According to Prensky, digital natives are “native speakers of digital language”, while a digital immigrant is defined as those who didn’t grow up with technology and had to learn/adapt along the way (2001a). But are these terms still relevant with the constantly changing and evolving uses of technology in the classroom? Technology has become an expected area of understanding for teachers as part of the overall best practice, similar to good classroom management being expected in all classes. While I would be more considered a digital native by Prensky's terms, I know people from all ages who are very competent using technology.
I believe the idea of digital natives and digital immigrants is very outdated in my international context. If we consider our students to be digital immigrants now, what will our students be in 50 or 100 years? Are these terms even necessary? Our school is a 1 to 1 laptop school for both teachers and students. It is essential that all students and teachers embrace the use of technology when appropriate for teaching and learning. The idea of digital natives and digital immigrants is erased and replaced with terms such as growth mindset and fixed mindset becoming more relevant for integrating technology. In a previous post, I focused on the importance of expanding our knowledge by problem solving, resiliency and pushing boundaries of personal understanding with an emphasis on growth mindset and not labelling individuals as digital natives or immigrants (MacLean, 2015).
We should be encouraging our teachers and students to be open-minded and willing to learn regardless of the medium. We should be encouraging our students to be risk-takers, to make mistakes and to learn from them. Having a growth mindset, allows us to be open to new challenges (which could be technology for some).
Our current school policies do not lend themselves to the terms digital natives or digital immigrants. Rather, again, there is an expectation of teachers using technology only when appropriate for best practice and students using technology as a resource only when it enhances their learning.
21st Century Learner Or Just a Learner
As a teacher, it is my role to facilitate learning for students by helping them develop skills and conceptual understandings that can be transdisciplinary and transferred into any avenue for their future. Students need to learn to be good communicators, creative and critical thinkers, collaborative, with an ability to be self-managed, engaged and passionate about learning. These skills can be developed through a multitude of learning experiences in both formal and informal settings. In addition, being reflective needs to be combined into this learning process as well.
Again, I truly believe that the label of a 21st century learner is now irrelevant. To me, it is just being a learner. We want our students to develop skills to be lifelong learners, now and always. It is not something that is restricted to only the 21st century and many educators understood the importance of teaching transdisciplinary skills before the 21st century and will continue to after the 21st century.
From an ICT integration standpoint, I use the 6 ICT in PYP skills as a way to fuse effective technology implementation into the curriculum where necessary. These include: creating, collaborating, organising, communicating, investigating and developing a digital citizen (The role of ICT in PYP, 2011). In order to be effective using any technology tool, students need to develop the finer skills associated with these to be successful. There are so many collaborative tools that exist, but it is more important for students to understand how to use group roles, taking turns, respectfully disagreeing and having healthy debates than how to use Padlet or Google Docs. Students need to learn how to build on others ideas while giving credit and not feel that someone is stealing their idea. These skills can be taken out of the technology world and applied into other real world experiences, which makes the learning meaningful and long lasting.
Through an inquiry-based, constructivist teaching model, students can develop their curiosity for learning and learn the skills to find the answers to what they want to learn. When passion and enthusiasm is involved as a learner, the learning really is limitless.
The role of ICT in PYP. (2011). International Baccalaureate. UK: IB.
MacLean, E. (2015, November 20). Digital Immigrant or Native? Growth Mindset More Important [Blog]. Retrieved from http://emilymacleanmed.blogspot.sg/2015/11/digital-immigrant-or-native-growth.html
Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital Natives, Digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).
I feel a combination of a social constructivist approach to learning in conjunction with connectivism is how I view the educational pedagogies I find most beneficial in practice. There is a need for students to construct their learning for a sense of ownership and engagement. However, the idea of the social aspect and connections is key with the growing digital age. Siemens (2005) suggests connectivism is a way to learn from other network and their experiences including technology to gain actionable knowledge.
Some of the new learnings I have had are:
1. Participatory technologies impact information environment greatly (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). Looking at the benefits of participatory technologies, it is clear that these tools have substantial benefit in the classroom. From increasing engagement and ownership to increased reflection and engaging in dialogue with others, students are truly developing the ability to construct new knowledge together (Farkas, p. 85). I believe that when students feel they are a part of the active learning process and it is made available for others to see, they will increase their effort, which in turn improves achievement as suggested in Farkas (p.85). In order for this collaborative approach to reflection to be successful, a constructivist and connectivist pedagogical approach are needed. Teachers need to change their pedagogy and teaching to allow for new technologies to transform their classroom.
2. There needs to be a change in information literacy instruction (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). With the change in the digital world to provide an increased wealth of resources to our students, we need to be thinking more critically as teachers about how we explicitly teach information literacy to help students become information literate (Farkas, p. 89). While we are becoming more connected, we also have to be more critical in analysing and evaluating the resources and knowledge we find (Farkas, p. 88). As teachers, we need to be instilling in our students the idea of online rights and privacy and how to support them in being safe and secure online. While participatory technologies have many benefits, we need to be aware of who has access to them and how they may engage in them. Teaching students how to change their settings to ensure the class only has access to their blogs may be a way to overcome some of these challenges as well as teaching students how to provide constructive feedback online. Thus, teaching transferable skills is key as our world of digital resources continues to grow (Farkas, p. 89). These conversations shouldn’t be happening in one classroom or in the library; rather the dialogue about information literacy belongs in each and every classroom (Farkas, p. 90).
Farkas, M. (2012). Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy. Library Hi Tech, 30(1), 82-94.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.