They are just very different from the older adults in the school, whom the Pew Internet and American Life project call “digital immigrants.” These kids only know digital, and teachers who don’t teach digitally risk becoming less effective thereby.
These “digital natives” are sometimes not existing in the same world as they’re teachers. They are connected to and members of distant, digitally-mediated communities. Their digital identities are present from the start of their days until they sleep. And yet, how many older teachers belong to a social networking site, like Facebook?
It would help if teachers would recognize the changed student, who cannot be assumed to have the same world experience (and thus worldview) as the teacher. Before she is a citizen saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class each morning, she is a “netizen” whose world is wider than her parents’ could probably imagine at her age.
An MSNBC article describes an increasingly typical student in our classrooms:
Samantha Wachtel, 17, a senior…does two things when she gets up every morning: checks her pink Razr for missed calls while she slept and she turns on her Dell computer. Before she leaves the house for school, she checks e-mail, MySpace, listens to iTunes, instant messages her friends and sometimes just surfs the Web via Google.
Older teachers ignore this existential difference at their own risk. If an older teacher stubbornly refuses to adapt to the new media work environment, he risks embodying the negative stereotype of the out of touch “older generation” portrayed in 1960s and 70’s popular representations of the “generation gap.”