Teaching Digital Natives and Staying Up-To-Date with ICT

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An interesting current affair story on ‘The Project’ tonight got me thinking about why it is so important to stay up-to-date with ICT (and especially online ICTs), based on the following article: Tweens, teens adept at hiding internet activities from parents, McAfee report reveals. The statistics of the original article were interesting – 70% of youths say their parents didn’t know about all of their online activities, and the same number reported to hiding their online activities. This statistic raised alarm bells, with digital immigrants and Luddites offering solutions such as suggesting youth have limited access to technology, or even removing it altogether.

In my opinion, this is not a practical solution to the problem. Technology is not an optional extra – technology is weaved through their (and our!) lives in such a way that removing it unravels everything their lives are based on. For this reason, this generation is referred to as being digital natives; they are familiar and confident in the culture of technology that they have been born into, willing and able to adapt to technological advances, excited by upgrades. Their parents (and teachers!) are often, at best,  digital immigrants.

“The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past. The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today’s older folk were “socialized” differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.” – Marc Prensky (Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants)

Where digital natives are speaking in their first language, we’re plodding along remembering our mother tongue and reminiscing of the pre-digital days. Unfortunately, some of us might even view technology as an unnecessary luxury, and view the technological age we live in as lazy and spoilt compared to the way things used to be. Learning the language and developing our digital literacies is a new concept for many of us. However, teachers are often handed the important job of teaching students about online safety, and when 70% of students are hiding their online activities, we need to make sure that we do an exceptional job at making sure our students have the information they need to make safe online decisions. As teachers, we need to instead commit to keeping our knowledge of current technologies up-to-date.

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