Aperitif, cell-phone… gun…??? What’s going on? I will explain but first a question. Is a gun good, bad, or just plain ugly? Is it only ever used for bad, or can it ever be a good thing? What about computers, the internet and new technology, always good or sometimes bad?
Let me introduce you to Clint Eastwood, perhaps best known for his portrayal of the character “Dirty Harry”. If you are familiar with the Dirty Harry franchise, was Harry a good guy or a bad guy? The lines are somewhat blurred. So let me get more to the point, meet Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, stars of the popular Spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Lee Van Cleef is ‘The Bad’, he is evil as evil gets, totally ruthless and does what he wants to whom he wants to get what he wants. . Eli Wallach is ‘The Ugly’, a very complex character, amongst other things lying, stealing, one minute pretending to be Clint Eastwood’s best friend, the next trying to kill him. He represents `the ugly’ side of people. Then we come to Clint Eastwood. He’s ‘the Good’, but not good in any traditional archetypal sense of being all good. He has a sense of honour and tries to do the right thing, but has some abhorrent ways of fulfilling that role. In a way, the film is like a morality play, weighing the consequences of good and evil, where sometimes the bad does pay, at least in the short term, and sometimes good does go unrewarded. But there is always a time for payback.
So what has all this to do with internet technology, I hear you ask. Welcome to the iSafeCafe, so far on my blog-posts, we’ve hinted at some of the many potential dangers when engaging with the internet and new technologies. The intention though is not to scare anyone, of course there is much that is good about the internet and the main characters in the film really underpin how we need to approach the internet. There is no doubt internet technology is good for a whole lot of reasons, but we must never overlook the bad side. There is a dark side to the internet that can be really quite ugly and the problem is that we often give youngsters access to the internet without ever explaining any of this, nor educating them on the need to stay safe. I suggest that mostly, this is because we ourselves as adults have no idea about the good, the bad and the ugly. So today for our main course, in honour of Clint Eastwood as the main star, we’re going to look at the good by looking at my Top Ten Tips for what’s good about the internet. Remember though that while Clint Eastwood represented the “Good” he was not the traditional idea of good and there were some bad things about him even when he was being good. So in looking at what’s good about the internet, we still need to treat what’s good with kid’s gloves, so to speak.
Top Ten Tips – “What’s good about the internet”
- Communication – staying in touch or making new friends
For families who can’t always be together, parents separated for youngsters at college, far-away grandparents, cousins in a different country, for example, the internet is a great help in keep us close together. You can check in with regular phone calls, video chat, photo sharing, etc, all helps us to stay connected with loved ones. Online interaction can help make us feel less isolated and more confident, helping us with forming relationships new relationships offline. Of course we can see the hidden danger in that, so again we are called to see the bad even in the good.
- Education and Learning
One of the most valuable things about the Internet is a broader access to education. Students of all ages and abilities don’t have to depend on the classroom to learn, there’s just so much on the internet. All you need is do the research.
From a teacher’s point of view, using internet technology in the classroom can help young people learn. There is a lot of software available with diagrams, quizzes and puzzles, education games and so on that can supplement the pupils’ learning. Many schools now post homework assignments online, allowing pupils to do research and keep up with their learning targets. There are also lots of apps that encourage joint- learning activities for parent and child and some designed to help parents keep their children organised. In addition there’s also useful programmes to support people with disabilities and special educational needs.
- Leisure and Entertainment
People of all ages love the internet for a whole lot of reasons, including the fact that it can be plain fun. The online world is a great source of engaging, creative entertainment for everyone and has drastically changed how we access entertainment. We now have it all at our finger-tips in the comfort of our homes, any and everything from watching a movie, listening to music, playing games, booking a theatre show or restaurant, the list in endless.
Also, those of us who want to be more creative can produce our own music, writing or artwork and have an immediate audience online by posting them on the wide variety of social media platforms.
Internet search engines are the greatest way for finding information, from a meal available in a local restaurant to the latest international news that’s trending. Before the internet, conducting research for school, college, work or simply out of curiosity meant having a set of huge encyclopaedias or taking frequent trips to the local library. Now, we have all that information readily accessible right in front of us via the internet where you can find information about any topic. It is a major source for scholarly journals, current news, books, magazines, general information and other relevant content, catering for everything from academic research to how to remove that wine stain from you best shirt or blouse.
You can find information on almost any product and service online. You can read reviews, compare prices, see ratings and read actual consumer feedback and make informed decisions before you buy. And you can buy almost anything online, just be careful with the payment methods. Remember, everything that looks good…
The internet has transformed the way we choose our holidays and travel. Rather than going to travel agents, we use online sites to tailor-make our holidays by comparing the cheapest online flights and hotel bookings. We can get a really accurate idea of hotels and destinations across the world at a click by reading the reviews with pictures and recommendations from recent travelers. Travel Blogs, photo-sharing and video sites are now the place to go to research your next trip, rather and once you’ve done the research, you can compare the best deals and book your flight, hotel, hired car and sight-seeing trips, all on the internet.
A growing number of people now use the internet to do their banking, saving considerable time and effort. No more going to the High Street to pay bills, make a deposit or moving money from one account to the other.
- Job Search
Searching for a job means having up-to-the-minute information from every corner and there’s no better way of doing that than the internet. There is an endless amount of websites on the internet that provides us with news of vacancies across the wide spectrum of companies and organisations. You can register your details with some websites and they will do the rest, sending you email information about suitable job vacancies according to your choice and even helping you with your selection.
Again you can find up-to-date information and know-how on any business topic. The Internet makes it possible for businesses and companies to do transactions with clients and customers online. You can buy your business online and use a variety of software packages to help you run it, from designing the logo, to marketing to accounting, it’s all there and of course you can sell almost anything online.
- Online Freelancing
The Internet has created great opportunities for people who don’t really want to run a business as such, but are interested in working as freelancers. This can be anything from writing a blog, web designing, social marketeers, singer/songwriters who want to get their work around, visual artists, basically anyone with a talent who wants some exposure and hopefully sell their products.
So here I have given you what I think are the 10 top goodies about the internet. There are others of course and someone else might have a different top ten, but I really don’t think you’ll find much variation from these.
Here in Barbados where I have the good fortune to live, we have been grappling with the idea of allowing cell phones in schools after having been banned back in 2009. On the one hand there is the good… While talking to the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) back in July of this year, the Minister of Education suggested his 2009 decision to ban cell phones in schools was a mistake, saying “In Barbados, sometimes out of fear, we are caught up in discussions over whether we should have mobile phones in schools, and I admit banning the use of technology was a mistake I made. In all honesty, the envelope is being pushed open more than in the past, and if our students are to learn effectively, it is important that they are connected not only to the knowledge flow emanating from the teacher in the classroom, but that they get exposed to information from across the world.” Interestingly, he went on to liken some aspects of the worldwide web to “the Wild West”, but said these elements could be tamed and put to more positive use.
On the other hand, there’s the bad… President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) has warned the Education Ministry not to allow cell phones in schools, saying they will have a bad influence in being an unnecessary distraction. And then there’s the downright ugly… the President went on to say it will exacerbate the problem of gang activity and pose a major security threat to schools, and identified a troubling trend emerging where students affiliated with gangs from various communities are more and more using their mobile devices to call for backup whenever there was conflict with other students. “So by the time school ends, either just outside of the school gates or in the environs of the school there is a mob to assist the member who felt that in some way he or she was being ‘unfaired’. By the end of day you have a group outside waiting to beat up somebody.”
So the lines are drawn and the battle is raging, with the two main protagonists the Ministry of Education in one corner and the Teachers’ Union in the other. One thing is clear though, to which they both agree. Should the initiative get the go-ahead, it would need to come accompanied by a rigorous and comprehensive Code of Conduct developed by the Ministry and which first the pupil and their parents will have to agree and sign.
What are your thoughts on this, should pupils be allowed to bring their cell phones into the classroom and use them as part of the teaching and learning process, albeit with some kind of Code of Conduct?
As we draw close to the end of our meal, finishing off with a nice cup of coffee, here is your task for today. I hope you have given some thought to the controversy of cell phones in the classroom, now I would like you to draw-up a Code of Conduct for how this could be effected to help learning in the classroom. Maybe a set of do’s and don’ts will suffice, but feel free to elaborate at will. Finally, if you are a parent with youngsters, why not draw-up a Code of Conduct for how you want your own children to manage their cell phone usage. What rules do you want them to follow. How will you monitor whether or not they are following the rules. What rewards will you give them for good behaviour and what sanctions if they disobey the rules? Feel free to comment or share your thoughts and any rules you come up with. Enjoy your coffee and see you next time.