11 Replies Latest reply on Oct 20, 2009 3:07 PM by sshott

    The reality vs the myths of digital natives


      Curious to know your thoughts on this one.  Even though more and more students are loaded down with gadgets such as iPods or Smartphones and though they may have dual Facebook and MySpace accounts, how tech savvy are they, really?  I don't know any students who spend their free time exploring web 2.0 applications for school or play in Microsoft Office (or any like equivalent) just for fun. 


      Many teachers who are exploring the idea of technology implementation are afraid the students are going to know more than they do.  My argument is the odds are in the teacher's favor most of the time.  Even with school supply lists including jump drives now, the students start the year with little experience with how to use one. 


      What are your thoughts? 

        • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

          From my observations, I do not believe these "Digital Native" students are truly "tech savvy". As I observe students (grades 7-9) using computers I note many who struggle to navigate between multiple windows. Some do not know how to copy and paste or keyboard shortcuts for any menu item. (They, however, do know what LOL and ROFLOL mean!) As educators, I think we are required to help these students become "tech savvy" so they know how to use multiple tools and programs. I had students today who created posters using Big Huge Labs. Many students commented about how much fun they had and how they enjoyed the lesson. (It was a perfect assignment based on my state science core!) I think over 60% of my students needed help with simple browser skills (including how to click the "upload" button - thought Facebook taught that!)


          Perhaps this I am having a unique experience. I look forward to hearing from others how "tech savvy" they find their students are.

          • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

            I definitely agree that students are not all tech-savvy -- which is why its so important that they are taught technology skills at school in both computer literacy courses and in their regular classrooms through integrated projects.  You can't assume that all students have access to computers and the Internet at home and that they will just learn these skills at on their own.


            I do think that kids today learn to use technology more naturally.  Because they've grown up with cell phones, ipods, cameras, etc. they are not afraid of technology.  When I do trainings with older teachers, they will more likely ask for help and say something like, "I'm not sure which button I'm supposed to click.  I don't want to mess everything up " (or lose all my work, break something, etc).  Kids are more likely to push buttons just to see what happens, and they will often figure out how to use a new tool or website on their own if they are given a chance to play with it.  Teachers can take advantage of this during projects.  Instead of feeling embarrassed that their kids will know more, ask the kids for help and say, "Who can figure out how to do..."  Odds are someone in the class can figure it out and show the others what to do.

            • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

              Fortunately, in Louisiana, high school students are required to take a year of basic computer applications, which I think makes a difference in their overall technology proficiency levels. Yet, we find that as a whole, they still lack certain skills when it comes to the proper use of the technology.


              And yes, our teachers are intimidated by what they think the students know and it discourages them from attempting to use the technology because they see it as a loss of control. This is something that we try to tackle in our workshops encouraging them to at least try and to also allow their students to assist as tech helpers.

                • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

                  Using my "n of 1" - Krissi age 20 - as an example...she is not highly tech proficient- but she is more willing to figure it out. She expects software to do things - so she tends to get more out of tools than I do. But she doesn't play with MS Office tools- she only uses them when she needs to get a task done. Sadly I find that her "fun" activities (volunteer work, sorority, sports) demand more of her technical skills than her classes at UC Boulder.

                • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives
                  Bonnie Feather

                  Interesting topic here!


                  I do agree with a lot of what's been said already- that tech "savvy" is not necessarily what our students are manifesting.  Certainly, they have a wealth of experience with technology that makes them more likely to figure out how to use a piece of hardware or software quite readily.  But what are they using it for?


                  I see a lot of students (and adults) using technology as a means of communication and connection.  They are very efficient "consumers" but not "developers."  As developers, I don't mean they are super geeky inventors, but they don't do a lot of "creation" with their gadgets and software.


                  We have worked so hard to define and espouse technology integration, we are still forgetting to have our students and teachers and administrators become deeply involved with tech by showing them ways to create new thoughts, new ideas, and ways of exhibiting their learning with technology.


                  Scratch, Alice, and other programming tools are examples of ways I think we could encourage learners to build their own understanding while practicing 21st Century Skills.  This connects to another discussion in the Community regarding opposition of some to teaching of 21st Century Skills.  Those who oppose see a false bifurcation or dichotomy between teaching content and teaching these skills.  Neither one is a full education without the other, and there exists no true dichotomy in education practice that is artful.  If we know of educators who are using one without the other, their students are missing out.


                  I believe the same is true of an education in which students are using technology without learning how to be developers with the technology, at least at some basic level.


                  I look forward to following this discussion further- what do others think?

                  • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

                    I think the term 'digital native' is very elusive. In some ways, students are digital natives because they have always been exposed to technology and they readily use it to their advantage. They love music, so they have iPods. They love to socialize, so they have phones to text, talk and take pictures.


                    However, when it comes to using technology in the classroom, they are immigrants. Sure, they can surf the Net and navigate MySpace and Facebook, but creating a table in Word and exporting it to Excel is not something that comes easily for them. I agree with you Bonnie, I think tools like Scratch and Alice could engage students in appropriate ways in the classroom.

                      • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

                        I think maybe we are looking at this topic too much like "educators" (i know- duh). Let's take my "n of 1" (Krissi- 20 years old). the fact that she is a digital native may not mean she has great technical skills- but it DOES affect how she looks at the world and what she expects from education and her teachers.


                        Case in point: We were having a conversation last month about downloaded music (you know the "Mom" talk about IP rights and getting kicked out of school and sued by the music industry for downloading music w/out paying for it). She told me that she buys her music from iTunes and "not to worry" blah blah blah....But then we got into a conversation about if she ever buys music CDs- and here was her digital native answer. No- because I do not want to buy pre-set music (e.g. I only buy the songs I want) AND besides- listening to music on a CD means that they decide the order of songs I listen to. So she uses iTunes so she only buys the songs she wants and so that she can put her songs into her own personal order. WOW- can you imagine feeling manipulated by the music industry because they (gasp) make you listen to songs in a specific order? ..... Now let's go into her biology class- where she has no control over content, learning approaches or the order of what is presented. Is it any wonder she feels bored in that class or that she feels it lacks relevance in her life- even though A LOT of the content she is learning could be totally relevant to her interests and life?


                        I think we can all agree we have issues in our schools. We have large numbers of digital learners that are not engaged in their learning process. They are bored - and in too many cases- they are underperforming or dropping out of school becasue of this issue. How do we use technology to bring them back? Here is a great post by a Lewis and Clark professor of Education on a similar topic.


                          • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives



                            I was agreeing along with you about your daughter until I read the word Biology. My neck hackles virtually flew up  because I teach that class as well. I so agree that often students do not have choices on what or how they will learn. Most of this is due to state curricula. Due to my desire to engage my Biology students more, I posted the following "Looking for ways to Engage Students" on my Biology NING network (The Synapse.) Despite the challenge of meeting a state core curriculum, I want my students to feel they have more control over their learning.


                            I am concerned that National Standards may be designed and/or developed by identities that write tests, develop or publish textbooks, or another group that is less interested in students developing and using 21st Century Skills. My nightmare thinking on this subject leads me to a concern that my science classroom would be forced to turn into to a drill/practice/memorize/regurgitate curriculum. I would much prefer the opportunity to lead students to their learning and allow them some opportunity for growth and design of their learning.

                              • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

                                Glen - i think we are in violent agreement....I can see all sorts of ways that a biology professor could engage learners more deeply- one of the first steps is looking at the world through a digital native's eyes- and understanding that the thing that got "you" (not you Glen- but you generic science teacher) interesed in biology may no longer work for them.

                          • Re: The reality vs the myths of digital natives

                            I teach a college class and each semester I am absolutely amazed at the lack of technical skills my students have. Yes, they are all very proficient in using their phones (texting, not calling) and their ipods, but they are not at all good with productivity tools. I am always surprised at the "I have never done a ppt" or "I don't know how to use a spreadsheet" etc.... and they desire to have me give them step by step directions (which I won't do - that is what Help Guide is for). And I am not seeing a whole lot of creativity from them in using any other technology to enhance their learning. And many of them still are afraid to "try' to do things in the LMS - not sure if they think it will break:). This year I used a wiki with them - this was new to I would say 75% of them - and I got more emails as to "how do I enter.....".

                            My own kids are much better at the productivity software - but they aren't great - and I don't know if it is the fact that they know I know how to do so much and I will try pretty well anything, but they always come to me to ask "how to" or "what can I do to make this project better with technology". Oh, don't worry-  I make them go research (you would think by now they would know my stock answer and they would be going to to check things out themselves first..... but nope, they still come to me first.....)

                            Anyway..........agree though that these kids in general will try things more easily than say I would have when I was younger, I think there is a long way for them to go.....