I often hear the term "digital native" when discussing the current and upcoming body of students. The implication is that technology is a must use tool in today's schools because these students have grown up with high tech tools and they see the world through a digital lens.
So, if today's students are "digital natives," then my parents' generation of students were "book natives." They grew up with books, and they learned through that medium. That said, were my parents able to pick up books, use them effectively, and teach themselves from day one? Or rather, did it take a teacher to teach them how to read? How to use an index? A table of contents? Did they need someone to teach them to research and filter the good information from the bad?
Today's "digital natives" need teachers in much the same way. One-to-one initiatives are great, but that's not enough. We must have teachers who understand enough about the technology to teach students how to use it safely, effectively, and as an enhancement to learning--to bridge the digital generation gap.
The teachers in my generation are uniquely equipped to answer this call. When I was in high school, Don Tapscott wrote the book Growing Up Digital, a book title that reflects my life perfectly.
I was born in 1980, right around the time VHS was winning over Betamax. Since, I've seen the rise and fall of VHS, the move to DVD, the death of HD-DVD, the shift to Bluray, and the advent of high-quality streaming video. I was there for the invention of MS-DOS and its implementation in the personal computer, which only got smaller, faster, and cheaper as I grew up. I saw the birth of mobile computing, from the laptop, to the netbook, to the tablet. I was still in elementary school when the first digital cellphone was released and now carry a virtual computer in my pocket that keeps me connected to the world at all times. My gaming cabinet contains every console I've ever owned, stretching all the way back to my Atari 2600.
So, just like the name of Tapscott's 2007 book, I have Grown Up Digital. I got hands on technology as it came out, and I learned from trial and error. The most important aspects of technology education I can offer my students don't come from my educational background, but rather from my experiences with technology. They can learn from my successes and my failures as I tackled technology as it shifted and changed.
I imagine, occasionally, what I could have accomplished had I had teachers who could offer that kind of background knowledge when I was growing up in the new digital age. We are dealing with "digital natives," but it's up to us to teach those students the digital skills that are necessary to be responsible citizens in a digital world.