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Things I wonder about…

I got a new digital camera1, and I was letting my kids play with it. There was, even with the lowest performing students, that facile use of the buttons and switches that belies “digital native”. But they only used the most basic functionality, and didn’t seem to have any interest at all in exposure settings or any other of the high tech wingdings available.

Does digital nativism go beyond letting the technology do all of the work for you?

In other news, I wonder if my kids are connected enough to understand rickrolling? Cause if they did that would be a funny one to get them with. My bet is they wouldn’t get it at all.

1 And by the use of that adjective I immediately label myself as a digital immigrant.

{ 8 } Comments

  1. Benjamin Baxter | April 4, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    For my money, digital native means having developed an intuitive understanding of what most essential types of symbols and most essential types of buttons mean. If the digital native can get it to work, there is not necessarily any predesposition to try and understand any other function.

    That right-pointing triangle has something to do with looking at the pictures, but if the digital native can’t find that symbol, they start futzing around until they find the “looking at pictures” button. As soon as they figure out a way to do what they want, any further searching or experimenting is outside the scope of being a digital native.

    If they experiment and find a new functionality, they remember it and it carries over into other devices.

    If they’re still looking for the “looking at pictures” function, they won’t go anywhere near the trashcan symbol.

    A thought: is being a digital native a matter of having learned a symbolic language at an early age?

  2. Sarah | April 4, 2008 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    A preface to this comment, it’s past my bedtime into my going silly stage.

    If you do Dan’s thing of showing videos regularly, I love the idea of a Rickroll’d week. Some of the knock-offs are pretty amazing. Though Mario Brothers, Yoda, and Fresh Prince are icons that my students know of but don’t connect with the way I do.

  3. Mr. K | April 5, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    is being a digital native a matter of having learned a symbolic language at an early age?

    That’s kind of my thought. A very rudimentary language. For all I know, a language with about 20 symbols: blue underlined text, a right facing triangle, forwards and backwards keys, a circle with a vertical line in it.

    They know about Myspace. They have no idea about Facebook, Orkut, Friendster, Tribe, or even LiveJournal. They can’t even tell the difference between Myspace and any other blog. They all know how to use proxies, but don’t even know that’s what they’re called. And I think this is what bugs me about it:

    there is not necessarily any predesposition to try and understand any other function

    For all the talk of a new paradigm, I don’t see learning or deep inquisitiveness as part of it. The lessons I see being learned are doing just enough to accomplish the immediate task, without any interest in addressing a larger context or learning to synthesize connections between all of the disparate bits of knowledge that get picked up that way.

    Fundamentally, I think, that’s our job as teachers. I just have this gut feeling that technology, without some very careful design, is more of an impediment to that connection than an aid.

  4. Mr. K | April 5, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    icons that my students know of but don’t connect with

    And that’s my issue: part of my role as teacher is to be comfortable with my own culture, and not need to impose it on them (or to adapt their culture) in order to have a relationship with them. I don’t do Myspace, they don’t blog. I don’t listen to Souljah Boy, but I don’t impose Jonathon Coulton on them either. There is plenty of stuff that transcends (and if it makes them think, so much the better), but I’m not sure that Rickrolling is part of it.

  5. Sarah | April 8, 2008 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    There is plenty of stuff that transcends (and if it makes them think, so much the better), but I’m not sure that Rickrolling is part of it.

    Agreed. Though there are plenty of times I struggle to find the line between transcendental material that makes them think and stuff that’s really just my culture.

  6. Sarah | April 8, 2008 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Different question. How much do you teach the synthesis through technology versus how much of do you teach the connections between (and within) subject areas?

    I think I strive more for the latter, though I’ve fallen short of what I’d envisioned when I planned over the summer.

  7. Mr. K | April 9, 2008 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I do almost none of my synthesis through technology.

    My students do semi regular assignments called “What I learned about …”

    The most recent one was on one variable equations. One poor girl did it in a word processor instead of by hand. The result was definitely a step below her previous efforts in terms of comprehensibility: Both formatting and layout suffered. Her previous model had been to do a sample problem in the middle of the page, and the write explanatory paragraphs around the sides with arrows to show what was going on. This new version ran to 3 pages, and i could barely understand what was being said.

    At this point, I mostly use technology for presentation. I’d like to use it more for discovery stuff. Synthesis, however, occurs in the head, and the tools for math notation to convey that synthesis are at this point in time an insurmountable hurdle for my students.

  8. Sarah | April 10, 2008 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I’m a bit relieved to hear this. I only have enough technology for my presentation and have pretty much decided that choosing the technology battle might not make sense. I’ll use it for what I can, but on my home connection rather than the school’s.