I live in a Virginia suburb just outside the nation’s capital. Many of the people in my community have very impressive technology skills and work for high-tech companies or government agencies.
Their children are masters of text messaging, online social networking, and computer gaming. They appear very comfortable in the world of digital technologies and fast-moving communication.
But what still surprises me when I walk into an elementary, middle, or high school in our region is how much these places still look and operate like the public schools I attended in New England decades ago. What is particularly noticeable is the gap between the widespread use of digital tools in society and the workplace and the general lack of such use in classrooms. And, based on conversations with the Digital Directions writers, this gap can be seen in almost any district in any part of the country. To address this gap, digitaldirections.org recently debuted a new blog on our site called Teaching Generation Tech, written by a high school teacher in upstate New York, which examines the challenges schools face when digital natives intersect with traditional classrooms.
Based on what I have seen in my own community and my experiences covering educational technology on a national scale, it is clear that schools need to think more critically and creatively about the role of digital tools in learning. This does not mean they have to buy in to every tech fad that comes along—I, for one, think there are upsides and downsides to the classroom use of online networking tools such as Twitter, for instance.
Ultimately, that is why schools are so important in today’s digital world. They can help students examine the upsides and downsides of these tools with a critical eye, figuring out how to use them most effectively to improve their lives and the lives of others.
A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as Teaching Generation Tech