I believe that there is one important thing that people should know about Cyberspace in general, and computers in particular.
This is going to come as somewhat of a surprise, probably, especially since I am teaching a course that supports the use of computers in the classroom. That one important thing is:
There. I said it. I know I personally have benefited from our increased dependency on computers, since I like them and I have been in a position to teach teachers and students all about them *(see note). However, I believe that this "information age" in which we supposedly live should not involve so much use of machines
I know it sounds like heresy, and to some extent, I guess it is, especially to the large numbers of institutions (businesses, advertisers) which profit from all this software and hardware development (including the obvious planned obsolescence involved). But if you stop and really think about the mania our culture has for computers and technology in general, some rather disturbing thoughts might occur.
We spend far too much time worrying about students growing up and not fitting into the future because they are not computer literate enough. Cars are important, too, but we don't take a huge part of our day to teach auto literacy. People will do with the technology what they have always done - learn the part of the technology that is important to them at the time. No one knows everything about cars the same as no one knows everything about computers. Most of us haven't a clue how a car works, but we drive them very well when we want to.
And do you really think that children who have spent hours every day in front of a TV screen need more time in front of a computer monitor - especially young children?
I have been in school divisions where, when the choice came to hire / retain teachers or to buy computers, computers won every time. Browsing the Web was more important than learning to read or write properly - the Internet cannot teach children these things. Who is going to teach children how to construct a logical argument, how to speak in front of other people, how to express themselves artistically or musically, and how to work with other people? Teachers model skills, draw from life experiences and promote real scholarship - which happens to be hard work. Will Cyberspace, with its flash animations and programmed rewards, teach people the value of this hard work? Which is better: meeting people in our neighbourhoods who are different from us, or perceiving them through an Internet porthole, which conveys images, but not understanding? (I know . . . a loaded question. How did you know that - did a computer teach you this concept? I'll bet NOT!)
I know people are afraid / feel inadequate when it comes to being critical of our over-use of computers. They think they have no right to complain, since they are not experts. But that's like saying, "since you are not a political expert, what business do you have voting?"
The ability to deal with other people, whether it be in a job, in a family, or just with friends, has never come from the Internet and never will. If you ask people who are in a position of authority or power what they want to see in their employees, they will say the most important thing is the ability to get along and work with others. One does not learn this spending hours every day at a computer monitor.