I’m sure that many of us, not least of all those who make a living from it, can conceive of a world without the internet. For Generation Y, it has become the all encompassing font of easily accessible knowledge, entertainment and communication. Our lives have become enriched and transformed because of it and I for one don’t think I’ll ever get over the excitement of actively participating in this extraordinary adventure.
The fact that I don’t have to spend hours in the library, or work out complicated maths equations in my head or wait forever for important letters to arrive any more is still a thing of wonder. Like most of my peers, I tend not to take the internet for granted (not that much anyway) precisely because my generation did go to the library, do maths without a calculator and spent hours writing letters with an actual pen – we grew up learning these skills because there was no other way. You learnt your times table by rote and practised your neat handwriting again and again until you got it right, it’s what we all did.
I can still remember the shock of hearing that calculators were going to be allowed to be used in maths exams. An actual calculator! We could only dream of such technological assistance in my day, the thought of taking one in the exam room was literally unheard of. Yet last week, my 8 year old nephew was casually explaining how he uses an iPad at his school desk for almost every lesson and it struck me just what a massive part of his life the internet has become and that he’ll never really know what it’s like to have to go and physically search for information or – God forbid – have to wait days or weeks for answers to become available. It’s no wonder he has the attention span of a goldfish, everything is available to him right now, why on earth would he want to wait?
This depressing behaviour is summed up nicely in the infographic below where we can see just how young children are participating, or at least have access to online activities. At the age of just five, more than 50% of American children habitually use a computer or tablet device, while 95% of those aged 12 to 17 years regularly access the internet, spending more time online than their parents or teachers. 80% of American teens are active on social media.
Why should we care about how kids receive information these days? Because it affects everything, their future and ours. Attention spans are dropping and information overload is leading to a lack of comprehension of the deeper subject. 94% of US teachers confirm that students associate “research” with trawling Google and other search engines with Wikipedia cited by 75% of teachers as a source for their material. That’s all sorts of frightening. As is the fact that our world has changed forever and the children of today will shape our futures in the only way they know how to, the way we are currently teaching them to……