For the last few years I’ve noticed a change in the skills that kids are walking in to my classroom with. A few years ago, many kids had strong, solid research and creative skills. The kinds of things that Mozilla would call web literacy. I was never a believer in Marc Prensky’s digital natives metaphor, it simply assumed too many things about kids. Some of them had strong skills and others struggled; it was impossible to lump them all under one title.
But that is changing. Over the last few years I’ve begun to notice a difference in the students who come in to my classroom. What I would consider to be basic computer use skills are weaker than they were in the past. I teach grade seven and eight. These kids are mostly 12 – 14 years old. These are the kids who are growing up with tablets and phones instead of laptops and desktops. And it is beginning to show.
Some students have trouble with basic commands such as CTRL – X to cut something and CTRL – V to paste. They aren’t really sure how to use Google to find something. Learning to use WordPress software, which often requires multiple tabs to be open and for a person to work between two sites to do things like locate images to use in a blog post or create a link can be tough. Working between applications to do something like create an audio file with incoming sound effects and exporting out the web is very difficult.
I don’t believe this is just me, my school or my community. I’ve talked to a number of other people who are finding these same trends. Using their phones and tablets as their main computing device is catching up with our students. Some would argue that their skills aren’t poor, they are just different. I’m going to disagree because the skills that kids are gaining are mainly consumption skills and what they are losing is information verification, location and creative skills needed to share their point of view with the world.
This throws me back to having to teach some of the basics from ten years ago that for years, many students just knew how to do. They could create accounts at places and verify them. They could send email with attachments. Phones and especially tablets are taking their toll. I’d be curious to know about school districts that have spent large sums of money on tablet programs. I’m not sure any of them have been in existence for long enough yet, but I would bet these places are going to find some of these skills simply aren’t transferable between different devices.
This is another argument to go back to the open web instead of nosing around the closed in space of an app.