Ditch the digital/native catchcry

The video, A Vision of Students Today, released by the Kansas State University’s Digital Ethnography has generated some heated debate, particularly in response to Gary Stager’s post, Hey Mom! Look What I Made in College. The video itself has more than 4600 comments and 860,000 hits on YouTube.
Despite the fact that I’m empathetic to students who pay tens of thousands of dollars for the outdated and passive approach to learning that predominates in many institutions, a huge proportion of people in the world don’t have access to tertiary education at all, so the “poor me” negativity and the sophomoric editing combined to make the whole thing a bit annoying.

The most interesting angle to come out of this debate was Michael Wesch’s astute comment about digital natives, which tied into other people’s recent debunking of the irritating and false dichotomy of “digital natives versus digital immigrants”.
Here are some of my favourite refutations of the native/immigrant fallacy:
Michael Welsh:
“The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online. They may be learning about this digital information environment despite us, but they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information environment becomes increasingly pervasive in all of our lives. All of the classic skills we learned in relation to a print-based information universe are important, and must now be augmented by a critical understanding of the workings of digital information.
Martin Levins:
“The digital native concept is something I’ve struggled with for some time. It seems to hark back to the colonial “noble savage” idea in that, somehow, kids have a deep knowledge of digital stuff and therefore, cargo-cult-like, technology and their affinity with it will allow a better learning experience per se.
It’s simplistic to imply that lots of facebook profiles read trumps 8 books read without asking the purpose of the reading.
It’s equally so to allow only one form of text for students to use to demonstrate understanding, irrespective if it is an essay or a web page or a movie.”

Ewan McIntosh, also addresses this in his post, the tedium of the term digitial immigrants and it’s all to do with age: “we need to make sure social media is used in a relevant fashion in learning. Also, it mustn’t just be something that is in the fiefdom of media studies or English teachers – this is an all round issue, to be learnt and tackled by all.”

Image: http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/digitalnatives/ADD-SHIRT.png

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3 thoughts on “Ditch the digital/native catchcry

  1. Pingback: A couple of insightful quotations… at teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk

  2. Pingback: links for 2008-01-11 « 4R x T

  3. Pingback: Blog Post #2 (September): Digital Natives? : Blogs, Wikis & Podcasts Book Study

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