Dan Tapscott’s short video clip called “Growing Up Digital- The Net Generation is Changing Your World” caused a strong reaction as I watched the first few seconds. He begins by pretending to speak to young people about how self-centered, uneducated, illiterate and rude they are. He blames technology for this change in the quality of young people and paints a picture of doom for the future of our country. Not knowing this gentleman, I wanting to jump through my computer and ring his neck! In the last few seconds, however, he clarifies his previous statements as statements uttered by others, with no substantiating evidence or research. He also stated that this current generation is one of the smartest and most empowered to create change.
This generation, referred to as the “Net Generation” by Larry Rosen in the book “Me, My Space and I” requires a different focus of education. Mike Ribble, in the article “Passport to Digital Citizenship” (Teaching and Leading with Technology, December/January, 2009, p. 14-17) proposed the same idea. He refers to 9 elements in educating digital citizens. Who should be responsible for teaching these elements? During our online discussion, it was discussed that the school setting was not the only place for this to happen. Students need parents to be involved in helping to teach about and being role models for becoming appropriate digital citizen. We, as teachers, only have them for a certain amount of time and can address these issues with school related projects. However, students go home and are using technology for personal usage, through sites like Facebook and My Space. They shop for music, they do research for homework assignments. We can’t be there to be sure they are using technology appropriately, ethically or efficiently. That is what I believe Mike Ribble’s 9 elements in educating digital citizens tries to address. After all, don’t we want students to be informed, educated and independent enough to make these decisions and judgment calls on their own? I believe the home has a large part of many of the elements. If I could change three of the elements, there are three that I would make more of a home-focused concept, rather than a school addressed concept.
The first is the idea of digital commerce. Here is where role modeling from parents is important. I would assume that most adults with online access have used the internet for making purchases. This is not an activity that is done in school. Parents need to have an open dialogue with their children about secure sites, resisting impulse shopping, making sure to know the product and what it is going for…some of these points being “timeless” in the sense of being an educated shopper, no matter where the exchange is taking place. Parents need to go a step further in teaching their children how to be sure that their credit card info is being safely entered into a legitimate site. This, to me, would be the only Net Gen addition to the idea of digital commerce.
Another element I feel should be taught in the home, more so than being the responsibility of the schools is that of digital security. Every home has its own antivirus protection, and those that don’t will suffer the consequences. What happens with home networks is very different than what takes place in schools. Once a destructive form of malware, virus or Trojan takes over a home computer and people can’t get to their files or music...everyone in the house hold will understand the consequences of poor security. This is definitely a Net Gen issue and not one that I would be considered a “timeless.”
Digital health and wellness is the last element I feel is an important element that should be addressed at home. “Everything in moderation” is a timeless phrase that is also relevant to technology use. Those who overuse can experience eye strain, back and wrist pain as well as other physical issues related to a sedentary lifestyle. Parents need to take control and get their kids off the computer and moving in some way. In addition to physical issues, psychological isolation and lack of social skills can also be a downfall of excessive computer use. Parents need to set limits, as they would with TV usage or video gaming.
Educating the "Net Gen" involves some unique situations, but many of the concepts listed in Mike Ribble’s 9 elements of educating digital citizens are timeless. We as educators can try to address as many of the 9 elements that Mike describes, but many would make sense being taught and stressed at home.