However what I am coming to realise more and more these days is that although our students are very confident in what they are doing and how they are using technology, there are very big gaps when they engage in research or inquiry. They struggle to find relevant material and can often be overwhelmed by what they find on the internet. They often don't read the information on websites critically and tend to believe anything they come across. They skim across pages and often end up with a fairly superficial knowledge of what they have read. Many of them rely on the top hits in Google, believing they are the most reliable sources of information - very few of them have any knowledge at all of how websites get to the top of the list. They are great at regurgitating the information they find, but they are not good at synthesising it or recontextualising it.
The digital immigrants, on the other hand, appear to be more critical about what they are reading online. When they search, they are doing it more competently and are questioning the reliability of the information they find and judging its value. They are also less likely to share information that may later come back and "haunt" them, such as inappropriate photos and messages. They seem to have more understanding about staying safe online and can often communicate more effectively and appropriately. I'm wondering if perhaps that is actually because the digital immigrants have had to actually master the "old" communication skills first?
As teachers I think we need to move on from this digital native and digital immigrant argument. We have the experience of the higher-order thinking skills that can foster in our students the skills and understanding that enable them to be critical and creative users of technology. We need to show them how to collaborate and communicate while staying safe online. We need teach them how to tell the difference between when technology is appropriate and helpful and also when it is not.
Photo Credit: Phone by PhotographyByPaul