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Teaching via the Internet

Is the internet a viable source of information? Should it be taught? And, if so, what should that teaching encompass?

As someone who is a proponent of media literacy education, I strongly believe that the internet provides many teaching opportunities. Educators have heard of the term “teachable moments” in various curricular areas. In media literacy, we discuss it in terms of what the media provides us with through daily events which can very easily be incorporated into our classroom teaching. Along with that idea, the internet provides many of those same moments, and in a more widely perceived fashion because the information is sometimes unfiltered and coming from a variety of sources –some we know, but many more we don’t.

Consider when information is displayed on a site, how do we check for accuracy? Do we even bother? Yet, we should bother, especially with the amount of information daily accumulated on the World Wide Web and moreover, the amount of “truth” being spoken through social networks, blogs, and other personal websites. Because of the variety of points of view and messages, it has become vitally clear that there needs to be much more teaching on how to check sources whether for our own personal benefit or for, in the case of our students, a research paper.

As Dan Gilmor states in his book, Mediactive, all you need is your “brain and curiosity” to get the answers to your questions or doubts about information blogged, posted, or made into news. Teaching students to use that portion of their brain should be a task that we all undertake as educators, parents, or caregivers. Too much of our students time is spent in inactivity whereby they are listening and asked to process information, but not asked to actively engage. Curiosity is key to learning. Fostering that curiosity in our students goes a long way to helping them grow as individuals.

We live in a time where many people seek out information vs. the information seeking them although that is happening too. We hear of a story and then we follow-up with it usually on the internet. Fifteen years ago we didn’t do that because it wasn’t possible and certainly not in the wide variety of ways in which we can do it today. If we wanted news or information, we watched on TV or found it in a magazine, encyclopedia, or newspaper, all of which was only available in print. Now, the internet has given us a wide range of possibilities. So why not use it? Teach it? Consider it a part of the teaching repertoire as it will only benefit our students, ourselves, and in the end –our world. As Gilmor states, “How we live, work, and govern ourselves in a digital age depends significantly on how well we use those media.” True.

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Belinha S. De Abreu, Ph.D., is a media literacy educator and an assistant teaching professor at Drexel University. Her research interests include media literacy education, new media, visual and information literacy, global perspectives, critical thinking, teacher training, and the impact of learning as a result of media and technology consumed by K-12 students. Dr. De Abreu’s work has been featured in Cable in the Classroom and The Journal of Media Literacy. She has most recently published her second book Media Literacy, Social Networking, and the Web 2.0 Environment for the K-12 Educator (2011). Image credit: Gilmor, D. (2010). Mediactive. Retrieve: http://mediactive.com.

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