Greetings, readers. You’re getting a double post today as I have quite a bit to say about Marc Prensky and his ideas. The first post dealt with the idea of there being two types of people in regards to technology, digital natives and digital immigrants, and how Marc Prensky felt that today’s students, who all fall under the former category, are not being engaged because their teachers (who mostly fall under the latter category) are not speaking their language. I talked about the problems I had with this notion of digital natives needing to be taught differently and also introduced the ideas of other detractors of Prensky’s ideas. In this post, I will explore how Prensky himself tried to distance himself from the digital native vs digital immigrant debate and moved on to making the claim that we must all learn to embrace technology in order to become digitally wise.
Let’s begin by looking at Prensky’s definition of digital wisdom. Prensky (2009)claims that “Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities” (¶2). He then goes on to talk about the differences between a digitally wise person and a digitally unenhanced person, noting that technology will never replace intuition, good judgement, one’s own sense of morals, etc., but that the digitally unenhanced person will always be at a distinct disadvantage compared to even the least capable of the digitally wise (¶2).
Prensky touches on something that I mentioned in my first blog post, noting that we already use technology such as electronic storage and mobile phones to offload some of the demands on our own memory (Digital Extensions and Enhancements section, ¶1). Finally, Prensky and I can begin to agree on our views of technology. While there will always be those who worry about some cataclysmic event that renders electronic devices useless, I am not one that believes in ignoring the benefits of technology today to avoid being reliant on it should such events come to pass. Instead, I advocate learning how to do things like growing your own food and learning how to survive out in the wilderness for a weekend or so while still relying on technology for most of what I do in my daily life. I do not think that doing such will cause me to forget how to use a book or write a letter should technology disappear someday, so why not embrace the tools at our disposal?
There is no doubt on my part that what Prensky began advocating in 2009 is true. There are limits to what our minds and our senses can do. In this day and age, I can easily use plagiarism detection software to determine if a student has copied another’s work whereas this same task without technology would either take a significant amount of time or simply would not be possible. Indeed, we are limited in what we can do without technology. Prensky noted several of these limitations, which include our ability to predict the future, our tendency to forget, and many others (Wisdom Enhancement section, ¶2-3). Those who choose to use the latest digital technologies can go beyond these limits. As time goes on, more and more of these limitations will disappear thanks to technology, but only for those that choose to use it and become digitally wise. As Prensky believes, we will someday even be able to read each other’s thoughts, eliminating guesswork and the often erroneous assumptions we make concerning the thoughts of others (Enhancing Our Insight into Others section).
So now that Prensky and I are in agreement and everything seems bright and rosy, where do we go from here? I will again say that I believe that using and embracing technology is not enough. Certainly it is a good start for increasing engagement in our classrooms as students always more readily turn their attention to a screen rather than a book because books are the norm in classrooms, but this may not be enough. We need to think of the best practices for using technology and do further research into ways that technology increases learning in our students. When teaching English as a foreign or second language, showing a video in class can be fun, but if it does not facilitate progress, we need to reevaluate the reason that we are showing it. If it was to showcase some aspect of culture, that’s an entirely different story, but using technology for technology’s sake is irresponsible and unproductive. Something along the lines of digital pen pals, where your class and a class in another country communicate back and forth without any personal information being exchanged, is an example of using technology purposefully as it will force students to use the language productively in order to participate. These are the types of things that we must think about and start writing into our curriculums. Keeping the textbooks and activities that have been around for years is still fine, but we must look at not just introducing technology but using it in ways that enhance our students’ learning. Otherwise, the digitally wise teachers and students of the world may surpass us in their knowledge and ability both.
Prensky, M. (2009). H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate Journal of Online Education, 5(3). Retrieved from http://www.wisdompage.com/Prensky01.html