Frontline: Digital Nation

I watched Frontline’s Digital Nation on television last night. I didn’t watch it on the computer because I wanted to give it my full attention while I checked my email, sent notes to Twitter, updated my blog, Facebook, MySpace page and played Phosphor.Wait, what was I watching again?

In all I thought the program was fairly well balanced. Our culture is shifting. It has not evolved. If the digital world has caused us to evolve, why do I still have faculty who need to print out pages from an online learning management system? Why are we still using an LMS? Evolution is where humans begin to develop stouter, stronger, faster thumbs because those who master rapid texting will be the ones who reproduce, but I digress.

I love the scenes where kids who are “internet addicts” are sitting right there on the computer playing games while the mother complains (she is standing right next to him) that the kids grades are down, he is on the computer 12 hours a day, he doesn’t eat right, and is becoming more and more antisocial and it us supposedly his problem. The real problem is that people do not know how to raise their children. My dad never negotiated or bargained with me. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen mothers and fathers say “wouldn’t you like to eat dinner now?” when what they should say is “Its time for dinner.” That is the real cultural shift; parents as “pals.” Teaching responsibility begins in the home. They can learn about democracy in civics class.

I feel the same way about Sherri Turkle and others when they say that “the kids do themselves a great disservice” by letting them be distracted from lectures. We are teaching children learning skills that are no longer relevant. There are so many ways to harness technology in the classroom that I find it incredible that teachers at MIT are still harnessed to the lecture method. What about using their cell phones as part of a student response system? Have the “google jockeys” in the class put notes and links up on a wiki (yes, MIT, I am available as a consultant for curriculum design). There were some good examples in the documentary of people using technology to turn poorly performing schools around. Not that the technology was the answer; it was the attention to the students that really made the difference. Technology was the medium.

The tests that show that multitaskers are poor performers only prove that tasks that merely require linear analysis are no longer the most effective use of a exo-networked brain.

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