Another dot in the blogosphere?

Improvement

Posted on: August 17, 2019

 
I read Lisa Lane’s lament The internet’s not for learning?

After reflecting on an Economist article on how people use the Internet, she reflected:

People everywhere do the same thing: use the internet mostly for “timepass” – passing the time by communicating with friends and family, playing games, and watching videos. I’m not saying these things don’t cause learning. They do. But the purpose is entertainment and emotional satisfaction, not becoming an educated citizen.

It just serves to remind me how truly wide the gulf is between those who value education for its long-term benefits, and those who just want to pass the time. Are the people who get satisfaction from intellectual challenges rare? If so, will the smartphones make them even more rare?

She concluded that there was still so much more trivial consumption than meaningful self-education.

About a week ago, I might have expressed myself with the same resignation. But between then and now, I have been listening to podcasts that have tweaked my outlook.

Who is to say that a general utility must have a specific use? Who can insist that cars only be used when optimally occupied and configured so as to transport only the best to school or work? There is still much aimless, irresponsible, and even dangerous car use.

Who says that the Internet must be harnessed for self-improvement? Well, not many, really. But more are likely to hope that it be used to make lives better.

Like Lane, I do not object to that ideal. Like Lane, I recognise that self-education and improvement does happen, but not nearly as much as educators might want. So I remind myself of my role by seeking answers to two questions:

  1. Who is to say that a general tool must grow to have this specific use?
  2. What can I do to promote specific uses (like education) of this general tool?

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