Classroom Perspectives, Ed Tech, STEM

Don’t Forget to Wonder: Has The Internet Made Knowledge Too Easy?

Don’t Forget to Wonder: Has The Internet Made Knowledge Too Easy?

Originally published March 2014

By Albert Roberts

It’s nice to think of the Internet as a wonderful invention that has made our lives both richer and more efficient. It’s a nice notion and it’s an accurate one—the Internet has changed our lives for the better. We can now communicate with people from all four corners of the globe. We can share, swap, and gain as much knowledge as we could ever want or need. There are no negatives associated with instant knowledge—or are there?

When it comes to school children, the influence of the internet is massive—even more so now that everybody has at least one mobile device in their pocket at all times. If you have a question that needs answering, you no longer have to wait until you can sit down in front of a desktop computer. You simply have to pull out your iPhone or Android device and type your question into Google. You will have an answer within a few seconds.

The problem with this is that children are neglecting the need to wonder and to not know. A developing mind needs to grapple with the concept of uncertainty, just as it needs to grapple with knowledge. After all, the best discoveries always come from a place of wonderment and innocence. Newton didn’t need the Internet to discover the laws of motion—he saw an action that he didn’t fully understand, so he decided to experiment with ideas about why that action might have occurred. It was a discovery that came from a place of wonderment, a place of not knowing.


It is, of course, useful to be able to find the answers to our questions in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t matter what you want to learn about—hippos, the solar system, how to make bread, what a plant is made out of, or even what Justin Bieber is planning for his next tour. If you have a mobile device, you can find out about all of these things and so much more. What you cannot do is engage your own mind, you cannot teach yourself. This is a vital skill, because computer technology is fallible.

There will come a time when the Internet fails you and you need to rely on your own wits. There’s a very good reason why lots of teachers aren’t keen on being overly reliant on technology. They can plan an amazing lesson in minute detail, but if the Internet goes down and they can’t access it—it won’t be any good to them. In that case, they’ve got to do things the old fashioned way and improvise. They’ve got to stand in front of a class and use their own brain to come up with new ideas fast and efficiently. These are the type of skills that our school children are currently at risk of losing.

Sometimes, there is joy to be had in not knowing. There is real value to be gained from coming to a right answer all by yourself. If you ask a child to Google the constituent parts of a plant, he might know the answer for a day or two but they are bound to forget it. Why wouldn’t they, if they can simply take to the Internet and look it up again? If you ask a group of children to discuss what they think plants are made of, you’re bound to get a much longer lasting result. It’s a lot more fun too.

Albert Roberts is a secondary school teacher in the UK. He recommends parents check out the services from School Explained to better understand modern teaching methods. Albert can be found online blogging about how to engage challenging students to improving parent teacher relationships.