Walden_computerWe’re starting the new school year this week, and I’ll now run the library and reading program. I’ll also teach technology classes school-wide.

A desperate need exists for this, and the education authorities agree with me. Our controversial new health curriculum includes social media usage and online bullying.

I began my first Grade 2 lesson with a simple question: ‘What is technology?’ The students excitedly answered: ‘Computers! iPads! The Internet!’

‘And…what is the Internet, then?’

Dead silence. I could see the little gears turning in their brains, and I imagined this is what it would be like if someone asked me to explain how a power plant works. I know the end result of it. But how to explain the innards?

‘Well, you go on it,’ they more or less said. ‘You go on the Internet.’

Then what?

‘And you just…you go on it. You go on your phone or your computer, and there is the Internet and you go ON it.’

The only variation I got on this answer was one boy who has clearly seen his share of tech troubles at home. As he animatedly mimed jabbing with his finger at a non-working phone, he said that the Internet was that thing your dad is really angry at, because his phone is not working because there is no WiFi.

‘And?’ I prompted again. ‘What does it mean that there is no WiFi?’

‘Well, it means that you can’t…you know, go ON the Internet.’

So we backed it up a little, and I gave them a little context from my own recent Internet search history. I had a situation, I told them, where I was in a city where I don’t live, and somebody wanted to go to Boston Pizza. ‘What is my first question?’

I could see the light dawning. The Internet is not just about going on a kid’s website and playing games; it is actually a useful tool for information. The first question, of course, is ‘Do we even have a Boston Pizza here? And if so, where is it and how do we get there?’

There is more work to do this year. We’ll look this month at how to write an e-mail, and I hope to explain some basic programming concepts as the year goes on. But we needed to start somewhere, and that somewhere was, ‘The Internet is not just the world’s biggest video game.’ We’ll see where I can take them from there.

Any suggestions from TeleRead community members? Even teachers are not omniscient. Just what should I be teaching the kids about the Internet—and how best to do it?

Image credit: Photo of Walden School in Louisville, Kentucky, by Bartmoni. CC licensed. Joanna teaches in the Toronto area.


  1. For a grade 2 class, I might compare the internet to a trip to the mall.

    You need a car and a road to get to the mall => computer and wifi or wired connection.

    There are many different stores at the mall => web sites.

    There will be a map at the mall that shows you how to get to a particular store => search engine.

    The stores at the mall might have exactly what you want, or you can just wander around and look at stuff.

    And, really importantly, the stuff at the mall could be high quality or poor quality, and you have to learn how to judge the quality of the goods at the mall or the information on the internet.

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