We have the world at our fingertips. We are the first generation to be able to make that claim; the first generation to have constant access to virtually all of humanities acquired wisdom. As such I will quote Spiderman: ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Unfortunately, it seems, when given the responsibility most people will panic and google ‘how to pass the buck’. If we take it for what it is, the internet could be (should be!) the greatest leap forward in public education since the invention of the printing press. So why are some so reluctant?
The internet is the high seas, and we are buccaneers in search of the greatest treasure of all: knowledge. As with real treasure, it is not easy to get your hands on. We must sail across oceans of nonsense in our quest; dangerous waters indeed. What’s more, we should be extremely weary of the stories and claims of other adventurers; one must remember that fisherman’s tales can be some of the tallest. Instead of sirens hoping to steer us off course, we are instead faced with news articles of Nazis on the moon, Tom Cruise’s new eyebrows, and cats playing pianos. Only those steadfast, exhibiting the utmost restraint, ignoring all distractions on their journey, emerge from the internet unscathed and enriched.
Some have argued that the perils that face internet travellers are not worth the risk, especially in a formal educational setting. Whether Luddite or simply overly-cautious, I strongly disagree with these people. I have always been a “glass half full” kind of guy. Social media platforms provide an excellent opportunity (particularly in the current climate) to teach students how to critically evaluate sources. I can think of no better demonstration of the value of references, the disconnect between primary and secondary literature, and the role of scepticism in the scientific method. Indeed, it seems redundant to argue over the pros and cons of using new technologies in higher education, rather ‘academic’ you might say. Young people have forced our hand.
The ubiquitous presence of social media and portable computers in our day to day lives is not a remote possibility, it is an actuality. The digital age is upon us, so one could argue that any protests as to its merit are somewhat belated. Instead we should embrace the technology, expose children to the wonders and dangers of the internet, so that all can enjoy its bountiful treasures. Yo ho ho, a pirate’s life for me.