Re: Are our young learners technologically avid and literate?

The native/immigrant divide seems to simplify the issue too much. As popularity in the terms increases this oversimplification runs the danger of enacting bad practice amongst teachers. By labeling our students as digital natives we run the risk assuming that our students are experts at negotiating all challenges that arise using technology.

Jeff Utecht outlined recently some interesting points about our digital natives at his recent TEDxKrungThep talk. He outlines the fact that current 12th graders have never known a world without internet and that today’s cohort of 6th graders have never known a world without mobile devices. This highlights how embedded technology is in our students’ lives. Because of this, our students are very comfortable ‘using’ the technology but aren’t necessarily proficient in negotiating some of the challenges that have arisen from this shift.

Today, information literacy becomes a central skill for day-to-day learning. In his recent keynote presentation for the K-12Online conference <!–, Dean Shareski reminds us of a time when teachers would scramble to find resources for students to use in class. Today, our job is to vet the information; to filter in order to find sources that are most relevant to our students and our context. Our students, though probably quite unaware, are experiencing the same shift. They no longer need to passively accept the resources fed to them by the teacher, but must become experts at vetting the incomprehensible amount information they have access to. These are skills that for most people must be learned.

To return to your question: is there a divide between digital natives and digital immigrants? Yes, but there is also a divide between something we take for granted like driving experience. My parents are more proficient at driving a car than I am because they have done more of it (as a result of simply being older than I am and the fact that they were driven by an imperative to learn to drive). Our students are more proficient at using the technology because they do it more often. However, are students are often much younger than their teachers so what is stopping them from learning?

I’m not quite sure how this analogy encompasses the fact that students still need to learn information literacy skills in order to be proficient learners today. Maybe I need to learn to change the oil/tires to ensure the car continues to run effectively.

Is the divide a major concern for 21st century educators. I’m inclined to say no here. If educators model the characteristics we encourage in our students, chiefly inquirers, risk-takers and life-long learners (very International Baccalaureate I’m afraid), then the divide shouldn’t matter. What does become salient are the challenges that have arisen out of the changing landscape. I think this shifts the discussion away from ‘is’ there a divide to how can our teachers best help students meet the challenges of the changing landscape. If teachers practice what they preach, the divide doesn’t matter.

Hope it helps your paper. Apologies that much of this is unreferenced.

Cross posted from discussion forum for the subject Networked and Global Learning (Edu8117) at USQ.

Published by


I am a musician living in Hanoi who spends his spare time teaching - I'm just trying to work out why I have so much spare time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *