Digital Natives? Are we as far along as we think?

Following the introduction of Facebook into some of my classes over the past semester I was asked by a colleague, Penny Bentley, to collect some feedback from my students on how they felt about using their Social Network in school.

The responses were overall positive, although not as enthusiastic as I initially anticipated. This comment came from a Year 11 student who participates in a Facebook group for Student Leaders at our school:

With the whole fb in schools – I can see it only being a distraction. I don’t see how it could help education in anyway.”

The sentiment in this statement is entirely understandable. It has really become clear to me that, both for educators and students, there is a huge spectrum of those who see emerging technologies as exciting opportunities, others who see them as being ‘just a fad’ and many in between.

I hope to initiate the integration of cybersafety and digital citizenship into the curriculum at my school next semester. At the moment, we have a solid hardware base (almost 1:1, definitely 1:2) but have experienced issues with internet connectivity and bandwidth. These challenges initially caused angst among staff and, in a small number of cases, has given cause to dissenters of the big drive toward integrating technology into our teaching practice. Fundamentally, however, the system works and the students are keen to use it – but only if it works to support their education.

This brings me to my point – as interested as I am and as interested as the school executive are in propelling eLearning at the school, the success or failure of any change of this nature is in the ability of supporters to deliver a program that is relevant and works. In order to achieve this, I believe that the following need to be addresses in the first instance:

  • Any change initiative needs broad support among the entire school community; from Principal to Parent, Staff to Student.
  • Student Voice must be taken into consideration – indeed actively involved – in the development and implementation process
  • Teachers need to be supported – with time and resources – to develop curricula that merge the successful teaching practices that they currently have with the modern context of technological ubiquity.
  • A primary goal must be the education of the whole community in the proper use of technological tools – from both a skill mastery perspective and from an appropriate behaviours perspective.
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4 Comments on "Digital Natives? Are we as far along as we think?"

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Lachlan Musicman
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Not being a teacher, it can be hard to know exactly what’s “right” in the educative scenario, but I would suggest that in regards FB/G+ the best situation would be “ok during breaks, not during class”. I think there is *definitely* a space for teaching and talking about privacy using these technologies as examples that students will understand, but I think there is a very good point made in a recent Crikey article (I think that’s where I saw it) pointing out that we currently have no right to digital privacy – digital realm didn’t exist before, legislators are too… Read more »
Anne Mirtschin
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Hi David, I am visiting your blog and wish to thank you for connecting with me via my blog post on using facebook with my students. I would love to talk more with you about your findings on using social networking with your classes. Will you use google+ with your students?
For me, I find facebook so user friendly and intuitive. It is where the students are and updates on class groups get immediate responses from students that emails do not.

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