Digital Immigration Reform
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
WHAT IS A DIGITAL IMMIGRANT?
If you have no idea what the above term means, you may be a digital immigrant.
If you have an interactive whiteboard and prefer to use it as a place to hang your students' artwork, you are definitely a digital immigrant.
Don't be offended. I, too, am a digital immigrant. I learned how to type on a typewriter — not a laptop or a word processor. And when I type, I type words, not clever texting abbreviations such as LMBO, IDK, or TTYL. (Fellow immigrants, you had to stop and think about IDK and TTYL, right?)
If you are over the age of 28 and did not grow up with the kind of technology kids have today, you are probably unfamiliar with ever-changing 21st century technology.
So here's the secret to navigating the new digital world: PLAY. PLAY AROUND.
RULES OF THE ROAD TO REFORM
1. PLAY AROUND with a kid, especially one over the age of 9, on some type of digital equipment.
2. Don’t look for the manual for the Kindle, Flip Video Camcorder, the interactive whiteboard, or any other equipment.
3. Don’t wait for your tech-savvy co-workers to hold your hand.
4. Throw all those things you learned about being a “good” student out the window. Press any and every key on your new equipment and see what happens.
5. Remember the kid you assigned to turn the computers on and off in your classroom? That same child would love to have lunch with you at school and show you some tricks. Listen, watch intently, and imitate.
If you carve out 30 minutes in your work week to play with a child on a computer, you will close the immigrant/native gap. If you carve out 60 minutes in your work week to play with technology, somebody might actually mistake you for a digital native! Marc Prensky, author and digital maverick, defines a digital native as “the student of today” or a "‘native speaker’ of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.”
Fellow immigrant, get ready to assimilate. Invest in an iPhone. Take the iPhone and a child with you to the doctor's office or any place with lots of waiting time. By the time you get in to see the doctor, that tech-savvy kid will have shown you how to
- play a game on your phone;
- take a photo of the two of you with your iPhone and upload it to Flickr for instant sharing with relatives;
- download an application to make fart noises to embarrass the rest of the waiting room;
- Google second and third opinions on your malady before you leave the physician's office.
Imagine the endless learning possibilities if you took a laptop with you and your children to the airport. Long security lines or flight delays could become free learning seminars. Free airport Wi-Fi, a wall outlet, and your child, godchild, niece, or nephew who is dying to show off their digital knowledge is all you need to start your assimilation.
You could pay hundreds of dollars for new media or Web 2.0 classes online or you could spend $4 on an ice cream cone for your nephew's knowledge. And your nephew will no longer see you as just another "old head," but as the cool auntie or uncle who truly listens and values their youthful wisdom.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT?
You, digital immigrant, acting as an authoritarian or as an expert in a classroom with up-to-date technology is just not going to work. Kids will sniff you out. Any technology teacher will tell you that the digital age is literally forcing pedagogues to allow youth to contribute to, control, and change lessons midstream. There are thousands of ways to complete just one function on a laptop and kids have endlessly messed with and played around with so many buttons that they can show you all of them. It is their job to play! You can't beat people who spend countless hours exploring and talking about the technology that you are too busy to even touch.
TEACHER BECOMES THE STUDENT
We can learn from this humbling 21st-century role reversal. The Digital Age will once and for all prove that children are not empty vessels. Perhaps the rest of us will prove that old dogs can learn new tricks.
Keeping up with the digital natives in your classroom is dependent on two things — time and attitude. Let's support each other. Consider this blog Digital Immigrants Anonymous.
- Try spending just 20 minutes in the upcoming week with a tech-savvy kid on a computer, iPhone, Kindle, or any new technology.
- Use a silly screen name like “Foreigner in a Foreign Land” in your comment and tell us what you’ve learned.
For those teachers who are already tech-savvy, even you don’t know every useful trick, site, or app that the very young student mastered months ago. Share with us what your students taught you. If you dare, invite a timid technophobe (you know the teacher in your building that I’m talking about) to join you as you milk your young students for their digital knowledge. I can’t wait to hear your results!