In the earlier blog post, wherein Ian discussed how his six-month-old son (my nephew) is a Digital Native, and how difficult it is speculating about and thus preparing him for the various media and learning mediums he’ll encounter throughout his life. I agree that envisioning what devices will be embraced in the next 20 years or so is difficult, but how his education is managed probably is much more transparent.
I graduated high school in 1996, at a time when the Internet was best surfed with a good book handy, so that one could be entertained while pages loaded. At school, however, this wasn’t a concern; there was Internet on only two or three computers, and these computers weren’t really utilized for anything educational – “Minesweeper” comes to mind.
When I went to college a few months later, I was astonished by the computer labs. Internet there seemed lightning fast – pages loading within five to ten seconds. Email became a significant if not integral aspect of my existence as a student, as opposed to merely existing as it had in high school – as an exotic, alien superfluity.
However, the most astonishing educational use of technology I encountered and immediately appreciated was a writing classroom with PC’s mounted under glass-top desks, where students could write during the class period, and the professor could post writing from an LCD projector for instant peer review. I immediately understood the usefulness of such instant publishing and ownership, and even today I long to replicate it in my classroom.
Unfortunately, 15 years after graduating high school, I look around at the school in which I now teach and don’t see much difference from my own high school experience. Aside from computers in the library and in a single lab, there are no computers in the classroom. Yes, a teacher can sign out a cart, but often more time is wasted troubleshooting wireless Internet connections and faulty batteries than writing or doing anything of consequence.
My eldest daughter is in second grade, and I admit that she attends a school in a more affluent district than the one in which I teach. Nonetheless, in school she sees a computer only once a week, on Computer Day, which falls between Music Day and Art Day. And yet my daughter would also be considered a Digital Native, never knowing a world without Internet and laptops. Still, subtract a single day from her curriculum, and her second grade experience would almost mirror my own 27 years ago.
So, like Ian, I am unable to foresee our technological future. Without shifting the educational paradigm, however, I can very clearly see the future of our Digital Natives’ education, and it involves learning to write cursive rather than learning to construct a web page.
In reviewing the feedback and commentary since posting my submission two weeks ago, and in working with Scott this week to put together this posting…I am still left with the same questions that motivated the original blog posting. I wonder what future will be in store for my little Digital Native as he grows up. I wonder if the schools and environments he is a part of will support his creativity, collaboration, and communication using whatever literacy structures are available…no matter how far-fetched they seem to be (I hope he has a protocol droid fluent “in over six million forms of communication”). Hopefully his future teachers and leaders see the benefit of ICTs in the classroom and workplace. Sadly…In reading Scott’s thoughts, I cannot be certain of this.
Last night I was re-reading Jim Gee’s piece “A Sociocultural Perspective on Early Literacy Development” from the first volume of the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, and with all due respects to Dr. Gee, I would like to loosely appropriate his thinking to my situation. In his explanation of Discourse and the sociocultural implications in literacy and identity, Gee gives an analogy of a father watching his son sit at the kitchen table working through an activity book. The book shows the top half of Donald and Daisy Duck, and underneath a question asks “In what are Donald and Daisy riding?”. The child is to take the “magic pen” and scribble out the bottom of the picture to reveal that they are riding in a car. The father steps in, and asks his son to read the question at the bottom of the page…realizing that his son is not at the stage of being able to decode print. What the father is ultimately trying to convey to his son is how to be a certain type of reader. The father is conveying to his son…”people like us are readers like this”.
In thinking about Gee’s analogy, I thought of my own son and the direct, and indirect ways in which I have already expressed to him how “people like us” read. With the television shows we watch, books we read…and even the times he sees me on the computer. During the six months he has been alive, he has seen me in front of the computer screen more often than I’d like to admit. And each time I’m feverishly reading, writing, and communicating using various ICT tools. At some point in his life (and it probably has already begun) I will sit with him at a computer screen and ask him to read to me, ask him to think aloud and express to me what he thinks about what he is reading. I will show him that “people like us are readers like this,” especially when reading and writing online.