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Posts Tagged ‘digital

You cannot make this up. There is no need to.

The tweet above aptly illustrates how learners today can be savvy, but neither smart nor wise.

I do not mean to say they are stupid. They are simply ignorant because they have not learnt new ways of seeing and doing things. Over time with smart teaching and wise counsel, our learners might gain new perspectives and habits.

They must be taught or they must have good models to emulate. They are learning machines as we are. But they are not magically or mysteriously digitally native. The “digital native” is a myth.

No educator worth their salt benefits from buying into this myth. Making false assumptions about the learners will be frustrating for both students and teachers. The teachers will have heightened and unrealistic expectations of their students, and the students will not learn optimally with technology-mediated pedagogies.

I have met and tried convincing my fair share of administrators and teachers who do not process Prensky’s claims of the so-called “digital native” more critically. I am quite certain most have not even read this original work in 2001. That is a long time to believe and implement policy blindly.

I urge anyone who has not questioned the use and assumptions of “digital natives” to read this excellent critique, Digital Natives: Ten Years After, by Apostolos Koutropoulos. A friendly debate over lunch is not going to cut through over a decade of hardened myth. Perhaps a slow but deep burning will.

Today’s reflection is courtesy of a tweet and a Pokémon Go (PoGo) auntie.

I do not know how much more research and how many more articles like this need to be shared before the “digital native” myth is dispelled.

I anticipate “never” because some people will cling on to what they believe in despite the evidence and compelling arguments against the myth [some curated resources].

But here is a different critical look at the article. Are the old skills — word processing and using spreadsheets — good measures of digital ability?

They might still be relevant in the cubicle age. But this age overlaps with the shared work space, home office, coffee place, remote work, part-timer, and startup ages.

The latter work spaces and job scopes hint at a different set of skills, e.g., the ability to keep on learning and to learn on the run. Being tech-savvy is more about wise use, not just skill-based or even skilful use.

Being tech-dependent does not mean being tech-savvy.

A PoGo auntie I met yesterday personified this sort of digital savvy or nativeness.

The PoGo auntie straddled her bicycle at a raid venue. She waited for players to arrive so that we could battle a Pokémon boss together. The auntie not only found out how many were intending to battle, she also advised others around her.

More impressively, she was armed with more than one phone and account. You can do PoGo raids just once at each venue. Having more devices and accounts allowed the PoGo auntie to participate more than once over the 60 minutes that the raid was available.

The auntie was quite adept at choosing suitable battlers. She had obviously learnt from experience, exchanging info nuggets, and possibly watching YouTube videos.

I call her an auntie, but I qualify as an uncle myself. She was on her bicycle and I was on my e-scooter. We were both successful with the raid and we both caught the boss Pokémon in the end despite just having three battlers and rumours that Niantic had strengthened the bosses.

That auntie and this uncle are technically more savvy and native than the tertiary students in the study even if we do not word process or spreadsheet as much. We learn because of Pokémon Go. We embrace technology because it enables us to learn on the go.

I LOL’d when I saw this tweet. It was a moment of truth and connection. Ask adults around you and you might get similar anecdotes of this shared experience.

But however humorous, the observation is superficial. It is probably what drove people like Prensky to create the concept of the digital native, i.e., kids born with technology are savvy with it because they are wired differently.

What proponents of the digital native narrative ignore is that we are first wired to play and explore. Our instinct is to learn.

If the available technology was a stick and mud, a child as a curious learning machine would use it. Some mud and even the stick might end up in their face or mouth.

Today the technology might be the computer or phone. A child is the same curious learning machine and the computers or phones stick as well. That child is no more a digital native than the previous one was an analogue native.

I often tell adult participants of my seminars or workshops that they are sometimes more native with some technologies than their students and children.

Take the use of Facebook for instance. Most adults and parents my age started using Facebook before they had kids or before their kids started using it. The adults are more aware of the usage, nuances, and changes in Facebook than younger learners. They might also be wiser about what to share and what not to. The adults are the digital natives in that context.

That is one of the key weaknesses in the false dichotomy that is the digital native-immigrant divide. It does not take into account context of use. A better but less well known theory is the digital visitor and resident continuum by David White.

Whether it takes a comic or some critical reflection, I hope more people read about how the concept of digital natives does more harm than good. After all, we learn not when we reinforce something we already believe in; we learn when we experience dissonance as we play and explore.

Is there anything worse than Prensky’s false digital natives/immigrants dichotomy? (It is terrible and here is one good critique out of many.)

For over a decade, my answer was no. This year, someone decided to create a “trichotomy” of digital orphans, exiles, and heirs.

The newer distinctions suffer from the same core problem as the previous one: That you are born into the circumstances, and once there, you do not and cannot change.

The trichotomy is even worse in that while Prensky tried to cite a bit of research, the newer scheme is an opinion piece fuelled solely by anecdotal rhetoric.

The best theoretical model with practical realities is probably David White’s visitors and residents. This model is contextual and personal. Each person can be one or both depending on the circumstance.

For example, you can be a Facebook resident and a Snapchat visitor. Both involve forms of social media, but the labels of visitor or resident are not all-or-none. If you abandon Facebook and embrace Snapchat for personal or professional reasons, you might then become a Facebook visitor and a Snapchat resident. Who you are and what you do are not fixed.

So what if there are harmful or helpful models? Are these not just theoretical?

It is important to think critically about these models because they attempt to summarise and describe reality. If we do not point out falsehoods or chip away at inaccuracies, we misrepresent ourselves.

Words become actions. The Prensky dichotomy and the newer trichotomy can be used to craft speeches, shape policies, and dictate budgets. 

These weaker models are easy to digest because they might seem anecdotally close to experience. But anecdotes are not necessarily data and they certainly are not evidence until there are systematic and rigorous ways to collect and analyse them.

YouTube relies on algorithms to guess what videos you might be interested in and make recommendations.

While it is machine intelligent, it does not yet have human intuit, nuance, and idiosyncrasies.

All I need to do is search for or watch a YouTube video I do not look for regularly and it will appear in my “Recommended” list. For example, if I search for online timers for my workshop sites, YouTube will recommend other timers.


Video source

If I watch a clip of a talk show host that I normally do not follow, YouTube seems to think I have a new interest and will pepper my list with random clips of that person.

This happens so often that I have taken to visiting my YouTube history immediately after I watch anything out of the ordinary and deleting that item. If I do not, my carefully curated recommendations get contaminated.

Some might argue that the algorithms help me discover more and new content. I disagree. I can find that on my own as I rely on the recommendations of a loose, wide, and diverse social network to do this.

YouTube’s algorithms cannot yet distinguish between a one-time search or viewing and a regular pattern. It cannot determine context, intent, or purpose.

Until it does, I prefer to manage my timeline and recommendations and I will show others how to do the same. This is just one of the things from a long list of digital literacies and fluencies that all of us need to do in the age of YouTube.

I will refrain from making spreadsheet jokes because this edutainer makes most of them.

Warning: Spoiler ahead.


Video source

In the video, Matt Parker showed us why all digital photos are actually spreadsheets because of the screens that display them.

The video might be unpacked and compared with traditional teaching. This would challenge our notions of what it means to teach.

Note: This might read like a rant. It is actually a reflection of hope and I indicate as such right at the end.

One of the bugbears of freelancers and consultants must be the variety of needless administrative requirements of partners. My pet peeve is old-school practices disguised as new.

I will share just two stories. I do this without naming names and without intent to shame the organizations. I do this to provide a different perspective and highlight blindspots.
 

Snail in the road by DaveHuth, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  DaveHuth 

 
One important administrative process is making sure I get paid. While smaller organizations have moved on to better processes, large ones tend to be more conservative.

For example, I have completed forms for electronic payment by many organizations. With smaller organizations and schools, I merely visit their e-portal of choice, submit in e-invoice, and wait to get paid. The e-platform already has my bank account information so the process is seamless.

With one large organization, I had to visit my bank to get endorsement that the bank account was mine and submit a paper-based form by snail mail. Why was this necessary when the electronic processes were faster and no less secure (if not more so)?

To be fair, there is value in verifying one’s banking information. However, the electronic way is much faster. Perhaps I should start charging a WET fee, Wasted Effort and Time, if I am required to enact outdated practices.

Maybe they are worried that I might specify some other bank account that is not mine, a terrorist organization’s perhaps. If that was the case, the trail of evidence is electronic. Merely looking at my face and identification card would do diddley-squat.

Another large organization sent me a similar financial document in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to fill in. The default text was white (on white background) and offset so that it did not appear in text boxes.

Such a form was clearly designed by administration wanting to be digital on paper, but not in practice. The form merely replicated what you had to do on paper instead of taking advantage of digital forms.

If I was a productivity consultant, I would recommend getting rid of the old-school managers or policymakers for maintaining this unproductive process. I would also send the administrative staff for professional development, and if they refuse to change, they can join their higher-ups in the unemployment line.
 

square-peg-round-hole-21 by ePublicist, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  ePublicist 

 
Story number two. Before working with a partner or collaborator, there is typically a contract document (complete with legalese) to sign. Most people do not read the details or care for them even if they do. I do because I care.

I have processed one-size-fits-all documents, detected missing sections, spotted errors in details like dates, and worse, read clauses that protect only my partner organization, but not me. Partnership? What partnership?

For example, once in a blue moon I receive documents that attempt to take ownership of my products or processes, and/or effectively require me to seek permission from them to use my own work.

Instead of getting angry, I have taken the opportunity to try to educate them about Creative Commons.

I do this at the risk of not getting awarded the contracts. I ask myself if I can live with the consequences. One is a pragmatic consequence: It represents a potential loss of income. The other is philosophical: It stands for what I believe in. I can live with not being awarded a contract and a lucrative pay; I cannot live with an unnecessary compromise.

But all is not lost. There are a few (very few!) individuals who are open to change and working within those systems. Some are just learning that there are alternatives, some are natural change agents. I hope they stick around long enough to make a difference.


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