Will Digital Natives Revolutionize Teaching?
It is widely assumed among education technology enthusiasts that as younger teachers enter the classroom ed tech will gain more of a footing in improving learning. Younger teachers, common wisdom dictates, are more comfortable with technology and have broad experience using it in their everyday lives.
Even so, it may take longer than we think for the teacher corps to be savvy and effective users of electronic and online instructional tools, according to an interesting study I came across on digital natives in teacher preparation programs.
In an article in the Spring 2009 issue of the Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, Jing Lei, a researcher at Syracuse University, paints a somewhat less optimistic picture of digital natives' contributions to ed tech innovation.
While nearly all of the preservice teachers in her study have used computers and other technology since their pre-teen years and feel comfortable with gadgets and devices that are now becoming standard teaching tools, they may not have the skill to integrate them effectively into their instruction.
"Being able to use technology does not necessarily mean being able to use technology critically, wisely, or meaningfully," the article says. "The digital generation often falls short in demonstrating the fundamental understanding of digital media."
Students tend to use technology superficially, Lei adds, and in ways that may not enhance their inquiry skills. And while many of the preservice teachers in the study had confidence in the power of technology to improve learning, more than half were not as confident in their own skill in using tech tools.
"Although the digital-native preservice teachers reported strong positive beliefs about the potential of technology to help them teach and to help their students learn," the article states, "they had some reservations about using technology in classrooms."
They also believed that technology should be used in moderation and acknowledged there are challenges to integrating such tools into the curriculum.
The paper draws conclusions about the kind of preparation these aspiring teachers need to become effective users of technology in their classrooms.
Of course, the pool of inservice teachers in this study may not have been immersed in technology as early or as intensely as, say, students now in middle and high school. So maybe another study in a few years will have different results.