Perspective from the Field: The Myth of the Digital Native

Common Core State Standards: 
Make Sense of Problems
Reason Abstractly
Model with Mathematics
Use Appropriate Tools Strategically
Instructional Strategies: 
Understanding Problems
Visual Representations

Neil Schiavo is a Research Associate at Education Development Center, Inc. He has over 10 years experience developing materials to support the professional learning of teachers and administrators around the country. He has been involved in the design of the Success at the Core modules for leadership teams, the National Science Foundation Knowledge Management and Dissemination website, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation Building New Models initiative. His interest is in implementing and sustaining programs that create sensible ways for teachers to collaborate and learn together to strengthen classroom instruction.

Most of us have seen children - sometimes toddlers - who smoothly navigate touch-screens on tablets and smart phones. If you’re like most observers, your reaction may be, “wow, these kids today are just wired to use technology!” And if you’re like me, that makes you feel like a dinosaur. But a closer look at how students use technology reveals that often times there is not much depth to their knowledge. And for teachers, that closer look is crucial as technology becomes a central facet of instruction.

A recent blog post by Anya Kamenetz for The Hechinger Report examines the myth of students as “digital natives” who innately incorporate technology into their life.  She writes that the reality, is that children are often passive users, who rarely use technology to foster creativity or expression. Teachers may see a parallel to instruction that is teacher-centered (e.g. lectures or worksheets) and instruction that promotes opportunities for students to use and apply what they know. One form of pedagogy is about listening; the other is about doing.

PowerUp WHAT WORKS offers many tools and resources that can be used in classroom instruction to promote the use of technology in ways that help students develop a deeper understanding of subject matter content. Exploring mathematical concepts through web-based platforms can expand student knowledge as they apply the concepts in a new way.  For example, if your students have demonstrated competence in modeling by using physical manipulatives to construct arrays and explore multiplication, move them towards virtual manipulatives to go deeper with their understanding of the math concept.

Based on your experience, is the notion of students as “digital natives” a myth? What are ways that students use technology tools in your class to share and apply knowledge? Add your comments below.

Link to Anya Kamenetz’s full blog post:

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