Technology Natives

In education, this is the term that’s given to the generation of “kids” who’ve grown up with technology.  Unlike us, the old fogies, who are known as technology immigrants because it came to us later, natives naturally know how and when to integrate technology.  While we might not see the right place to integrate technology into a lesson, the natives just naturally know to do it.

Except when they don’t.

Look, if this were true, then anything we’ve grown up with would not have to be explicitly taught.  I’ve spoken English my entire life.  I guarantee that I don’t know everything about the language, all the vocabulary, and many of the grammar rules.  Apparently society agrees with me because we study OUR NATIVE LANGUAGE EVERY YEAR from ages 5-19 and beyond.  If it were really true that natives could naturally navigate and understand how to appropriately integrate technology into their lives, we wouldn’t need to teach it.  Hell, we don’t teach how to use a microwave.

During the past 15 years, I’ve watched a great many people — teachers, principals, parents, and business leaders get complete hard-ons because “the kids used technology to produce this.”  Sigh.  It didn’t matter if the web site had content that wasn’t original, nor that the producer failed to give credit to where the content had been stolen.  It didn’t matter that the Power Point Presentation was ill-organized and insipid.  Because it was produced using computers, all of a sudden it was BETTER!  Work that wouldn’t be accepted if it were turned in hand-written was magically deemed fabulous.  It was then, and continues to be, a true “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment.

You know what would turn me on?  If the kids, rather than using Facebook, actually considered real needs and applications they’d like to use — whether as an app or as a web site.  I’d love to see them jailbreak their devices and really look at the engineering involved.  I’d like them to be truly excited and understand the elegance of the code that went into allowing the iPhone and each successive hand-held device to reorient from landscape to portrait and back.  I’d like them to have real passions outside being rich and famous.  I’d love to see them actually write a screen play and produce a small video rather than tape each other acting ignorantly.

However, I’m resigned to having my digital natives do just that.  I guess when left alone in the jungle, nature breaks down into its basest desires.  Watch out, my friends, the natives are restless (and ill-educated, and over-indulged).

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