Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another myth: Us old "imigrants" vs. younger "natives" to the web

OK, at the risk of going on a rant, I want to debunk the idea that teens somehow have this "native" understanding of the internet, computers and technology and us "old" folk are mere immigrants who just somehow don't get it.

One word - Cowpoop!

After teaching high school comp science classes for a hand full of years now I believe the only difference is students, as a whole, are generally more confident in their ability to figure things out and so they dive in, madly clicking away until the right thing happens or they get distracted by something else and go down that other rabbit hole never worrying about actually completing the initial task. However, the second, third ot fourth thing they try works and that success keeps their confidence up even though they once again never completed what they started out to do.

Adults on the other hand set off to do something and if they hit a point they recognize as the limit of their abilities they stop and seek help. If they run into difficulties they might attempt to slog on until they see the task through or give up in frustration.

Where does this leave us? It emphasizes the importance of a structured approach to learning about computers just like any subject at the very least. It also gives adults (parents in particular) more confidence in their own abilities when they realize it.

Additionally, it helps teachers realize what students really need to be successful. Im amazed at the number of high school students who cannot articulate the difference between Save and Save As including examples of when to use each but routinely type up perfectly acceptable papers in a word processing app. Are they "proficient" at using wp apps? Id say no.

Bottom line, while students and adults think and learn differently, neither is inherently better at using computers and adults are poorly mistaken if they thing kids just "get it". It would not work in math and it doesn't work with computers.