Using the internet as an extension of learning

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The internet is not new.

It has been considered as an Information Communication Tool (ICT) for quite a number of years now. Almost everyone knows that there are tons of information online (although only some are credible! This is where media literacy comes in.) and a casual “Google” (even this has become a somewhat chic term) through any internet search engines will often bring you thousands or even millions of websites containing information that you want. Isn’t the internet cool?

“However, years of teaching experiences have taught me that the internet is indeed cool in providing information. But it is not so cool in getting you the precise information that you want.”

There are often two reasons for this:

  1. Information overload: This is an old term that requires no further introduction. Most of us have – in one way or another –  search for information using words, phrases, sentences or questions and be presented with tons of information online. And most of us know that the top few links are there for reasons of which none of them is directed towards our exact query. After all, all if not most search engines are algorithm-based and they cannot read our minds, no matter how precise are our search terms.

“This leaves much room for search engine designers to explore and resolve these issues but this is not what this blog post is about, although I hope to see much improvements in this area in the coming years. We have already seen what artificial intelligence is able to do for mankind, and there seems to be no limits to these technological breakthroughs. It seems to be a matter of time before our lives are permeated with automation, beginning with the eateries at say, Eatsa.”

2.  Finding the hook to getting information we seek: Not getting the exact information that we want or need online (just imagine trying to find an online solution to a technical glitch for your mobile phone. It will be interesting to have a game on this to find out who resolves it first!) acknowledges the fact that we know what we are looking for in the first place.

Now, there are instances whereby we do not know exactly what we are looking for in the first place. For instance, you may want to travel to Japan. All right, maybe you know it’s Osaka that you want to go to. Many of us may just “google” Osaka to get the specific destinations but that means that we will have to plough through tons of websites to decide on the exact destinations that we want to go to. And in the process, you get confused by repetition of information on numerous websites, or different information on the same place. “

This is also why I have advised students to read newspapers, magazines and other textual resources widely such that they build up a larger repertoire of knowledge and information to work with when sourcing for information online. For instance, using the same example above,  if they chance upon places in Osaka such as Osaka Station City or Grant Front Osaka, wouldn’t a search using these words be more effective than merely searching with the word “Osaka”?

But to chance upon these words, one needs to have awareness of their existence in the first place. So, the most ideal starting point of learning is still traditional media. New media works best as a learning medium if they serve as extension arms of traditional media.”

Hence, there is still an important use of hard copies of newspapers and magazines, contrary to the argument that online content is king. I still subscribe to the hard copies of TIME magazine, and when I chance upon a word that I am interested in, I will look for more information online by “googling” that word. Say, using the automation example mentioned above, the eatery Eatsa is mentioned. Eatsa has no outlet in Singapore yet, but I am able to use the hard copy magazine as a springboard to search for more information that I want online to learn more about this eatery.

“In other words, newspapers, magazines and other news content should be used as a basis for gathering news content but readers and learners should do better by furthering their research and learning online – through credible and reliable websites. Furthermore, I find that there is better information retention and reduced eye strain when one reads on paper. The desire to gather and read more news when reading online may have contributed to reduced concentration and focus, as well as diluted attention span.

To conclude, I will say that we can enhance our learning not by discarding hard copies of news content and wholly embracing the internet and online news content.

“We should – instead – use traditional media as a springboard to further our learning online. We should wed the information we have gathered from the hard copies with what we will find online through selected search terms sourced from traditional media.”

Only then will we optimise our learning in the current times.

Seen in this light, online content is only king only when serving as an information repository.  When it comes to learning, online content is subservient to traditional media.

Is it any wonder that some feel that online courses do not pose a threat to brick and mortar universities?

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at He can be contacted at


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