I’ve just finished reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, a book that highlights the many people who helped create, step-by-step, the digital world where we now reside.
The book begins way back in the mid-1800s with the ideas of Lady Ada Lovelace, an amateur mathematician (and the daughter of poet Lord Byron). It was Lady Ada, Isaacson writes, who provided the ideas and laid the groundwork for early computer developers to use nearly 100 years later when they created their first computing machines.
Isaacson’s book is a history of the innovators and collaborators who made the digital revolution happen, starting with Ada Lovelace and continuing on to highlight the many people trying and re-trying their innovative ideas to move the world closer and closer to computers and to our digital age.
One person that he writes about late in the book is Tim Berners-Lee, sometimes called one of the fathers of the internet. Berners-Lee created the tools of HTTP and HTML that allowed the web to come to life. His goal was to make communication easier and to break down barriers between people and cultures around the world.
But today he’s not so sure.
While he accomplished his original goal of better communication, Berners-Lee believes that the web is tarnished by the ugly and darker activities that occur online. An article from WBUR in Boston and posted on the NPR website describes some of his disappointment at the problems and ugliness that have developed, especially with social media.
WBUR reporter Asthma Khalid notes that “Berners-Lee doesn’t believe that the web’s current challenges can be fixed by tech experts alone.”
So this is where adults — educators and parents — fit in. No magic wand or nifty technological fix exists or will exist, to mandate civility on the web. Instead, it will be a long-term process to teach, mentor, and model in ways that encourage children (and adults, too) to construct their digital lives with care