Digital natives so smart that they do not need certificates

Digital natives so smart that they do not need certificates /img/nothing-more-dangerous.png

An interesting article at The Conversation concludes that:

perhaps it’s time for the pen to say it’s farewells for regular use in the classroom, replaced by the smartphone and relegated to ‘writing time’, just like we used to have “computer time” back when I was a kid.

I agree that, in classes where all the students and teachers have both a smartphone and affordable bandwidth always available, smartphones may do much more to improve learning than it usually happens in such classes. Let’s just not forget that such classes are much less common than we may think, even in so-called “first-world countries”.

Apart from that, there is one paragraph in that article that deserves attention:

“I found myself totally floored the first time that a student submitted an assignment via the online Learning Management System in front of me, and when I suggested that they print the confirmation page, they instead took out their phone and took a photo of the screen!"

Because those students may have just been resourceful idiots. And There’s Nothing More Dangerous Than A Resourceful Idiot (Dilbert).

The way that teacher found himself is nothing, compared to how those geniuses will feel when (not if, when) some day in the future they will discover that, for example:

  • they can’t find some document they need among thousands of pictures taken over the years, without ever bothering to file at least the most important ones separately, with a meaningful name and/or other usable “metadata”
  • they can’t efficiently extract text from them (probably not relevant in THAT specific case, yes, but vital in others)
  • in and by itself, any photo like that is worth absolutely nothing, as proof that something happened. It is trivial to write a web page that looks EXACTLY (URL in the browser address bar included) like a real confirmation, on the school website, that you passed the test, and then photograph it
  • they don’t have the file anymore, because they “just use the cloud, you know” but were never touched by abstruse concepts like cloud companies going out of business, redundant backups, data ownership…
  • etc etc…

It is probably true that the most innovative uses of new technology are much more likely to come from very young people. It is certain that very young people learn how to LOOK proficient with new technology much quicker than older people.

But assuming that, by and large, “digital natives” actually understand what they are doing with ICT just because they are digital natives would be really naive. Ditto for using the default digital habits of mainstream digital natives as THE reference best practice for reforming education.