Learning & Fun

How to use the Internet to extend education

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Draining brains – or training brains? How to use the Internet to extend education.

Ten years ago, Sir Ken Robinson brought an extraordinary (and sometimes hilarious) point of view to bear on education.


Video: Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on education


His take on teaching is still relevant today: Right now we have a problem. We’re educating our children for the future – but it’s a future that nobody really knows anything about. Some research even suggests 65% of children will work in roles that don’t exist yet!


Fortunately our education system is evolving towards teaching our kids ever more about how to think, not just what to think, so they’ll be ready to take on whatever challenges they come across as they grow up – especially with New Zealand’s new focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

Education is not the learning of facts, but training the mind to think.
– Albert Einstein

The really great thing is that as parents, we have an immensely powerful educational tool in our homes to support this way of learning.


It’s called the Internet.


Wait a minute, you might say – don’t kids just use the Internet to google the answers? Aren’t they simply copying whatever answer comes up first, and pasting it into their Google Docs project, then emailing that to their teacher – so they can get back to playing Minecraft online? That’s possible. But what if you helped your children’s natural curiosity to make the most of all that information?

Think about two ways you can leverage the Internet to support the way children learn:

Encourage “Critical Thinking”. There’s an opportunity in the superabundance of information at our kids’ fingertips. You can help them learn to ask questions, not just look for answers. Look at the first result. Is what you’re seeing really the truth? Is it the only point of view? Can you find an opposing point of view? What alternatives are there? Can you learn why you’re seeing what you’re seeing? Who published the content you’re looking at or thinking of using? Why? Think about what you’re seeing, and look beyond the surface.

Things you can do:

  • Google “critical thinking exercises”
  • Print a critical thinking checklist for the fridge
  • Teach yourself critical thinking here

Extend their education. New Zealand schools are generally world-class – but they can only cover so much in a day, and typically do that at the pace of the average student. If your kids are curious types, let their brains go for a run. First make sure you’re all set up for safety . Then go exploring your favourite topics together – from “how stuff works” to “how to” videos.

Things you can do:

  • Check out the extensive NZ TKI list of learning sites
  • Make a list of all the things anyone in your family has ever wanted to learn
  • Print out a star chart for stepping through lessons

Which sites are you finding most useful in helping your children train their brains? What challenges do you face with using the Internet as a surrogate teacher? Share your experiences – because the more we know, the better we get!

If your kids are using the Internet for homework already – you might be interested in how to get the most out of the web for homework, and how to start a conversation with your kids about copyright.

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