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Teaching Digital Natives

4 August, 2010

In my experience learning about how to teach better, I kept coming across the term ‘digital natives’.

This term refers to our current crop of high school students, who spend quite a significant amount of their lives on the internet, with a large amount of that time using social networking websites or communication programs – Facebook and MSN, MySpace and AIM, Bebo and the like.

This was often contrasted against teachers, who were assumed to be, well, not digital natives.  Often, the perception I got was that we teachers were far more luddite than anyone thought possible!

When I got into the classroom, this simply wasn’t the case.  Of course, I thought to myself, that could be because I’ve been on the internet for as long as my younger high school students have been alive, and used to be employed to use a computer, day in, day out.

Yet, when I talked to other teachers, I got a similar reaction – for all the talk of our students being some other race of ‘digital natives’, this simply wasn’t translating into anything practical, with the oldest of teachers being better able to use computer technology than many of the students.

It occurred to us eventually, of course.  Our students were using their computer in the same way that a previous generation’s teenagers would have used the phone, and the generation before that may have used a diner – as a means of communication, as a consumer.  It never occurred to any of those generations to use these tools practically, just like it never occurred to this generation to use the internet, or computers, for anything pragmatic.

That’s where teachers come in: to show young people how to use tools – tools that would be so easy to pick up, if they knew where to look – to help them get ahead in life.

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One Comment
  1. 1 October, 2010 5:02 pm

    I fully agree with your observations, Andrew. I think the new Google interface makes it easier to research the net than used to be the case, though we still need to point this out to the students. I usually insist that my students use a news database to find a recent article related to the topic they’re researching. This is often the only non google search they will have done.

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