Wednesday, July 23, 2008

RE: So Digital Natives Don't Exist?

The following is my comment to Tim Wilson's post on The Savvy Technologist titled: "So Digital Natives Don't Exist?"

I think that many teachers, especially those for whom it has been a long time since they were students, forget that learning is not easy and learning new technologies is not necessarily easy either. The frustrations they encounter when trying to learn how to use, much less how to utilize, a new technology are largely felt as a personal deficit or shortcoming. Where the student is used to this and has active strategies for dealing with this frustration (some better than others) the veteran teacher who has not been a student themselves for some time (especially the teacher for whom delivery of lessons is automated as Chris Craft illustrates) no longer has this strategy. The Digital Native/Immigrant argument is ideal for this teacher because it provides an explanation for why they have tried and failed or tried and only had minimal success. I completely agree that this argument has hindered progress.

Also, modern technology has an effect on the cognitive load that is disruptive to experienced teachers. By having to integrate technology into instruction (or alter pedagogy) the part of teaching that was once automated has to be unlearned and retooled. For a teacher who was used to having their eyes in the back of their head functional this can be blinding, especially if done effectively. Effective integration of technology in the classroom involves a substantial pedagogical shift; its big enough to turn expert teachers into novices.

It is easier to say, "I can't learn this, I am a digital immigrant," and to say, "We need to figure out how to reach these Digital Natives." than to say, "What implication does this technology have for teaching and learning and how do I modify my teaching methods and policies to benefit my students?" More often than not the answer to that question involves a teacher giving up some control of the learning that occurs in their classroom and empowering students by making them responsible. It also usually involves individualization of learning where the student is placed in the center and the teacher acts as guide or mentor. This is offsetting in many ways to the teacher who is comfortable with traditional behaviorist teaching methods, spending many years perfecting their lectures and worksheets, and has developed secure classroom procedures to perpetuate an illusion of respect from their students. "I am just a digital immigrant," simply means, "I am unwilling to change what I do if it makes me uncomfortable," or "I am unwilling to give up control or look stupid."

1 comment:

Rick Tanski said...

You touch on some of the same points I make in my July 17 post about this topic at I actually think the terminology is far more dangerous and divisive than those who mindlessly adopt the terminoligy think. Look also at many of the comments as the respondents have left many links that explore this further.