November 08, 2007

The tedium of the term "digital immigrants" and "it's to do with age"

The debate at Channel 4 is currently heading off in a weird direction, that young people are 'consuming' media (they're not, they're creating it) and that the reason Old People don't use social media is that they can't use social media. It's not the case.

Matt's jumping in now and asking for some higher expectations in terms of media literacy: the fact that so many of the (largely middle-aged) audience know what media literacy and social media are is heartening. The fact that we have the silver surfer of the year talking at this summit shows what's possible. My not-quite-silver surfing mother (retired for several years now) is a Second Life junkie, Flickrer and blogger.

Ageism is something I can't stand: being too young or too old to understand/not understand how the world works. We do need more walkthroughs and handholding for all to get over the bump of understanding and engagement, says Matt. I agree. Where do these examples and walkthroughs go, though? Who leads on them? The Media Literacy Charter as an education tool?

Leon Cych has taken to the floor from the back seats and asks for more examples of Local Authorities using real Web 2.0 tools, not proprietary 'safe' tools that the kids just ignore, before going back to Bebo. I'd say, take a look at the non-proprietary stuff and huge adoption of social media going on in East Lothian.

Finally, a teacher is making the point that social networking is blocked because it "gets in the way" of what "we're trying to do". I can see his point, but I would frame it differently: we need to make sure social media is used in a relevant fashion in learning. Also, it mustn't just be something that is in the fiefdom of media studies or English teachers - this is an all round issue, to be learnt and tackled by all.


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"social networking is blocked because it "gets in the way" of what "we're trying to do""

You know I'm a former teacher and I totally understand what the speaker was saying.

Teachers are expected to get kids through exams - to jump through hoops - not make them creative, social, innovative beings.

The commentor said it in a nutshell.

Oh, come on - you can do both, you know! I would keep reminding them of the waiting hoops, but always found there was time to educate in a wider sense as well, including letting them dictate the direction when it seemed to be leading down an interesting alley.

In contarst to you Ewan I do like Prensky's terminology but don't see it as 'ageist' - I see it as 'realist'. Whilst perhaps some of what he says might be debatable, I can't share your opinion that his notion is 'tedious'. Like it or not I WAS in a school where we had ONE computer which we all got a chance to look at the teacher using IF WE BEHAVED. But I am VERY savvy reICT cos I have made it my job to keep up tod date with trends and developments. BUT there are a great many IT co-ordinators and teachers who think that IT skills in school revolve around solely the Microsoft Office suite of applications. I believe there *IS* something in the Immigrants/Natives descriptions, even if one takes issues with some elements of it. I see evidence of it each day I'm at school.

I too am not a fan of the Digital Native/Immigrant argument, things are not that clear cut. People like myself are a bit of both.

As far as LA using Web 2.0 tools, surely its more important for schools to be using the right tools for their students. From my experience LA are so far from the pulse of schools & technology it is unreal.

I have to say that Drew's experience of only getting on the computer when finished work etc still happens and, in my experience, in the classes (sometimes) of so called young 'digital natives.' Certainly never in mine or in the classes of most of the other 'fifty somethings' at my shool.

The "natives / immigrants" thing has a lot to do with mother tongue vs. learned 2nd language stuff.

However, it seems clear to me that we are all being hurried along to the (IMO inescapable) conclusion that we had all better begin learning a completely new language .. as has often been pointed out by people smarter than me, there is much in the way of conext, experience and some of the hard-won core elements of a classic education, mastery of grammar and syntax, etc. that the so-called digital natives may come to miss sorely in having to deal with a world we immigrants will be leaving them.

Language creates reality, they say .. and it seems pretty obvious that this interlinky thing we live and work in and with will be helping us discover a new reality pretty darned soon, and to date (vast generality alert !) we only have Industrial-Age language on the part of immigrants and pidgin thumb-and-link texting-derived palaver from the natives.

We all have a lot of work in front of us ;-)

You are so right! It has nothing to do with age. Our perceptions of media literacy are the true barriers. I am in my forties and pursuing a career in ELA. Like your mom, I am also a "Secondlife junkie." Recently in our class, Computers and the Study of English , we were able to Skype with Will Richardson. I was wondering if you might be available some Thursday night after Thanksgiving to Skype with us?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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