Parents vs Internet: Are We Still Relevant Teachers?

Parents vs InternetI watched my niece, intent on the sewing machine, carefully guiding the material underneath and struggling to keep the stitches straight. She was learning to sew and excited about taking home the little off-shoulder blouse she was making. I was excited to be teaching something new to my niece. It threw me back. 

Back to the days when my mother showed my sister and I how to sew. I remember mum comparing our stitches and commenting that my sister’s where slightly straighter. I took it on as a personal challenge. My sister and my mum already had their impressive height and dark features in common, I was determined that sewing would be the thing we shared. It still is to this day. Some of my favourite times are spent with my mother, in her sunny sewing room, creating and chatting. Gentle days.

I remembered my grandmother teaching me how to crochet. Her lined and patient hands guiding my small ones as I learnt a treble stitch. As I got better, we sat together and our needles would work at the same rate. We smiled and wondered if the tempo of needlework could be genetic. 

It felt good and a little retro to be passing sewing skills onto my niece. In my mind’s eye I was protecting ancient skills that might be forgotten. Gently passing the baton to the next generation. But before I wandered too far down this indulgently nostalgic road, I remembered the internet. 

If at any time my niece decided she wanted to sew, a thousand YouTube videos could instruct her. Sometimes we talk about forgotten skills but in reality we have an archiving system that cannot be rivalled. When I hit a snag in my own sewing, my first call is to mum but if she isn’t around a quick Google will always resolve my problem.

The other day our washing machine broke.  We Googled, we found the problem, we resolved the problem ourselves. Maybe in days past we would have asked a handy friend to help us out. Today we don’t need to. There are a host of generous people around the world sharing their skills and their talents online. 

If I spent my internet time more wisely I could learn a second language, how to bake the perfect cupcake, how to code in Ruby, the ins and outs of horticulture and how to cultivate native bees. But I don’t. 

Isn’t it funny? I have all this technology, all this wisdom at my fingertips but I don’t use it to launch new passions. That spark has to come from somewhere else. Somewhere more tangible. The loving hand of a mother. Or grandmother. Or aunt.

I think that’s where the passing of skills comes in. Being able to see the joy it brings someone and wanting a part of that. That love. That passion. That spark that leads to a fire. Perhaps that is the essence of teaching and it is not easily replaced.

There is still value in the physical passing down of knowledge, because there is so much value in the relationship between student and teacher. There is a richness gained by both parties that cannot be emulated by watching a YouTube tutorial. But I am very grateful that whenever I hit a snag, there is an internet community waiting to help me resolve my problem. I don’t have to go to the library and search, or find a person in the flesh to guide me. I have a world of knowledge at my finger tips.

So does my niece when she next picks up a piece of fabric and wonders what she could turn it into. Although I secretly hope she’ll ring me first. Do we still need to pass things onto our children, given so much is available online? I think we do. I think we still rely on human relationships to ignite a sparks of interest, but we have an incredible tool to keep that flame burning bright.

Do you feel like the internet enhances learning or reduces it?

More ways we teach our children:

Image: Getty