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Friday, March 14, 2008

No Digital DNA

Conversation today with a colleague about Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants (did Prensky ever realize he would get this kind of continuing traction from his article?) and ranting just a bit that some seem to almost believe that their students have Digital DNA - that on the magic date of January 1, 1980 suddenly all babies were born with an extra deoxyribonucleic acid strand just for technology. The day before, and an hour before, those other babies, even though they may have physical proximity in the nursery ward - just missed the 1/1/80 digital DNA creation, so they are going to have to be analog all their lives.

Okay, an exaggeration, but the dichotimizing that occurs between "digital natives" and "non natives" isn't helpful or healthy or positive. Creating these labels when it comes to something as important as teaching and learning, and when this digital immigrant/digital native concept is not backed up by research, and when being "just a digital immigrant" gives an "out" to those who fear technology and don't want to use it (and unfortunately that does mean some teachers), well then it's time to find some new ideas.

And here's the other thing this colleague and I discussed: research takes persistence and is part of what we need to teach students. That the instant gratification of Google is not deep, thoughtful research - although it's often a start. We need to have students not just take the easy answer or the first "hit" on Google instead of going deeper, broader and further - instead of taking the time to do thorough research.


Russ said...

I'm not sure what kind of research you're looking for, but here's a visionary insight into how students use technology today.

As a side note, I was walking with some college students last night. We suddenly started talking about payphones. Most could not remember the last time they used one and did not even know the cost to use one.

Pamela Livingston said...

Hi Russ, yes, I know that YouTube and have shown it a number of places when I've presented - contacted Mike Wensch whose students created it and asked if he'd mind it being shown. His Digital Ethnography Center at KSU is amazing and important.

The idea I am trying to get across is that culture is not DNA, and culture is not universal, and comfort with technology because it's part of some socio-economic groups does not apply across the board. So when we assume that all kids are "digital natives" and that all adults are "digital immigrants" that dichotomy does not work for everyone. Which I guess didn't come across clearly in the posting.

Wow- payphones, you're so right. My daughter is 16 and when she was really young and kept repeating herself once I said she sounded like a broken record. She stopped and looked at me and said, "what's a record?"

Ubiquity of technology however doesn't mean we're all at the same level, that every kid is an expert and fully information fluent, and that we don't have to teach technology, digital citizenship, and discerning use of information.

Thanks so much for your post and extending the conversation.

Russ said...

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for your response. We probably agree more than my post would indicate. I especially agree with your comment, "Ubiquity of technology however doesn't mean we're all at the same level."

I just recently became aware of the term "digital native" and find it really intriguing. Although I agree that culture is not DNA, I have found the terms of digital immigrant and digital native helpful because it at least gives a framework or context for where our training and education should start and helps understand why certain people have a harder time adopting and using technology.