I find it quite interesting when the conversation about education and technology comes up amongst educators. There is usually a variety of opinions on the topic with regard too its value in the classroom along with a broad spectrum of comfort levels in using it, ranging from no way to every day.
Weaving its way through this conversation is the assumption that kids are far more skillful in using technology then their teachers. It is an assumption which creates apprehension in educators and creates a digital divide (real or imagined) between Teacher and Student but it is an assumption that is quite frankly, incorrect.
Certainly there are kids out there who are incredibly proficient in using technology in constructive ways and I have few of my own that amaze me with their ability on a daily basis but for the most part, these individuals are in the minority. The rest of the student body know how to use their digital devices but only for the purpose of consuming digital media. Texting, game playing, video watching, socializing… The majority of these activities are consumptive in nature and by no means denote a “skill” in any way shape or form.
I feel that it is safe to say that the majority of kids are not using technology for any substantive utilitarian purpose. In fact, the majority of people regardless of age, never use technology in a manner which is anything beyond a reactionary relationship between user and device.
This error in assumption is currently being played out in the iPads In The Classroom trail I am involved in. Twenty five students who we assumed would be quick to pick up on or already have the knowledge to be productive in an educational setting, has fallen a tad short of the mark.
This is not to say things are hopeless. We have made some progress in getting things up and running and we have had a really cool twitter driven discussion about academic success but there are still some surprising “gaps in using the apps”.
The most common issues so far involve rudimentary user skills.
- Linking third party accounts with various apps
- Sending Email attachments
- Familiarity with services such as twitter and drop box
- Attaching links to assignments
- Saving images from the web
- Imbedding images to presentations
In addition to not knowing how to do these basic things, frustration amongst the iPad cohort is quick to set in when they can’t get things to work. The past two weeks of this digital immersion experiment has solidified my opinion that assuming that all kids are digital savants is simply wrong.
Educators need to understand that kids (as a whole) are not as well versed with using technology for functional purposes as we might think. We need to teach them the difference between consumption and production on a digital device. In traditional education terms, it is the difference between reading a book and writing a book. Being able to read and understand a message within a text, does not mean that you can write and effectively convey a message of your own.
It has become obvious to me that the biggest roadblock to creating effective digital learners lies in the assumptions we make about students innate ability to use technology for an educational purpose. Hopefully, we can begin to break this mold and begin to move ahead in creating a digital learning environments that are absent of these counter productive assumptions.
See iPad Experiment