Digital Natives?

Danah Boyd in her book, It’s Complicated, discusses the misunderstanding of the term, “digital native.” Young people are adept at using technological devices but don’t understand the basics behind them. Those of us who learned to use a computer and other technology gradually have a much better understanding of how it all works.

For instance the first computer I used was DOS based. While I may have forgotten much of the command line language, I still have an understanding of file structure and basic computer functions. The millenials and those who came after them grew up in a WYSIWYG world of point and click. They seem to know intuitively which button to push (or maybe they are not afraid to try them all), but they don’t understand how it works.

For example, my daughter received a digital camera for Christmas. This device needed a firmware update which required using an SD card and a computer to transfer the required file. I learned that my fifteen-year-old doesn’t know how to copy or move a file on a computer.

As the parent of a high school student, I can testify that the schools assume students know more about technology than they actually do. It not just about the hardware and software. Students also need to learn to navigate the digital world in an informed way: determine validity of information, protect their privacy, communicate effectively using technology, etc. The schools aren’t teaching this and many parents don’t have this knowledge either. Many teachers are too intimated by this topic to cover even a small portion in their existing classes. Media specialists have become an endangered species in the high schools in my county. University libraries teach information literacy to their students.  Public libraries offer classes for adults. What about the teens and tweens?

If your library offers information literacy classes to this age group I would love to hear about your experiences. Do teens come to your library? Does your staff go out to the schools to teach about any of these topics? Librarians have a role to play in educating young people about making the best use of technology. Let’s make sure they are not neglected.

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