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Digital Natives?

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While I was perusing my reader feed yesterday I came across a new post from a favourite blog of mine “for the love of learning” by Joe Brower.  I’m embedding the post here for ease of reading and discussion but Joe’s blog is worth checking out as he discusses a lot of issues around education.

Digital Native myth

by Joe Bower
 
The idea that children are digital natives is at best inaccurate and at worst a lie.

It’s weird how the glitz and glamour of technology can hypnotize even the sharpest people into believing silly ideas. If someone came out and tried to sell the idea that some children are literacy natives, we would scoff at them because we know that the ability to read and write, like all learning, is constructed from the inside out while interacting with our environment.

And yet, as soon as we start talking about smart phones, tablets, texting and other technologies, we get bamboozled into thinking that digital natives exist.

Children who have access to technology and are encouraged to use it in a playful and informal manner grow up to be adults who feel comfortable and competent around technology.

Children who have little to no access to technology and are discouraged from using it (usually out of fear and ignorance on behalf of the adults) grow up to be adults who feel uncomfortable and incompetent around technology.

All this has nothing to do with their DNA and everything to do with opportunity and affluence.

I think that Joe is right often we assume that children are naturals at using technology and therefore as teachers we don’t put the same emphasis on teaching technology as we do on teaching things like reading.  Yes, because we live in a affluent and technological society means that kids are very familiar with technology.  However, there are huge gaps between the types of technologies children have access to at home depending on parental beliefs, socio-economic status and the child’s own interests.  As well, children that may have lots of access to technology may not understand how technology can be used to enhance their education.  A big example of this is running a simple web search, many adults much less children do not know how to judge web sources and how to tell which biases different sources carry.  Most people can’t explain why wikipedia isn’t considered an authentic source when compared to the online version of encyclopedia britannica.   This is the big gap where teachers need to enter in, helping ensure that all students have access to technology and can use it responsibly and to it’s full potential.