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Megan Summers

Impact Entrepreneurship Group

TEDCRED 500+

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Is the internet, not formal education, the new great equalizer?

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. – Horace Mann

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    Oct 6 2011: The Internet is a phenomenal tool but I expect that, certainly at this point, it is the opposite to an equalizer, especially versus a formal education.

    At the outset, a formal education equips one with a set of fundamental tools that enable the use of the Internet. For instance, one can hardly imagine using the Net without already being able to read and I don't expect that, without having the ability to do so, one would be able to navigate the Web to get to any educational resources aimed at illiteracy.

    Beyond basic literacy, one needs to be 'computer literate'. To be computer literate access to a computer or, at the very least, access to a mobile device is required. Either that computer or mobile device needs to be connected to the Internet for it to become any sort of connected educational resource. And that requires money, infrastructure, or public access. Even then, Web literacy or the ability to use the World Wide Web in such a manner that it is useful as an educational tool is a final hurdle to overcome.

    For those of us that have had the privilege to grow with the Internet in such a way that it seems utterly ubiquitous, it is difficult to imagine life without it and difficult to imagine not knowing how to use it. I presume a lot of us would have trouble functioning without the ability to access the Web for quick answers, updates, and at-your-fingertips entertainment. But, even among those of us that have been using the Net for years, many scarcely understand it let alone use it as a learning tool.

    For the Net to become a great and sweeping equalizer, everyone would have to have access, interest, and literacy (and similarly robust broadband). I'm not sure formal education has been much of an equalizer either. Very similar issues apply.

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