My Response to the Reading:
This chapter was filled with incredible examples of how tech-savvy educators are using web 2.0 tools to enhance learning in and out of their classrooms. Between desktop tools and web 2.0 tools there has been a virtual explosion of creative tools that can be used to “promote an environment that supports, sustains, and even requires a pedagogical approach that includes inquiry, creativity and full integration of technology.”  Reading about these tools and the people who are using them well was quite inspiring. At the same time, the whole subject is pretty overwhelming. First there is just dealing with the amount of new information technologies there are out there.  Then there are the cultural/philosophical implications of the new paradigm. I have to say that as a parent and an educator I have many conflicting thoughts about the idea that our children are digital natives in a world where the internet is a dual reality overlaying our physical reality.

As an educator, I have been intrigued by the many new tools out there for synthesizing information and creating new ways of sharing the results of our learning. Then there is the amazing amount of information available to us, literally at our fingertips. How easy it is to model the idea of being a “life-long learner.” Yet, as a digital immigrant who is just bumbling thru the digital world speaking my own form of “digital-pidgin” I have been intimidated by the amount of new technologies there are to learn, and the idea that as soon as I master one, I discover it is obsolete. 

 As a parent I am also intensely aware of the addictive quality of the digital world. With online games coming out fast and fierce, many of them free or available for a pittance, our children have a constant source of new stimulation- they can be assured of a “cognitive orgasm” whenever they turn their screens on. Then with the development of multi-player games and social media there is now a party in their computer 24-7.

Yet I am also aware of how this digital reality has opened up new worlds of possibility for my children. They are able to use complex tools to create sophisticated products that would be totally beyond their ability to create without them. They are also able to use the internet to connect with their existing friends in new ways and develop new friendships based on common interests with people they would otherwise have no contact with.

However, these new digital opportunities create a real burden of responsibiltiy for the parents. Many of my friends refer to the social/computer game aspect of the digital world as digital crack. And I admit that for a time I felt that way too. You can certainly find numerous articles telling of people who literally game themselves to death- forgetting to sleep or eat while indulging in their obsession. Stories that are disturbingly reminiscent of the research that showed lab rats forgoing food for cocaine. However over time I have developed a more nuanced understanding of the situation, realizing that a better metaphor than "digital crack" would be “digital glucose”.

Glucose in its pure form is known as white sugar, and is the substance at the root of the concept of being a “sugar addict”. Indeed as I write this, both the World Health Organization, and the American Heart Association are working to educate the public about the health dangers of consuming too much of it. At the same time glucose is the only sugar that feeds the brain. In fact while glucose is also used as an energy source for other cells, our brain uses 60 % of the available glucose in our body. It is the one nutritional substance that is necessary for keeping our brain alive.  So while there are indeed a variety of health problems associated with the over-consumption of glucose (especially in certain forms such as processed sugar) one could never create a convincing argument that it is something that should not be consumed in any form.

I believe the same is true for the digital world. Yes, it is possible to over-consume digital experiences. And yes, there are some forms of digital experiences that are more nutritious than others. But our children ARE digital natives growing up in an increasingly digital world and asking them to “Just Say NO” digital pleasures as if they were equivalent to illegal drugs or pre-marital sex will not allow them to become the digitally-literate digitally-savvy consumers that they need to be to survive and thrive in the 21st century. What WILL help them develop into those digitally-literate tech-savvy adults that we hope they will become is for digitally-literate tech-savvy teachers to provide opportunities for them to use these new technical tools to integrate inquiry and creativity into their lives both in and out of the classroom.

 


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