Many of today’s students are tech-savvy. And it’s no surprise—the relevance of technology in our day-to-day lives has grown exponentially over the past few decades. We can ask a search engine almost anything and receive an answer in less than a second; and with a web of interconnected devices, we are nearly always plugged into the internet with access to tools for seemingly every purpose.
As opposed to any other generation, today’s students are entirely growing up in the 21st century and are, therefore, deeply familiar with these technologies (among many others). That said, this familiarity does not preclude them from needing instruction focused on honing their technology skills. To examine why, let’s myth-bust common misconceptions about the tech-savvy 21st century students.
Myth 1: Digital Native = Digitally Citizen
Today’s students are digital natives, but knowing how to turn on devices, start applications, or download images does not make them digitally proficient. Although growing up with technology may lower barriers to using it, it doesn’t equate to knowing why, when, and how technology should be used. It’s important for students to have digital citizenship skills, so they understand what image is appropriate to use in a presentation to convey a message, stay safe as they navigate the web, and determine credible online sources.
Myth 2: If You Can Swipe, You Can Type
Through experimentation, students as young as pre-kindergarten can learn how to manipulate applications by swiping and using their thumbs to type. But assuming students who can swipe can just as easily type does our students an injustice. Almost all technology input performed is still done through the keyboard. Students who do not have adequate typing skills are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to producing projects and communicating in the 21st century.
Myth 3: Sticks, Stones, and Words
The expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” originated as a stock response to verbal bullying in school playgrounds. Today, due to the pervasive nature of communication devices, the impact of words is much broader and more persistent. Words shared online can be amplified thousands of times over, hurtful messages can be anonymously posted, and content on the internet can have a life extending weeks, months, or indefinitely. It’s important to not only teach students the hurtful nature of bullying through words, but the extent to which cyberbullying can have a multiplying impact far beyond the initial impression.
Myth 4: If It’s on the Web, Then It Must Be True
A topic that’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now is the escalation of fake news and misinformation, whether it is intentional or not. Many adults and students still believe the web to be a reliable source of news, but the ability to determine if information comes from credible or unreliable sources is becoming increasingly difficult. Teaching students how to recognize fake news is the best defense against the spread of misinformation and an integral aspect of technology skills.
Myth 5: Coding Is Only Important for Computer Science Careers
Not every student is going to write a book, but knowing how to read and write is essential to succeeding in today’s world. Similarly, coding skills are no longer just for those looking to enter a career in computer science. Indeed, coding is elemental to 21st century students’ technology skills repertoire. Coding is based on computational thinking competencies, including algorithms, patterns, modeling, and decomposition, as well as skills like complex problem-solving and understanding how to implement and test processes. Computational thinking can be applied across a broad range of disciplines, not just coding, and will be critical for students’ career readiness.