The Internet and Higher Education

This week in #openlearning18 we are pondering the question: What is the most important thing that learners should know about the internet and the World Wide Web.  I thing the most important thing to keep in mind is that they are simply tools.   However, as with any tool, there can be many ways to use them, both fun and wonderful as well as scary and dangerous.  With that said, I am (cautiously) optimistic about the future of the internet and the Web knowing that people will invent new ways to use these tools that are unimaginable today.

What leads me to be cautious is how quickly I have seen the internet and the web change our lives.  We need to slow down a little and think about how we, both individually and collectively, want to use these tools.  We have created this amazing sort of “4th place” that blends personal, educational and professional worlds and yet sometimes, it just does not quite feel like reality–as in curated posts on social media and avatars in gaming. Will we loose true conversation to 120 characters and personal interaction to liking and following? Will there be any separation between who we are as individuals and our work world?  Or will it all blur in this new 4th place? I do not have the answers, nor am I saying this is all essentially bad.  As a private person, I sometimes find this new digital shift personally invasive, other times I find it incredibly useful and educational.

As for the higher education arena, students in college today are digital natives and they have never known a world without the internet or the web. The digital world is interwoven into their existence and higher education needs to meet them in their own environment.  However, higher education can play a role in making students slow down and think about how they use these tools by setting the example and guiding them in positive ways. As a librarian in higher education, one example would be to show students how to break down Google search results to recognize advertisements and bias.  As a teaching librarian, I always try to incorporate some sort of hands-on, digital activity since this is a familiar environment to students.  I look forward to see how this new generation chooses to incorporate these tools in the new digital age.


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I am currently a research and user experience librarian at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach.

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