08 June, 2008

Internet Safety VII

(this is the last post of this series)

A few months ago, I was asked to give an ESL terminology course at a school for occupational therapy (OT). I didn’t really know anything substantial about occupational therapy, but I did know something about scientific terminology, I speak English, and I knew some excellent Internet language tools and Web 2.0 applications. What I lacked in knowledge, I hoped to compensate in methodology.

Since the students were nearing the end of their program, they all had extensive knowledge of OT practices. Ironically, it turns out that the students (20-30 years younger than I am) didn’t know anything substantial about Web 2.0 applications (e.g., 80% of the students didn’t know what a blog was, only one person had read a blog). Which was a shame, because I hoped to get them to use these tools to build a bridge to the large English-speaking OT community out there.

It took me a few weeks to figure out how to make the students feel comfortable enough with the media to work well together. It also took me a few weeks for me to take myself out of my comfort zone (i.e., a media saturated world) and meet the students half way with some photocopied lessons and magic markers in hand. There is only a few more weeks left to the course and it has been a great learning experience for me.

It struck me recently that this situation of students being media shy is a reversal of the situation most teachers are faced with these days. It is probably far more typical for students to want to use media in classroom learning and the teachers are the ones who feel overwhelmed by these expectations.

Yet, essentially, the learning process remains the same. We, as parents and educators, must create a learning situation where our children feel comfortable and encouraged to learn. Often, this is at the cost of removing ourselves from our own comfort zone since we must respond appropriately to what it is our children need.

I remember being fascinated by the concept that present-day teachers no longer have to just teach, they have to learn. One of the shortcomings of our educational system is the focus on teaching our teachers how to teach, instead of teaching our teachers how to learn. Our teachers must guide our children as they partake on a journey of learning experiences, rather than just focus on preparing them to preform in standardized tests.

The reason this is so, is because our children already have access to of a wealth of information. I am not just talking about facts they learn in their school curriculum, but also through books in libraries, shows on television, sites on the Internet, computer games, etc. They know so much stuff, but it is only through experiencing learning in context to their world, that this information can become knowledge. If personal contextualized experiences are missing, then information will not become long-term learning.

The most effective way of helping our children in their learning experiences is not to tell them what to do, but to share with them our own learning experiences. If you are a parent and you want to help your children, then start using the tools they are using already or will be using soon. Use the tools meaningfully and appropriately to communicate, present, document what you know in life.


  1. How facinating that anywhere there are students who are not internet savy. Yes, they need to be comfortable in this medium to be able to help themselves learn and their patients adapt.

  2. I'm often amazed at how little use people of all ages make of the wealth of information that's sitting at their fingertips. Either through the internet or through the library. It seems that none of my students thinks of consulting the library for anything but then they are far less internet-savvy that I would have thought.

    It's hard for me to grasp since I grew up in a small town where I read almost all of the libraries books, and when I moved to Munich that was like heaven, and again with the web. It's all there. And so easy.

    The learning is one of the things that I enjoy the most about teaching, by the way.