July 9, 2020

Published: May 1, 2006


Digital Natives

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Alan Warhaftig is right, in his article [“Rounded Edges,” January/February] that students now, more than ever, “must know about nature, geography, culture, and the past.” He is wrong to think that the use of technology in any way inhibits the acquisition of that knowledge. He is concerned that students won’t learn to write “expansively” because they become used to “bulleted text.”

While I understand those concerns, they are ill-founded if the teacher uses technology as the effective tool it can be. When my students learn to write argumentative essays, we read the professional writing of many columnists, through Internet access and in living color through my data projector. They learn to analyze an essay at the same time they are being immersed in political discourse from both sides of the ideological aisle. When they write an essay, they do it in Microsoft Word, and are able to give more thought to logic, organization, and persuasion because spell check catches most of those bothersome errors. When they turn that essay in, they submit it digitally into a folder from which I can read their essays and attach comments for revision.

These “digital natives” demonstrate that students are capable of learning and applying Toulman logic using tomorrow’s tools to display their understanding.

The same is true in all fields of study. A PowerPoint presentation with a digital video clip of a beating heart is much more effective than a picture in a textbook. An interactive map where students can trace Alexander’s conquests embeds Macedonian culture more deeply than a published paragraph.

Ralph Waldo Emerson had a great deal to say about living in his world, but the world is no longer his. It belongs to our students, and they’ll need all the technological skills we can give them to survive and prosper in it.

David Phillips
Paris, Texas

Vol. 17, Issue 06, Pages 58-59

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