Teaching students in a digital age is taming a very different beast than it was 20 years ago. Some of us might remember the early days of the Icon computer, Commodore 64, early Nintendo, our first “surfing the net” experience and then an ability to — *gasp* — view images on the web without waiting 10 minutes.
This is not the reality for our current students. Many were born after the mass marketing of the internet, were conceived in the DotCom bubble and have grown up with computers, the internet and cell phones in their lives, everyday.
We assume young people born after 1995 have solid computer skills. However, these students were not required to take ‘typing.’ They are unsure of how/where to insert a tab, how to use their word processor to double space their documents and changing file extensions can pose real problems. They can access Google or Facebook, send images and attachments on their emails or smartphones, but few think about how these tasks are achieved by the computer. They are simply ‘done.’
This can pose some significant challenges to educators when students encounter digital-related problems. I’ve seen students go white with panic when their .docx file won’t open on the school computers or burst into tears when You Tube is uncooperative during their presentation and they have no ‘back up’ plan.
The digital native is NOT a digital expert.
The perception of the Digital Native and Digital immigrant isn’t only a trope, but it also creates an unhelpful binary (Bayne and Ross, 2007) of “us” and “them:” those who can feel good about using technology and those who feel less comfortable. A study by White and LeCornu (2011) suggest the best way to see the differences in people’s comfort in using technology can be summed up as “visitor” and “resident;” the former is less likely to have a large online presence and ‘dabbles’ in interwebs connections, whereas the latter has a large footprint in social and content-based online media.
Part of our role as teacher, even if we’re Visitors, is to help them to learn more about the systems which will be forever tied to their lives: computers. We can help them build resilience. We must console and encourage baby steps for those pupils who claim, ‘computers hate me!’ We can show them how to problem solve using a web search.
CBC’s Spark has an excellent segment on this very topic. Check it out.
This study (March 2012) looks at the Millennial habits for online searches. How can we improve this for our students?