Up until I entered high school with 64 of my classmates, I attended Saint Patrick Elementary school. Once a week, for an hour on Fridays, I had computer class – during which I spent a majority of the 60 minutes playing computer games from a small selection of floppy disks in the school library.

On the first day of my seventh-grade social studies class, I found myself, for the first time, sitting in front of a teacher who not only wrote his name on the blackboard but his email address too.

I vividly remember my jaw dropping to my desk. I also remember going home and chatting with my friends on AOL Instant Messenger about Mr. Benz’s unpredictable behavior.

Things have changed since then. Teachers post assignments on web sites, give class lectures on power points and only accept typed assignments. Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced.

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Computer and Internet usage has climbed dramatically. Data gathered by the Internet World Stats shows, in 2009, 253 million Americans have access to the Internet. People  now ignore the plastic bagged newspaper on their front stoop, and instead turn to their smart phones and laptops. Whether it is at the click of a mouse, a touch pad, a touch screen or a smart phone button, information is just a click away.

In the age of smart phones and smart computers, I would think some intelligence would rub off on the people using them.

Is the Internet increasing public intelligence? The Pew Internet and American Life project teamed up with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to find out the answer to that question.

The effort surveyed 895 stakeholders and critics of technology and ended Jan. 11, 2010. Eighty one percent of the technologically savvy believe people’s use of the Internet will have enhanced human intelligence by 2020.

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Not only do they predict an increase in users’ intelligence, but also, 69 percent of these “experts” believe the Internet will improve reading, writing and rendering of knowledge.

Hysterical.

This was the fourth “Future of the Internet” survey the team conducted.  If you ask me, researches should have stopped after the third which was conducted as recently as 2008.

They seem to think the unprecedented access to the overflow of available information will create greater intellect.

In 2002, Jennifer 8. Lee a former writer for the New York Times wrote about a school in Guernee, Ill. The article titled, “I think, therefore IM.” is about Jacqueline Harding an 8th grade teacher.

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If the title of the article was not explanatory enough, Jacqueline Harding’s struggle teaching her eighth-grade class made the issue pretty clear.

“As more and more teenagers socialize online, middle school and high school teachers like Ms. Harding are increasingly seeing a breezy form of Internet English jump from e-mail into schoolwork,”

The article continues, citing numerous occasions where students handed in papers with shorthand, writing “U” instead of “you,” “B4” instead of “before” and using terms like “wuz” and “cuz.”

Many of these terms that became popular with short hand texting, have become fused into the social networking realm.

Gene Spafford, from the Association for Computing Machinery U.S. Public Policy Council, said in the Pew study, “This is not a form of lasting communication. In 2020 there is unlikely to be a list of classic tweets and blog posts that every student and educated citizen should have read.”

Many “experts” argue even though the terms of tweets are not always grammatically correct, the English language will evolve in 10 years to adapt to the Internet, and visual media will me a more prominent and popular way of learning.

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Nicholas Carr,  an author and reporter for the Atlantic, in a 2008 article, defines the Internet as a universal medium, but also writes about its impact on the learning process.

“My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles,” Carr wrote in his article. He argues that people are not delving as deeply into various topics as before, rather they are becoming accustomed to just being fed information.

To the experts who think the Internet will make people smarter, I say this: If I am part of the 253 million Americans that still have access to the Internet in 2020, then I will be part of the 74 percent of Americans who will be more intelligent. I would also tell them, instead of figuring out the percentage myself, I just looked it up on the Internet.

I think I make my point.

1 comment

  1. Excellently well put. It scares me too. I make sure that even when using social networking–be it Facebook, online chats, text messages and so forth–that I use proper grammar. If people type a certain way on the internet, the same habits will be found on their typing elsewhere. As a teacher once told me, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”

    And yes, you made your point.

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