Can learners learn how to handle information without a teacher’s assistance?

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 | internet, technology

Just because children have the ability to use a mouse or know where to press the buttons on a computer does not mean that technology will benefit them. 

Let’s use the internet as an example.  Learners quickly discover how to surf the net – oh yes, they do!  But how beneficial is such surfing to them – and how safe is it? 

The situation reminds us of ducklings.  It is often said that learners take to technology like ducks take to water.  When ducklings are hatched they follow their mother to the nearest river or pond.  They know instinctively that they must jump into the water and when they land in the water they know what to do – their mother does not have to teach them how to swim.  But she does teach them how to forage for food and she protects them when she senses danger. 

An interesting thing happens when duck eggs are hatched by a chicken hen.  When the ducklings emerge from the eggs the hen will cluck-cluck and the ducklings will respond and follow her.  Until they sense water!  Then nature takes over – they make a bee-line for the water, dive into it and swim.  It seems as if they are programmed to do so. 

Cool!  Or is it?  Without a mother duck, how purposeful is their swimming?  With the hen standing on the shore, she can’t teach them how to find food – she knows how to forage for food on land, but has no clue how to do so in water.  The mother duck would be able to alert them to dangers – such as crocodiles or water snakes – and lead them to safety.  A mother hen standing on shore has no experience in this matter. 

The application of this analogy should be clear.  Modern learners may easily find their way around on the internet but without the guidance of a skilled teacher how beneficial will their browsing be?  They won’t know how to search purposefully for information and they’ll be exposed to the dangers of the internet – without guidance or protection.

As teachers you can’t afford to stand on the periphery of technology – you must jump into the information pool and show them the safe way to find relevant information.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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2 Comments to Can learners learn how to handle information without a teacher’s assistance?

John Thole
Sunday, 2 January, 2011

Yes, I agree that teachers have a vital role to play in guiding young learners in their navigation around the internet. Teachers should not feel that they need to be experts in ICTs as this is quite intimidating for many teachers but they should recognise that they are still the adult in the class and can offer and guide young people skillfully so that the learners recognise the importance of analysing information, filtering certain content, ask critical questions of data presented on the web and generally aim to be confident to find the information relevant and accurate to their task. These are skills that teachers should be applying, with or without computers.

Mark C
Sunday, 2 January, 2011

While I may not disagree with the sentiment, the practicalities of learners using ICT without a teacher’s assistance/supervision in a normal state school is a problem.

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