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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Connection Power

Thank heaven for the internet, I would not be where I am today without it.  First of all, my entire degree is online.  There is no way I could go back to school if I did not have online classes to cater to my schedule.  Sure, correspondence school has existed since 1840, but with online courses I get to be in an actual class and develop friendships with my classmates.  I may never have met Shannon Huston in person, but we have collaborated so much over the last two years, she is my go-to woman when I need ideas.

Likewise, I have not met Jee in person, or in a class, but she is one of my most valuable professional resources I have.  I may never meet her, seeing as she lives in Seoul, South Korea, but she is a dear friend and mentor none the less.  Because of the internet I have people in my life I could never have met otherwise, people I now cherish and run to whenever I have a question.

Thanks to the internet, I can access resources from all over the world.  The databases of professional knowledge are invaluable to the communities they serve.  School librarianship exists in many countries and they all do research.  Most of my paper for my class on how children respond to literature was based on research from Denmark and China.  Sure there was research on children and stories here in the United States, but research on how stories affect the linguistic development of children?  That seems to be taking place on other continents these days.  This commercial may be about television, but it conveys exactly how I feel about the internet:

The internet is the focus of my study.  I am going into library science, which is not about libraries, per se.  It’s all about the information, and where to find it.  Now, you can find most of it online if you know where to look.  Google can be great if you know how to speak computer, but otherwise it can return a mess.  That is why librarians take classes like “online searching” “online searching medical” and “online searching music.”  Of course, these teach more than just Google.  There are so many databases out there-and they have so many answers!  I have Goggled “latest research on boys transitional literacy” but I will not find something I could use in an academic paper.

All these things I mentioned help with academics, but education is more than just academics.  Education is learning to understand and apply what you know.  Learning to recite information or even explain only one point of view is not education, it is brainwashing.  Because of the internet any viewpoint is available on any subject.  Just recently I read this blog, which includes information not published in the official channels. 
 The internet is arguably the most powerful tool of our day.  Like all power, it can be used for many different purposes.  While this commercial clearly shows some of the good accomplished via screen, but the following quote by Neil Postman sums up very well how the internet hinders my education:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. (Postman, 1985)

My appetite for distraction is indeed infinite.  As I write this, or anything else, I have Facebook open.  That’s not to say there is anything wrong with Facebook, but it is not helpful in me being a better writer or student.  I refuse to bring my laptop to class because I know I will end up tuning out the teacher to take a quiz on “Which 60’s Screen Idol Are You?”

In short, the internet is a source of power.  It is the power to connect, to see the world, to visualize and then realize our dreams.  When I use this power for our own edification, it can be one of the greatest benefits to mankind in modern day.  When I become consumers to the exclusion of building, that is when it becomes power against me instead of power for me.

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.