Mark Prensky (2001) proposes that in today’s modern society people can be classified as either digitally “Native” or “Immigrant”. Today’s primary school children would be classed as digitally native as they have grown up in a world where rapidly advancing digital technology has surrounded them and influenced their lives since before they were born. Many of today’s Primary School teachers would similarly be considered as digitally native as they too have matured to adulthood in a world heavily influenced by technology. However, Primary education is also delivered by those for whom digital technology has been a new introduction to society. Prensky would consider those educators to be digitally Immigrant, learning and developing to integrate with the new world around them.
However, in contrast, White and Le Cornu (2011) propose that the differences between generations are not so clear-cut and that “…learners and teachers in digital environments are either “visitors” or “residents” Cremin and Burnett (2018, p.471). This suggests that, regardless of age, some people use digital technologies far more than others and that it is necessary to acknowledge those variations. For the digital visitor teaching in today’s world involves the acquisition of a new range of skills; enhancing their own digital literacy in order that they might enhance the digital literacy of the child; a concept which rings very true for me.
Reflecting on Prensky’s choice of analogy I consider myself to be neither digitally native (I’m too old) nor immigrant (I don’t intend to move in permanently). I am a digital tourist: I have no idea where anything is and I don’t speak the language! Just like the flustered tourist, trying desperately to communicate with a native language speaker, I am often to be found simply shouting at technology in the vain hope that eventually it’ll understand me. Currently, we just don’t speak the same language. So that’s why I’m here… in the Mac Lab, one of my top least favourite destinations.
In order to be an effective Primary Teacher, offering the best learning experience I can in line with the cross-curricular requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence, it is essential that I learn to “speak” Digital Technologies. The Scottish Government identifies that not only are digital technologies essential in providing comprehensive education but that it is imperative that those delivering that education are proficient in their use. The paper “Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the use of Digital Technology: A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland” (Scottish Government, 2016) outlines action plans to provide trainee teachers with a firm foundation in the understanding of digital technologies and their application, in line with the GTCS standards for registration. I recognise that as my personal skills in this area are woefully lacking I need to grasp this opportunity with both hands and fully embrace the content of the Digital Technologies module.
Having discussed the course content in the first session of the module I am keen to get started and particularly pleased that our first task will be Bee Bots, as I have some practical experience of using these. Class-based experience both in my voluntary work before starting university and on my BA1 placement re-affirmed that children know far more about technology than I do. Greeted with a gaggle of Primary 1 children trying to get their iPads to function saw a flustered me consulting with a 5-year-old for advice on what to do! Supporting a child with no English language capability in a computer-based activity relied heavily on his capability to work the technology. While I am proficient in the very basics of digital technology, my lack of deeper knowledge is a barrier to effective comprehensive communication in the modern educational environment.
So… it’s onwards and upwards from here. With my phrasebook and map (old school) and my fellow classmates, I’m embarking on the journey to uncharted territory.
Digital Technology from my Primary School time in the 1980s
These give me THE FEAR!!
- Cremin, T. and Burnett, C. (eds.) (2018) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. 4th Oxon: Routledge.
- Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. [Online] Vol.9 (No. 5). Available: https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.
- Scottish Government (2016) Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology: A Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government
[Online] Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00505855.pdf