Monday, September 29, 2008

[TIPS] Digital Natives? Really?

When some folks argue as to why we need to be using technology in the schools they will say that “The kids are already doing this stuff”, or “The kids today are digital natives and they think differently” and even, “Their brains are different.” And, in the area of teacher preparation we used to say, “When the next batch of new teachers hits the schools THEN we’ll see the change we’re looking for.” But that hasn’t happened, has it?

I admit that I, too, used to say that. But then, about three years ago I began to question that assumption. I wasn’t seeing it. Nor was I hearing it when talking with teachers. In fact, I wanted to put together a survey (And Scott McLeod was going to host it) that would try to find out how ‘native’ the ‘natives’ actually were. Alas, it just never happened. And a part of me was a little reluctant to actually find out the truth. If it turned out that the kids truly were NOT al that tech savvy as we were assuming, THEN what would our rallying cry be? And, how much credibility would we have lost when forced to shift gears with our assumptions?

Yes, we can point to some kids who are phenomenal programmers, or who are creating some very clever mashups, or even some that ARE using the tools for personal learning. But, I can also point to some who can do NONE of those things. And I can point to a lot of others who can type and save and print but who cannot tell you what a blog is (“Oh! My Space is a blog? Well then I have one.”) or what a wiki is, unless they can point to wikipedia.

Regardless, check out these three articles:

I’d LOVE to hear what you think.


Tim said...

I completely agree. While the "digital native/immigrant" concept was useful when it was conceived, it has been turned into a cliche and often into a crutch adults use to excuse themselves from the need to learn new skills. Or to justify their fear of allowing students to use computers.

In our district we have adults, even old farts like me, who are very comfortable working with digital tools and kids who don't have a clue beyond the text messaging on their phones.

We talk a lot about individualizing instruction when it comes to stuff like reading and math but completely throw the concept out the window when it comes to technology.

Beth Poss said...

This is such a timely post. I am currently teaching what I call my "Online Web 2.0" course to grad students in Johns Hopkins University's School of Education. Our 1st couple of sessions focused on the concept of Digital Natives and on developing Information Literacy skills in these students. I strongly recommend taking a look at Alan November's website and specifically his Information Literacy Resources page On it there is a great Information Literacy Quiz. I also blogged about this topic myself
It is vital that we teach students the skills they need to be competent Digital Natives, and not just expect them to get it all through video game play.

Scott McLeod said...

Students who aren't fluid technology users today will be the low-wage workers and disempowered citizens of tomorrow.

What are you and your school organization doing to close the technology fluency divide for the students whom you describe?

Dave Gates said...

It always seemed to me that the “digital native” concept formed a useful convention to support the “engage me; don’t enrage me” position. While certainly not without merit, such a justification for the use of technology in the classroom is ancillary to the development of the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. No matter how popular or effective some “attention getters” are, they have a short shelf-life. Familiarity breeds boredom. If the main impact of technology is “engagement,” then I believe we are wasting our time and resources. Consequently, it may appear that whether or not our students are really digital natives is moot. Whether they learn the skills is not.

Ken Pruitt said...

Sitting in front of me is data on over 100 PA 8th graders who recently took a 25 question quiz based on old NETS "Aquiring info from the internet." (Searching)

The results: A 100% failure rate.

This is not scientific and there could a vareity of reasons why the majority failed the first attmept. But what about attempt 2or in a few cases attempt 5.

Tell me now that the kids are "fine." "They do this stuff all the time." In fact it is said they spend too much time on the internet. That maybe the case but are 8th grade students able to use the internet to find accurate information for education. No.