Tuesday, July 29, 2008

tt4t_048 Beyond Digital Natives – No Excuses

It’s Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 and welcome to episode 48 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This summer I have been reading and listening to several conversations regarding the digital natives versus digital immigrants way of thinking. This topic has seemed to re-emerge itself lately in the educational community. The theory was originally popularized by Marc Prensky several years ago and states that todays students are “wired” different and therefore have a competitive advantage over non-native digital learners known as digital immigrants in todays society.

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A link is provided in the show notes to a couple of the older articles written by Prensky back in 2001 that began this conversation. It has been interesting to go back and re-read these documents and give them another look from todays perspective.

Digital Natives Part 1

Digital Natives Part 2

Much has changed in the world since Prensky first penned these articles. Back in 2001 the world of Web 2.0 did not even exist. Prensky has moved on to become an advocate of gaming in education and a proponent for interactive learning. Some educational technologists are questioning the argument that the digital accent of digital natives may not be the advantage that it once was believed to be. I have provided link to the genyes blog that discusses this further in the show notes and is worth a read if you get the chance to get differing perspectives.


When I was first introduced to the Prensky articles I felt that it gave educators an easy out by accepting the conventional wisdom that students would always be ahead of teachers in the world of technology. I do not think that a blanket statement regarding age offers an advantage to one group over another or that the us versus them mentality is helpful. I know many students that I would consider to be not that interested in technology as well as many teachers.

To extend the analogy further I think that over the past several years one could make the argument that the digital native argument has become less compelling since the advances in technologies have created completely new countries to which everyone is an immigrant. Web 2.0 tools come and go at a furious pace. In fact experience is a major advantage for teachers in understanding and applying new technologies for educational benefit, something that students often lack. I fully believe in empowering the learner but I think we need to be careful in crafting learning opportunities for students with a purpose in mind.

I have provided another link to a more recent article from Marc Prensky where he addresses this phenomenal pace of change of Web 2.0 and some of the emerging technologies that are now being used in the classroom.


In the article about emerging technologies Prensky calls for a division of labor where students are the masters of the technologies and teachers are the guides, a familiar refrain from the constructivist teaching philosophy. The one thing that is missing from this evolution in thinking is that the tools have also evolved. As a teacher I feel I need to have a certain comfort level before I turn students loose on a project, I think most teachers feel the same way I do. The good news is that the tools have also evolved and continue to get easier to master and are eliminating barriers teachers often face.

How much technological acumen does it take to produce a podcast? If you can plug-in a microphone, press the record button and stop button you have mastered the podcasting concept. Not really that much different than old school recording to cassette tape. The larger questions have to do with what are you going to do with the podcast? Who is the audience? What is the purpose? Is it truly going to be a podcast with a RSS feed or will a simple MP3 file linked on a webpage suffice? The big difference between the old school cassette recording and that of a podcasts has to do with the scale at which it can be shared. This is true for any digital content over its analog brethren and makes possible for easy and inexpensive world-wide sharing and distribution, that is where the revolution is.

Learning should not be about the technology but rather what you do with the technology for teachers wanting to produce effective learning experiences. That is why pre-planning is so important and necessary. Here is where many miss the point when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom. We become so focused and enamored with the technology that we are often guilty of not placing enough emphasis on the content. It is really cool to use the latest greatest technologies to do something you have not done before but you must remember the purpose for the instructional objectives in the first place. It is easy to fall into the trap of using a new technology because it exists.

Technology can be a powerful change agent but we are affecting the entire ecosystem when technology is introduced haphazardly, often with unintended consequences. The pedagogical knowledge and skills of a teacher are more important than ever in designing effective learning environments. Experience and judgment become the larger factors in using the technologies and that is something that only comes through use and understanding over a period of time. So while the so-called digital natives may have the advantage of growing up in a digital world teachers have the opportunity to combine their expertise and experience to design effective learning environments using these technologies that are relevant to todays learners.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a teleprompter application that may be helpful for those teachers wanting to produce a news style video project. Best of all it is free. A link is available in the show notes. This online application is called cueprompter. It is very simple to use and allows the user to copy and paste text into the teleprompter so that it can be read by on-air talent. By placing a computer monitor just below or above a camera lens you can have your students record video shows complete with a teleprompter just like the evening news. You have control over how fast you would like the words to scroll by.

The site lists technical requirements for this application that include Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer. I did try this with FireFox 2.0 browser on Windows and it did work with the FireFox browser. I have not had time to try this out on a Mac yet so please let me know if it works on a Mac.

Free Online Teleprompter

Setting up a video recording studio is a great way to get students enthused about learning. I can also tell you from practical experience that it is a lot of work. Handing over a video project to students forces students to organize, manage, and make hundreds of decisions regarding content and presentation style. When given enough time producing news style productions can be a great way to get student buy-in for special projects.

That wraps it up for episode 48 of TechTalk4Teachers. Sorry about all the references to different articles this week but I think you will find the background information useful as we sort through the digital natives versus immigrants arguments and focus on the effective delivery of content to students. Show notes for this episode and archives are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc by clicking on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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