Opinion
IT Infrastructure Opinion

What We’re Here For

By Doug Noon — September 29, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There’s a myth out there that goes something like this: When it comes to technology, children need no teachers. Show them any high-tech gadget and they seem instinctively to know how it works, even if they’ve never seen it before. This instant familiarity has convinced many educators that, when the topic is computer instruction, we teachers should simply provide the hardware and get out of the way. But if we did that, our students would learn very little.

Like most myths, this one is grounded in reality, or it wouldn’t have taken root. There’s no question that kids are comfortable with new gizmos, including PCs, cell phones, and video games. Many adults see that fearlessness and take it for across-the-board technological fluency, but there’s a big difference between the two.

David Kidd

I got my first look at that gulf about three years ago, when I brought a class of 6th graders into the computer lab to research ancient Egypt. My group of instant-messaging Yahooligans rolled into the computer lab eagerly enough, but soon after they began working, they were begging for help. It became clear that many of these “digital natives” didn’t know the difference between Google’s search field and the browser’s URL bar, up where the “http” and “www” go.Rather than utilizing Google’s searching power, students were trying out shot-in-the-dark URLs such as “egypt.com.” The experience convinced me that mastery of “fun” technology doesn’t automatically translate into Internet competence.

Even when they know which text field to use for searches, untrained students often find themselves overloaded with information, only some of which is relevant. Teachers who want to help inexperienced Web researchers dispense with this haystack can simplify the search in a couple of different ways. They can preview suitable Web sites ahead of time, limiting students’ searches to those URLs. Or teachers might consider using a free webquest, such as those available on The Webquest Page (webquest.sdsu.edu). “King Tutankhamun: Was It Murder?” is one of the available guided-inquiry projects that help facilitate learning about history, science, math, and other subjects through role-playing and problem-solving. By focusing on this prepackaged information rather than trolling all over the Web, students spend their computer time learning, not hunting.

Older students may know how to type a Google query, but many don’t know how to use keywords and critical analysis to make their online time productive. My middle school daughter, for example, chose veterinarians as her topic for a career-research assignment. She quickly found general information about what vets do, but she was frustrated by her inability to locate certain details. With a little help, Abby learned to limit her searches by carefully choosing a few keywords. Once she had a manageable set of results, she read through the URLs. Paying attention to the suffixes each carried, she soon learned that .gov, .edu, and .org sites were often useful sources of authoritative, impartial information.

If the job of a teacher is to help students orient themselves to the world, then that responsibility has to include the world of computers. Proficiency on a video football game doesn’t make kids Web-savvy any more than it qualifies them for the NFL. Even though students dive right into technology, they still need to be taught how to swim.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as What We’re Here For

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Boost Student Mental Health and Motivation With Data-Driven SEL
Improve student well-being and motivation with a personalized, data-driven SEL program.
Content provided by EmpowerU Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Webinar
Praise for Improvement: Supporting Student Behavior through Positive Feedback and Interventions
Discover how PBIS teams and educators use evidence-based practices for student success.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

IT Infrastructure Internet on School Buses: FCC Eyes E-Rate Change to Expand Access
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would allow the use of federal E-rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses.
2 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in the Texas school system.
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
IT Infrastructure Stopping Cyberattacks Is Top Priority for Ed-Tech Leaders. But Many Underestimate the Risk
Most K-12 district tech leaders rate common cybersecurity threats as just low or medium risk, survey shows.
4 min read
Images shows a symbolic lock on a technical background.
iStock/Getty
IT Infrastructure Spotlight Spotlight on Infrastructure Modernization
This Spotlight will help you grasp the reality of school infrastructure, parent privacy concerns, watchdog recommendations and more.
IT Infrastructure The Infrastructure Bill Includes Billions for Broadband. What It Would Mean for Students
Students who struggle to access the internet at home may get some relief through $65 billion in funding for broadband, approved by Congress in the new infrastructure bill.
2 min read
Chromebooks, to be loaned to students in the Elk Grove Unified School District, await distribution at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, Calif., on April 2, 2020.
Even as school-issued devices such as Chromebooks, shown above, have proliferated in the pandemic, many students still lack internet access at home, putting them at a disadvantage for completing homework assignments.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP