discerning users of the Internet and also how to critically analyse the information they find. Everyone today, including our young people, is bombarded with information, coming from everywhere. It is truly a global world, we can no longer just concern ourselves with our neighbourhood, our city or our state. The current economic crisis bears that out. The best approach is to teach our students how to think, analyse and make decisions based on the best.

While I am at it, I also believe very strongly that we must teach students about being safe and how to best guard their privacy. Many of us use all sorts of on-line media. We are part of an infinite social web and becoming more so, with Myspace, Facebook, blogging, instant messaging etc. It is a very easy and convenient way to communicate with others. It is also blurring the lines between traditional public and private information.

My students are all using various forms of social media. In schools much of this social media is banned so our students are using it outside school time with very little thought to the sort of information they are putting on-line, their digital profile. We should all understand that if we put information into a digital format there is a possibility that it will be accessed, for all sorts of reasons, social, advertising, political, and the list could go on.

We all, especially our students, need to understand that privacy is not really part of the on-line world. We must all be responsible about our digital identities. Many of the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools are intiutive in that they take your past history and try to links it to your current search/request. There are three basic things, about privacy and cyber-safety, that I discuss with students when talking about their digital profiles. They are:

  • Always read the terms and conditionsyou are agreeing to when you are signing up for something, be it Myspace, Facebook, Glogster, Flickr, anything!
  • Value your personal information. Most social networks really only require the bare minimum for registration. Everything else beyond that is purely voluntary and always be aware of what could be used in the future!
  • Do not ever share anything that you don’t want others to know about yourself. Do not think that because you only invite some people to something that others will not ever be able to access the information or that in the future some “friends” may turn out not to be so friendly.

The internet and WWW offers all of us a lot of opportunities. We can make the most of them by being “good” or proficient users and by making sure we understand the strengths and the limitations of this tool.


One Response

  1. […] a previous post I wrote about my take as a teacher of young  people. I regard it as part of my duty to help our […]

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