Our session on Digital Natives as part of the unconference day 2 is focused on Myth-Busting. We put up on the conference wiki a bunch of myths online that we’ve been working to bust (or to affirm). Our mode is to put these myths to the attendees, see which ones they would like to discuss, and dig in where the group is most interested.
My co-author (of a forthcoming book, Born Digital) and friend Urs Gasser is opening up with a framework for study of the Digital Natives issues we’re focused on. His steps include a descriptive, analytical, evaluative, and prescriptive.
Of the eight myths we posted, the one that got the most votes and comments from the group was about wasting time online. Precisely, it was this one that got people going: “Digital Natives are wasting time online. –> Young people are learning, gaining skills, and becoming collaborative, critical and informed members of society through their online and digital engagements.”
It was fortuitous to be in Langdell North classroom at HLS for this discussion. It was one of the rooms renovated in the late 1990s by the HLS administration with Ethernet jacks, only for the faculty to decide promptly to turn off those Ethernet jacks. It is one of the great puzzles of the Digital Natives topic: once we get access to the Internet and related technologies into the room, what then should we have students do with those technologies?
In my own teaching, I think I under-leverage the technologies in the room. Students are, almost 100%, online on a laptop in the classes that I’m teaching here. I certainly haven’t figured it out. I’m not sure if anyone I know, with the exception of Jonathan Zittrain, has figured that out yet. I don’t accept that young people are just wasting time online, but I also don’t think that teachers are doing anywhere near enough to help them to use that online time wisely, during class time or otherwise.