The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people — and is no better at multitasking.
That’s the assertion of a recent opinion piece in Nature. It caught my eye, partly no doubt, because I tend to agree, at least to a point. The article was prompted by the release of a paper by European academics Paul A.Kirschner and Pedro De Bruyckere, “The myths of the digital native and the multitasker.” Highlights from the paper include:
Information-savvy digital natives do not exist.
Learners cannot multitask; they task switch which negatively impacts learning.
Educational design assuming these myths hinders rather than helps learning.
A key point is that being immersed in digital technology does not automatically equate to being technologically savvy. I have observed this in students in online courses I teach. They use technology constantly, but they can be quite naive about it. They use technology the way I drive a car—I know how to make it go and how to make it stop, but I have only vague ideas about how a car works.
School’s out for summer and the digital natives are beyond happy about it. So are the teachers and administrators! We’re all ready for a break. It gives us an opportunity to slow down and think about things.
One of the things I’m thinking about is the whole idea of digital natives. That’s what we call kids today; but if they are digital natives, what are we? Many people have gone with the term digital immigrants. However when I think of immigrants, I think Grapes of Wrath. I picture the hopelessness, despair and tribulations of people fleeing the Dust Bowl to make their way to California. They have hope. They seek opportunities and things that are new. Yet still, I picture a guy in dusty overalls—maybe John Malkovich’s Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Such images are not a ringing endorsement for encouraging others to try something new.
Several years ago though, I read an article in which the writer coined a new term, digital colonist.1 Digital colonists are the ones who not only move but move in. They build a home in their new place. They make a living. They thrive. For a late Gen X like me this idea struck home and really made me think about how I try to grow my “digital colony” with others.
This spring, for the first time, TICAL held a regional workshop in the Capital City area. To attract participants, we were getting the word out via the usual digital colonist ways—emailing flyers, tweeting, posting information on LinkedIn. As I was doing my part to publicize the event, it dawned on me, “I don’t think the people I want to be there use these tools!” Only a small number of school administrators use Twitter professionally. Many have set up a LinkedIn page but their effort ends there. How do we reach those dusty digital immigrants and help them set up shop in our new digital colony?
Here are my ideas.
Go old school. Create and print a flyer with the workshop information, then actually take the flyer to those you are targeting. Get it into their hands. You’ll be able to get the flyer to some people yourself, but for others you’ll need help. Tweet a link to the flyer and say, “Friends help friends tweet. Print this and share it with someone you know,” or “Help your principal! Print this and give it to them.” Another approach I took was to post the flyer on my Pinterest Board with a note for teacher to invite their principals. There are some teachers who ignore all other media, but if they follow your board, you have their attention!
Lead with them. Invite someone to go to trainings with you. It’s always more fun to do things with someone else. If you just know a little more than the next guy, you are the expert! It helps those around you know that you are “in.” The personal touch goes a long way for all of us. When we get a personal invitation to go, be honest, it makes one feel special and one of a kind. Who doesn’t want that? It is our job as leaders to build up those around us, and doing it with them, no matter what “it” is, will make them want to come and take notice.
Be an advocate. For as little as you may feel you know, you are still better equipped than anyone else to make a digital change. A teacher may go off to a training and get excited with creative ways to teach and lead these digital natives, but then policies at school, district and state levels prohibit them. Some policies need to be updated, but some can’t be. As leaders at district, county and state level, we are positioned to bring about policy change if needed, and also must be the best communicators and advocates for our students, teachers, and parents. If George Washington popped out of TARDIS today, one of the only things he would recognize is the classroom. We must be as courageous as George to bring about the policy changes needed to accommodate and support digital learning.
The bottom line? We are preparing students for their future with the digital tools of today, not the analog tools of our past. We’ll do a better job when we have friends around us in our digital colony.
What do you think? What other ideas do you have for bringing the immigrants into the digital fold? Leave your comment below!