The Digital Future is Now?

By Murray Bourne, 08 May 2005

The Digital Future 2004 (no longer available) from University of Southern California is an interesting read. It gives an overview of current trends in the development of the Internet.

A brief summary: [Comments in square brackets are mine]

  • Internet usage continues to rise and displace television watching [the Internet requires some brain use, TV does not]
  • [Internet users] link, think, and interact with information and with other users. Simply, they are not merely watching – they are involved
  • E-mail is still the single most important reason people go online [communication is king]
  • Only 62% of US students use Internet at school [What? Why are educational institutions always behind the trend and not leading it?]
  • The Web is the most important source of information for users, but there are increasing concerns about the reliabilit yof that information
  • About 2/3 of people multitask while online (watch TV, talk on the phone, instant messaging)
  • About 2/3 of students age 18 and under say that the Internet is very important for their schoolwork.
  • The more you use it, the more you use it (> 7 yrs users had greatest number of hours use per week, more online purchases, more health care info, etc)
  • "[The Internet’s] impact on how we learn, both formally and informally, has been minimal and limited to the periphery of education, in areas like Web sites for courses and small amounts of distance learning." [So where are the exciting, engaging sites that have been the promise for so long? Sure, they exist, but how many learning institutions make use of them?]

In closing, I quote the top 10 internet activities. I can’t see too many specifically education-related things in the list - but that’s the point, isn’t it? Learning is happening without pain in many cases, unlike what passes for learning in many institutions...

(Percentage of people who report online weekly time with these activities)
1. E-mail and instant messaging 90.4%
2. Web surfing or browsing 77.2%
3. Reading news 52.0%
4. Hobbies 46.7%
5. Entertainment information 45.6%
6. Shopping and buying online 44.2%
7. Medical information 36.1%
8. Travel information 34.6%
9. Tracking credit cards 32.5%
10. Playing games 28.5%

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