Monday, March 5, 2012


Why do we need to be either-or when both-and is so much more balanced? Some in the modern Ed-tech community seem to be saying a 21st Century educator should "go digital" and leave behind the 20th Century tools that served us for so long. I recall my many experiences in the 1960s and 1970s writing research papers the old-fashioned way with notecards, encyclopedias, books, and all sorts of paper-based tools. Now, with all my students toting a wireless laptop all day long, and taking it home each night to continue their work, they can look up quality websites, use online encyclopedias and dictionaries, and much more. When it's time to cite their sources they can use tools like citation machine and easybib to make the once-painful process so much more easy and fun. But, why should they also toss their notecards and go completely digital?

I spent a lot of time last summer struggling over the question is it time to 'go completely digital', including the notecards and bibliography cards? I decided against this either-or approach for several reasons:
  • First, my students have primarily used paper-based, analog tools up until this year in my 1:1 laptop classroom. From preschool through grade four they've been mostly analog with a bit of digital thrown in.
  • Most of my students are not yet very adept at moving between applications on their little netbooks, reading the content on a website, then switching to a word processor to summarize what they just read in THEIR OWN words. Maybe in the future this will be second-nature; but, we're not there yet.
  • Going 100% digital on projects like research papers makes it too easy to succumb to the copy-paste temptation and end up plagiarizing their sources. Even with paper-based notecards it's hard to break some students of this habit. Where did they ever learn to do that in the first place?
  • I still find value in sorting through 30 notecards all laid out on my desk, moving around the various sub-topics represented on the cards so that my whole research paper flows in a logical way. Children, too, are still learning to use digital tools to see the "big picture" on a small screen, and the desk is a much more appropriate pallet on which to see this big picture view.
I don't particularly find value in the digital native—digital immigrant metaphor. I think it fosters the either-or thinking that I also find less than helpful. How about being a digital native who can also utilize analog tools in an appropriate manner to complete a task or project? Or, vice-versa: a digital immigrant who's learned to speak digital? My hat's off to Both—And!

1 comment:

  1. I began this post on my cell phone while waiting at the doctor's office, so I now know that works, too. I just keep adding to my streamlined workflow.