The following quote is a comment to this story about funding cuts to the California public library system. I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be a digital native because our school system has been using that term recently. I like what this guy has to say, and wonder if K-12 school districts might change their approach to libraries and research and computer instruction if they understood this writer’s concerns. My experience as a parent and my observations of our school system tell me these concerns are real:
OK, the idea that kids these days are “digital natives” is a nice, self-serving fairy tale. It makes tech-lovers feel good, because they feel like they are at the front of a curve. It makes educators feel good, because then they don’t have to teach a complicated and multi-level sets of skills and knowledges that they don’t have a strong grasp on themselves. It makes government types feel good because they don’t need to devote resources to it. It makes the kids feel special, and kids need that. The problem is, of course, that it’s pretty much false — saying kids are “digital natives” because they can text, send email, and use facebook (all services provided by profit-driven companies, who love this false paradigm as well), is like claiming that kids these days are all automotive engineers because they have driver’s licenses.
I teach freshmen. Most of them have the barest idea of how to use the Internet except for simple, pre-packaged tasks. They have little concept of wider issues, like selecting a tool outside of their very limited set of daily resources, dealing with privacy (which they care very much about, but don’t have the understanding to guess how to deal with it), or asking questions about the purpose of the technology. And these are the reasonably well-off kids who have had access to the web for most of their lives. Students from less advantaged backgrounds have greater hurdles.
So, yeah, forget this idea of “digital natives.” Now, a library could help them get closer to that ideal, but we are busy closing the libraries because the “digital natives” don’t need them. And who, I wonder, benefits from a large mass of people who can’t do anything except what the tools they are sold let them?
(posted by GenjiandProust at 6:16 AM on 2/12)
What are your thoughts about the term digital native? Is it useful? Is it an accurate description of adolescents these days? Schools seem to draw conclusions based upon this assumption. Have you seen those sorts of conclusions in your school system? What do you think of them? Are you concerned about these assumptions and what they will leave out of your children’s education?
My thanks to Alan Jacobs for drawing my attention to this comment and the original post.