2.3.1 The Web - Introduction

revised 30 July 2006
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Having said that the web is the most important and compelling aspect of computers today it seeme silly not to head for the nearest webbrowser. But computers have been used to do a lot of things before the web came along, and the web just by itself is a rather passive animal. Sure you can go and look up lots of stuff but you have to have a compelling reason to do it. And just what is this thing called a webbrowser and how does it relate to other things that a computer is used for?

One of the problems with a webbrowser is that it introduces a number of complex notions immediately that are completely new. The lack of paradigms with which to compare the webbrowser makes it difficult even for adults to grasp. It is possible that children will assimilate it more quickly as a prime paradigm, and then wonder why the rest of the world doesnt work the same way. We do not yet live in a world in which the web is a primary paradigm, but it will be for many by 2015.

The closest paradign we have is a library and finding information in a library. But the library tends not to be actively used until Y5, while 4 year olds are using the web. So what is there on the web for the age group 3-8 ? A better question is how to provide for these age groups on the web. One way is by means of a closed portion of the web with a special interest. One of these is the Webring discussed below. But a more flexible method of creating a subweb is the wiki.

Learning to use the Web is mainly an out of class exercise and some substantial provision needs to be made for students who do not have Web access at home. Perhaps schools could look at running a Web Cafe. This is being done at some schools. The Ministry of Education funds decile 1-3 schools with a afterhours workspace that is staffed by at least one teacher and online computers. Because learning to use the Web is basically an activity for students outside of the classroom, some kind of formal assessment should be undertaken to ensure that students are Web literate. If failure to achieve web literacy is not identified at an early stage it could seriously effect a student's education prospects. Not only education prospects, but also the basic process of socialisation could be affected. Web literacy will possibly be the bottom line for social literacy within 5 years, spurred by the advent of the webphone.

There are a variety of available resources for learning about the Web. A school could adopt a particular course and closely follow students progress through the course. But even in this case it may be considered useful to have some final assessment activity. The essay project below is an attempt to summarize a student's understanding of what has been learned by writing an essay of about 1000 words.

At this stage (2006) one has to expect a wide divergence in web literacy in any class of any age group from profficient to 'in denial'. And simply being around computers is no gauge of web literacy. I know people who use computers on a daily basis in their work, but who need to ask their secretary to download a webpage.

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