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Why Digital Natives Need Help With Technology

In a fascinating article in Scientific American, teachers Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters make the case that, while kids today have a seemingly innate facility with technology, they are quick to become impatient and discouraged when faced with complex tasks involving digital tools:

Since children these days are classified as being native to all things digital, one would think they should be able to master the operation of anything with an "on" button. This mistakenly groups all technology, including video games and online search engines, in the same category. Just because a child jumps at the opportunity to program a TV to record his or her favorite shows does not mean that he or she will approach a classroom learning tool with the same zeal. In our experience, if students are not able to find answers to an Internet search in the first few results pages, they say "I can't find it," instead of adjusting their search, or reexamining the results in depth.

Passanisi and Peters go on to argue that teachers have a responsibility to help students use technology in ways that take them beyond the types of instant gratification they have come to expect (practically as a birthright) from consumer products and video games:

Just because these students are digital natives, does not mean that they do not need guidance to navigate the digital world—both in terms of learning how to discern important and relevant information from a large swath of data, and also to be able to inquire and solve problems that take time, thought, and energy.

This is perhaps the best response I've seen to the question of why schools should integrate technology into instruction when kids' lives are already immersed in it. It's an issue, partly, of making sure they don't miss the forest for the trees.

(HT: The Daily Dish.)

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