The advent of the 21st century has brought along with it a novel and powerful opportunity for learners to anywhere and anytime connect to their teachers and peers and a vast array of knowledge, debates/discussions, diaries/blogs, multi-media resources, and the virtual access to people/places/events /objects and other learning resources. Indeed, using digital resources and tools for learning is fast becoming a great source of sustainable differentiation.
Of course, the learning benefits that the Internet provides comes bundled with many legitimate concerns about cyber security and the genuineness/authenticity of content. However, digital literacy and digital citizenship are enduring realities for times to come as the world is only getting more digital.
The first lessons for children about cyber space should be about the world of amazingly new opportunities it has thrown up in all spheres of life and career and how the opportunities are only going to multiply as we immerse further in the 21st century. Most pertinently, the issues of cyber safety and security are to be discussed in the context of ensuring maximum and continued benefits of the ICT-led opportunities and not for avoidance.
The following are the three benefits offered by the various applications on the Internet:
- Intellectual benefits: Internet assists learners to acquire deeper knowledge by way of discovery through research, vertically and horizontally, into any area of knowledge of their interest and curiosity. It also expands learners’ horizons by helping them explore on their own or through assistance and guidance, what other learners and experts from across the world have to say and share about a subject.
- Social benefits: Children learn to maintain varied social connections and support networks across the world that otherwise would not be possible, and they can access more culture-specific information than ever before. Online communities and social interactions foster unprecedented global collaborations and team play opportunities, invaluable for bolstering and developing self-confidence and social skills.
- Creative benefits: Internet provides a medium for active participation of a large number of people from across the world on any subject. Children can blog, comment, create content (text/visual/audio), take part in activities and discussions on a site, and upload, modify or create content. This can support creativity in ways we could have only dreamed of about a decade back. Students also get introduced to the concepts of copyright, fair use, and the rights that they have as creators.
All the three benefits are completely open-ended and it is upto individuals to make the most of it and reach higher levels of self-actualisation.