Too often educators assume that students are just waiting for someone who will take the lid off, provide some nutrients, and stand back to watch the massive growth.
Okay, let's ditch this organic metaphor, because we're really talking about technology. We imagine our primary job is unleashing the digital native within.
However, students aren't as tech savvy as we tend to think. Sure, they're good at using the devices, but not necessarily at thinking critically about the information they find, as this Wired article by Clive Thompson point outs:
Other studies have found the same thing: High school and college students may be “digital natives,” but they’re wretched at searching. In a recent experiment at Northwestern, when 102 undergraduates were asked to do some research online, none went to the trouble of checking the authors’ credentials. In 1955, we wondered why Johnny can’t read. Today the question is, why can’t Johnny search?
Can't figure out how to upload a file, reconfigure your Facebook settings, or create a mash-up? Digital native to the rescue! But when it comes to asking the big questions and being critical of information, the role of the educator hasn't changed. The medium has, but not the message. Apologies to McLuhan.
(Actually, no apologies necessary, since McLuhan quickly changed his own slogan to "The medium is the massage." McLuhan was, in reality, a heavy critic of technology and somewhat of a medievalist.)
We also face the problem of taking that fun tech into the classroom and turning it into another chore. Or, worse yet, turning the classroom into Best Buy and simply training a classroom of good consumers without encouraging them to search what's beneath the label.
Forget digital natives. We're really dealing with digital pilgrims.
They might be skilled at gathering every possible leaf, root, nut, and berry. But do they know which ones are poisonous?