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Digital natives are defined as those people who have grown-up using technology daily beginning in the 1960s, but the term is more commonly used to describe those born in the 21st Century. According to the PBS Frontline Website,
Digital Natives aged 12 to 24 spend 4.5 hours a day viewing screen media (TV, Internet, Internet video, mobile video), excluding games;
82 percent of seventh- to twelfth-graders “media multitask” while doing homework, e.g. IM, TV, Web surfing, etc.
The NYTimes 2010 article, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online” discusses the use of digital devices stating, “Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices.” Certainly, use by our students has increased since then.
Despite these statistics, I am convinced that many students are not digital “natives, ” they are digital “tourists.” Really bad tourists. I’m talking the “standing in line to see the Mona Lisa on the busiest day of the year and then leaving the Louvre once they saw it” kind of tourist. The “only want to eat at McDonald’s in a foreign country because I don’t like food, I don’t recognize” kind of tourist. The “I have no idea what kind of money this is” kind of tourist. In other words, bad tourists.
This past year was an eye-opening experience with my bad tourists. There was a 1:1 integration of student to netbooks in the English and select Social Studies classrooms. Initially, members of my department and I were nervous about how we would need to keep up with what we imagined would be an onslaught of tech-savvy teens. We prepared ourselves by practicing various software platforms that we thought would be used successfully. We played with Google Docs, Edmodo, Edublog, WordPress, Blogger, PBWorks, Twitter, and Quizlet. We reviewed presentation software: Prezi, Animoto, Glogster, Voice Thread. We made decisions as to how to integrate these platforms gradually and at various grade levels to help us, transition students, to a paperless classroom. We imagined our classrooms would be full of students investigating and testing which software would best suit their needs. We were ready for the digital natives to collaborate and teach us about this “undiscovered country” of educational opportunities.