The Developmental Processes in Learning the Internet

Research Report: Learning To Become Internet Literate

by  bliss, G17, Fall 2002

Dr. Leon James, Instructor:

Instructions for this report are at:


I.                 INTRODUCTION

This research report demonstrates the developmental processes in learning the Internet among the students in the Generational Curriculum in online learning.  The online-learning experiences of the past students as well as my own were examined through the threefold model of self in consideration of effects from affect, cognition, and behavior.

Experience in Learning the Internet of Past Generations


* “No Clue”….. Blank/Confusion/Anxiety Phase


In this phase, those who are novices of the Internet feel lost, confused, and anxious to start using the Internet because, for the most part, they just don’t have any clue about what to do.  It is almost like reading a book in another language without knowing any meanings of the words.  It does not appear to make sense in their head because the terms and ways in which they should approach to things are a lot different from going to class, listening to lectures, taking notes, etc. 


Michelle Alonzo says, “I think that learning the Internet at the very beginning was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I had no idea what I was doing. Neither did most of the class. I guess because most of us were novices and never really had any real formal instruction on how to do the most basic things on the Internet.”


Carol Ohta says, “In week one the class was suppose to get our address for uhunix and give the teacher our login name. Dr. James said that if we didn't have one, we should go to Keller Hall and get our address and password. Once we have it, we are to e-mail him our login name. Believe me, I felt lost and confused because I didn't understand a word he was saying. Hey, remember I'm computer illiterate. Go ahead and laugh but you probably experienced the same thing your first time on the computer.”

Christine says, “When I first used the Internet, I did not know what to do or where to click. This was back in 1995, when my parents got a new computer.”


Ryan Mitsui says, “Well, learning the Internet can be quite difficult in the beginning. At first putting up a page is really confusing because you can't just type exactly what you want.”


Kai says, “Most students that have never used the Internet before report fear and anxiety before starting.”



* Frustration Phase


This phase happens to everyone who started to experience the world of the Internet.  There are times what you want does not come to you so easily, and you get frustrated.  Think of a time you can’t get a little information like the location of the store you desperately would like to go.  You keep surfing the Internet, and going to one search engine to another, typing in many phrases you can possibly think of, yet it does not do.  I myself experience it from time to time even after all this time I extensively get on the Internet.  It is a stressful period you must get through in the course of learning the Internet.


Christine, although she became comfortable with using the Internet, says, “How many of you out there experienced frustration while using the computer? I know what it's like going on a computer and it doesn't do what you want it to do. Before taking this course, I only knew about the Internet and how to "surf" it. I experienced frustration when my links weren't working properly, and then when my icons wasn't loading up correctly.”


Michelle says, “I think, with everything that's new, we all feel that emotion of "frustration & anger!" When learning something new, we may not get the hang of it the very first time, with the exception of a very few, and we become angry at ourselves, the computer terminals, the teacher, and just the world! I'm speaking from experience! There were times when I felt like throwing the computer terminal on the ground because it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, so I thought.”


* Excitement/Reinforcement Phase: High Motivation


Keep exploring the Internet!  You will eventually overcome confusion and anxiety by getting used to using the Internet and having a pretty good idea about how the Internet works.  It might take only a little time for some people, or a lot of time for others, but the most important thing is you keep trying! 


If you do, I can say for sure that you will have one of the most powerful tools to be used for your life.  Many people experience the usefulness of the Internet after they get the hang of it.  The more they use, the better they become in using the Internet, which keeps them motivated and reinforces further development in learning the Internet.


Christine says, “It wasn't until one night I decided to take a chance and "surf" the net. I found that you could search for anything and anyone on the net. By using the Internet yellow pages, I was able to get the address from a friend from long ago. I also was able to do some research for one of my classes via the Internet net search engines. I also learned from this semester that I am very impatient when it comes to waiting for pages to load up. That's one of the reasons why I took out some of the fancy stuff I had on this homepage.”


Kai says, “There are different kinds of fears reported that persist through the initial contact with the Internet.  Most fears are overcome during the learning process.”


“This week's task was difficult for me because I had absolutely no knowledge of the Internet, let alone e-mail, when I enrolled in this course. My difficulties came from simply starting. It was overwhelming. I had no idea how to begin; but after I did, and began tackling one task at a time, each moved into the other.


“Once one task was done (or was firmly begun--I wasn't too picky at the time), there was an enthusiasm for the others, and each sub-task became a natural progression. I was amazed that it seemed easier and easier, and I went faster and faster. I felt fascination, as though it were a labyrinth that never ended. This resulted in my exploring beyond what was the Week 1 task.”

Michelle says, “Once things begin to come together for you, you feel a sense of motivation. You see that you can finally make everything work and you feel the urge to make your pages look a lot nicer than they already do. This motivates you to look around the entire Internet to find things that you would like to add to your page, in the hopes that someone will land on your page and say "Wow! This page is nice!" or something along those lines.”


“Once you see your potential, you feel like you want to do more and even try new things on the Internet. Once you surf around and feel more confident, you can learn more about the Internet and learn newer and better techniques.”



* Habituation/Addiction Phase

Do you know anybody who is on the computer all the time?  Have you ever sit up late just surfing the Internet even though you have school next day?  It is so funny after all the difficulties how fun you can get out of what you suffer from. 


For me, I cannot think of my everyday life without a computer anymore.  My roommate is even worse.  She spends hours and hours just in front of her precious computer. (She calls her computer the “super”-computer.  She loves that thing)  What she does on the Internet is amazing.  I got more use of the Internet after started living with her, and it seems that I got addicted to the Internet, too.  Once you get over the suffering and pains you experienced on the Internet, you are in charge of everything and become to enjoy what you are doing.  It’s a great feeling!


Carol Ohta says, “I still feel that I'm computer illiterate because the computer industry is always looking for new ways to improve the computer technology and updating everything. I know for a fact that I'll always be computer illiterate. The only thing is that will I survive trying to keep up with the changes in the computer world? I don't think I'll ever know until the time comes to leave computers forever.”

Kai says, “As the semester wore on I began to realize that I was spending way too much time on the Internet. My work for this class and my other classes were suffering. I had to solve this problem so I went cold turkey. After midterm grading for this class I stopped surfing the web for almost two weeks. Fortunately it worked and I was able to get on with this class's work and the rest of my life.”


My Internet Learning Experiences – Comparison to the Developmental Patterns -


After I learned the experiences of the other people from past generations, I find myself not fitting in their developmental patterns in learning the Internet.  I don’t remember me getting confused and frustrated when I used the Internet for the very first time maybe because I had my friend next to me who taught me everything.  I guess I was very fortunate.  I even felt it more strongly after knowing that a lot of people had to deal with their first-time by themselves.  If I were in the situation like that, I’m sure I would be lost and confused like them.


So speaking of my experiences, I sort of skipped the first phase.  I just simply started exploring the Internet after the first lesson from my friend.  Setting up my e-mail account was pretty easy for me, and I quickly picked up how to surf the Internet.  I started to search everything I want to know on the Web.  I thought it was so amazing we can pick up the information we need in a little time, just sitting in front of the computer. 


Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed when I can’t reach for the information I need.  Or other times I feel overwhelmed by the extensiveness of the given and related information I need.  Searching on the Internet can be very time-consuming; at the same time, it can be a very efficient way to get what you need.  From the experiences, I learned that how we deal with it is more important for further development of the skills in the cyberspace.


Once I reached the point where I could truly enjoy what I do on the Internet, it became much more fun and excitable to use it.  The more fun I got out of the activity, the more reinforced I became to get on the computer.  In the experience of the third phase (Excitement/Reinforcement) is nothing but enthusiastic.  To get to this point, it took me some time because it takes learning, and learning takes some time.  So we ought to keep trying.


It’s been for almost four years since I became to use the Internet almost everyday.  I do not simply use it, but everytime I get on the computer, I learn something different and new.  That is the most exciting part of using the Internet.  I use it for various purposes: e-mailing, shopping, chatting with my friends, getting resources for assignments, checking the news for classes, etc.  You can probably list tons of more things we can do with the Internet.  My addiction to the Internet opened up my eyes toward the huge world of information and made me more creative by learning effective ways to deal with it.



Beneath the Patterns – Causes, Hypothesis, and Meanings -


To explain the developmental processes the above, we first need to recognize the role of affect in learning new situations.  The Confusion/Anxiety phase may involve a kind of technophobia that is typical of the novice of learning the Internet.  As they gain skills in searching and become information literate, they acquire the ability to be an active learner.  It is done through cognitive as well as sensorimotor processes.


The second step in the course of learning the Internet is to continue practicing the acquired skills in information literacy and use them to think critically through projects in the Generational Curriculum of Dr. James.  The works of past generational students play a considerably important role in this phase.  By so doing, students become active learners that would benefit them for their lifetime.  One of the crucial aspect of this phase may be keeping oneself motivated to achieve further learning.


The last phase, Habituation/Addiction, is where students feel comfortable with their computer skills.  They can integrate materials from the web resources and enhance their creativity regardless of the disciplinary nature of the Generational Curriculum.  There is also motivation to share their skills by taking leadership.  By this phase, students are effective users of the Internet.  They are the experts. 


As I read the experiences of past generations, I have realized that learning the Internet takes some patience and endurance since it does not come to us easily at first.  Learning takes a lot of efforts and attention.  If you are motivated to learn, you keep paying attention.  If you hate the Internet and develop an aversion for it, you will not pay too much attention and end up learning not much of it. 


For instance, as most of us know, we can learn faster what we enjoy doing than what we don’t like to do.  When I first started to learn how to play the Ukulele, despite the fact that I had never been exposed to musical instruments, I picked it up pretty fast just in a few months.  On the other hand, when it comes to any kind of sports, I get lazy and can’t be into what I’m doing.  I learn the things that I enjoy much faster with more fun.


Therefore, I think that we need to keep ourselves motivated to learn the Internet if you want to use the most of it.  Find something fun in it and enjoy whatever the aspect of the Internet it is.  Learning takes patience because our brains need some time to experience what we intend to learn.  Let the brain experience the learning so we will eventually be able to bring more knowledge and wisdom in our lives.






My Internet Searching Experience


Forms: I have observed my Internet searching behavior based on these forms which asked my motivation and experience of the searching prior to and after each time I spent on the Internet.  The questions on the forms regard not only the emotions associated with the searching behavior but also the actual aims and results of the searching.  Based on these forms, I am going to analyze my own use of the Internet in searching and hopefully will have some generalized ideas about my behavior in the cyberspace.



Collection of the Data


The data regarding my own searching behavior on the Internet was gathered for the purpose of fulfilling my regular weekly searching for Psychology 409b Emotional Intelligence class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  For this class, we are required to weekly participate in online forum discussions presenting research results which each of us obtained from an online search session.  The research results are to be used for the first report we have worked on, Annotated Bibliography Report, and it can be viewed at Class Home Page.


Access to the Instructions for the Reports:


Forms: Self-observation Data


Weekly Online Forum Discussions: Where Generation 17 students post their research comments from Online Searching.


Annotated Bibliography Report: Internet searching generated bibliography


Filling out the Form at each session seemed very time-consuming, but it turned out to be a very useful tool to empirically analyze my own search behavior.  In particular, filling in the aim of the search session helped me focus more on what I would need to find out in the session.  Also, I became more aware of the emotions likely to occur during the search session, therefore, became to think of the ways in which I can control the negative impacts from my emotions while on the Internet.  Once I got used to filling out the Form, it became a reliable tool to evaluate my searching behavior.



Analysis of the Data from the Forms


The first thing I noticed upon analyzing my searching behavior on the Internet was that I was pretty much always motivated to do the search tasks, maybe because I always strongly felt that I had to do my best on whatever I was doing for the class requirements.  Another aspect of it might be that I generally tried to have fun with the experience.  Gaining knowledge about the topics such as rage and spirituality can be enjoyable if I try to be.  I tried to think the task as something I could have fun with, and it resulted in boosting my motivation for a better search session.


I also found that I barely get frustrated or aggravated while I am searching.  I think that is because I always feel that searching engines will be a great help for me.  How many times did I solely depend on the use of search engines in the search sessions I’ve done?  I can’t even think of a single case I didn’t use them.  It is evident from the forms that I really got a lot of information by using them.  I realized what an important role a search engine plays in my searching behavior.


Another thing I’ve noticed is that for the most part I prefered to be on the Internet about one hour in each session.  I think this describes my attention span.  From my experiences, I can say that it’s about one hour, possibly a little longer, for me to keep focusing on what I’m doing.  I’d always rather take classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, because I don’t like to take longer classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Within one hour, I always tried to find something useful for the information needed in each session.  This aim seemed to enhance my levels of concentration on the search tasks.



Insight into My Own Searching Behavior


I noticed when I had a clear picture of what I wanted to find out usually results in a successful search session.  Other times are when I have some ideas about the topic from the previous search sessions.  I think, up to this point, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge about rage and spirituality, which were the two topics I have written on for my Annotated Bibliography Report.  I knew where to go online on those topics, so it did not take much effort and time.


I have also noticed that there are some occasions that my moods affected my searching behavior.  When I wasn’t feeling too well, (obviously, when I didn’t feel like doing the search on the Internet) I did not have so much patience compared to other sessions where I was really motivated and feeling optimistic.  Apparently, my mood swing is an essential part of my searching behavior, influencing my focus and patience in the session.


After I skimmed through all the forms that I have filled out, I was surprised to know how much I use the msn search engine, which happened to be my Web browser.  Yes, I really like the msn but to be honest, I thought I would have been using more search engines in a variety.  I know that Google is a very good search engine with a lot of compliments, but it seems that I am too comfortable with what I’ve been using. 


I also started using Vivisimo after I learned about it in the Counseling Session at the library.  It turned out to be a very versatile search engine because of its unique function called “clustering”.  It gave us some related topics on the left window of the screen, so whenever I get lost or frustrated with the inability to reach for the information I need, I simply went over some subtopics on the left, which gave me other useful information.  Like everyone else, I really recommend to everyone to use this search engine.






Brief Description of the Session


I participated in a library study for Internet searching at the university.  The session was designed to have participants search on the World Wide Web for the three questions that were asked to answer by using the search engine called “Vivisimo”.  At the beginning of the session, there was a questionnaire regarding the tasks that I was about to work on.


In the session, I had to work with another participant together to search for the information.  We were given ten minutes for each question to be answered by using a PC.  After each search task, we filled out a questionnaire about the experience in the search task we had just experienced and the next search task we were about to move on.  Our result was not so impressive, but we succeeded to complete the first search task very quickly and struggled in the second and third.  At the end of the session, we had an overall evaluation of the search experience, and the conductor of the study commented on our searching.



What Did I Learn?


The session made me aware how it is important to come up with appropriate keywords for what I was looking for.  Keywords should not be either too broad or too narrow.  It is part of the skills in Internet searching to think of right words when we use a search engine.  For example, in the third search task, we were looking for the states that were given awarded money from cigarette companies.  We simply typed in “Phillip Morris tobacco company states” but the only thing we found was that Missouri was one of the states which received the money. 


The advice from the conductor of the study included that we had a good approach in using the name of a specific company and the word tobacco instead of cigarettes.  What we probably lucked in was that we did not type in the word “money” or “awarded money”.  She suggested that it would be better if we did that.  Also, she pointed out that it was good we carefully went over the search results for each questions rather than focusing on the top three results. 


Another aspect that I should point out is the importance of the effective use of search engines.  I personally tend to use the msn search engine since it is my browser as well when I get on the Internet.  But coming to know such search engine as Vivisimo, I felt that I should try to use more different kinds of search engine.  What I like about Vivisimo was that it had a unique feature called clustering, which I had ever known of.  It provides the list of hierarchical categories on the left of the search screen.  It is well-organized and useful when focusing on a specific thing on searching.



Advice for Future Generations to Improve Information Literacy on the Internet


As I learned in the session, I realized that it is important for us to practice on the Internet in order to absorb the skills that I just mentioned the above.  In the Dr. James’ course, I became to use the Internet more and more as a source of information.  In the past, I had never done Internet searching that much. 


While searching for the annotated bibliography report I did as a first report, it took me forever to search for the information I needed.  It even took me three to five hours to write up the report just for one item based on the information, but fortunately, things got better and better.  Toward the end of the first report, I was spending less and less time on doing the same Internet searching on each item.  It was actually an amazing experience for me.


So my suggestions to you is that explore and practice using the Internet effectively.  In this huge pool of the information world today, you might get lost.  But please don’t get discouraged by reading all the difficulties from me or other generations.  You know that knowing effective and efficient ways to use the Internet, you can get what you need to know quickly and sufficiently.  I can honestly say that it is important for you to realize that it is YOU who determine whether you can make the most of today’s information world.  So get on the Internet and practice!!!  I hope you will find my advice useful.






Upon Reading Dr. James’ Article regarding Information Literacy and the Generational Curriculum


The article talks about how learning in an online environment will benefit students in becoming information literate, self-directed learners, and active participants in leadership for others with enhanced creativity.  The Generational Curriculum Dr. James has been developing is used to help students achieve these three phases of learning the Internet.  The threefold self model is integrated into the developmental phases among internet learners, which suggests that students’ learning was evolved from externalizing to internalizing online skills with interactions among affect, cognition, and behavior (sensorimotor).


In consideration of the developmental phases of learning the Internet, the role of affect should not be ignored.  Dr. James’ Generational Curriculum is designed to help students learn to be an active learner.  By reading the work of the past generations, students become aware of the developmental phases that students go through in the Generational Curriculum.  Also, they learn to recognize what influences the threefold self has upon learning experience.  Affect influences thinking, and thinking influences behavior.  As we deal with the Internet, having difficulties and successes, we learn to use the resource effectively through being aware of the relationships. 



How Does My Research Report Play a Role in Online Learning?


In this Research Report, I have demonstrated the three important aspects of leaning in the cyberspace as discussed the above.  Becoming information literate is not an easy thing to do.  We need to be keen to internal and external forces in learning.  It was also apparent that the process of writing the report helped the students including me explore the world of information more effectively, which led us be a good self-directed learner.  This will be a lifetime benefit for all of us.


However, it does not come easily to everyone.  It takes the effort to independently learn.  If you put it off doing the report at the last minute, it won’t do much because learning the Internet takes some time and patience.  As constant, active participation in forum discussions require self-directed learning, we all need to be motivated as much as we can, so we can get the most out of what we are learning.  Self-observation data, therefore, was a good measure of what I learned from the Internet through self-monitored learning.


Now, I’m hoping that my report will help future generations in the same ways the past generations’ reports helped me through with this report.  Reading others’ learning experiences were encouraging for me and kept me motivated when I feel overwhelmed by my course work.  I realized that using the Internet is something much deeper than what I thought it would be.  It can be used to enhance creativity and benefit in everyday life of people today.  Realizing it would be the most valuable thing that I got out of writing this report.



What is “Information Literacy”?


“Information Literacy is defined as the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, located, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.”


I thought this definition I found (on your left) was very concise and describe the role of information in our society today.  Along with the definition, more information regarding information literacy can be found at the web site, the National Forum on Information Literacy.





The article says, “No other change in American society has offered greater challenges than the emergence of the Information Age. Information is expanding at an unprecedented rate, and enormously rapid strides are being made in technology for storing, organizing, and accessing the ever-growing tidal wave of information. The combined effect of these factors is an increasingly fragmented information base, a large component of which are available only to people with money and/or acceptable institutional affiliations. In the recent past, the outcome of these challenges has been characterized as the "digital divide."

“In an information society, ALL people should have the right to information that can enhance their lives. To promote economic independence and quality of existence, people need to be informed and up-to-date. Out of the overabundance of available information, people need to be able to find and use a variety of information to meet a wide range of personal and business needs.”


Developing Information Literacy through an Online Learning

So according to the article, my Research Report, and the Online Generational Curriculum, developing information literacy can possibly enhance your life by using what you need from the huge amount of information in today’s world and enhancing skills that lead you to become an autonomous learner.  The nature of an online learning is that it facilitates critical thinking, creativity, positive behavioral outcomes that contribute to personal development of students.  That is why we should learn to be information literate. 

Learning the Internet today is a way in which we live effectively to meet our needs and gain autonomy in our lives.  It is also the way to adapt.  I now understand how important point I was trying to make on this report.  Learning the Internet is part of the adaptation to such information world of today and is tremendously crucial to realize it.




* Back to Class Home Page / My Home Page *

* E-mail Me! At