The other day, my 18-year-old son said the following momentous sentence: “If something is not on Wikipedia, it’s not important and thus I’m not going to waste time searching for it elsewhere”.
Let me explain the context first: my son got an F after he had refused to complete one of his History homework assignments. The task was simple: find some information about a particular locally important figure. The figure was probably so unimportant that the name was virtually unsearchable online. Anyway, I thought he could have done more to successfully complete the task, and I asked him if he didn’t mind having had his overall score lowered; I knew this small incident might influence his final grade. Well, all I got was the above memorable answer.
You can imagine how angry I was at first about his rather naive perspective on the credibility of certain Internet sources. But also, to me his behaviour indicated laziness, reluctance, and arrogance – all the possible negative approaches to learning in one. I obviously knew about my teenage son’s overall pragmatic view on life, but this was simply too much. I started explaining how tough his time at university might be some day; he won’t be allowed to cite Wikipedia as a credible source once he does some serious research. What will he do then? The trouble is that like most of his peers, he’s not used to going to the library to look for learning materials. Why bother when all (he thinks) he needs is just one click?
But then I calmed down and tried to look at the situation through his pragmatic eyes for a while. Why should he waste time learning things that are not important for him when there is so much information out there. By the way, he will probably never need to have a perfect command of the world’s history as he’s doing well in science and he’s definitely planning to go this way. However, and I tried to explain this to him, certain skills, such as the ability to search for rare data, are transferable, and if he learns how to look for seemingly unsearchable information now, his life will be much easier in the future.
I’m following the debate related to the issue of technology in the classroom closely and attentively. For example, I’m a big fan of Shelly Terrell, a strong and passionate proponent of technology and innovation in teaching. I also like to visit Steve Wheeler‘s blog, where he gives highly plausible reasons why technology and innovation are inevitable in education. On the other hand, I really liked this post by Anthony Gaughan, in which the author shares some of his scepticism regarding innovation.
There’s something to both opposing views. Now, all one needs is to be critical; the biggest danger lies in the fact that some voices are louder than others. Also, it’s important not to get enchanted by something just because the majority out there claim that it’s the best solution to our problems.