Digital Natives – What’s all the fuss anyways?

This year has been an exciting one for me in regards to the Internet tools that I’ve found and started using on a regular basis. Twitter, WordPress, Facebook…I’ve got them all bookmarked in a special place for easy access whenever I’m online. I’m here to admit it — I’m hooked. They all played a role in opening my eyes to new and wonderful technologies that help people teach, interact, and live.

As the new year approaches, I wonder what impact these tools will have on how people think and behave. I read a lot about digital natives how different their thinking will be in general because of their exposure to these tools at such a young age. I have well respected colleagues who agree with this, and other who disagree. Myself? I cannot predict the outcome one way or the other. I can see both sides…

Side 1: There are always some students who just plain ol’ ‘get it’. They think differently and see the world differently and will always do so, regardless of the tools that they use to learn. These are the students that embrace learning for learning’s sake and put their disbelief aside for a moment when the teacher asks them to bear with a new lesson that experiments with fancy technology. These students are generally the minority and often get overlooked in the classroom — and blogs, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools are just the thing to fill in the gaps and let them (and their learning) go hog-wild. In summary, the learner, not the tool, seem to be the focus.

Side 2: These tools revolutionize the way information is thought about and shared. Instead of seeking out information, tools like Twitter, blogs, and wikis provide the user with constant streams of incoming information. Students go from ‘go-getters’ of information to sorters of facts, opinions, and text. Any student exposed to the skills needed to find, sort, analyze, and organize (I sound so Bloom’s Taxonomy right now!) will walk away from their public schooling with a good deal more of those skills than I did 15 years ago. For the first time, the tool may introduce or perhaps force students to deal with information in a way that no generation prior to ours has, and to a greater ability range than ever before. This will profoundly impact the type of thinker that emerges from our schools. In this case the tool, and its connection to information, are the focus.

I’ve laid out two sides of this story as I see them. My point is simply this — never before have I had so much access to such high quality information about what I do and how I spend my time. I’ve got access to blogs about surfing, educational technology tweets, technology wikis, blogs about making videos, videos themselves, and countless other topics. I’m amazed by it all, and here is why…

The way I use my time in a given day is changing, and will continue to change the more I use these tools.

I thought I was a good multitasker before this year – I was kidding myself. I have a long way to go if I want to take advantage of the information that is out there without fruitlessly burning through the hours of the day. I have made some improvements…I no longer focus on how and where to get information from – it just comes to me with RSS feeds and such. Instead, I think about how to manage my time so that I get the maximum use from these tools. I use them to enhance my performance at my job, share stories and updates with my family, communicate with my home when I am away, and a handful of other benefits.

The bottom line is that I do more in less time than I did a year ago, and I can’t imagine what I’ll be doing a year from now or how I’ll be getting it done. I know it will be different than this year, and probably better. Our kids, our students, our next generation of citizens — the ones we guide and influence as we teach and work with teachers — will have this experience and access to technology from a very early age. What will it mean to them?

What does it mean to you?


1 Comment

Filed under educational technology

One response to “Digital Natives – What’s all the fuss anyways?

  1. I too can do more than in the past. Some folks don’t like this idea I think, even when it’s couched in “working smarter not harder.”
    I’m one of those who think the digital natives/immigrants construct is weak particularly when it draws along age/generational lines. It creates an artificial “us and them” social dynamic, the kind that has the stereotyping capacity, you know, where people just assume things about groups of people.

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