Friday, May 8, 2009

Digital Native/Immigrant is the Wrong Analogy

Those in education or Instructional Technology fields have heard the notion that our students are "digital natives" and the over-40 crowd of teachers are "digital immigrants." I have a slightly different take on this idea. When it comes to technology, I've concluded that our students are "social natives" and "learning immigrants" while teachers are "social immigrants" and "learning natives."

Our student's top priorities in the use of technology is 1)being social and 2)being entertained. Our top priority is learning. It is the marriage of these two priorities that lead to powerful social learning experiences. The power behind web 2.0 tools is the ability to communicate and share with large numbers of people. It is the skilled educator that can get students to take the leap toward using these tools to power their own learning experiences.

Facebook and MySpace are used by students to share pictures, meet girls/boys, leave messages but do those same students know how to use a Ning to develop and share ideas around physics or U.S. History? Students use status updates to share where they are heading on a Friday night but do those students know how to use Twitter to share ideas about an upcoming project? Students use YouTube to be entertained by babies farting baby powder clouds but do students know how to use YouTube to learn, instruct, and share ideas and information that will further their learning? Students use Photobucket to share pictures from the concert they attended but can they create, collect, share meaningful photo essays about important concepts or geographical locations. Students use their cell phones as a text generator but can they use their cell phone to stay organized, collect information, conduct interviews among many other things. Students use their iPod Touch to listen to music and play games but do they use their iPod Touch as a reference tool, organizer, recording device, or photo editor.

It's our job to learn how to use these tools and devices and to teach students to become "social learners," a place where information and connectivity collide.


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