Addressing the Web Skeptics

Last week I presented at the ARCH (Association of Retained Council Housing) Tenants’ Conference in Leamington Spa. My theme was about Digital Engagement of Tenants. At the beginning of the afternoon workshop, I asked who, in an audience of about 40 people, had never used the internet. 2 men at the back of the room put their hands up, so I told them I hoped I would have convinced them they were missing out by the end of the session.

So, at the close of the workshop, I asked the 2 skeptics if I had changed their minds. One wouldn’t say anything. The other proudly told me he had not changed his view and went on to expound his theory that the internet has stopped people from learning things. That, because people now have information at their finger tips, and access to tools such as spell checks, there is no incentive actually to learn things any more. I explained my view, that having the internet at our disposal encourages us to be more creative, and to use the parts of our brains formerly dedicated to storing information for activities which allow us to deploy our skills and abilities to more effective ends. He wasn’t having it, I’m afraid.

Fortunately, I got a lot of positive feedback from the remainder of those present, and a number of people came forward to tell me I had inspired them to want to use the internet in ways which had not previously occurred to them. But I couldn’t help thinking about those two skeptics and all the things they are missing out on. The truth is the opposite of what that man claimed it to be. Closing one’s mind to the possibilities offered by the web is the ultimate act of refusing to learn. I personally will not rest until I have got everybody to understand that.

One thought on “Addressing the Web Skeptics

  1. I can relate! In my groups I often get an automatic, visceral reaction to the mention of FB & Twitter. It sometimes helps when I reframe them as community news sources rather than baby photos and celebrities, but the arms crossed, head shaking “no, it’s not for me” is a familiar sight!

    In all fairness the guy did have a slight point – I’m as guilty as anyone of quickly retreating to Wikipedia or IMDB rather than searching my own brain – but I think it’s possibly the style of learning which is changing, not learning itself.

    More importantly, there’s an important point about where knowledge or learning is now stored. If someone’s memory is gradually deteriorating or is intermittent then there’s an awful lot to be said for having familiar songs, films and pictures easily available online. In these cases the web isn’t a lazy information resource, it’s a vital reconnection to someone’s life.

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