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Eureka Sunday!

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Well today I’m relaxing and watching the latest season of Eureka, which sounds like it’ll be the last.  I really like this quirky little show about a small town where all of the best scientists live and work.  I think the best part is getting a glimpse into possible future technologies.  I find myself feeling inspired and I think that good science fiction could inspire students to explore science.  I remember reading Tom Swift as a child and that inspiring my young explorations.  I was lucky to have parents who provided me with things like a microscope kit and chemistry kit so I was able to explore.  I enjoyed my solo explorations much better than the directed experiments in science class because of the possibility of “something” happening.  Sadly nothing great was ever created through my explorations in fact we’re probably lucky I didn’t blow up the house of create toxic fumes when I started introducing and mixing household cleaning chemicals into it.  I think this is the feeling that teachers are hoping to create when they engage in inquiry learning practices.  I can attest that for me inquiry learning was powerful.  Starting with a goal that is engaging and interesting to the learner and giving them the tools to work towards that goal.   So the true key piece in inquiry learning is engaging the child’s imagination.  Maybe that means using a movie clip, a story book or a tv show but once that spark of imagination is engaged anything becomes possible.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
Carl Sagan

Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity.
L. Frank Baum

Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’; And then do it.
Duane Michals

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.