Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Personal Realization

In 2001, Marc Prensky asserted that kids today are different, that their approach to technology, including their neuro-plasticity, malleability, and attention spans, is quiet different than those of us who come to use technology later in our lives. They are native to the digital experience as opposed to my experience (even as a Gen X'r) which is one of immigration into the digital ecology. I was uncertain about these social observations until this very Christmas break. I don't know if I had thought that Prensky's assertions were a bit hollow or if there was a part of me that wanted to think that kids today aren't really different.

I had also seen David Warlick's compelling pictures of one of his kids surrounded by friends. The picture is pertinent seeing that each kid in the picture is concurrently engaged in face-to-face and digital interaction using a wide selection of wireless devices. They naturally switch from gaming to laughing about movie quotations, from talking about the statistics from last Sunday's NFL football game to posting Facebook updates; they are literally playing out Prensky's research. But still, I wasn't totally sold, thinking that kids today still aren't significantly different than kids of other time periods of significant change, such as the kids of the 1950s, with their affinity for rock-n-roll and black and white TVs.

At some point over this Christmas break, however, I saw this:

My son, Leo. He had stealthily nabbed my IPad.

Then, while trying to keep up with housekeeping as family was staying at our house, I walked through the kitchen and saw this:

My other son, my daughter, and my brother-in-law all simultaneously engaged in verbal conversation, gaming, and digital communication.

Are there natives in my house? Surely, they are too young, maybe haven't had the high exposure, or don't have the motivation, so it can't be. But still, there they are. I realized that my kids are displaying skills that I don't fully have; they are utilizing dexterity that has not been taught yet. My kids are effortlessly employing dispositions where I have to purposefully exert effort. Indeed, my realization is that I have natives in my house!

1 comment:

  1. Brad, From some perspectives, I think that we can say that kids today are different. In other ways of thinking, they're kids, just like I was in the '50s and '60s. They are 'natives' of a networked and digital information environment and they are growing up within a unique information experience. I'm not a native, but I think I'm losing my accent. I'm not as good at it is my son and daughter, but when I think of my circle(s) of friends, I see those I'm in personal contact with every day, and those, whom I see maybe once or twice a year, but converse with, on some level, nearly every day.

    I was working with a college faculty the other day, and someone expressed some concern about how kids are not learning to interact face-to-face. I have to disagree. With some exceptions (that have always been with us), kids today are interacting face-to-face and they're pretty darn good at it. The difference is that they do not want to end then conversation when they are not face-to-face. They want to continue to interact and they use their mobile phones, laptops, and increasingly their tablets to do this.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    David Warlick