Monday, June 30, 2014

Are Boyd, Wesch and Prensky Digital "Natives" or Digital "Immigrants"?

I don’t necessarily think the positions of Boyd, Wesch and Prensky are entirely divergent.  I think they all agree that with the advent of the web, how students access and process information has changed, and education needs to change greatly to keep up with it.  They all agree that our students have an unprecedented amount of information at their fingertips.  How we use this information and method of information access and dissemination in our education system needs to be carefully rethought.  We need to teach in a way to utilize this information superhighway and use it to captivate the attention of students who are extremely engaged by it.

Boyd thinks that student’s levels of technical knowledge vary greatly so they don’t all fit in the digital “native” category as they have to learn the new digital skills mostly on their own.  Boyd also points out that having access to all that information is not good enough and that student’s have to learn how to evaluate the information critically.  Both Boyd and Wesch agree that with we need to rethink how we teach using information and sources because of the web.  With the advent of the web, research skills, such as source evaluation and citing sources, have to be taught in an entirely new way.

Boyd, Wesch and Prensky also all agree on the fact that we need to catch up what and how we are teaching to these new technologies.  Boyd thinks the kids are teaching themselves these technologies. Prensky things our educational system isn’t teaching our current students because of the differences between the “natives,” and the "immigrants."  Wesch states that the flow, in both directions, of information has changed so much that how we teach our students to accumulate, process and disseminate information and knowledge has to change vastly too.  

I think some of the characteristics Prensky attributes to digital “natives” such as going twitch speed, parallel processing, random access and graphics first are traits that many people develop after using the internet for vast amounts of time.  I see these traits developing in digital “immigrants” such as myself after copious amounts of internet use.  I think they are more general traits that can be attributed to the “digital lifestyle.”

Although the digital “native” and “immigrant” terminology describes the situation on the surface, I think it is much too general to describe what is really going on.  I am mostly in agreement with Boyd as far as use of this terminology goes.  I think the younger generation appears to be digital “natives” as a whole because they have been around the technology for a greater part of their lives, and are thus very comfortable with it.  That comfort in no way implies that they are more knowledgable about it than the older generation.  I know many adults, myself included, that have a much deeper understanding of the new web-based technologies, how they work and were created, than most of the younger generation.  With the younger people I think because it is the only world they have ever known they just immediately go to the web for things, thus their high usage and ease with the web.   This does not necessarily mean they are smarter about using it or know more about it.  Just because they learned how to use the web at a younger age than we did doesn't mean that they are smarter about it than we are.

I am a Digital Immigrant

Although I am much too old to be a digital "native,"  I consider myself very techno-savy and am usually on the early end of adopting different technologies.  In the 80s I programmed computers in BASIC, FORTRAN, PASCAL and C and also integrated equipment in with computers so that the equipment was driven by the computer and the program that I wrote for it.  In the late 90s I was doing something innovative at the college campus that I taught at - I was teaching my fellow faculty members to use power points for their teaching presentations.  I also designed and programed part of the schools website.  Currently I use the web extensively as part of my teaching practice. My students use my class website and my edmodo site as part of the classes I teach.  I have my own youtube channel and produce video tutorials for my students.  I am also putting together an online classroom for the blended astronomy class that I am teaching this summer.  I also have websites for my photography business and my art.   Even my 12 year old daughter, Athena,  has a website for the rabbits she raises.

My Summer So Far

My name is Alison Murray.  I am a 9th grade Physics teacher at Central Falls High School (CFHS).  I am taking this class, CURR 501: Media Literacy, Popular Culture & Education, as part of a master's degree in TESL that I am working on as part of a joint program between CFHS and Rhode Island College.  It has been almost 26 years since I was last a college student so this is really a fun experience for me.  I am enjoying this much more than my last college experience, an M.S. in Physics from Drexel University.
My summer started on a definite down note as I managed to get sick with pneumonia in the last few weeks of school.  I dragged myself over the finish line of the school year.  Last week, which should have been my first week of vacation, I spent the last three days at school writing new curriculum.  Over this past weekend I started doing classwork for the other two graduate classes I am taking this term.  This is going to be a busy month due to the three graduate classes I'm taking.  When this class ends I start teaching a blended astronomy class at CFHS.  It will be the first partially online class that we have ever had at CFHS.  I am really enjoying developing the technology and looking forward to figuring how to get my students to use it.  Hopefully I will have a few real weeks off at the end of the summer.