Friday, March 28, 2008

Where are these digital natives?

Yesterday I gave a presentation to 3rd year University Education students. I gave the same presentation last year. I was amazed last year how little these students knew of ICT in Education or even in life. But I was sure it would be different this year. This year I would finally find these 'Digital Natives' everyone has been talking about. Surely they have finally come up through the ranks and I will be singing to the choir as it were.

These students must be 19 or 20 years old. And they had not heard of RSS, did not know the merits of delicious, did not blog, hadn't listened to a podcast or created a wiki. Second Life was a foreign concept and really, what on earth is Twitter? A few of them had used Skype and one asked if Bebo counted as blogging. I launched into my presentation of the wonders of Web 2 for education and was met by a wasteland of blank stares. (Really without understanding the concept of RSS everything else falls over!)

Where are these "Digital Natives" we keep hearing about? Is my particular education system not producing them? Or is the concept of these hyper-connected students just a figment of our imagination, a reality we can see as being possible but is not actually real?

I finished dazzling them with my brilliance (unappreciated I must say, either that or I was speaking a foreign language) and launched into a safer topic they would understand - how to use PowerPoint in interesting and innovative ways for education.

I was relieved though, when I got home, to find my own tween daughter and teenage sons engaged in more "native" like pursuits. One was working on his music network within Last FM; the other was perfecting his musical talents creating original music through music notation on GarageBand, watching and contributing guitar tutorials to Youtube; and the third was investigating the new virtual world of Panwapa. Maybe I still have a few years to wait until I will be standing in front of a University class of "Natives" ... This (so-called) "Immigrant" is restless.

13 comments:

AllanahK said...

I think the whole digital native thing is a crock.

I was helping a woman fresh out of teacher training college today who was overjoyed to learn how to mark an often-visited web site into her favourites as she thought you had to re-type the URL each time and was delighted to learn how to attach a photo to an email.

Baby steps but there is a mis-match somewhere along the way.

gregcarroll said...

Exactly Allanah!!
The worrying thing is these people will be teaching our children in a couple of years!! How will they do interesting and innovative things in their classrooms with ICT's if they have no idea of the possibilities?
This is just plain SCARY!
What is going on with selection processes for Colleges of Ed if the focus for the system is on connected learners and the people in the system are all islands ...?

ATQ said...

Actually, I think it is a generation that has gone through at the end of the previous paradigm! They went through and remember the "old school." They chose teaching not for the love of new technology but the old books and style of their own previous education! Most older teachers have grown with the times, and see the value of ICT as it augments what they do. Many (not all) new teachers have only the memories of how they were taught. Lets face it, the major changes that we see in ICT use in education are still really only making an impact in primary. Secondary is lagging, and I really wonder where tertiary fits in! So new teachers in training are still coming out of a digital vacuum. If you were interested in ICT 5 to 10 years ago would you be choosing teaching as a career? I think not. If you were not particularly interested in ICT but loved books... you might have got into teaching on your nostalgia only to find that the ground had changed underneath you...
Anthony Hill

Suzie Vesper said...

So many bloggers are saying the same thing recently. I have always thought the digital native/ immigrant thing was over simplified and not necessarily all that helpful. As a facilitator I have certainly worked with my share of teachers of ALL ages that didn't have much of a clue. Though it could be said that there were more who struggled that were older. I would have thought the training in colleges would be better these days.

NJTechTeacher said...

The students everywhere are the same. Perhaps what will change over time is that the students in college today shouldn't be afraid to break the computer. They've used a mouse forever and can navigate the Internet. Hopefully, it's now more a task of turning on the light to the possibilities.

I agree with the idea that those entering the teaching profession are still coming from a background of rows of desks, books, and teacher lectures.

Naketa said...

Wow! Wonderful discussion...the digital native/digital immigrants discussion is problematic...when I initially came across this "term" I jumped at the chance to 'over-simplify' some of the resistance encountered by teachers when introducing ICT into teaching practices.

However, as I delve further into my work and facilitation role I realised that "digital natives" can be an excuse, for teachers unwilling to give it a go..and I dont mean all teachers should twitter, blog, podcast, skype...I just think some elements of Web 2.0 would be useful for engaging children, parents and families in communities of learning.

The whole "digital native/digital immigrant debate" makes me think of the following quote:

“The illiterate of the year 2000 will not be the individual who cannot read or write, but the one who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn" - Toffler

I currently do voluntary work with a youth organisation in Otara, South Auckland. I mentor two youth basically teaching them everything I know about ICT, with assigned tasks related to our Otara and the stero types/media perceptions etc. They also support me with workshops and are planning very soon to run workshops for the community.

What I have noticed even with their very minimal ICT experience and access to ICT is their willingness to learn, relearn and unlearn. For both of these youth formal schooling didn't quite capture their attention, as a result they no longer attend.

It has been very interesting watching their level of engagement and watching them as they explore so many learning facets in a meaningful and relevant way...

I thought I was teaching them, in turn, they keep teaching me :)

To learn, relearn and unlearn is more important than being a "digital native"...

Knz's Blog said...

I have written a little on digital natives in a recent blog. I also felt I backed this up with a few video's from YouTube in my latest post.

At the back of my mind I think about my nephews and niece here in New Zealand and a few in South Africa. Although some are learning Power Point in their classes (and are bored stiff with it) I would certainly say they are not involved enough in ICT to be part of the Digital Native generation (despite being around the ages of 8-12). My older nieces in the UK however could better be better described as digital natives - addicted to txting, face book pages, involved in online chatting - but not quite blogging, making movies and even skyping is a bit of a novelty for them.

So maybe it is not yet a natural part of growing up for all members of this so called 'digital generation'. Infact I feel more like a Digital Native as I was involved in ICT and programming games at the age of 14 in 1984 and believe that if my teachers had been more involved in ICT during my latter years of high school, I would have been more engaged.

So maybe not all young people today are Digital Natives. But I do believe that there is a group who struggle with school, are involved in ICT in their personal lives, and who, along with young people who are not so familiar with ICT, would benefit hugely from a more enthusiastic approach to education through the use of ICT. And I believe that even if not all of today's generation is not as Digitally Native as has been proposed - they will one day be more prominent and in the not too distant future.

So should we say "Where are the so-called Digital Natives?" - or should we take the bull by the horns and be prepared leaders in ICT?

And please - this doesn't mean teaching Power Point and Excel - this will be one way to Kill our up and coming Digital Natives.

gregcarroll said...

Being a so called "digital native"/21st century learner/etc is not so much a function of WHAT YOU DO with technology as much as your ATTITUDE to it.
I don't think it matters whether you are an avid texter or show any other sort of technology use, like powerpoint for example. It is the familiarity with the technology and its potential; and the fundamental way it changes learning, that I want teachers to have as an understanding.
Teachers need to be doing SOMETHING and integrating it into their classrooms. Tech should not be noticed in the classroom. We don't get all excited if kids use felts, who cares if they use a computer? It should be that natural a part of their learning. This is what being a 21st century learner/ digital native/ whatever you choose to call it.
What concerns me is the complete lack of awareness that Jane describes!! As a principal I would never even consider any of these people for a position in our school. They would have too much to do to even catch up with the children....
the Uni's are doing them a dis-service by not having them up-to-speed. They need to have a full programme not trot out people like Jane for a one-off.

AllanahK said...

I got an email from that same teacher over the weekend....

"Thank you so much Allanah for all your help and instruction on Friday - I felt empowered and inspired!"

There is hope for the digitally less literate as they see the potential of using ICT. One success can lead to another.

Jane Nicholls said...

I get your point Anthony about the paradigm, and it makes me think of the presentation by Ian Dukes - TTWWADI (That's the way we've always done it). New teachers come into schools doing exactly what their classroom teachers did when they were at school. I suppose with the ICTPD programme we are going in the right direction because enhancing (changing?) the practice of teachers in classrooms today changes the practice of teachers to come as well as benefiting the students.

I think I had a moment of frustration thinking we are working so hard to enact change or progress and I want to see the difference. I suppose like a drop into the ocean, it takes a while to see the effect of the ripples.

Sue B said...

I like what has been said about current teachers taking the digital age and going forward with it. I know that I would do a lot more with the technology that is available if I had some time to play with it myself and learn how (even just a couple of steps ahead of the kids) This is really what current teachers would appreciate (in NSW at least)
I teach in a small school with 3 teachers and 65kids in a rural area of NSW. Our school tries to keep skills of staff updated but it is hard with the limited funding for staff development.

My Yr2/3 are currently working on digital projects. They have interviewed a significant local identity and videoed the interview. Now we are up to editing using iMovie... The kids are having a ball and we are all learning heaps.
One group interviewed an ex pupil who is now playing NRL for a Sydney team. He wasn't able to come up to do the interview so the kids did it over the phone using the speaker option on the phone. This was all new to the kids and they thought it was wonderful technology and they learnt things from something as simple as a phone!

Renroc

Paul McKenzie said...

As much as we are all deep into Web2.0 with it's Diigo's and Delicious, Twitters and Tumblrs... we really are still the early adopters. Not until our colleagues are fully on board + another 4 years or so, will we begin to see first year teachers competently using edtech in their teaching and professional development.

Last year I went to the NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) in Atlanta, Georgia with my wife who is also an edtecher. Perhaps we are at an advantage of being able to bounce our passion, ideas and digging off each other, but we were quite frankly stunned by the lack of know-how of our fellow participants.

It wasn't until the 4th or 5th day that the exponents actually managed to find each other, group together and exchange meaningful experiences and advice. We really felt as though we should have been running our own seminars and workshops - another time perhaps.

Unless you have been taught in school using integrated technology and Web2.0 (still under 2 years old), it won't be until you actually start teaching until you'll understand how useful and necessary 21st Century Literacy really is.

I'm not sure how teachers' colleges back home in NZ are faring in this regard, but if it's anything like the rest of the world, don't expect any miracles for at least another 4 years.

I'm currently battling to have my fellow teachers consider accepting Diigo annotated web highlights as student assignments instead of black ink on white paper. What better way of understanding how students digest information and develop their own voice than by having them collect their work in Diigo Webslides. If you are not using Diigo, get there now. It works seamlessly with Delicious and with its added functionality, will probably see its demise soon.

Such is technology...

numbatconspiracy said...

the americans invented the word carpetbagger. it refers to those who arrived in the wild west who, like felix the cat, pull all sorts of tricks and deceptions out of a bag made of carpet to defraud the naive and gullible natives.

so is my view of marc prensky and this furfy latched onto by so many of those who don't actually think that kids learn about computers and computing by some form of osmosis.

the same then must hold for maths, english, social studies and science. it must be true 'cos it is on the web !

for the last twenty years, i have been involved in an education system that is evolving to where it was fifty years ago. one of the casualties is we as educators have been so focused on assessment and pedagogy, we have forgotten about content. the last computing pd i attended had a lecture from a uni stats professor telling us how final grades were calculated and massaged until the private schools had the advantage. for an hour !

in 1987, computing educators were on about two major issues. training in content and adequate technician time to manage the huge networks that have sprung up in schools. this is against the backdrop of an aging teaching force and an increasingly intimadatory education system paying teachers less and making conditions worse.

there is very little real pd offered because the people who employ teachers don't understand what is happening apart from the inspired individual who has mastered photostory 2.

the networks are centrally controlled and locked down so tight with net nannies and soe's that there is no real opportunity to demonstrate computing fundamentals unless one runs their own web site. (and hope no one blocks it)

there are so many machines in schools now that it is almost impossible to stop kids turning computer labs into web based time zones.

and given the labour shortage in australia, any kids who has any skills at all is "up north" "on the mines". it makes the entry requirement to get into uni to do education around 72. that is of course a resting heart rate.

it is sad that after three years, your university has not recognised this deficiency. if there needs to be a change, surely the first place to start would be at the teacher training level of a university ?

by the way, just for fun, test your graduates in year 9 algebra. always good for a laugh.