(Part 2: Edited) Tim Burners-Lee: Answers for Young People
Full article available at: https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Kids.html
Berners-Lee was the founder of WWW and his inspiration was rooted from having various separate information systems and converting them in to one. In this way, it turned in to a system which was open for everyone to read. In this respect, the WWW presents a social constructivist approach to learning whereby users can share, alter, gather and benefit from a variety of open resources. In relation to learning, this is specifically helpful as the WWW allows children to take control of their learning through independent research with a variety of online tools to help them. The Plowden Report (1967) endorsed the move away from formal teaching to group work and learning through play and creativity (Cooper, H. 2011:8). This reflected a move away from traditional teaching styles and since then, the social constructivist approach to learning has evolved through the use of online tools including the WWW.
Below shows an example of how the learning process has shifted to a more collaborative and social environment through the use of the WWW:
For example, taking experience from my own education, the WWW strongly forms the basis of research and this is a practise which I carried out until today. The easily accessible and quick nature of accessing reliable information makes the WWW one of the strongest information providers. Of course, there are always limitations of having loose and inaccurate sites, however, this is another lesson in itself for children to learn.
Furthermore, the WWW can not only be used as an information provider, however, it is increasingly being used as a base for creating new materials. Berners-Lee describes the web as being ‘unbounded opportunity which is limited only by your imagination’. This is practised through computer programming. For example, children have been exposed to playing computer games online that have been created by business companies. Sites such as Scratch, enables children to form their own pieces of work and share with the online community. This is a significant step in relation to learning as children are learning skills such as coding, problem solving and debugging. Programmes such as Scratch are also enjoyed by pupils and has been such as success that Scratch Junior has also been released. It is important that children do enjoy their learning experience and even more helpful to know that the WWW contributes towards achieving this.
Additionally, the WWW can be a great basis for communicating. The rise of video conferencing has been such a positive aspect for children. In relation to learning, children are able to communicate with those from all over the world. For example, ‘Google hangouts’ have been used by lots of teachers to promote collaborative learning whereby children can benefit from experiencing different cultures all over the world. As Time Burners-Lee states, ‘With the web, you can find out what other people mean. You can find out where they are coming from. The web can help people understand each other’.
The WWW is additionally an effective way of achieving a successful learning environment. Not only does it provide learners with a wide range of scope to work from, it is also organized, manageable and easily accessible for a large audience which may include students, teachers, parents, governors etc. The benefits of using the WWW has been widely recognized by many establishments and institutions even to the point of the government pushing forward online workspaces. For example, the Department for Education and Skills highlights the benefits of using e-learning strategies for the 21st century as they can ‘offer personalized support, online communities, flexible study, tools for innovation, collaborative learning…’ attributes which are all necessary for leading a progressive and successful learning environment.
When reflecting up on the benefits of the WWW it made me plan upon the properties I would like to incorporate in to my e-learning platform we have been developing on google classrooms. The characteristics I would like to integrate in to my e-learning platform would include supporting teaching and learning (by allowing teachers to have a platform where they can communicate and collaborate with students) and unifying learner support (allowing students to learn from each other). Revolutionizing teaching by embracing the shift from traditional whiteboard lessons to online classrooms is something “Braincert” is passionate about and emphasizes on the increased opportunities for collaborative and interactive learning. However, spectators may argue that the increased use of online collaboration builds a wall between children and real life society. For example, Ofsted recognises children who may not have access to the WWW.
‘Although individual access was not seen as an issue for the college learners, three colleges did express concerns that, if the internet did become an essential part of learning, any learners without home broadband internet access could be disadvantaged in their learning.’ (Ofsted, 2009).
This viewpoint definitely needs to be considered as although the WWW gives children the opportunity to work creatively and discover new learning experiences, it can also create a boundary between those who can and can not gain sufficient access. On the other hand, Wenger recognises the potential of the increase in flow of information as he states, ‘It does not obviate the need for community. In fact, it expands the possibilities for new kinds of communities based on shared experience’. (Wenger:2015). Although it can create a bigger scope for creating online communities, there is still an issue of whether it is accessible for all individuals in reality. If not all children have the same level of access then it is limiting the scope of which all children can equally benefit from the tools the WWW has to provide.
Therefore, the WWW has the power to achieve so much however, it also has its drawbacks, especially when it comes to teaching. ‘In the same manner students use the Internet as their primary source of information, teachers come to rely too much on the Internet in their planning/teaching’. (Tuver and Blomqvist:2009). The WWW has become so influential in people’s daily routines that it may have taken over the role of independent research as information is so easily accessible. Berners-Lee also recognises the dangers of the WWW as he states, ‘Some people point out that the Web can be used for all the wrong things. For downloading pictures of horrible, gruesome, violent or obscene things, or ways of making bombs which terrorists could use’. However, the WWW is undeniably a powerful source for this generation of learners, it is up to the users when deciding upon how to implement it into their lives… ‘I think the main thing to remember is that any really powerful thing can be used for good or evil.’ (Berners-Lee). As teachers, we can only inspire children by modelling the vast range of opportunities and tools the WWW has to offer.
- Cooper, H. (2012). Professional Studies in Primary Education: pp. 8, SAGE Publications.
- Collaborative Learning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujfbSOQ-Iaw
- Brändström, C. (2011): Using the Internet in Education – Strengths and Weaknesses: Available at – http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:438827/FULLTEXT01.pdf
- Berners-Lee: Answer for young people https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Kids.html
- Department for Education: https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/towards%20a%20unified%20e-learning%20strategy.pdf
- Ofsted., (2009) ‘Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings’. London: Ofsted. Available at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/virtual-learning-environments-evaluation-of-their-development-sample-of-educational-settings
- Wenger, E, & B., (2015) ‘Communities of practice’. Available at: http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/