Growing up digital

Key question: What does it mean for schools and educators to have students in their classrooms who have grown up “digitally”

Watching the video, Digital Media – Learners of the 21st Century, was interesting as there was one rather powerful statement that stood out for me. It indicated that the use of technological tools – whether they be computers, devices, programs etc – should be seamless, non intrusive, they should just be. This is something that I am finding with my minecraft kids. They constantly use a range of technologies to enable their learning. This learning takes on a collaborative form that relies on peer based learning.

From a schooling perspective what does this mean? As with any large organisation the uptake of change is slow and consequently can seem out of touch with where individuals are. It is interesting to listen to John Seely Brown who talks about learning in a digital age. He talks in depth about the need for tinkering and its power to enable today’s students to embrace change. He also discusses peer based learning, the need for social learning and the importance of play, the notion that it is okay to keep trying to bring about the perfecting of a skill, concept etc… When I consider the notion of social learning it sparks the question in me as to whether we as teachers are providing opportunities for this to occur. Do some of our imposed school policies reduce the potential of social learning at the moment due to our fear of the unknown? I feel that sometimes we are in lock down mode within the school system, blocking anything that could be potentially harmful.

Lyman, Thorne and Carter (2009) discuss the concepts of “hanging out, messing around, and geeking out” This morning I was fortunate to see this start to occur with some students who were participating at the VWBPE conference. To see a student who is 14 years old compliment a student who is 11 years old in relation to her skills and knowledge, with regard to minecraft, highlights the importance of going beyond the rigid notion of the classroom and allowing it to become a place where students are able to participate in peer based learning. The 14 year old has a lot to offer the younger student but equally the 11 year old has much to offer back.

Our practice as teachers in the classroom with students who are digitally connected does need to evolve to a position that is more focused on being a facilitator, mentor and role model of and for learning. We need to start to allow ourselves the freedom to experience the immersion into the digital tools/new media literacies that engage our youth. Not from a superficial perspective, but from one that allows us to participate and understand the needs and issues faced in these environments. This leads to grasping the concept of identity, ethics and responsibilities. There are incredible opportunities for young people to have a voice using social media, be creative using a range of digital tools along with developing connections with those that share their interests, there are also perils. Hence the importance for those in an educative role to support the learning required to navigate new media and in the process provide real moments for students to learn the importance of being ethical, responsible and developing more than just an awareness of how this creates their identity on line. We need to allow them to be in an online environment. Accepting that a young persons identity exists in both the online and physical world is required to enable young people to participate in learning in today’s society. A young person determines their identity in both and as the use of technology is ubiquitous so is the way they move between their identities.

The beauty of new media literacies is that they offer an authentic learning space, so the learning that goes on is real; it has an audience and as a result has incredible power for engagement.

This video is an example of social learning. The student had not attempted videoing before and consequently developed his skills and understandings to produce it using a peer-learning network that he collaborated with and of course an audience that gave feedback. The video was created by one student and is their personal work; it is not the work of those that he engaged with to build his skills and knowledge. This video provides and example of how this student is developing his identity in the online environment. The unfinished product was placed on YouTube for peer review. During this process other students learnt powerful lessons about their own online identity through they way they phrased up feedback.

We have so much to learn from our students in relation to their learning. Maybe we need to participate in social learning and peer based learning with them.

James, C., Davies. K., Flores, A., Francis, J., Pentingill, L., Rundle, M. and Gardner, H. Young people, ethics, and the new digital media. pp.1-62. Available:

Lyman, P., Ito, M., Thorne, B. and Carter, M. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge: MIT Press/MacArthur Foundation.

Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital. Philadelphia: Basic Books.


About dbatty1

I'm a teacher who loves to dabble with a range of technologies that enhance learning. At the moment I have taken a sea change delving deeper into social media. FTW
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