I’m old enough to have typed papers in high school but young enough to have been introduced to early desktop computers when I was in elementary school. I suppose that would put me somewhere between a “digital immigrant” and a “digital native.”
Let me start by saying I think school should embrace technology. They should demonstrate to students legitimate educational and business uses for technology. Almost every aspect of what I do at school is linked to some technological tool. Now, let me also say that I don’t fully buy into the assumptions some of our class reading and videos put forth.
There seems to be an underlying belief, among some, that the problems schools face are a result of not embracing technology. In one of the videos, the college students said they bought books they never cracked open. They skipped class. My question: What’s new? Sounds a lot like the scene when I started college almost 15 years ago. It was that way when my parents were in school.
In his 2001 writing “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” Marc Prensky describes how students today are different. He paints this diverse group with a broad brush and says teachers have to approach them by “going faster, less step-by step, more in parallel, with more random access, among other things.” I read this, and I’m puzzled.
We know that students learn differently. We know that some need more time. Others need the freedom to go faster. We use different strategies. One of those strategies might be to allow students to go faster, but it is absurd to think “faster” is the solution for every student.
Prensky writes, “Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” There may be some truth to that. But isn’t it also true that our education system has never had it completely right? The struggle for education is and always has been the need to make lessons relevant and engaging.
What certainly has changed is what will make learning relevant and engaging. In many cases, it’s technology. Technology will solve many of the challenges we face in making learning engaging – as is described in David Warlick’s “A Day in the Life of Web 2.0.”
While we jump at the opportunity to use this new technology we can’t ignore everything else we know about learning. We can’t forget that students learn differently. We can’t assume that every child will arrive in our classes with the same familiarity of computers, video cameras, digital recorders or whatever gadgets we will put to use.
Frankly, we have to stop assuming that our students will intuitively understand the best, productive ways to use computers simply because we set a desktop in front of them. It’s like assuming a child will become a proficient reader simply because they have a shelf full of books. Yes, it helps, and some students will show a knack that helps them excel in that area. But others will struggle. Especially when teaching more advanced programs, I believe students will struggle far more than many assume. I find this in teaching students to use Photoshop and Illustrator as well as Google Docs.
As I said, I embrace technology in all aspects of my classroom, but I worry that if our profession moves ahead with the assumption that technology will magically solve every problem, we are fooling ourselves. It simply isn’t that easy.