Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

I have been reading David Noble's paper - "Digital Diploma Mills". He writes about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. I am definitely a Digital Immigrant although I have been able to migrate reasonably well. Perhaps writing this Blog is part of my Immigrant culture – I need to write to consolidate what I have learned. At Payserv we have some Digital Natives. I sit next to one who cannot stop messaging on her phone. It seems it is just part of her culture. But is she working? Is she learning? I somehow doubt it. We have another DN in the organisation – a brilliant young lady. I must run Marc Prensky’s ideas past her. She has learned substantially during her year with us. How has she learned what she has learned? Some of it has been by ‘attending’ our E-learning software programs but she has got bored with those (generated by Digital Immigrants). Mainly she learns by doing. Time to find out more from her. Is Mark Prensky ‘right’? Partly, perhaps. But is he just trying to promote his ‘learning game’ ideas and his business? Probably. I’m not convinced of his thesis. I need to see confirmation from other sources. I recognise that DN’s have been brought up differently – my grandson and I exchange mail messages on WhatsApp while he is doing his homework – but how do the DN’s learn to behave, how do they learn to lead others, how do they learn Emotional Competency? Probably just the same way we did – by observing, by copying, by practicing. David Noble would seem to be a latter day Luddite. Perhaps we could call him a Digital Luddite. I note that his paper was written in 1998 so a lot of water has passed under the bridge since his offering. He has this fixation that anyone who does anything about educating others, other than his red brick University is ‘peddling’ (illegally selling) their wares. That is indication enough that he is prejudiced. He uses the word several times in his paper. He thinks that students are on his side. While some of them may be, it certainly doesn’t apply to 2,000 (or is 42,000) students on this MOOC. He asserts that campus students outnumber distance students by 6:1. That may have been true in 1998 but it is surely not the case in 2013 where the numbers could well be reversed. He makes the extraordinary statement “ Last but not least, behind this effort are the ubiquitous technozealots who simply view computers as the panacea for everything, because they like to play with them” Some digital teachers and learners will take umbrage at this! One factor that he has overlooked is that no matter how education may be ‘peddled’ around the world, there will always be a need for professional coaches and mentors who can be looked upon to provide their education and experience to help digital learners wherever they may be. As an example of a successful E-learning programme in 2008 Paynet Zimbabwe, a company in the EDI/EFT business realised their urgent need for additional software developers to develop and maintain their systems. The new developers would need special skills. Paynet is a very small company. They had no teachers or trainers to develop new people that the market was unable to provide. So we launched a programme which we named “LIPZ” (Learning Initiative Programme for Paynet Zimbabwe). We took the view that we had no teachers but we could provide mentors. We had no reference books, no learning programmes. We created learning objectives that we needed our trainee developers to achieve. We provided them with some tools (PC, access to the Internet and access to a suite of E-Learning Programmes provided by Skillsoft). We told them to then learn using these tools and each week we mentored their progress. We needed more than simple systems development skills; we needed them to develop sound communication skills, business skills, project management skills and emotional competencies. In less than 12 months we achieved our objective – to bring in new developers to take over the testing and maintenance functions of our systems while the senior developers were enabled to focus on new software developments.

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