Monday, 23 November 2009

Old metaphors and new tricks

I wrote in February about the concept of Digital Pioneer - a Digital Immigrant perhaps, who grows up with the technology and embraces it - the Tech Adopter.
Prensky's Digital Native/Immigrant distinction seems dated (well, it was from 2001). This was brought home to me participating in Marilee Sprenger's presentation on "The Digital Brain in the Classroom: bridging the digital divide to improve learning", at the Learning & the Brain conference in Boston. She used the Native/Immigrant metaphor and was questioned about it by one of the audience. He pointed out that yesterday's immigrants are today's natives, and that we have done this always - that is, through each different technological cycle, whatever the technology.
Metaphors and models are useful but have a sell-by date.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, especially when that dog is part of the community learning experience.
Part 2: but here is something interesting. Gary Small's research (i-Brain: surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind) shows how computer naive brains can light up, in the same areas as computer savvy brains, after training (reading a passage - both had similar activation areas in the brain; searching on Google, naives had same reading pattern, savvies had additional areas lit up in the left front of the brain [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] which controls ability to make decisions, integrate complex information, sensations and thoughts as well as working memory [p16, 17]).
When the net naives where taught to use Google search and practised a little, their brains lit up like the net savvies. So research shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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