Saturday, October 27, 2007

Digital Native Photo Of The Day

I know many folks are not enamored anymore with the digital natives versus digital immigrants analogy, but that was the most apt description I could come up with for the photo I’ll share with you in a minute.

As many of you know, I have a seven year old daughter. Most folks assume that since she’s my daughter, and because I’m perceived to be technically adept, that she must be immersed in technology. Well, she’s not. She uses a computer some and she does have a blog that she occasionally posts to, but I would guess that she’s less technologically literate than the average seven year old. Actually, I should clarify that comment; she’s less technologically literate than the average American, middle class seven year old. She’s certainly more literate than the millions of seven year olds in the U.S. and around the world that have little or no access to technology, but that’s a topic for a different post.

But she now has a new interest in the computer because a little over a week ago her friend (also seven) introduced her to Webkinz and my daughter decided to spend some of her savings to purchase a Webkinz (in her case, a black lab she named Jack). If you aren’t familiar with Webkinz, the 20-second description is that you purchase a stuffed animal, but you also go online and virtually take care of your Webkinz – play with it, feed it, play games to accumulate Webkinz money to buy it food, furniture, etc. This happened to be two days before we were leaving town for a week. (My wife and daughter are on fall break and my school feels guilty for me working basically all summer so lets me take a week off during the year if I want.)

We went to visit my in-laws in Florida. They live full-time in an RV and spend the winters in Orlando (where they lived before they retired to the RV), so we stayed at an apartment for guests on the RV campground. Like many RV campgrounds, you can get high-speed, wireless Internet access for a fee (often it’s free, but it cost us $20 for the week). I took a laptop with me so that I could do a little work each night after she went to sleep, and we thought that she might like to wind down each night after very full and active days at Disney/Sea World/the beach by spending a little time in Webkinz World.

Well, she did want to do that and that worked pretty well. But on about the third night, her seven year old friend calls on the cell phone and wonders if Abby would like to get on Webkinz World and see her “room” (the room she’s built for one of her Webkinz). So, that led to this picture (not posed). Take a look and then I’ll talk some more about why I thought it blog-worthy.

So, we’re in Florida. Abby’s seven year old friend is in Colorado. They are talking on the cell phone. Abby is sitting in an RV campground using a Dell laptop connected wirelessly to the Internet. Her friend is sitting at home on an iMac that is connected wirelessly to their cable Internet connection. And they are interacting in Webkinz world, with Abby’s friend talking her through a few things since Abby is a newbie and the friend has at least several months of experience (“It works better in Firefox.”) At one point I had to help with something, so I get on the phone and Abby’s friend talks me through it – much to the amusement of my father-in-law. The rest of the time the girls were fine on their own.

Now, this is not an exceptionally powerful example of an educational use of technology (although from what I’ve seen so far, Webkinz World doesn’t look too bad). But it brought home to me once again what a different world my daughter is growing up in compared to the world I grew up in.

Her world at seven: cell phone with free long distance, laptop, wireless broadband access, interactive web-based software. (And if I’d brought a webcam they could’ve videoconferenced as well.)

My world at seven: wired phone (I think just one in the house), we didn’t use long distance except for very special occasions because it was so expensive, no computer, no Internet (much less wireless, broadband, or web-based software), and certainly no videoconferencing. (Coincidentally, when I was seven, Intel released what’s generally considered the first microprocessor – the 4004 with 2300 transistors. Today, Intel is about to release the Penryn chip with 820 million transistors.)

Some folks may argue that they prefer my world at seven, but that’s not what this post is about. What this post is about is the fact that none of this fazed Abby. She doesn’t think it’s fantastic or outrageous, cool or amazing – it just is. She just thinks this is the way the world is – she can connect pretty much effortlessly to others across space and time - and she’s right. That doesn’t negate the fact that she had a great time at Disney/Sea World/the beach, or that she would’ve enjoyed the vacation just as much if she hadn’t happened to be introduced to Webkinz just before we left. But I think this is hugely important as we think about her education, her expectations, her capabilities, and what’s going to be possible as she grows older.

She's a native. She's connected. It just is. Shift Happens.


  1. I think that Abby's greatest strength is that she's aware of the possibilities, whether or not she chooses to pursue them.

    That awareness is what we need to foster in our students - and staff.

  2. Abby is a very lucky young lady! I know too many 7 year olds that have a childhood like you and I....boros need to catch up and offer internet access as a low cost or free utlity!

  3. It is amazing to me that at her age she looks so comfortable with what she is doing. I still have trouble talking on the phone and using the computer at the same time!

  4. My kids are off school today (for teacher class day) As I am reading this post, my 8yr old son is playing a paintball game on xbox live with a few other 7-9yr old boys. My 7yr old daughter is chatting on my cell phone with her friend while playing with a few dolls, and my 5yr old just got done watching an episode of Dora that we tivo'd last week. Do they think any of it is cool, wonderful, interesting? No... like you said, it just is.

    Another thing that gets me is the rewind on satellite tv. Often my husband and I will see something and ask each other- what did she say? More often than not, I forget that we can rewind it. The next morning, one of my kids will miss something and immediately rewind to see what was said/done or even to show me a commercial I missed ("mom, can we add that to our christmas list?" ugh) They think nothing of it.

    interesting thought- something many of us overlook everyday.

  5. I used this posting at our faculty meeting/professional learning today as a springboard about increasing the use of technology in our classrooms. It was a very powerful opening and created much discussion regarding the staffs' own children and grandchildren. It made the session more valid and relevant. This is the awareness that we need to foster in our teachers and staff.
    My child in college can text at least a word a second and she will often send me an email and then text me to read it. I wonder why she just didn't call and ask the question? But, of course, she's not in class and am I am at school and it's on her mind at this moment. You are right, this is just the way it is.