No Such Thing as Digital Natives

One statement that I have been seeing a lot lately, and one that I agree with, is that there is really no such thing as “digital natives”.  Many people, including many teachers, look at todays kids/students and just write off their abilities with technology and the internet as being naturally born with the ability to function online.  This is wrong on a couple different levels.

First, when my son was born he was not able to work a smart phone or tablet.  As he got older I would let him play with them, teaching him how to do stuff along the way but mostly just letting him play with the devices.  That play aspect is key as that is how he learned to do a lot of stuff with the phone and tablet, and that is something that many “adults” are missing out on.  Many people will be afraid of new devices or technology because they are so afraid of making mistakes and not knowing what to do, yet my son has no fear of that and he learns by playing.  Many adults would easily be able to do what students can do by just playing with the technology and learning from mistakes instead of having the fear of not knowing how to do everything right away.

The other part is that people are missing the fact that many students and kids are still totally lost when it comes to many facets of digital learning and living.  There are many students that do not know how they should be behaving online, that they should be careful how much and what they put out there for others to see.  They think that they have some sort of privacy when online and that stuff can not be tracked back to them.  They actually believe apps will delete information and pictures automatically, unaware of how many ways there are around the rules set by the apps.  There are also many students that do not know how to properly search for something or to figure out if that information is good or not.

These are all things that we need to help our students learn, and the sooner the better.  The mistakes that many of us made when we were kids were not stored forever online but yet the mistakes that our children and students will make can be.  That student that tweets something they thought would be funny but yet is viewed as offensive or against the rules, needs to learn how to change or behave better.  That child that sends that inappropriate picture to someone needs to know how that can end up ruining parts of their life.

There is so much that we need to help our students learn while they are with us when it comes to learning and living in this digital world.  We can not stick our heads in the sand and try to ignore this or hope that by “banning” it during school that we are doing anything for our students.  We are teachers and we need to help teach our students about how they should be acting and learning when using digital tools.  Filters and blocking software does not teach a student anything, ignoring social media and refusing to talk about it does not help our children one bit.  The internet is a part of our lives and can be a giant tool when it comes to learning, but no one is born with the knowledge on how to use it as such.  You can teach or you can stick your head in the sand and let your students fail on their own; which is it going to be?

2 thoughts on “No Such Thing as Digital Natives

  1. I don’t have a problem using the term “Digital Native” I think of it in terms like Gen-X, etc… I use it more as an age determinant instead of thinking it means they just naturally know how to use technology.

  2. I love this post! I think this is such an important point. Administrators, teachers, and the entire community definitely overestimate how well students understand technology and its proper usage. Rather than embrace technology and teach them how to use it correctly, safely, and efficiently, we implement rules, way too often, that ban it. You make a great point in that every student that does know stuff about technology, learned it!!! They were not born with this ability, and like these children, adults could learn it as well if they were to take the time to learn it.

    Technology (the real efficient use of it) is such an important skill for our students to develop in order to be successful in the real world. I think that education is often missing an opportunity to teach students these skills as well as:

    “safety” – instead of avoiding the technology…embrace it and teach proper safe use. Students are going to use technology in their lives whether the schools ban it or not, so we might as well teach them to use it properly.

    “branding” – students are branding themselves online every day. You are correct that many are digging themselves some big holes by using social media inappropriately. The schools should work harder to help them understand this.

    “integrity” – you don’t refrain from texting while someone is talking to you because it is a “RULE”, you refrain from texting while someone is talking to you because it is “RUDE”. We are cheating our students when we do not teach them to be “thoughtful people” and instead create “obedient conforming robots”.

    Great post! Thank you for sharing!

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