Living By Learning In The Wired World

by Sandra Foyt on October 18, 2007

in Tech Tales

In my continuing efforts to keep up with my children, I have started following Anastasia Goodstein’s Totally Wired Blog. In her October 18, 2007 post, she writes:

I was informed that the teens at USN (an independent K-12 school) today have all migrated from MySpace to Facebook. This has definitely been the pattern at most of the independent schools I’ve spoken at — is it class stratification or the impression that Facebook is somehow more private and less spammy. Probably a little bit of both. I also sensed a feeling of powerlessness from a couple of the parents about really being able to limit their teenagers’ use of technology. I heard the “They’re just going to do it anyway” defeated response. Maybe they will. But it seems like if parents take that approach on all things teens will “just do anyway” they’re missing out on an opportunity to try to engage with them about the choices they are making. I also sensed some parents feeling like everything is changing too fast and that all of this can’t be a good thing. Nothing in excess ever turns out to be a good thing, but I think parents have to accept that technology has become fully integrated into this generation’s lives in a way that’s hard for us to comprehend…and that the skills they’ve developed intuitively growing up with the Internet will ultimately serve them well when they enter the work world. It’s that whole digital native/immigrant issue again.

MySpace, Facebook, who cares? I have accounts in both but I prefer Stumble Upon for a social network site where I might actually learn something. In any case, my kids won’t be exploring any of these for several years, I hope! They can stick to the relatively safe tween sites such as Club Penguin, Webkinz, or Imbee. Still, be sure to click on the class stratification link for a fascinating look at why “MySpace and Facebook are new representations of the class divide in American youth.”

Today I want to talk about immigration from the pre-computer dark ages to the digital native world. I have chosen to not be defeated by the emerging technology. Yeah! I embrace the digital world! Woohoo!

Digital Immigrant vs. Digital Native

I admit it. I am a digital immigrant. I grew up without a computer, cell phone, ipod, etc. Given the choice, I will print out articles to read instead of looking at them online. When I want to know the time I look at my watch, not my cellphone. If I need to look up a phone number, I check the paper phone directory.

Sometimes, I act like a digital native. I prefer to use email for communication, instead of drafting a snail mail letter or wasting time talking on the phone. I use the web for most of my reference needs. However, I will never have the ability to speak the digital language without a heavy accent. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever embrace text messaging. I just don’t have the thumb skills.

Like most educators today, I am a digital immigrant teaching a digital native.

Why Bother With Modern Technology?

Well, why bother to use Microsoft Word when you can still use an IBM Selectric Typewriter, or just a pen and paper? Why don’t we go back to using cuneiform pictographs on clay tablets?

Are you amazed by my grasp of history and spelling? I’ll let you in on a little digital native secret.

I wasn’t too certain of either, so I googled “cuneiform.” In about one nanosecond, I had the wikipedia listing confirming my choices. I also discovered that “pictograph” was more descriptive than the “mark” wording that I planned to use. Presto, magic, I substituted the word and right away I sound more erudite.

Of course, I still had to have some basic knowledge of history to be able to formulate the search.

Why Is It So Important To Emigrate To Digital Native Land?

You need to speak the language to communicate with digital natives, and you want your children to be digital natives. Ok, you might not want that. I do want my children to be digital natives.

After reading Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, I started thinking about how a flat world would impact my children’s future. We could probably argue endlessly (and some of us have already) that Friedman’s assumptions and forecasts are wrong. However, I do believe that the education and activities that ensured success for members of my generation may not work as well for our children.

Success in the future will require a rigorous education, as well as the ability to ignore hegemonic thinking to pursue creative choices.

Kids need the opportunity to beat their own drum.

Savvy children will also need to be fluent in the digital language.

E-Learning In The Wired World

I can already hear the noise from those of you who think that children today are losing the ability to concentrate or reflect because they are being bombarded by digital media. A recent article on WebMD concurs. While this may be true, perhaps those same children are gaining skills and abilities that are not present in previous generations. Marc Prensky, author of Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning!, argues that “video and computer games prepare today’s children for success by teaching such critical skills as collaboration, prudent risk taking, strategy formulation, and ethical decision making.” Both of these resources are most likely lacking in scientific rigor, but I figure that being open to new technology while exercising common sense and a liberal dose of moderation can’t hurt.

Take a look at Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson for practical suggestions for integrating technology in your instruction. Be sure to visit his blog, at Weblogg-ed: learning with the read/write web, for more ideas.

Here are a couple of easy suggestions from this book for introducing E-learning in your life:

BloggingBlogger makes it easy to set up a blog that can be public or private, with or without moderated comments, with a single or multiple authors (team blog.) Both of my kids maintain blogs, Elferkid and Alex and Leperdy’s Learning Adventures, and I plan to start a team blog with my book club. Blogs are a fantastic way to encourage children to write about what interests them.

Wikis – This is any collaborative website that can be edited by users, the most popular being Wikepedia. Explore and contribute to popular wiki sites such as: Wikirecipes; Wikitravel; Wikinews; Wikispecies; and Wikiquotes. Think of these sites as potential outlets or resources for aspiring chefs, adventurers, journalists, botanists, or writers. Find more inspiring sites, or start your own, at Wikia.

By the way, if you do decide to have your child blog or surf, be sure to check out the information on kid’s online safety on Kim Komando’s website or the long list of Internet safety resources on Totally Wired.

There are so many exciting technologies and applications, too many to cover in one blog post. I’ll be back with more e-learning ideas next week. In the meantime, please share your favorite e-learning idea on the comment link below. If you like this post, take a digital native step and click on the Stumble It! link below.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joy-Mari Cloete November 5, 2007 at 5:48 am

What a great post! I especially loved this paragraph “However, I will never have the ability to speak the digital language without a heavy accent. “.

Its a lovely choice of words. Keep up the good work.

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