School & District Management

Watching a Digital Nation in Action

January 28, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If the Kaiser Family Foundation report on kids’ excessive media use didn’t give you enough evidence of the dominant role of technology in our lives, don’t miss the Frontline report next Tuesday on PBS titled “Digital Nation.”

The documentary, which I wrote about here, kicked off last year to take a closer look at how the Web is “transforming the way we work, learn and connect.” Frontline Producer Rachel Dretzin and Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff go from home to school to the workplace as they explore the fascination with and dependence on digital devices and the online world.

Not surprisingly, there are a range of perspectives about whether the increasing amount of time spent on social networking sites, online video and news pages, and music and gaming programs—often while doing other things—has a positive or negative impact on users.

One MIT professor, for example, shares his observations of students’ ability to absorb his course content as they are distracted by the programs they have open on their laptops during class time.

“It’s not that the students are dumb. It’s not that they’re not trying,” says David Jones as he explains how the class average on a midterm exam in medical history was just 75 percent, even though the content was covered thoroughly in class lectures and readings. “I think they’re trying in a way that’s not as effective as they could be because they’re distracted by everything else.”

The students interviewed, however, say they are quite proficient at balancing multiple mental tasks all at once.

But Dretzin interviews a Stanford researcher who has found otherwise.

“Virtually all mutlitaskers think they’re brilliant at multitasking,” Sociologist Clifford Nass says. “And what we’re discovering is that they’re really lousy at it.”

But technology is also seen as essential to learning, work, even the accomplishment of everyday tasks. “Walking into a classroom without media,” one educator says, “is like walking into a desert” for students these days.

There are some great clips of classrooms and interviews with educators about the challenges of engaging the digital generation in lessons. There are also some fascinating segments on gaming, second life, and the power of virtual worlds.

After you’ve seen it, come back and share your thoughts.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.


English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Top Tips for New Assistant Principals From Those Who've Been There
Nurture relationships, learn on the job, take care of yourself—and other key advice.
5 min read
Image of leaders as a central figures to a variety of activities in motion.
Laura Baker/Education Week and gobyg/DigitalVision Vectors
School & District Management L.A. Cracks Down on Homeless Encampments Near Schools, Over the Jeers of Protesters
Under the new restrictions, homeless people would be prohibited from setting up tents within 500 feet of every public and private school.
David Zahniser and Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times
5 min read
A homeless camp in downtown Los Angeles pictured on Sept. 17, 2019. A proposal to greatly restrict where homeless people may camp in Los Angeles drew protest at a City Council meeting from demonstrators who fear the rules would criminalize homelessness.
A homeless camp in downtown Los Angeles. A proposal to greatly restrict where homeless people may camp in Los Angeles drew protest at a City Council meeting from demonstrators who fear the rules would criminalize homelessness.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
School & District Management Statistics Update: New Trends in Enrollment, Virtual Schooling, and Special Education
New data in EdWeek's statistics pages point to changes in where students are attending school and the services they're getting.
Conceptual image of allocation.
Lea Toews/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion 10 Ways to Include Teachers in Important Policy Decisions
Teachers are the lifeblood of schools, and they should be treated that way.
5 min read
18Goldstein 1126473545