Saturday, November 03, 2007

Digital Divide or Wing Fitting?

Also on my blog reading roll today was “from now on: the education technology journal”. I have been struggling with the terms digital natives and digital newcomers or immigrants. I first heard this term back in 2005 during my library certification classes. I thought it was great at the time buy I have been feeling like the metaphor has been a little overextended of late. I could not put a finger on my uneasiness and then I read Jamie McKenzie’s article: “Digital Nativism
 Digital Delusions 
and Digital Deprivation.” Jamie is the editor of “from now on,” he’s been around education and technology for a while and he hits my frustration, the proverbial nail, right on the head. And I am not even talking about McKenzie’s tirade about video game learning. I think there is something to be said for such learning and we in education are differentiating instruction so much that there may be that group of students that will respond to video game learning, so why not try it? The part that I am especially concerned about is the isolation of children, which McKenzie uses to caption his picture.

“Childhood is shifting inside. Some fear the consequences of sensory deprivation over the long haul with excessive exposure to things digital. A Digital Waste Land is a poor substitute for the rich flavors, smells and touches of the real world. Leading psychologists have signaled their concern in reports like Fool's Gold. FaceBook, MySpace and Second Life are poor substitutes for face to face communities and the playground.”

I for one am the biggest proponent of using the technology we have in the classroom but I do not want it to isolate children. While I still promote technology, I do not want students sitting in front of a computer 24/7 with no human contact. And, if that human contact only comes at school with a teacher, then that is where children should be, in school with a physical, real person guiding them in their use of technology.

Mix this with David Warlick’s new pondering on his 2cents worth blog and we may have a real gem. Warlick likens teaching with Web 2.0 to giving students wings. There is a physical teacher or librarian there guiding them on their journey yet, they are then no longer navigating in a 2D world, adding wings gives a 3D quality to learning. He says we need to prepare our charges for an unpredictable future. He gives a sort of formula for this new learning, “I found this information in this way. This is how I decided that it was valuable. I mixed it with this other information to add this value.” I say “sort of formula” because I do not want to pretend that learning can be boiled down to any one formula. Our learners are diverse and it is my responsibility as a teacher/librarian to help students find the right size and balance for their wings so they can soar with eagles!