Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Shifting from "Digital Natives" to "Digital Citizens"
I just read this blog post from Education Week...and I agree. I'm quick to label my students as "Digital Natives." This term comes from a now-classic 2001 article by Marc Prensky. I've been using the term digital natives to describe my students for at least the past seven or eight years since I encountered Prensky's piece, because it is a helpful metaphor.
Even more helpful is his idea of digital immigrants. In my previous role as Technology Coordinator, I sometimes thought of myself as a translator--perhaps an "immigrant" by age, but one well-integrated into the culture and with very little lingering accent. Interesting to see how some teachers--like other immigrants--can cling to the old ways and long for the old country. Their accent can be very, very pronounced.
I worry a little, as I get older that this may happen to me as well.
That's why I like the idea in this piece: all of us, students and teachers alike, are digital citizens. All of us--regardless of our level of comfort working with technology for teaching and learning--have a responsibility as citizens in this culture, whether native or immigrant. And for teachers (even immigrant teachers), we have a responsibility to teach students to be thoughtful, productive, law-abiding, constructive, self-aware citizens.
At my last school, as I served as Technology Coordinator, I took very seriously the role of teaching students to become good digital citizens. From my predecessors I had inherited a great project: the Internet Driver's License. Clever analogy, but one that the students got excited about. And the basic idea is sound, I think. They need to learn the "rules of the road": How to be safe, how to be responsible, how to play well with others online.
Just because they have a natural facility with the technology does not mean they automatically know how to be wise. And that's the point of digital citizenship, right?