Meet the digital natives

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

Recently, I was chatting with a group of educators about reading on a computer screen, Amazon’s Kindle, and other electronic gadgets.

One of them said, “Some things I just have to print so I can highlight material.”

“That means you’re not a digital native,” a computer science instructor replied.

Indeed, she is not. Like me, she is past 40 and learned to read in primers and to write on broken-line tablets. We weren’t allowed to use a keyboard until we were ready to learn the “proper” alignment of our fingers on home-row keys in typing class, and then we banged out our work on manual typewriters.

And although we’ve learned to use technology rather well, we still like to hold the book, newspaper or magazine we’re reading. If it’s really important, we read with a highlighter handy.

But, as we have so often been told by our president-elect, change has come to America. Communications technology drove our national election, as it drives much of what we do every day. Young people prefer to “talk” by “text” and textbooks are ancient objects some choose not to lug around.

At Andalusia High School, the faculty has embraced the need to use technology in teaching the current generation and has integrated its use into every facet of education. Talk to AHS teachers about what’s happening in their classrooms and you’ll learn that students use laptops for writing assignments, and communicate with their teachers via email.

Some bring their own laptops to school and choose to carry the CD version of the textbook rather than the textbook itself. When Dawn Thompson explained this on the day I visited her literature class, I was astounded. English was my favorite subject, but I still can’t imagine reading “Beowulf,” or “The Canterbury Tales” or Shakespeare on an electronic device and without aid of highlighter!

Teachers are engaging this media-savvy generation by having them use music, video and art in reports presented in PowerPoint form, do research online, and type their research papers at a keyboard rather than writing in longhand. Imagine how much easier it is for the teachers to read these papers! This method also provides a means for collaborating on projects, a skill much needed in the workplace today.

It’s all very different than the school days of us non-digital natives, for whom overhead projectors were the newest technology. But it’s also how the world now works and we want our students to be very prepared to face that world.

Monday night, AHS will give the uninitiated among us an opportunity to learn more about this program, which they call the Digital Immersion Project or DIP. An expo is planned for 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 in the auditorium. You’ll also see examples of PowerPoint presentations, videos, Wiki pages, research papers, essays, models, photos, digital portfolios and scrapbooks, trading cards, political cartoons and other projects completed by AHS students.

And you’ll be astounded. Don’t miss this opportunity to see this exciting program and to learn the lingo of your children and grandchildren.

Look for me. I’ll be the one who still carries a camera separate from my cell phone, a notepad and a pencil …. And has that Oh!-so-necessary highlighter in my purse.