Monday, August 3, 2009

Digital Natives - are they really natives?

I was reading this article on Inside Higher Ed recently for a case discussion for one of my classes centered around Dr. iCranky. It is a pretty interesting article, and what's more there are some pretty interesting comments.

Boiling the Dr. Cranky's letter down, it's about faculty forced to adopt new shiny technology in the name of Millenials (aka digital natives), the new type of student filling the lecture halls and faculty better get on board.

I also read this article on first monday. Here's the abstract:

Educational technology advocates claim today’s students are technologically savvy content creators and consumers whose mindset differs from previous generations. The digital native-digital immigrant metaphor has been used to make a distinction between those with technology skills and those without. Metaphors such as this one are useful when having initial conversations about an emerging phenomenon, but over time, they become inaccurate and dangerous. Thus, this paper proposes a new metaphor, the digital melting pot, which supports the idea of integrating rather than segregating the natives and the immigrants.

I think both of these articles go together. I've seen a lot of students cross my path, for different generations. People who would fall into the digital natives category know their way around MySpace and Facebook, but when it comes to academic computing they don't know that much and what's more, they don't have the tools to figure it out on their own. I think equating knowledge of one service with broad knowledge of computers and troubleshooting is flawed.

As a side issue, I think that people come to school to learn things that they don't know. While some academic technology can help students, it is important to acclimate students into an environment that they don't know much about. They should know how to use paper based resources to do their work. They should be taught how to be both cyber-sleuths and real-life sleuths when seeking information. And, they should be taught how to be troubleshooters when things don't go well with technology.

I also think that this argument of digital natives neglects to mention people who cannot afford to be brought up in the warm embrace of technology. I've met many people, both locals and from abroad, that never grew up with a computer, they just know basic email and word processing and that's it (if that!) and they are part of the generation that we call Millenials (aka digital natives)
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