A new born digital native.

A new born digital native.

One of the texts from week one of the MOOC  – E-learning and Digital Cultures  is Marc Prensky’s influential 2001 essay Digital Native, Digital Immigrants in which he wrote that “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors”.

One of the posts in the course forum linked these ideas to the following video showing K-12 children, i.e. kids in America from kindergarten (K) to 12th grade (12).

The unequivocal (utopian?) message is that new technology equals creativity and that classrooms without computers cannot hope to engage ‘digital natives’. This is exemplified by the little girl in the video who holds up a paper full of handwritten text, then picks up a flash card which says: ‘How will this help me?’

I am most certainly one of the ‘immigrants’ but I am no technophobe – I probably spend as long as any ‘native’ in front of a computer screen every day. Key differences between me and ‘digital natives’ include the fact that I rarely text and don’t see the world in such visual terms. At 54, I’m more analogue-minded than totally wired; I still like the look and feel of real books, vinyl records and DVDs for instance.

Marc Prensky

Nevertheless I recognise that it’s necessary to adjust and learn to enjoy the new media so am getting accustomed to reading i-books, having my music on a hard drive and streaming movies.

As a university teacher of English as a foreign language, I’m open to the possibilities offered by digital classrooms yet in Italy, where I live and work, resources don’t always allow for so much innovation. Most, though not all, classrooms will have a single computer for me to use and perhaps even an interactive whiteboard. Fixed seating in the traditional classrooms means that students are often forced to still sit in rows and have to resign themselves to watching my ‘presentation’. This makes it nigh on impossible to put into practice Prensky’s belief that educators must unlock the creative potential of learners through new technology.

I’m sure that America and the UK are more advanced but even here the pace of change is so rapid that teachers in schools and universities need a backup team of technicians to set up and maintain a hi-tech classroom. These are real issues to be addressed when considering the methodologies involved in e-learning.

They say that where there is a will, there’s a way but I suspect that in many educational centres, the slow transformation from old paper-based system to the more wired-in version mean that while the world has gone digital, many institutions are struggling to play catch up