This week I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the readings from the Digital Youth Project summary. The short video clip on You Tube helped me to pull together and further grasp the ways in which our kids are living and learning with today’s new media – hanging out, messing around, and geeking out.
We have all heard the quip about “digital natives” (as opposed to us “digital immigrants”), and nod our heads in agreement. But, I for one would not want to have to give specific details about what being a digital native meant. I think I would have stumbled out with a … “Well, you know kids today. All that stuff they do.” This framework from the DYP certainly helped me to conceptualize all the things that are so much a part of our kids’ lives today.
The “hanging out” reading helped me to recognize when the kids are interacting with their friends around the new media tools, it is not a “waste of time,” anymore than my hanging out with my friends in the 1970’s and 80’s around the old media tools was. Kids are going to use the tools at their disposal to connect and interact with other kids. If the tools available are a pencil and a note snuck under the desk (like we used to do) or if it is a text or Facebook post – it is at its heart the same social phenomenon. We gathered with friends to watch a TV episode or listen to American Top 40 at the specific (and only) time it was on (accessible). Today, kids can access, download, share, remix, and mash-up music and video content virtually anytime, anywhere. It is the same idea, and we should not fear “hanging out” because the tools are different. They are just soooo much better! For kids and for us…
The “messing around” reading was also eye-opening. I again reflected back to my own youthful experiences tinkering around the edges of ideas and activities. (It seems connecting new information to previous experience also works for adults) And again, my reflection led me back to – we are so lucky today! How often do we find ourselves doing the same thing this reading suggests that our kids do? We start out looking for information and ideas about one thing, and by following links and suggestions end up enthralled in something else. (And two hours went by in a flash…!) And sometimes that exploring – that “messing around” – teaches us new skills we might otherwise not have stumbled upon and stirs up interests in topics we did not even know to “Google” when we began.
I believe that these insights will begin to show up in my teaching practice. The beginning of the DYP summary noted the disconnect kids can experience between their school-life and their “outside-life.” My kids are already networked, connected, and hanging out. They already equate “messing around” with learning. That’s how they learn news skills and “tricks” in gaming, etc. as the reading suggested. That is as much “learning” to them as the stuff that happens within the school building.
Now … will this digital immigrant catch up?