As my new district is preparing to go 1:1 with HP 360s in January, and I begin my 5th year teaching Teaching and Learning in Digital Environments at the university, Prensky is on my mind again.(Still haven’t figured out what a “thought leader” is by the way…) My point once again is that students rarely are all “native” or all “immigrant,” and to plan our instruction and assessment assuming our students now are all native is short sighted and we run the risk of unintentionally disengaging some students all in the name of educational reform and forward thinking.
This past Saturday, I led our TLDE students through a discussion on the definitions of what a digital native and digital immigrant are and we discussed what can be problematic if we put students into either binary. Some interesting conversations arose, such as, are natives better at multitasking (even when research says we are actually task switching), or are they just better at managing the distractions? We spent time discussing levels of comfort, and that it seems that natives are a little more comfortable learning new technology, and perhaps even prefer to use technology to learn?
The very next day, I took my 11-year-old niece out to dinner and a movie last night and we got to talking about school and how 6th grade was different than 5th grade. My niece is a very hard worker, and genuinely cares about her education. She knows the value of education and that it will be an essential path for her to pursue her dreams of being a farm veterinarian, or brain surgeon. However, she is also a pre-teen, which is accompanied with a whole lot of new phrases like, “That is so stupid.” or “That is so dumb.” with an eye roll or two on the side.
Then the conversation turned into talk about technology in her classes. To say she is not a fan would be an understatement. Her school issued Chrome books to students last year. She didn’t go into too much detail about how her other teachers incorporated the device into their instruction and student learning, but she paid particular attention to talking about her Literacy class, which is another fancy word for English class. Her teacher has them work on spelling words using an annotation software (I cannot remember the name, it was something I had never heard of), and she prefers to use paper instead to complete her spelling work. I asked her if she had asked her teacher if she could do it how she preferred, and she said yes, she asked and her teacher said no because this is how she will learn in the future. (Again, please note, this is coming from a pre-teen.) Overall, I got the sense that she strongly dislikes using her Chrome book for school, or anything else, really.
I’m wondering a few things:
- Is she resisting learning with this device because she isn’t a fan of her new English teacher and maybe a couple others?
- Does she, a “digital native,” just genuinely not like using technology to learn?
- If she were asked to do more creation on the device, like create movies or other multimodal compositions, would she be more engaged, and perhaps roll her eyes less?
If it were in my classroom, and that of many of my colleagues, I would have let her choose how she wants to demonstrate her learning, as long as it wasn’t a strict requirement that she use a certain mode or medium, such as typing a literary analysis on Lord of the Flies or something, even if it meant that she just completes it on paper and hands it in the old fashion way.
But does the English teacher have a point? Should we require students to use the device in front of them because technology will be an essential part of their adult lives, and they must be digital citizens and communicators, just as they are in “real life?” I brought this up with my husband, the wannabe Luddite, and his reply was, “Kids also like sugar, doesn’t mean it’s good for them.” Meaning, using technology may be beneficial to a student’s learning, whether they recognize it or not.
The idea of resistance to technology in the classroom is a very interesting to me, and I welcome your thoughts on these questions I have posed. Thank you in advance!