Born digital citizens still must learn citizenship

October 31, 2011


Duke University professor and HASTAC co-founder Cathy Davidson, whose work I’ve followed since attending a panel she chaired in 2010, posted a spot-on response to last month’s widely circulated New York Times “Grading the Digital School” piece on the struggle to quantify technology’s educational value, namely through standardized tests.

Davidson, whose new book “Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn” includes a chapter on the origin of standardized testing, argues that industrial age yardsticks can’t reliably measure digital age progress, and that, whatever the yardsticks say, technology is not just another subject, but a prerequisite for all others.

She also makes a broader, and, I’d offer, more pressing point, on what we’re not measuring: How society tends to take for granted that youth are tech experts. 

Because they can use technology easily, doesn’t mean they understand it.  And that’s a problem. The whole point of living in a “Broadcast Yourself” era is any one of those blogs or Facebook quips can go out into the world instantly. We are not responsible as educators unless we are teaching not just with technology but through it, about it, because of it. We need to make kids understand its power, its potential, its dangers, its use. That isn’t just an investment worth making but one that it would be irresponsible to avoid.

Yes, we adults can learn a lot from youth, and not just technically. But, from grade school to college, confusing familiarity for mastery is dangerous. Kids these days will always better know the tools. But we have lived and need to teach them the techniques.

Read Cathy’s full essay on her HASTAC blog.

Creative Commons image by Flickr user gretchichi

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