A week or so ago, I teamed up with a 6th-grade math and science teacher to take a stab at a loosely constructed library skills class. The class is 40 minutes a day for 4 weeks. We decided that we wanted to see what would happen if 25 kids had a chance to learn certain information retrieval skills outside of the hustle and bustle of a standard class. We planned to spend a week on reference materials, a week on using the library catalog, a week on the district's digital library (databases), and a week on using websites for research. We started with websites, knowing the kids were itching to get to the computers the minute they walked through the door.
As adults, we often assume that the 'kids these days' were born with a mouse in hand, a flash drive around their necks, and Das Interweb running through their veins. We think we will be sooooo far behind these kids once they hit the workforce. Not so. Here are some of the things that these 6th-grade sweethearts neither knew nor understood:
- the Internet is not an application
- where to type a URL
- what a URL is
- not to use spaces when typing a URL
- how to click on ANYTHING
- how to move between websites
- how to find the name of a website
- why a website will not appear if its address has been spelled incorrectly
The list goes on and on and on. I was met with blank faces when I used words like homepage and browser. The kids were given a pretty standard website evaluation sheet which asked questions like "are there photos on this website?", "does the page take a long time to load?", and "does this site link you to other useful websites?". Nothin'. And I mean nothin'. Pinball they know. How to find video game cheat codes, also yes.
The funny thing is, many of these kids have computers at home. I am beginning to suspect that having a computer at home means very little if no one knows how it works. So don't worry too much, fellow adults. I think your jobs are safe, for a little while at least. My 6-month old niece might steal them from you someday, but I don't think you'll get much trouble from my 6th-graders.