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How Being Connected Impacts Learning

Now I know this might not be true for everyone, but think about the last time you were alone with a problem that you couldn’t solve right away. Forgot about how to multiply matrices that were different sizes for your math homework? Can’t get some code to execute? Need a recipe to prepare for a holiday? It’s straight to Google!

Being Connected Matters More Than You Think

Consider how people practically access information whether it relates to the news, their mortgages, or their schoolwork. Our massive dependence on the Internet for quick, accurate solutions becomes obvious, and it’s nothing new.

If you don’t think it’s that bad, ask yourself when the last time your first reaction to a problem was to go to the library to look up a solution in a book. Methods of learning and acquiring knowledge are changing for newer generations, born into this digital age with an intuitive grasp on its capabilities and a strong handle on how to interface with it. In fact, digital literacy is so prevalent among younger generations that some schools have even begun to integrate newer technological infrastructure into the classroom.

Of course, the consequences associated with the massive upload, storage, and analysis of information rendered into existence by the birth and proliferation of the Internet have spawned its own series of problems. How people interface with such technologies that allow them this accessibility to information and the effect on their behavior is what causes the greatest concern.

The Real Impact of the Internet on Globalization

The irony of it is that everyone who signs up to be a part of this massive network of information to benefit from collaboration and sharing seems to be aware of its fine print. A 2016 Survey conducted by Pew Research revealed that roughly half of Americans do not trust the government or social media websites to protect their data. But, participation and sign-ups for different social media platforms, by the same article, were shown not to have been significantly affected by this apparent doubt.

What this means is that most people, whether they’re aware of it or not, are fine with trading some of their privacy and information on their common behaviors to large companies that process data (Google, Palantir, etc.) in return for being able to communicate globally. It’s not a bad deal, but is the trade really necessary?

Recently, the most popular of such issues have centered around enormous tech companies such as Facebook, still facing controversies past the Senate hearing regarding its Cambridge Analytica incident; Uber, battling legal issues and resistance from traditional taxi services in Korea; or Huawei, whose CFO’s arrest drew even greater attention to climate of acrimonious trade relations between the U.S. and China, due to alleged Chinese attempts to pilfer American innovations.

The Silver Lining

While we’re arguably stuck with impartial, half-dystopian, data-mining juggernauts in the form of tech companies, the original purpose of the Internet (to share information and build on it) still remains. For instance, snow days might become a thing of the past when online classroom sessions and the technology guiding their development gain more reliability and social acceptance.

Moreover, EdTech marketplaces and their recent growth are an especially interesting intersection between a system that communicates information, and a positive practical effect it can have for people. Most people now use Google as a portal to smaller sites with more specific information, and the bearing of EdTech on people looking to improve their skills and to meet people with similar interests to develop those skills is more germane to our society today than ever.