Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Digital Natives

In the wake of our keynote speaker, Alan November, there has been a lot of talk in the halls of CCHS about 21st century skills and the role of instructional technology. It is one of the most fascinating and exciting discussions in education today, and we are not alone in assessing where we stand, and where we need to go.

The term "digital native" is ubiquitous these days, but what does it really mean? Wikipedia says "A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already existed when they were born, and hence has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3s." That defines the students (632 yesterday!) who visit the CCHS Library each day.

Indeed, the way they interact with information is very different from the behavior of the 30+ set. Their sense of boundaries, openness to new formats, their joy in digital media and the energy they bring to this area of production is incredible. They click with fearless abandon. The line between their day to day existence merges with their online life. It is part of the air they breath.

So, what does this mean for education, where we teachers are the immigrants and less comfortable with technology than the students we teach? Recent studies are indicating that everything will be OK. John Palfrey (Harvard Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School) advises that digital natives are glad to act as our guides. The community of immigrants and the the community of natives are still joined by the same values and educational goals, but that we need to have a conversation to bridge between the two, and include the new skills and interesting opportunities brought by evolving technologies.

School libraries are about information, media literacy and the technologies associated with these areas. This is our content area. Palfrey has some thoughts for us that resonate with this mission.

"I think the message broadly to librarians is that there is a greater, not lesser, role for professionals in this area as the digital age grows. And the more engagement that librarians have with young people in guiding them through this information environment, the better. The more we as library directors or librarians can listen to the practices of young people in these environments, the better off we’ll be in terms both of figuring out how to provide services and figuring out what things we need to correct. I think that kind of listening process is something that’s important and that the technologies themselves are pretty good at facilitating it. So to me, that’s the punch line from a librarian perspective.

This is going to be a great conversation.

Resource materials:
Excuse Me. Do You Speak Digital?: Harvard's John Palfrey Explores What It's Like to Be a Digital Native - 9/1/2009 - School Library Journal

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser
"Examines how economy, culture, and family life may change due to the coming of age of a generation of digital natives--individuals who have been exposed to technology their entire lives; and discusses the challenges they face."

Marc Prensky: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants-- a New Way To Look At Ourselves and Our Kids

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

Baby swim

Uploaded on May 24, 2009
by Eythor

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