Parenting
Parenting

Kids Are Surfing the Internet Without a Learner's Permit

| by Dr Gwenn
I read yesterday that Microsoft wants to improve the computer skills of Americans. Microsoft's plan is to target beginning and intermediate computer skills through a program called "Elevate America". The program will be made available via vouchers and be run through e-learning courses. So, to be clear, this is a computer-based computer training program - and billed as a program for beginner and intermediate computer users.

Given today's computer entrenched society, I applaud Microsoft's generosity and innovation. The Elevate America website does describe a wide variety of skills that would help a person get ahead in the work place and life if all they needed was a technical tune-up. For beginners, though, I have some concerns.

One of the biggest pitfalls with the program is its design and structure. The program is so computer based it will be interesting to see if the people in true need of this program actually reap it's benefits. For e-learning to be successful, a person has to be a bit of a go-getter and have some solid computer and literacy skills. If someone is having trouble with computer skills, how is this going to help? Is there an onsite part of the program for people who need that? What about people who have trouble reading? How is that issue addressed?

The other major issue that the program doesn't seem to cover well is online literacy - namely, media and health literacy. Microsoft does list "information literacy" under computer basics which is described as "Using the Internet and World Wide Web. Covers exploring the Web using search engines, working with e-mail, and creating Web pages." As described, people will get online but the program doesn't delve into helping people interpret the websites they find and sort out whether a site is reliable or loaded with commercial backing. This is the core of media literacy training. And, since most people search for health information online, it's equally important to cover health literacy so people understand that not everything health-related online is accurate or even worth reading.

Think about it like this: would you ever give a teen the keys to a car without making sure he or she had a learner's permit, driver's ed, a defensive driving course, understood rules of the road and knew how to use the car itself? 2million people are about to be given the keys to driving the internet superhighway through Microsoft's training programs nationwide. If the internet were a real highway, we'd have traffic jams, traffic congestion and major accidents as those folks explored cyberspace without their learner's permits in place.


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