Friday, July 23, 2010

Technology Illiterate Students

I keep reading (and hearing) about the wonder about this supposed Net Generation, or millennial students or...well other terms that mean the same thing: absolutely nothing ;-) 

In the past couple of years I've heard and read so much about how these students process things differently and that we need to adapt our ways of teaching to suit their unique learning preferences and technology savvyness.  Now, I am a member of this generation - granted I am from the early stages of this generation having been born in the early 80s, but I am a member of this generation nonetheless. Being a member of this generation I call all this BS. I've actually been thinking about doing research and writing about it (and hopefully getting published).

My main line of though is this: just because a certain group of individuals has grown up around technology, it doesn't mean that they know how to use it effectively.  The main comparison that I can make is cars.  I grew up with cars in my life, as a matter of fact I own a car.  I can drive both automatic and a standard.  That doesn't mean I know what's going on in the engine.  Luckily my dad is an auto-mechanic (and a damned good one), so I can pick his brain about things and learn all this stuff (if I want to).

Computers are the same.  Students seem to know how to do a lot of separate tasks. They know how to check on facebook, they know how to view something on YouTube, they know how to open up a word process, press a couple of keys on the keyboard and make text appear.  This doesn't mean that they know how to deal with the information they are getting from the device. They don't know how to look up help and use a new function (that they don't know before hand) in excel, they don't know how to evaluate information they find on Google and they don't know how to use google, and other sources, to pick up information that is most relevant to them!

Students are, in essence, technologically illiterate - there is a digital divide - we just seem to want to no acknowledge it because of the flashiness of current computer technology and the fact that non-millennials seem to think that just because Johnny knows how to update his facebook status, he can create an MLA or APA style bibliography in Microsoft Word.

We need to move away from the false notion that people born after a certain decade, in a certain part of the world, know what they are doing on the computer and we should not assume that they would benefit from a radical chance in Educational Technology integration and pedagogy chance.  We should do a proper learner analysis in our own classroom, and THEN determine what teaching approach is the best for this group of learners.
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