Monday, April 14, 2008

Digital Natives?

Today I had the honor of presenting Audacity (open-source audio recording software) to students attending an area HS computer fair. To my surprise the majority of the students had not heard of podcasts. As my presentations concluded I had extra time so I thought I would open up the discussion to web2.0 tools. As I began to talk of blogs and wikis I got many blank stares. With everything I have been reading and discovering within the last 9 months, students have been referred to as "digital natives." Suddenly I realized that I had to back up and punt. For most of the students I was speaking a foreign language.

This helps to clarify and intensify, for me, the need to address 21st century learning and NOT to make assumptions. Many of my teachers are discovering that they need to teach basic computer skills before they can begin to use the computer as a learning tool. Perhaps the digital divide was larger than I thought!

I am truly curious... is anyone discovering this, or is our situation in northeast PA unique. (We are quite rural and many families are still on dial-up internet.)

6 comments:

alytapp said...

Lori,
Here's a crazy confession for you. I went to the Keystone State Summit last summer, I am the CFF Coach this year....and I had dial-up until this past October. No joke. The reasons were many and ranged from reluctance to use Comcast (can't get DSL) to plain and simple frugality. I now cannot imagine how I survived without high-speed. If a tech geek like me survived that long, we can only imagine how many others are simply not taking the plunge. Perhaps the question we should ask our students in not "Do you have a computer?" but "Do you have high-speed?"

Mrs. Abernethy's Cyber Chickens said...

Lori,
The other day some high school kids stopped in my classroom. When they saw what my 5th graders were doing, they were amazed. They had never heard of wikis, blogs, and had a vague idea what a podcast was, but had never made one. I believe the skills are not inherent in these kids. They need to be taught. However, I do believe that once you get them started, there's no stopping them!

Caroline OBannon said...

You're not alone! I am finding that many of these kids are not digital natives in spite of the label. My school district is a semi-rural suburb of Atlanta. However, we have quite a large population that do not have home computers and/or Internet access, so they only know what they learn in school. Since a fair amount of our teachers aren't versed in the use of wikis, blogs, podcasts and other technologies, it explains why our students aren't aware of them, too.

Lori said...

Via twitter, a pal shared his blog with me... http://theprofessornotes.com/archives/189

Scott said...

Lori,
I think that the divide is prevalent in many areas. I work in a fairly affluent suburb of Harrisburg, PA, and I have kids all the time that walk in to my classroom without having much experience with computers. I too thought that I had been talking down to them when I first heard about "digital natives," so for a time, I tried to operate like they knew more than I was giving them credit for. I beginning to think that is absolutely not the case. So as Mrs. Abernethy noted we have to teach them the skills, but once you get them going, for most, but not all, of them will take off.

What is most disturbing to me is the fact that I have kids who don't know how to use computers and have no desire to. With them, I'm try to teach them that they won't be able to live without knowing how to...and that's a big challenge.

Lori said...

Thanks, All! Now I know that I am not the only one to have experienced this. So, we need to meet them where they are and move them forward, making no assumptions. This makes perfect sense to the elementary teacher in me. We do that every single day. Scott, you are right. Once we teach the tool they will be able to run with it!