I am starting to wonder how many of my kids are really "digital natives." It seems to me that an awful lot of them really don't know what's on the Internet (besides myspace) and they don't really know how to transfer skills in one program or website to another. My kids were totally confused by blogger. Is this normal? I sort of overestimated their ability to figure out how to use a site because I thought they'd spent their lives on the computer so.... I'm just curious. Is this something the rest of you see often? Kids who fit into that "digital native" category, but really aren't digitally native? I'm almost wondering if it's something adults are pushing onto the kids because we can see what's out there to use. Thoughts?

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This is not only a discussion happening here. John Larkin, an educator in Australia in a comment posted in response to a similar discussion on a blog (quoted with permission) made the following comment which I think is of interest: "Perhaps they are not Digital Natives at all but simply Digital Dilettantes... they are, and I quote from a dictionary, an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially, or for amusement only." To see his complete post about the subject on his own blog see http://www.larkin.net.au/2007/09/digital-natives-or-simply-digital....
"I come from the Batman era, adding items to my utility belt while students today are the Borg from Star Trek, assimilating technology into their lives."

That's a quote I use to differentiate digital immigrants from digital natives.

BUT I have realized that it is much more about comfort level & exposure than it is about age. While I am helping some frustrated students open a sign-up verification e-mail, other students have logged into the new site, added a photo, and changed the appearance of their personal page.

There are three digital divides here preventing me from effectively using technology in the classroom. (Two from the post, and the 3rd added from this discussion.) These divides are the gaps between:

1. What I know and what I need to know.

2. What the school has in the way of technology and what it needs to have.

3. What skills/abilities students enter my class with.

#1 I can change.
#2 will never change fast enough.
#3 is the shift in this conversation.

I have both immigrants and natives in my class, so the distinction is moot.

In another post I said,

"And then there is my class Science Alive! wiki... "I think that I am guilty of seeing the value of using technology in guiding learning, but not effectively guiding learning in my technology use."

I have done a pretty good job of getting my students going... but now as momentum builds I have come to the realization that I don't have a marking rubric to guide me, or my students, as we move towards a final product.

My class is assembling a lego model without the instructions, or even the image of the final product on the front of the box. This isn't a problem for the creative/motivated students; they will assembly a better model in ways that I could never have 'instructed' them... but some students need structure, they have been fed it for years and expect it (even from yours truly - this isn't finger pointing, it is observation).

I let technology supersede pedagogy."

Digital immigrants or digital natives is nothing more than a discussion of digital competence... it is a spectrum, not a dichotomy!

Where does this leave us?
We want all of our students to be digitally competent.
We want all of our students to be articulate thinkers.
We need to make this happen in pedagogically sound ways.
- - -

Let us go to the very beginning of the whole debate and none other Mark Prensky himself. In his article, Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom, Prensky says:

"...technology adoption... It's typically a four-step process:

1. Dabbling.
2. Doing old things in old ways.
3. Doing old things in new ways.
4. Doing new things in new ways."

I think we get excited when we see 'new things in new ways', but often we end up (re)creating old things in new ways. The real conversation needs to be around the constraints of curriculum and standardized testing.

"This is why the foundation of education systems today should not be the rails, but it should be the side trips. It should not be the central standard curriculum, but it should be those directions that students, that learners, both teachers and students, can navigate to on their own." (David Warlick)

New things in new ways... creating articulate thinkers... and building digital competence as a by-product.

Your 3 digital divides are interesting and I would add a 3b which is "what access to technology do they have outside of the school" and a 4. What motivates, interests and excites them. The education agenda, to some degree by necessity is driven externally. I would like it (here in the UK) to be more driven by educationalists than by politicians and business drawing too much on their own educative experiences (who seem to live too much by the mantra - "It if worked for me, and I know that I'm successful it must have been good") but the aims and objectives are so often not the students.

So, you end up with students been courageous, creative and communicative on MySpace, X-Box and Second Life but not so on Word, Excel and Access.

Paul Hopkins
"What access to technology do they have outside of the school" definitely is a root cause of the large digital divide in "What skills/abilities students enter my class with."
However 'Motivation' and 'Interest' are not really 'digital' barriers. With regards to technology use, I think this has more to do with the other number 3 above (in the Prensky quote): Doing old things in new ways.
Just as teachers using a white Smart Board to simply replace the green chalk board, which replaced the blackboard, does little to engage students, Word, Excel and Access, as tools to write/record with, do little to inspire. I could bore kids to death with a project on MySpace or in Second Life too.
Students will be "courageous, creative and communicative" if we meaningfully challenge them AND if we provide the scaffolding to support them... with or without technology.

"Students will be "courageous, creative and communicative" if we meaningfully challenge them AND if we provide the scaffolding to support them... with or without technology."

Yes of course and there is, as I am sure you know, research which shows this. I am a HUGE supporter of the social constructivist model (Vygotsky, Brunner et al) but what I meant by motivation is more utility and purpose for the activities in school. When I look at my "to do" list I often do those things which I find more meaningful (my daughter's website update) before those which have less purpose and I am driven by the need to write up that report so I get paid - no matter how dull it is! Our students at school find this utility and purpose more abstract (think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs) and the promise of 'jam tomorrow' in working hard for examination often makes little impact.

So can we design learning activities that capture imagination, excite creativity and produce the skills which we perceive the students need? (and that perception in a world where many of the jobs which our children will do do not yest exist. I like to think that I do some of the time ...
I think that the digital divide has a much greater affect on whether or not a student can use technology. The concept of being a digital native has little to do with it. Trust me, I see this with new teachers coming straight out of college.

As for students, my students with access to computers that actually use MySpace and Facebook actually do well when I take them to the media lab and introduce new technologies. Whereas, my students without computers and Internet access at home have trouble…I hope what I am saying makes some sense. It’s late…

Warm Regards
William Bishop (Bill)
William, I guess that the 20-22 year olds coming out of teachers' college are still a bit old to be "natives" but I agree I do a lot of work with teachers' colleges and am often having to go back to real basics with them. I also work with grade school kids (ages 7-11) and the speed at which they pick up new ideas is MUCH quicker then work I do with their teachers.

Whilst we have young people who can be courageous with the technology, and often competent, they can be digitally naive. Trusting the information sources to be accurate, truthful, honest and without bias (All of which are, of course, loaded terms). What have other members of the group noticed? For me this accentuates the need for us to move as educationalists from the providers (and testers) of knowledge to the teachers of critical analysis and problem solving.

Paul Hopkins
I teach at the college level and see many of the same issues with my students that are being discussed here. They know how to use MySpace and ratemyprofessor.com but they cannot transfer that computer savvy to class wiki and discussion board assignments. Even though they would be considered digital natives by whatever definition is adopted, they are not ready to use this knowledge in an educational setting.

In addition to the need to teach the students what they need to do with the technology, there is another precaution that should be part of our teaching program. we need to be sure that there is a purpose for using the technology. There are other fixes for dry, boring lectures other than transfering them to screens and blogs. In a recent seminar that I attended about teaching online, the mantra was "Is it better or just different." There needs to be a pedagogical reason for employing the technology. We should not resort to technological fixes because we like them, because we think it will be fun for the students, or because we think it is the "thing to do." Just as there needs to be a sound reason for choosing any non-tech assignment, there needs to be a rational, pedagogially-based reason for choosing a technology application.
At the risk of sounding too evangelical, "Amen!". See my earlier posting on this point too. Utility and Purpose. I like the triplet of reasons given in a paper by Cormick and Scrimshaw way back in 1999 where they said that the use of ICT should be more effective, more efficient or transformative.
I currently sit on a learning community that is focused on MUVE's in education i.e. Second Life. One of our members is a faculty member in our center for popular culture. Her research seems to bear out your experience. When surveyed they lack skills. Prensky's work, while interesting might bear some examination. One thing for sure is, this generation is more digital than previous ones. What that means I don't know. They do have a different understanding of the word "friend" and have a different context for using the web as a communication tool. Are they better technology problem solvers? I can't say for sure, but my intuition says yes, I don't know what the data says. Does anyone has any data?
It may be worth dipping into the Can Technological Literacy be a Facade? forum for some other contributions on this issue.
I think that we need to be wary of the assumption that the world of the 'natives' intersects strongly with the universe of education/learning/knowledge construction or whatever. I am sure that we need to be wary of the assumption that the world of the native is different (and therefore better).
Anyway - I've declaimed on this more in the above forum - for what it's worth.
As I've read through many of the posts in this discussion, I've been thinking about the use of paper and pens in classrooms when I was a kid (1970s/80s). As kids we had paper but did we always use it for intelligent purposes. I remember doodling and writing Andy (heart) whoever I liked at the moment, and making paper airplanes. We were kids we used the technology of the day for our own purposes. Similarly kids today use technology for their own purposes. Now, based on this thread, I must admit that I'm only partially correct. For, a youngter who does not know what the right button on a mouse does might be compared to a youngster from the 70s who didn't know what paper was?



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