Digital Natives

Young people grow up with technology and just naturally can manipulate it with out any instructions. FALSE! The only tools I have found that students naturally use are chat features. Chats are social and just a text message thread for them and they love to use them.

by Photo Extremist

To students email is a service that gives you an address so you can sign up for Facebook. If I have my students log into their email account they undoubtedly have hundreds of unread messages, mostly from Facebook. They do not know how to send something as an attachment or download one that  they receive.

Naming and saving files and actually remembering where they put them is like trying to find something in their locker. They know it’s in there but have no idea where or how to find it. Never have them create their own passwords, unless you want to spend lots of time creating new accounts.

We tried using Camtasia Studio to record screencasts from multiple sources and combine into one interesting video. Students had to be shown individually how to do everything even after multiple class demonstrations.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with the students. They are just middle schoolers who are often unorganized in real life and online. Before computers they lost papers and forgot things too.They just have not had a reason to use these tools or think in these ways before. But they are definitely NOT digital natives and I’m ok with that. I’m a teacher. Helping students learn is what I do.

8 thoughts on “Digital Natives

  1. lisettecasey

    I say this all the time and people look at me as if I’m from Mars. The difference between my students and most adults is that they aren’t afraid to use new technology and to adults who are afraid, watching someone dive in can be very intimidating as it gives the appearance that they know what they are doing.
    They may be digital natives but natives still need to be taught new skills.

  2. Steve Dickie

    I’ve been amazed for years at the apparent ineptitude most students seem to have. However, by the time they get to high school at least they seem to be able to figure stuff out pretty quick when pushed.

  3. John T. Spencer

    The generational difference (and I do believe it exists) is all about how technology is used. My students seem to pick up, almost naturally, on the social and multimedia elements. Give them a spreadsheet, though, and it’s like a foreign language. With my dad (in his sixties) it’s just the opposite.

  4. Lisa Read

    Totally agree. I am trying to find a way not to be just disappointed with the slugs, as I call them, and inspire them to be all the things they are purported to be…… I wrote about a similar experience here:

    Depressingly true. And, I think we can all agree to stop using the term “Digital Natives” in that bright-shiny way. They are just kids, and as you pointed out, just as motivated as any group of kids in any generation.


  5. Anonymous

    well I am so relieve to learn about digital natives. I always thought the young generation, whatever they’re called, were completely techie savvy because they seem to be able to navigate all over the web. You are probably right. When given a specific task, they might be a newbie like me! This makes me happy.

  6. concretekax

    @lisettecasey I like how you put it. Students do lack fear and that is a great quality as a first step toward problem-solving.

    @Joe That is my point 🙂

    @Jon I see vast differences in students themselves though. The ones that are active on line in their free time definitely have skills that the some others lack. Many of my students do not have access at home.

    @anonymous I have found most of my 6th graders are really not even that good at basic web searches. They need opportunity and the to be taught just like anyone else.

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