Frontline: Digital Nation

With the cold weather and snow, last night felt like a cool time to curl up on the couch and watch TV. I did not like any of the options – until I saw Frontline. This is not a program that normally catches my attention; however, the topic was Digital Nation.

They looked at many subtopics that were high interest to me as a Middle School Teacher and a student myself with Learning Technologies. I would highly recommend watching the show (the entire program is available online for people to watch). Some of the topics covered:

  • The developmental challenges that will face young students who are constantly exposed to technology.  It is also a challenge for teachers. The media has been saying that students brain’s are ‘wired differently’ it is really a change in mentality. Why should they memorize rote answers, like the capitals of each state, if that can be searched and instantly found.
  • Are people truly able to multitask? The answer was no. People think they can multitask, but they get distracted and have lower actual performance on all the tasks. What is interesting in the moment captures the attention, for however short term that is. Boring textbooks are not able to compete at all.
  • The reporter visited South Korea to see what they are doing. South Korea was ahead of the digital curve, so they are seeing some negative ramifications first as well. They have diagnosed digital addictions, especially for video games. They are now being proactive by teaching healthy computer use and digital etiquette to students in early elementary school.
  • There was lots of exploration into digital worlds – which is something I have not explored yet. I can see myself being hooked, but I would hope I would not get to the point where I quit my job so I could play World of Warcraft all day.
  • The conversation about where schools are heading was extremely interesting. It was interesting to see how a middle school dealt with being a 1:1 school (ratio of laptops to students). Their teachers were doing many of the same things I see in our Middle School – the difference is we do not have all our classes at 1:1. The vice principal demonstrating how they check up on student use was amusing. He said he spent a little time each day just checking what random students had running on their laptops. Many girls used the webcam as a mirror to fix their hair –  he said if he saw that, he would take a picture, and the student would realize someone was watching and get back to work.
  • I did not agree with everything that was said about exclusively using video games for education. Games have their place in education, but it can not replace education. I have watched students play games repetitively – they do not know the correct answer, but they eventually learn what they have to do to move on.

As a follow up to the program, there is a robust discussion forum.

While watching the program I did a lot of reflective thinking about my students and the influence that technology has on their learning. I think the most interesting take-away from the program was the one scientist saying how the media takes results, compresses them into a headline, and runs with it. Yet, just showing such a small portion of the results skews everything. I remember when headlines everywhere were declaring that Google makes you smarter. Dr. Gary Small said that the Google research was summarized incorrectly. It is not necessarily a good thing that your brain is glowing on a brain scan; it means the brain is having to work hard. He compared it to people working out in a gym: you could be really strong and work your muscles with ease or you can be weaker and struggle to lift the same amount of weight. The people who struggled would have their muscles lit up on a scan. This implies that internet searching can build our ability to think, but at the same time, even to internet savvy people it is not as natural a function as reading.

About Lisa Butler

Middle school geography teacher, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of purposeful technology and am creative with their application. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading children's books, baking with a toddler sidekick, running around, or dreaming of traveling.
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