Exposing a Popular Myth

One of my favorite thinkers/critics out there, Barry Bachenheimer, did something last week that I have wanted to do for a while: he surveyed his high school students about their use of technology and their opinions about it. Seeing his results makes me want to do this even more so now. here is a smattering of the responses he got:

1. All kids are tech savvy and are using lots of Web 2.0 tools.

False. Based upon a recent survey at our high school, I found the following:

Do you do any of the following on a regular basis (check all that apply)

Read a blog
Post comments to a blog
Write a blog
( 7%)
Post to a wiki
( 1%)
Listen to a Podcast
( 9%)
Create a podcast
( 2%)
Download Music
Upload music
Download photos or video
Upload photos or video
Create videos, but don’t upload them
Text message
Send photos or videos I take with my phone


5. Technology is needed to students to learn in the 21st century.

I feel that learning with technology improves my achievement.

Strongly Agree







( 6%)

Strongly Disagree

( 3%)

no answer

( 0%)

In every conversation I have with teachers and parents, I really try to stress the fact that while yes, this group of children has grown up with digital technology ingrained in their lives, their ability to use it critically and meaningfully is as raw and undeveloped as any adult figure, including their teachers and parents. Barry’s results above point to the fact that students have not been taught the value in using social technology for research and critique, of blogging for meta-cognitive analysis of yourself, or of the myriad ways to visualize complex data using simple web-based tools.

On Thursday of this week, we presented for the parents of our middle school, well the parents who decided to come, about what we are doing in regards to learning, teaching and educating with regards to technology. Our presentation, entitled “Supporting your Digital Child” was put on by Erica Hartman (6th Grade English teacher), Patrick Chodkiewicz(Technology Coordinator), Fran Schlenoff (Guidance Counselor), Brad Davis (Assistant Principal) and myself. Our intent was to open their eyes to what it is we do with technology, and the potential uses of technology in the classroom. We also gave them a brief understanding of the dangers associated with raising children in an online world. However, our intent was not to give them all the answers. We really wanted them to start asking more questions. We showed them Karl and Scott‘s “Did You Know,” and at the end, I really wanted them to pick up on the questions that they lay out to parents: what is your school district doing to help prepare your students for this world? I want them to show up and ask these questions, and I can’t wait to help design the answers to them.

One of the most memorable exchanges during the evening came in my last session when a parent asked me what to do if their child asked for a Myspace or Facebook account. My reply began by telling them to assess the maturity level of their son or daughter and how well they could trust him or her, but then something clicked as I was speaking and I blurted out during their response: “You should get one yourself right now and figure out how it works. Why wait until they ask you? They might not even ask anyway.”

To wrap up a somewhat meandering thought-stream here, I would have to say that as lost as some parents might be feeling amid all of this new terminology, they can take solace in the fact that the learning curve is not steep, and that for most things that relate to school, their children will be facing the same climb. Barry’s results from the teachers are another story, but even then, if there is one thing that our teaching staff can do, it’s adapt to changing students, which is exactly what we are facing now.

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10 thoughts on “Exposing a Popular Myth

  1. Patrick:
    I find similar results among my students (and own children). They use the Internet to play, but really need training in the use of the tool as a scholarly device.

    I surveyed my seventh and eighth graders about the tools they use back in September and found the results mirror the ones in your blog and point to a lack of understanding as to why they should care about their rights as authors on the Internet.

    For example, about 5% of the seventh grade had their own accounts for RSS readers or bookmark sites. On the other hand, 60% had accounts on various game sites such as Runescape or Club Penguin.

    There is no better advice you could have given the parent than to create their own account on Facebook or Myspace. You’re also right in that their children may not even ask to create an account. My son is in the middle of the seventh grade and so far has no desire for those types of accounts. He also knows that when he creates one, I expect to be able to access the account.

    I’d be curious to learn what your English teacher, technology coordinator, guidance counselor and avp had to say in the discussion. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Patrick,

    Thanks for passing this along as it is fascinating.

    We’re in the midst of a project and in doing so, I’ve noticed while are students are more tech-savvy in terms of the basics, they were pretty inexperienced at using any of the “web 2.0” sites that most of us are familiar with, with copyright issues, or with digital storytelling.

    So I do think the more experience and guided practice we can provide within our curriculums, the wiser they will be in their own technology rich environments.

    And I think it’s valuable to learn together, and to let students know that we are learning together(whether as parents or educators!)

  3. Patrick: Quite an interesting survey, and it seems to bolster what I’ve noticed anecdotally in my experience. In fact, I’ve been surprised at how little kids now about some of the tools I’ve introduced. It seems to me that one of the jobs of us as educators is to make these tools relevant for them. Like Ann said above, many of the kids are using the internet for entertainment and game sites, but not transferring it to their learning. My hunch is that teachers are in the same boat: most probably are fairly savvy at shopping online, but not as tuned in to the potential for educational applications and learning. As teachers, we can’t expect students to just “get it” because a computer is used in the lesson. We need to teach them the necessary skills. We need to learn it ourselves first, however.

    Along a similar vein, isn’t this divide how it’s always been with adults and young people? Adults and kids living in different worlds, in this case, different digital worlds.

    Thanks again for your always thoughtful posts. It’s a pleasure to read your blog.

  4. Ana,

    I’ve noticed you have been using SurveyMonkey a lot recently. Not to get all caught up in a tool, but I truly believe that surveying our students and our staff, in my case, is one of the best methods to get a quick snapshot of what we are doing and the message that is being received. One of the most important things to do before teaching is to get a handle on the misconceptions that are out there among your students. Surveys take care of that nicely.

    I am going to pass this along to our Assistant VP and to the others in the group that gave their presentation the other night to see if they have more to add, but we have already received some great feedback from parents regarding the presentation. They want more, and they want separate classes for each topic!

  5. Carolyn,

    Guided practice is key, and I know that through the work you do (the Vietnam project is nearing its completion, correct?) that you are giving students logical and pertinent choices. One of the things that is most useful about some of the research methods is the apparent effortlessness of it via RSS and through the use of some great data mining tools of the deep web. Your students are truly fortunate to have someone like yourself who is as intellectually playful as they could ever wish to be.

    By the way, I caught your comment on the T.C. Williams piece in the Post. Spot on!

  6. Bing,

    It’s good to hear from you, and thank you for the kind words. I think you hit on something that is essential to any successful pedagogical shift regarding technology and learning, and technology or learning: that there has to be meaning and value behind a method before it is seen as useful. Whether that is a sophomore in high school or a septuagenarian, it really has to be valuable to them personally before it becomes a tool for learning.

  7. Reading through the post, Bing spoke to what it made me think:

    Our kids are digitally immersed, but they only KNOW the tools that they need to use. Socially, this has meant Facebook or their phones or how to use web proxies to get around school blocks on Flash games.

    If we want them or expect them to know wikis, blogs, or other Web 2.0 (remember they are 1.0 to the kids) tools, then we have to make what they get out of using them meaningful and engaging. Which is fair enough. If we can’t justify powerful learning benefits for the tools then they shouldn’t need to learn them anyway.

    The strength of our digital natives/captives is that they can learn digital tools quite quickly when they need/want to. See how they learned to find html code to change MySpace page design or how they learned to download ringers for their phone or figured out bit torrent. This is what we have to tap into as their educators.

  8. Dennis,

    I see that as not only an issue with students, but also with teachers. While they may not gravitate towards getting around proxies, they definitely need to see the value of what technology can do: as you said in your post today at Dangerously Irrelevant, making them seei the value with this model as the “way they do business.”

  9. Patrick,
    Absolutely! That’s the challenge we tech and learning coordinators face…to convince teachers of the worth of the tools. While it would be great if they just accepted what I said at face value (;-)), I am glad that they too hold us accountable. We have to be able to justify the educational worth of a blog or wiki if we are going to get teachers and then kids to use it. Luckily, we can.

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