The Internet is for Secret Learners
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The Internet is for Secret Learners

I think this is one reason why the internet is so powerful for young learners.

Hands up? Not likely. By theirhistory on Flickr
At school, the child-generated, psychological strategy of self-preservation = stay quiet, don't get noticed, don't get bullied. Because, if you work hard, you're a swot and swots get abuse. So, you have a question? Don't ask the teacher, not in class because everyone will groan, or throw something at you or pick on you at break time and definitely not after class because you're obviously trying to be a teacher's pet. We want kids to be curious, but how can they get answers to their questions if they feel intimidated and can't do it at school? Parents aren't always in a position to help and some of them won't be able to or won't want to. Nobody knows if children are doing extra study if they're on the internet. They might get all the homework answers right, they may get some ribbing, but the secrecy of their study could be a comfort.

I've just been nosing around this BBC Bitesize learning area checking out some of the exercises. It's great! I've just done an algebra exercise to test it out. I could never get to grips with algebra at school, the basic stuff I suppose I must have been able to do, but I remember finding it difficult. Quadratic equations? You must be joking. I scraped through GCSE maths with a C, I never got my head around equations, it was like a foreign language. It is a foreign language! 

The funny thing is, I remember winning a maths quiz thing at my school when I was about 14. I hadn't thought of this for years, but BBC Bitesize brought back some memories. It was (is?) some kind of test of various problems and things, similar to IQ test questions. I got the gold award for my school, and I believe it still resides in an album at my parents' house somewhere that contains other things like a 50m swimming certificate, a cycling proficiency award and some cub scout paraphernalia (stuff that parents like to keep). 'Stick that in your pipe, Mr, Jones', I thought! 'How did you manage that?' said the clever mathematicians. I had no idea, there was no pressure, no study, no revision and nothing at all to prepare, it was just a test of problem-solving skills, I suppose. Of course, the head above parapet moment relating to this success wasn't entirely enjoyable, I might as well have put myself in the stocks in a medieval market square.

If I'd had BBC Bitesize to play around with, who knows what I might be doing know? I might be a mathematician instead of an English teacher, ha ha!

The other thing I noticed on the site is the fact that there are message boards for the kids using the site and guess what? They're helping each other out. They are discussing algebra and sharing strategies for understanding how it all works. Look at message 10 in this thread (and 14 to see her confirming her age!). In fact, who is learning more here? The girl who posted the original message asking for help, or 'Esme' who has successfully articulated her understanding of the issue, which should have allowed her to reflect and to consider how best to explain it, thus deepening her own knowledge.

There are many things wrong with education today, but things like this make me wish that I was at school now, although I'm glad I've already done a degree and I'm halfway through an MA before they put the prices up! Opportunities for learning are so easily accessible online and the kids don't necessarily need a teacher to answer their questions. What does help, of course, is if the teachers are guiding kids to these resources and enabling them to find out for themselves. 

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