As I begin to explore concepts and practices in a digital age, I find myself jumping all over the place – it is such a broad area to study. What concepts do I associate with the digital age? The first to come to mind include connectedness, collaboration, cooperation, globalisation, stability, change, belonging, sustainability, space, environment, ethics, ownership. No doubt, there are many more. My thoughts about practices in a digital age are somewhat cloudy as I consider what practices are specific to a digital age. How are they different from those of a time before the impact of digital environments and tools? Are they improved or just different? What implications arise that are directly related to this ever expanding digital environment?In exploring this subject, I hope to answer these questions, particularly in the context of primary school education.
My work in education is directly related to the pursuit of these answers. My role sees me working with primary school teachers with vastly different experiences, opinions and abilities with regard to digital practices in the classroom. I hope that by exploring and clarifying my understandings in this field, I will be better equipped to collaboratively navigate the ever-changing landscape that educators face.
With such a wide distribution of knowledge and skills demonstrated by teachers and students alike, the terms ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’, as coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, are often used to help explain the digital divide. These terms, however, do not sit comfortably with me when the former is often used to refer to the younger generation and the latter connected with the teachers born before this digital revolution. Prensky states that our students today are native speakers of digital language, yet I would also consider myself a native speaker because I have used the language as it has developed. I have lived in the time when the language was invented so I could also be considered a native speaker. The fact that some people choose not, or have no need, to use the language does not necessarily mean that they are immigrants any more than a person who does not use language related to disciplines that use a specific language are eg music, medicine, law. There may be a digital divide, but I don’t believe it has a great deal to do with when one was born. I agree with Gerald Haigh who writes in Open University research explodes myth of ‘digital native‘ that there’s no evidence of a clear-cut digital divide. Use of technology varies with age, but it does so predictably, over the whole age span. And secondly, although younger people are more likely to be positive about technology, there is evidence that a good attitude to technology, at any age, correlates with good study habits.
An area of interest I aim to explore further is that of digital literacy. My understanding of digital literacy is the ability to efficiently and effectively select and use a variety of digital technologies to locate, understand, synthesise, evaluate, create and communicate information whilst applying social and ethical protocols in order to protect and respect self, others and property. For teachers who are not digitally literate, supporting the development of these skills in their students will be a significant challenge.
An aspect of the information environment that has been brought to my attention by embarking on this subject is that of digital preservation. On a personal level, I have always understood the need to back up data, especially after losing data that could not be retrieved. I had not, however, considered the impact that this concept has on larger scale. I am comforted to know that the International Internet Preservation Consortium is working on our behalf to ensure that our web is preserved for future generations. On a local level, it makes me wonder about what I should be preserving and encouraging others to preserve. Can we rely on the cloud to keep our data safe? Hopefully access to the cloud will not be dependent on specific hardware (yet I suspect at some time in the future it will) like previous storage solutions were such as floppy discs and, more recently, CDs and USBs.
My first instinct is to think that all will be safe in the cloud. That was, at least, until last week when a radio discussion I was listening to drew my attention to the disastrous effect a solar storm would have on our society if one such as the Carrington event of 1859 were to happen today. Dr Karl explained how an event such as this would impact on our everyday lives, from banking and GPS navigation systems to the watch we may be wearing on our wrist.
I look at the work samples from my days in primary school and wonder what future generations will have to show of their past or, indeed, what they will consider valuable.
Haigh, G. (2011). Open University research explodes myth of ‘digital native’. Merlin John Online.http://www.agent4change.net/resources/research/1088
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon 9(5). Retrieved http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf