Tony Gurr

Bridging the DIGITAL DIVIDE – starting with “ourselves”

In Technology, Uncategorized on 14/04/2011 at 6:28 pm

In the last post (a couple of days ago – you can see I have been busy), I asked you all to listen to “Two Tribes” from Frankie Goes To Hollywood

…and think about the…

OK, I was actually more interested in showing how today’s students are not simply focussed on “technology-for-technology’s-sake”but rather how technology is helping them evolve into a new form of “bi-lingual”.

These new bi-lingualsin addition to having their brains re-wired by the toys they play with – now speak both DFL (Digital as a First Language) and LFL (Learning as a First Language).

I also noted that most of us teachers (and the institutions we work for)while we may be more experienced in “allthingslife” – speak (more often than not)  DSL (Digital as a Second Language) and TFL (Teaching as a First Language).

It’s true that many of us are “tech-savvy” (just look at some of the great EduTech blogs out there these days) – but the bottom line is that our profession is dominated by technological minimalists, tourists and reluctant adopters.

Changing this situation is toughafterall, “digital immigrants” cannot be re-born as “digital natives” (well, at least not in this lifetime)…

The real challenge is that the BIGGEST difference between our two divided “tribes” is not our respective technology habits or attitudes towards the digital world – but our approach to LEARNing.

This challenge is tougherteachers cannot “unlearn” everything they know about how to “do business” in the classroom over night. In fact, would we want them to unlearn everything?

Of course, not.

What is clear, however, is that something has to change – and we have to tackle the growing divide between what Guy Claxton refers to as the “old 4Rs” and the “newer 4Rs”.

I also posed the question (from Zur and Zur):

What type of cultural anthropology and appropriate adjustments do we need to think about in education?

Many institutions (I think) recognise the importance of this process of “adaptation”. Many of our schools, colleges and universities all know (I hope) that this bridge needs to be built on processes of adaptation that touch on:

  • Leadership & Culture (Departments & Institutions)
  • Curriculum & Assessment
  • Facilities & Equipment

Sadly, most seem to focus exclusively on the thirdthe easiest option – and “buy in” projectors, smartboards and even iPads without paying much attention to the other critical components. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that you cannot bridge a technologically-enabled linguistic and cultural revolution with “hardware” alone.

Changes to curriculum and assessment begin with “people” – as do changes with leadership and culture. This means that the best way to bridge the gap is to focus on:

  • The “student-eye-view”
  • Individual Teachers

The most important people – in education!

The paradox is that it is exactly the fact that cultural and organisational change rely on “people” – and that it is “people” who are most likely to get in the way of cultural and organisational change.

In recent weeks, I have been travelling around conferences and have noticed the interest that a large number of teachers have in sessions that focus on Web 2.0, classroom blogging, Facebook and allthingstechnology.

Teachers are flocking to these sessions and workshops in their hundreds.

However, whenever I chat to these teachers (usually after the sessions) – they are, more often than not, critical that the technology-based sessions they are going to do not talk about teaching, do not talk about teaching relationships and end up “teaching” them very little.

Students (of the “digital native” variety), on the other hand, do not go to these workshops. They sit at home, play around with new software or applications, chat online with their friends about their difficulties – and emerge a few hours later as “experts”.

Students, it would appear have that (very American) “can-do attitude” (I am a Brit and I know this all too well – by its absence). They get on an do itthey learn-by-doing, through “intuitive” problem-solving, and adopt a “just-in-time” perspective to direct experimentation.

They speak LFL – and they do just fine without a teacher. If they do want a teacher, they choose their own…

Talking of teachers – the other thing I notice, when I chat with teachers about technology, is the huge amount of:

…that teachers seem to beat themselves up on.

Again, we do not seem to have that “can-do” attitude typical of so many “digital natives”.

I think we can learn a great deal from those who speak LFLwe can learn more about “creativity when learning” (and teaching), we can learn that “teaching” does not equal “learning” and we can learn that attitude (not technology) is half the battle.

It is not teaching (nor technology) alone that will bridge the gap between the two tribes. It is recognition that…

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