An Early Jump on E-learning

We Can’t Wait Until It’s Too Late to Teach Kids How to Navigate the Web.

All this talk of social networks and everything “Web 2.0” now gives rise to the idea of “Web 3.”

Surely, we need to get everyone used to the idea of a people-driven Internet and not confuse them any more than we have to.

If we want theWeb to be owned, developed and managed by the people, for the people, we need to introduce children to the e-world as young as possible, even while they’re beginning to learn to talk and play, so that the terminology and language of theWeb becomes part of their everyday language.

It’s been reported many times that letting children learn a second language alongside their native tongue at a very early age will make it easier for them to speak that language later in their life. Also, children can be taught music using the Suzuki method at a very early age.We should therefore let young children gain access to theWeb as early as possible in their development and let words like “YouTube” and “Google” become part of their vocabulary. Not only will that help them in school, but it will fill the e-skills gap that governments and employers are so afraid might develop.

My young lad, who’s only three, has been watching me and the rest of the family going on the Internet at home. Over that time, he’s taught himself to load Firefox (double-clicking the icon) and get on to YouTube (by typing “Y” in the address bar). He can get himself onto Google Images, and knows where the bookmarks are on Firefox so he can get himself onto other sites. He knows how to go backward and forward in aWeb browser. Obviously, he doesn’t go on the computer unsupervised, but he’s aware of things that we may consider unsuitable. If he comes across a video on YouTube that we’ve previously said isn’t suitable for him, he’ll say that he’s not allowed on it until he’s older. Alongside “A is for apple,” he’s learning that “A” is also for “Amazon” and that you can buy books on the Internet as well as in shops.

Although a lot of people say that our college’s intake of students are IT-literate and demand access to online resources, I believe that we’re only going to get a trueWeb 2 (or 3 or whatever) by allowing the e-world to become a part of our children’s world. It’s no good waiting for them to get their 30 minutes a week computer time when they’re in school. It’s too late by then. They’ll be playing catchup for the rest of their lives.

—Tim Blackburn works as an instructor/demonstrator at  City College Manchester, in the United Kingdom. He manages a computer drop-in room (53 student PCs) and helps the students with various problems having to do with using IT in their studies.

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