Digital immigrants, unite!

Students are supposed to be “digital natives,” while teachers over the age of 35 are “digital immigrants.” That implies teachers’ expertise is obsolete. That’s just not so, writes Bill Ferriter, a sixth-grade English teacher, on The Tempered Radical.

Sure, today’s kids CAN play video games and surf YouTube videos and send text messages and check their Facebook profiles without any help.

And YES, they have Pinterest pages long before their parents figure out that Pinterest isn’t some clever marketing campaign for newfangled online savings accounts.

They ARE successfully liking and poking and friending their way through life without our help.

But is that REALLY something to celebrate?

Aren’t those entertainment-fueled behaviors nothing more than concrete evidence of a troubling disconnect between what kids CAN do and ARE doing with technology?

Ferriter’s digital friend, Brad Ovenell-Carter, asked high school students in Vancouver what they’d do with two hours in a tech-loaded room and no assignments to tackle.

While some of Brad’s kids planned to spend their time making videos for the greater good or creating digital art, most figured that Instagramming it, editing themselves into Justin Beiber’s videos or printing 3D images of Harry Styles to take home would be more fun.

He asked if they agreed there’s “a gap between what you CAN and ARE doing.”

One student responded: “Maybe there is a gap, but perhaps only because we don’t exactly know what is all possible.”

Another said: “I would try and change the world… but I’m not sure how yet.”

Teachers can build start “a bridge between what THEY know about technology and what YOU know about efficient and effective learning,” Ferriter concludes.

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Comments

  1. So. My husband is a computer programmer and is 43 years old. He knows almost anything you could ask about mainframe computing. It translates into reasonable competency in the PC world, but not quite always.

    This article made no room for nuance and the fact that there are many different things to operate (PC, mainframe, iPad, whatever) that have different rules.

    Also? We might be “immigrants” who grew up on rotary phones and dialed “0″ to speak with a real, live operator, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to work a cell phone or whathaveyou.

    All that being said, a good employer will ensure his employees have up-to-date skills. No fair saying that teachers may have obsolete skills if no effort is made to teach them to use new technologies.

  2. I loved these quotes:
    “One student responded: ”Maybe there is a gap, but perhaps only because we don’t exactly know what is all possible.”
    Another said: “I would try and change the world… but I’m not sure how yet.””
    If those kids knew they had unlimited time (not 2 hours) – and of course, are interested in a techie project, the question and results might be more boundless.
    I will be watching what these young (and older) adults achieve in awe. The educational tools on the ‘net and the computer are already incredible.

  3. Fatherof4 says:

    I think kids’ technology “skills” are oversold. Using Facebook or Instagram doesn’t take much skill. These services are designed to be easy to use for the layman. How many teens know PHP or could design a database? That’s real technological skill. For every 100 teens on Facebook, there may be 1 or 2 who can program, troubleshoot a network, or build a PC.

  4. I think one of the reasons we see this gap between what kids can and are doing is because, generally, we don’t invite them to do much of significance. The fact that we very rarely see students at an education conference says to me we don’t think much of their ability to contribute to our profession. The study and drill students currently get is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to add meaningful challenges. Last year Ai had the good fortune to meet Rolf Lndua, CERN’s director of education (they’re doing amazing work in this area at CERN). He said we have this strange belief that we need to teach kids how to swim in the sand on the beach before we put them in the water. All we’re doing here, at CERN, the most advanced laboratory on the planet, is telling stories (about the origin of the universe), he said. Young people can learn to tell (physics) stories without needing to know quantum mechanics or even calculus.

    • Brad wrote:

      I think one of the reasons we see this gap between what kids can and are doing is because, generally, we don’t invite them to do much of significance

      - – - – - – - – -

      This is a great point, Brad. We shouldn’t be surprised when students don’t see themselves as people with power simply because they spend most of their lives in buildings where they don’t.

      Prensky talks in his most recent book about the fact that students need to be doing REAL work — not just relevant work.

      When I look at my own classroom, I’d argue that the majority of what we are doing isn’t even relevant, let alone real.

      That’s got to change — and the cool part is if we CAN change, our kids will come with us.

      Bill

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        “When I look at my own classroom, I’d argue that the majority of what we are doing isn’t even relevant, let alone real.”

        Bill, I’m not going to argue. But is it possible for school to offer REAL work? There’s still going to be that power differential: “you have to go to the place we say and do the things we tell you to.” Schools will always offer what the people who run them think is important–and what the people who work in them are able to do.

        What reason is there to think it will be relevant or real?