The Digital Indigenous


January 12, 2010 by readlisaread

I just feel the term “Digital native” is getting overused, that’s all. I am talking about kids born in the 1990’s. Teenagers. Young adults. The Surlys, as we have coined it at home.

Very frequently, I do get into arguments in the staff room about our learners, that they need more stimulation, not less, that they are DIFFERENT than kids we’ve taught in the past, that they need different schedules of sleep and work and play than we allow for, and that things like “respect” and “ethics” look different for them.

But I have to admit– sometimes talk is cheap, and I do get frustrated with some behaviours, and I tend to revert back to what I know.

The biggest thing is not “allowing” them to use digital information how they want– I’m all for them mashing up, memeing, tweeting, blogging, podding and vlogging. I’m all over that. But what I am finding more often– too often– is the willingness to sit passively in front of computer and allow it to entertain them. I want to see curiosity, a spark of “I wonder what would happen if…”.

I don’t think it’s the fault of too much electronics and too little book-readin’, I think it’s the fault of how we have sat them down in rows and made them memorize the multiplication tables, and only use the computer as a “treat” when the “real work” is done.

I’m a bit pissed off, because I really thought my style of “I’ll help you with the tools, you show me what you can do” was going to really engage them. Instead, they blow up aliens and laugh at pictures someone else posted of unfortunate-looking people shopping in WalMart.

This isn’t what I signed up for, and I’m a bit disappointed in these representatives of the Digital Generation. Maybe I’ll make them design the next lesson and I’ll do it while they stand at my shoulder….hmmmm….


  1. Claire Thompson says:

    Lisa, you’ve nicely encapsulated what my husband and I are feeling right now with our own children’s computer use. My boys are 5 and 7 and when they are allowed on our home computers (we really limit their time) they almost always gravitate to the games that serve mainly as entertainment. When I loaded Scratch for them, they went to the Scratch site to get some ideas and learn how to use it, but spent most of their time playing the games that other people had created with Scratch. So much for getting the kids into programming so they could support me in my old age 😉 I know that when we didn’t limit their time as much they just spent all that extra time doing the same stuff.

    Perhaps this is not just a kid thing. If I think about how most of my peers use computers they are:
    – using e-mail
    – researching
    – forwarding LOL cats / questionable videos / etc
    – minding their Farmville farms in Facebook

    The main difference I see with kids is that they don’t do e-mail (it’s so, like, yesterday), and they spend more time on games than adults.

    I don’t know, what do you think?

  2. readlisaread says:

    Claire, thanks for your comments. I’m thinking about all your points, and wondering if, the kid question aside for a sec, if it’s not more about “what do you need from the Internet?” Looking at your list, I email constantly, I’m always reading and following articles and blogs, I am addicted to both FailBlog and LOLcats, and I spend a lot of time on Facebook. And yet, I NEVER send videos, lolcats or Maxine cartoons to ANYone, anywhere, and I am going to kick the next “lonely little sheep” who wanders past on Facebook. I feel the same way about Mafia wars, World of Warcraft, SecondLife ( the non-educational side of it, at least) and I can’t be bothered with Texas Hold’em or other online games. So maybe the question is not how you spend your time, but why….and perhaps that is what offends me about how my students are content to receive and not give, think, or share. Hmmm….

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