Thanks to the Langwitches Blog for linking to this article. If you haven’t already, add Langwitches to your bookmarks or RSS feed. You won’t be disappointed.
ReadWriteWeb.com has a brief article this entitled, “So-Called “Digital Natives” Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows” . The article cites a Northwestern University study on the media savvy of college students. If you know students, you won’t be surprised by the conclusions the researchers made. Most students cite a web sites search ranking as the primary reason for selection while researching a topic. A full quarter cite the fact that a site was ranked first as their ONLY criteria.
I’m not going to paraphrase the rest of the article. You can read it for yourself. But I think it’s important to say something here.
If you work with students who do research, and I’m speaking mostly of middle schoolers and up, you see this all the time. The constructed dichotomy of “digital natives” versus “digital immigrants” is, in my opinion, only useful for about the first 30 seconds. Yes, natives can figure out how to use a program/site faster than immigrants. Yes, natives are more comfortable with technology. Yes, natives spend 99% of their lives in front of screen (not an actual statistic). But it basically ends there. It all comes down to comfort. Natives are more comfortable with diving right in. That doesn’t make them smarter, and it certainly doesn’t make them critical thinkers.
My point is I think these labels are at best outmoded and unhelpful. At worst, they threaten exactly what we educators are trying to do: nurture critical thinkers who don’t take everything at face value. Working under the assumption that because students know how to use technology they can therefore successfully navigate the internet for important, trustworthy information is flawed. This lets students off the hook for learning research skills and teachers for teaching them. Students learn to trust information simply because it’s easily accessible and popular.
So how do we rectify this? What is the best way to teach media skills? I’d love to hear what people think about this topic.