Interesting article in Tuesdayâ€™s USA Today about how â€œTodayâ€™s Young â€˜Digital Nativesâ€™ Canâ€™t Live, or Study, Without Technology.â€ The focus was on Ball State U. in Indiana, the most wired campus in the country. It gives a lot of examples of how students are using, and in some sense, abusing the technology, and quotes a bunch of folks as to how the use of technology is a good thing, a bad thing, overrated, underused, misunderstood, empowering, worrisomeâ€¦you get the idea. Itâ€™s not hard to get the message that this is a very confusing, conflicting period, that weâ€™re all trying to figure out.
And yesterday, with a great group of educators in Tulsa, OK, we spent quite a bit of time talking about the conflicting feelings we get from these technologies. Excitement about the potential, fear about the transparency, uncertainty about where to go with it or how to master it. While these technologies certainly empower us, they also muddle much of what we thought we knew about teaching and learning. They challenge us, certainly, to answer many of the questions in our own individual contexts, and thatâ€™s a lot of work.
No earth shattering connection here, but it reminded me of the writing Henry Jenkins did in Convergence Culture about the work of Pierre Levy and the idea of a knowledge culture. Toward the end of the book, he talks about how Levy really writes optimistically about what weâ€™re creating here, but that to get to that â€œother sideâ€ we have a lot of learning to do.
The reason why Levy was optimistic that the emergence of a knowledge-based culture would enhance democracy and global understanding was that it would model new protocols for interacting across our differences. Of course, those protocols do not emerge spontaneously as an inevitable consequence of technological change. They will emerge through experimentation and conscious effort. This is part of what constitutes the â€œapprenticeshipâ€ phase the Levy envisioned. We are still learning what it is like to operate within a knowledge culture. We are still debating and resolving the core principals that will define our interactions with each other. (238)
To me, the question is how do we learn to operate within that culture while at the same time teaching our kids how to do it? This is the huge task that I sense most teachers who learn the potential of these technologies grapple with. They sense the immediacy of all of this, how we can’t simply wait for generational change. Yet they are overwhelmed with what’s being asked of them, with the idea that they need to teach what they don’t know
How do we do that?
technorati tags:Learning20, education, weblogg-ed
Mike P says
I’m not sure that this is the most profound observation, but here it goes: How many times have we (educators) told kids to act like an adult? Now, as we move the classroom culture closer to that of the digital native, do we really want them to act like adults anymore? Maybe we ought to act more like the kids.
Mike P beat me to it. Are we really teaching our kids how to operate within their culture? Or should we quit fighting the generational shift and let them teach us how to live in theirs? Because, frankly, I don’t think they’re conflicted about technology or fear it’s transparency at all; I think that may be our terror as we drive our Model T underneath the mag-lev train they’re riding in.
john brandt says
There is another neat article recently released by the Pew Research Center regarding digitals and the workplace. The article may be found here:
My blog on it found here:
In the Fifth Reality in the article I sense the shift in thinking regarding multitasking and attention. Up until recently, the view was that digitals were able to multitask because of some obscure difference in their brains due to years of experience. Then the cognitive psychologists showed us the digitals have brains like us and that they really can’t multitask without some adverse effect on attention and retention.
I like the notion, observed exaamples and the suggested consequence of “‘continuous partial attention’ and that means the boundary between work and leisure is quite permeable.”
Maybe there are a few things us old farts can teach them…how to relax!
Doug Belshaw says
Just to stir things up a bit – and yes, I have been following the conversations about ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ – just how many of the students we teach are as adept with technology as we give them credit for?
OK, so I’m a young teacher (25), but even so I’m often quite surprised at the lack of technological awareness exhibited by the majority of students I come across. And it’s not as if I teach in a deprived area: I teach ICT and History in a successful school with a very middle-class catchment.
So my question is this: for what purpose is all this talk about ‘digital immigrants’ and ‘digital natives’?
Karen Janowski says
Well I have two teenagers who are 16 and 17 and they know a great deal about technology and have taught themselves most of the educational applications. They frequently use tech tools to complete assignments – they have completed compelling projects using iMovie for example and my daughter taught herself how to create a Web page for her National History Day project. (her history teacher wasn’t any help because he didn’t have any skills in this area.)
My daughter recently helped her boyfriend by editing an honors English paper using the reviewing toolbar in Word and emailing it back to him. I know for a fact that none of the English teachers at their school know how to use that Word feature because I have tried to explain how to use it to them.
What they know is impressive and it’s time for teachers to be open to learn from our kids.
You know why teachers are feeling so uncomfortable about this & adults in general – because they are no longer in control of students learning! Kids are doing it with or without us & for them walking in the digital world blurs the boundaries between their personal lives & ‘school’ stuff. They are setting their own parameters and creating their own environments for learning & living.
It is an impossible ask for your regular 20th C teacher to get up to speed with where our kids are at digitally – and by the time they got there our kids would be onto the next thing. Teachers don’t need to learn all about it & they definately don’t need to teach it. But they do need to rethink their teaching methods and not assume that teaching equates with learning, they need to be interested and aware of what our kids are doing even if they do not feel a part of that digital world themselves.
Doug your comment is interesting as i know many kids who wouldn’t know their mouse from their… elbow. I had the opportunity to talk to Marc Prensky earlier this year & he agreed that this idea of Digital Natives is a huge generalisation – of course all kids aren’t like this, but many are. I guess the whole purpose of this “DN/DI” talk is to illustrate the changing world we live in & maybe that our world is changing but our schools & teachers aren’t.
Doug – the ‘natives’ are real, but that doesn’t preclude the other problem with technology integration in America and that’s the socio-economic “Digital Divide”, or as one of my eLearning Masters students put it, the plight of “the digitally homeless”. I blogged about these particular students just the other day.
Erik Lieber says
It seems that people are afraid that they are falling behind their students, but hasn’t this always been the case? With each new generation, there are so many more things to learn and students have always been ahead of the curve on some level. Karen is sright when she says that “it’s time for teachers to be open to learn from our kids.” I teach elementary school and I am always open to seeing things from the different perspective that my students bring to things.
Doug makes a good point. Students today are Digital Natives but the degree of their digital-ness varies greatly. I’m not sure we should count instant messaging, text messaging, ipods and cell phones as signs of technology savvy.
I teach Honors Precalculus Juniors in high school and they are totally in the dark about more authentic productive uses of current technology. Virtually none of them have heard of del.icio.us or RSS or Wiki’s (other than Wikipedia) or as Karen mentioned, the reviewing toolbar in Word or tools to create web pages.
By the way, text messaging and IM and cell phones can be used productivly, don’t get me wrong, but I think we give too much credit to most kids who are really only using these devices for entertainment.
Vicki Davis says
I think all of these technologies should be viewed as what they are: communications conduits. Any communication channel can be used for good or bad.
Today, I taught my students skype. After setting up their ID’s we had a class conference call and I taught them to mute their mikes, chat to ask for the mike, and demonstrated the privacy features of skype. We looked at each person’s profile and critiqued each other.
It was a lesson not only in skype but in online safety. We are going to use it in many ways. Right now we’re looking for a classroom in spain to do a project with our spanish teacher. She wants to do match students up one to one and have calls that we record. Our students will then take the 5 minute recording about a predetermined topic and e-mail it to her for grading.
Then, we want to do the same thing with a classroom in Mexico.
Finally, she wants them to discuss the differences in accents.
What an opportunity! It seems to me that those teachers who “get it” need mechanisms to share and match up for such projects.
Know any teachers in Spain or Mexico teaching English?
Notice, that if I didn’t have a productive use for Skype, it would be a distraction. However, everything must be planned and have a purpose.
This is a great post!
Also, have you noticed that many of us are campaigning to link you into the TEchnorati 100 — Read my yesterday’s post at the end.
You’re just the edublogger to do it!
Keep on blogging! You inspire so many of us!
Karen Janowski says
rInteresting comments. My experience is different with my own two kids and their high school friends.
I guess my response is that our students are much more willing to explore new possibilities with the technology than we as teachers are. Show them something once and they “get” it. “Digital Natives” implies that these things come naturally to them, they are not fearful or reluctant to try new tools. (Have you recently watched a four year old use the computer or a gaming system after watching their older siblings play? Have you recently watched your teenager come home from school, go to their school’s website to access the homework, catch up on the latest videos on YouTube and download new podcasts? – It’s in their DNA!)
And, Reversearp, beyond Wikipedia, why DO they need to know about wikis and del.icio.us? I can’t imagine living without those tools but that’s because I am an educator and share and organize my information. But have them participate in a class wiki or save links for a particular subject as a class and they will utilize that tool for educational purposes. Welcome to THEIR world, a world of exponential change!
In summary, we always need to model a willingness to be lifelong learners ourselves and in the 21st century, that includes a willingness to learn from our students.
Sue G says
Great topic, very thought provoking and I am among those currently trying to catch up. This is my second year at a public high school north of Boston. I am struck both by students’ capabilities and lack of proficiencies in using technology. Maybe these sophomores are among the last who did not teethe on PowerPoint and Excel.
Just when I assume that they can take the proverbial ball and run with it, I look over intently hunched shoulders at blank screens. When asked what they are waiting for, I find that they are not adept at getting that old ball rolling. Refreshers and guidance are provided as well as a review of the assignment requirements and corresponding rubrics and I almost feel them crossing their fingers as I pray to the inspiration gods to quickly descend.
Then I come to and just hope for the retention gods to show up; so that the kids can follow the directions, navigate and save to the right place. Naturally, they are experts at iPodding (is there such a word?) and texting and MySpace. That’s their world and they are entitled to it.
Although I am not top notch in the technology department, I respect the potential, embrace as many opportunities that come my way and that I can capture, and definitely look to my students for guidance just as they look to me.
Paul Burt says
I’ve noticed how my 13 year old daughter comes alive when helping my wife with technology – cell phones, computers, remotes. “…to get to that ‘other side’ we have a lot of LEARNING to do.” And UN-LEARNING if we believe students don’t teach and “we” always know best. The ruts of our underlying beliefs are the hardest to escape.
Technology, and knowledge, are tools; all the rest relates to our judgment of how people choose to use, abuse or ignore them.
Alex Reid says
How do we teach what we don’t know?
To me, this begs the question/s: what do we know? What is the status of that knowledge? And how does the teacher’s “state of knowing” shape students’ learning experiences?
No doubt there is a shift in authority here, just as new media has brought into question many of our notions of authorship and intellectual property. However, is the difficulty you are describing one related to teaching and learning or an inability to maintain the conventional institutional relations between teachers and students?
And I don’t mean that as a snarky question. It is a genuine challenge. If we are taking up Jenkins/Levy’s goal of a new democratic protocol, then might not part of that be developing new relations/communities for learning. If so, the question is not “how do we teach what we don’t know?” but rather “what new pedagogic ethos might emerge?” That is, how might we “teach” and “learn” as other than “teacher” and “student”?
Expat Teacher says
Funny this topic should come up. I just blogged about it.
Marcie T. Hull says
I think we do know what to teach… it is getting past our fear and educational bias that is hard. Meaning many teachers (including myself) have these archaic ideas about what education is and should be. I think it is very hard to break free of these mindsets, I find myself struggling with this daily! This IS a huge task… “We are still debating and resolving the core principals that will define our interactions with each other…” But I hope it NEVER ends!
I am trying to focus on filtering and sharing. Filtering – building skills to filter all the information available to students. Sharing – creative, functional and insightful ways of projecting information over the internet.
Dave Cantrell says
Agreed: teachers often need to teach using a technology they don’t know well, and, as you point out, with minimal IT support. I’m not so sure about university settings, but in public schools, the flip side of this concern is that teachers are often in the position of attempting to apply a new tool with students who use it far better than the teachers. (For example, a creative teacher is learning to use iPods to communicate with parents. Watch the teacher stumble with the controls. Now watch the students.)
Maybe the answer is to let the students teach the teachers — it might be good for everyone?
First of all, I want to second Doug’s skepticism about “digital natives”. It is a huge generalization, as another commenter wrote, and it’s a generalization typically based on anecdotes, typically small in scope. I.e. a person buys into the concept because all the kids THEY know are very adept with technology.
I am a college prof and I really wish that the digital native culture really existed among my students. But it decidedly does not. My students, coming mostly from the rural midwest and many of whom are first-generation college students, have a passing knowledge of common digital devices such as computers and cell phones, but get them beyond those things — or deeper into the things they know than just the basic apps — and they are out to sea. I tried to get a class of mine, all junior and senior mathematics majors, to download some software from the net the other day and it was as if I had started speaking in tongues. They are not exactly resistant to technology, but most certainly NOT in their DNA. And I think it’s becoming a dangerous assumption that because a small and visible portion of the population fit this digital natives description, that therefore the entire population may be adequately described as such.
Second, I just wanted to clarify that Ball State is the most UN-wired campus in the USA, not the most wired. It apparently has a higher percentage of its campus covered by wifi networks than any other university in the country.