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19 August 2009 One Comment

I am cross-posting my contributions to a discussion thread on a School of Education Moodle thread where I provided my views on secondary students.

…The biggest difference between primary and secondary students in regards to their own ICT use is of course their age and maturity and the freedoms that come with this. For me what is also interesting is the skills and values that teenagers are assumed to have when using technology…

The Guardian published this article earlier in the year which created quite a stir online. It is written by a 15 year old about the way in which he and his friends use technology in their lives. I think it would be fair to say that much of what this kid is saying would ring true for the majority of NZ teenagers today (particularly the section on internet use (although our access isn’t as high as theirs)).

What I am saying here is that teenagers have access to quite a lot of technology and can zap around the internet pretty quickly to connect with friends (Bebo and Facebook are HUGELY important to most teenagers). BUT I strongly argue against Mark Prensky’s Digital Native/Digital Immigrant theories (article here). I think that while kids today can whiz their way around a mobile phone or a computer much faster than many of us in ‘older generations’, my research and experience with students suggests that they can do a lot of this at a very surface level (particularly accessing information on the net) but many lack the skills or a real depth of understanding as to how to use this for a meaningful (educational) purpose. We still need to be teaching these skills and ensuring that the use of technology in the classroom is purposeful - not just leaving the kids to their own devices (particularly in research - “here is your topic away you go”) because they supposedly know more than we do…


My gut feeling is that most teachers want to make sure that students are getting the most out of the information they are finding on the web, but that they themselves have not been given the professional development in order to know how to confidently teach this (although I would also argue that even when I was at school I do remember doing research projects on a ‘topic’ - today just replace the school library with the internet). I think teachers need to be reaffirmed that the skills haven’t changed, only the context and we are still using many of the same information literacy models today that were being used either before the internet or when it was in its infancy.
I also think it comes back to effective questioning and setting authentic contexts for learning… then students are more likely to be engaged with the content, dig deeper and apply their own knowledge or understanding.

I definitely over-simplified the library/internet example.
The point I was trying to make is that just like when we only had information from the school library to use, teachers were still trying to teach us not to simply copy from the book but to take notes and to have an opinion and analyse what we were reading.
I think that the skills for finding and accessing the information have certainly changed, but I would argue that the skills and processes for using this information have not changed so much.
Although, you suggest that maybe the difference lies in the nature or expectancy of students today to find things out quickly - and if they can’t they give up. I wonder if this comes back to engagement in the task and students having an authentic context for sourcing information?

Anyway, what do you think? Fair comment? Impact on teaching/learning? Your views?

One Comment »

  • Kelly said:

    hi toni. as you know, this is an issue close to my heart, and you have made a couple of points that are on my pet peeve list.

    firstly, i too quibble with the “digital native” tag. my experience with teens (i teach high school) is that while they may be quick to text, and will click on any link, they have little ability to do anything *practical* (including type!). when i do use computers for a publishing task, i spend more time teaching them to use the software, and we’re talking basic skills in excel and word, than anything else. in language, a “native” is someone who is *proficient* in something by having been born into the culture, not simply born into it. no offense to my students, but a monkey can click on links. and kids don’t utilise evaluating skills when surfing the net. how many parents do you know whose home computer has gone kaput because the kid downloaded a virus? i know plenty. because when kids are searching on limewire, they don’t pay attention to the actual files they are downloading, and the top two options are most frequently trojans (typically a duplicate of the exact search term(s), .wmv file). teens don’t/can’t discriminate between a *real* link and the horrible advertising/spam links on websites (my biggest gripe is the “you have mail” ones that don’t have anything to do with one’s bebo or facebook account, and in my opinion are false, misleading, and malicious advertising), thus opening their computers to not only viruses but spam, spyware and other malware. don’t get me started on all the crap they send via IM! and, before i forget, kids have little pratical ability in searching - they search general terms only and don’t know how to be more specific. they don’t even know that one need only use keywords. i teach kids to search without “a, an, the” and other superfluous words.

    my second point of agreement is with the integration of technology in secondary schools, or, rather, the lack of it. i have no actual training in tech. everything i know how to do i taught myself. i have no access to to training (unless i want to do it privately). earlier this week i spent 4 hours making a 4 slide ppt. i wanted to use bits of music to illustrate language features in poetry. it took me ages to 1. record the music, 2. edit the part i wanted, 3. convert the files, 4. put in all the text boxes so i could animate the language features, 5. animate and edit timing everything so it would be a smooth pps. it never did end up exactly how i wanted it, though it was functional, and the quality of the sound was less than desirable. oh, did i mention it was only 10 minutes of a lesson? if i had some training, and could use tools without hours of figuring things out, i could do a lot more, and i wouldn’t feel so darn frustrated all the time. or could i? actually, no, because my students have little access to computers in the first place! we have 3 labs, about 90 computers, for nearly 1200 students, and they are mostly filled with our compulsory and optional ict classes. there are only 8 desktops in the library. there are also 30 laptops in the library, which work 1 out of 4 or so visits. very frustrating! and i do agree with “going to the computer lab”. when i lived in the states i taught english in a lab, all day, every day, and that seemed like a dream now, especially as tech has grown so much in the 8 years since i’ve lived here! i don’t foresee having a lab of my own here, ever. there is simply NO money. and with a national government in, there will likely be even less money than we had to start.

    now that i’ve had a good bitch (and thanks for letting me get that off my chest), i’ll tell you what i’ve been doing about it. i try to get my kids in a lab when i can (this would be one class only where there is a lab free when i see them). i have a daily “cool tool” feature to my lessons where i show kids what they can be using online at home to help them with their studies, and i keep up with them via a bebo account where they can communicate with me, take quizzes on our topics, etc. i integrate ict lessons with publishing. i integrate searching/choosing (and various search engines) into research. i spend heaps of my personal time doing school-related things; for instance, next week i am participating in the wikieducator project to help upskill myself (thank goodness it’s free). i search the net all the time to see what other programmes i can jump into. i use my twitter pln constantly. i go to as many conferences as school will allow to learn about tech. i use those students who have ict skills to teach me and their peers. in a nutshell, i try to make their secondary experience as close to their primary/intermediate experience as i can with my meager supplies.

    so what do we need at secondary schools? we need specific teacher training. we need computers. we need internet access. those are the 3 tops things on my wishlist.


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