Monday, June 30, 2014

The Digitally Privileged Native and Everyone Else

After discussing Prensky's views in class, I initially completely agreed with his position on the digital native; that being that all students are digital natives.  They were born in the digital age and they have grown up using the constantly changing devices that mark this twenty-first century.  However, after reading through Boyd's chapter entitled, "Are Today's Youth Digital Natives?" from his book It's Complicated my initial and all together fast agreement with Prensky changed.  I felt that Boyd brought up very meaningful points which highlight the depth of complexities that the term "digital native" envelops.

Firstly, Boyd points out that there exists a huge variation in knowledge and experience among the digital youth.  Yes, they are born into this digital world but they are not born with the skills to navigate this world critically and successfully.  Those skills are related more to privilege and prestige than they are to the digital culture.  As Boyd goes on to point out, kids need to learn to become critical contributors in the digital world.  Accessing technology is not enough.  Knowing how to use technology in the most basic sense, is still not enough.  Kids must know how to analyze, synthesize, and assess the digital world.  They must be digitally literate to truly fulfill the meaning of the term digital native.  The problem here, as Boyd recognizes, is that just like learning to read books, learning to be a critical contributor of technology requires privilege, available and educated parents, accessible technology, and ultimately money.  Educators and parents must realize this fact rather than to support the falsity that kids are naturally technologically apt.  That would be like assuming that a child is literate just because they can walk into a library and flip through the pages of any book.

Moving on to Wesch's video, "The Machine is Us/ing Us," I found his analysis of the digital world to also be eye-opening.  Wesch's direct and blatant connection between technology and humans reveals just how powerful technology and our assumptions about technology are.  The conclusion of the video pointed to the fact that new rules and regulations will be required to maintain valuable things such as authorship, identity, privacy, and authenticity.  Currently, no such regulations exist in the digital world.  Technology is far ahead of the law.  New crimes are being committed; is "sexting" a crime if committed by a minor?  In some states, yes.

Ultimately, Boyd and Wesch brought some very legitimate alarm to the issue of digital native.  While I do agree with some of Prensky's statements, I feel the digital native is not every child in 2014.  Rather, the digital native is the privileged high socio-economic status child in 2014.  Everyone else is digital yes, but not necessarily native.  Kids need to attain digital literacy and a critical eye first before they can become a digital native.  They need to recognize bias and learn how to contribute in a meaningful way.  The wonderful thing here is that this can be done.  Teachers can educate kids to become digital natives.  Not only would this engage students, it would also better prepare them for the even more digitally advanced future.

One more thing...As I was reading Boyd's chapter I found it oddly familiar.  I then realized that I had heard an interview with Boyd on the book "It's Complicated" on NPR.  I remember listening to the interview and nodding my head thinking, "wow this is all so accurate and meaningful, I need to share these notions with my colleagues."    Funnily enough, I guess I have been agreeing with Boyd all along.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this, Jayna. I thought a lot about how to introduce Prensky (uncritically) and then leave you all to discover the critique in Boyd after the fact. I am glad that strategy seemed to work for you. Thanks for the NPR link -- I will definitely listen to the interview!