Thursday, July 28, 2011

Technology Natives and Technology Immigrants

I found the discussion between David Thornburg and Hall Davidson enlightening from a variety of perspectives. The first item I found fascinating was since the video was made in 2001, their discussions are more than ten years old, which is three to four generations of technology behind 2011. They discuss television as a comparison, and discuss Apple II computers as if they were state of the art items for today's teachers. I watched the video several times, and they did not even refer to the Internet, Facebook, blogging, wikis, MySpace, YouTube, and all the other technology tools available today that were not in 2001. Thornburg does not even mention Smartboards, referring to them as "interactive white boards".
                As their discussion developed, I felt that Davidson was more in alignment with my teaching style, especially when he mentions that teachers must adapt their teaching strategies to the students, regardless of the stage of technology. Davidson actually defines a digital native at one point by asking Thornburg if he watched television as a child, so Thornburg was considered a digital native. To be more specific about Thornburg, Davidson could actually more accurately define Thornburg as a television native as opposed to a television immigrant.
                I looked back at my childhood, and the great revelation in educational television was Sesame Street. Sesame Street showed us a diverse neighborhood where old and young, rich and poor, and people of many colors and beliefs all got along and lived pretty well. It taught us the alphabet and how to count up to twenty. According to a study done in 1989 by Richard T. Murphy entitled "Educational Effectiveness of Sesame Street, A Review of the First Twenty Years of Research", Sesame Street had "a significant positive impact on the pre-reading and school-readiness skills of children in the United States, and of children in at least four other countries - Australia, Canada, Israel, and Mexico." (Murphy, 1991). Perhaps children of my age could be classified as Sesame Street natives and Sesame Street immigrants. Teachers would were faced with a room full of Sesame Street natives may be able to accelerate their lessons because the students walked in knowing their numbers  and alphabet. A kindergarten teacher who had a classroom of Sesame Street immigrants would be several weeks behind, and ironically, might wind up using Sesame Street as part of their classroom pedagogy.
                I would venture that there are numerous definition points for our students when it comes to the native versus immigrant classification. Migrating from the 1970's with Sesame Street, there might be lines of definition by calculators versus sliderules, wired telephones versus cell phones, VCR versus DVD versus DVR, dial-up access versus wireless broadband, Facebook versus MySpace versus Tumblr. On a personal note, when I began college, the color television versus no television would have been an appropriate classification. There were no fewer than three of my classmates who wound up dropping out of college. These three did not have television at home, and literally watched so much television they would up failing all their classes.
                I believe that these classifications have existed for years, decades, and generations. Is there an analogy between each student having a computer now to each student getting their own textbook decades ago? Teachers would have changed their teaching styles and classrooms based on each student having their own book. Teachers now need to change their classrooms based on each student having their own computer. Perhaps education has not been as quick to develop as the rest of the world, but it has adapted. It needs to continue to adapt or else education will be the limiting factor in our students' development and success in their world to come.
                The discussion between Thornburg and Davidson once again validated the requirement that effective teachers get to know their students. The students' levels of technological prowess is simply another category of student diversity, much the same as their religious beliefs, economic status, or family situation. The more we know our students, adjusting our pedagogy to reach their levels of understanding, the more effective our classrooms will be. The biggest challenge is whether or not the individual teachers move forward with the development of technologies. Those teachers who choose to continue learning about the tools available will be the ones who reach their students more effectively than those teachers who choose not to evolve.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Murphy, Richard T. 1991 86 pp. (ED385553).  Educational Effectiveness of Sesame Street: A Review of the First Twenty Years of Research, 1969-1989. Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ.

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