Can vs. Should

Flickr PhotoThis summer I did the unthinkable – I unplugged.

No blogging, no podcasting, no trips to DEN events or NECC (even though it was local this year)…

Well, OK, so I checked my email every now and then and occasionally  checked Plurk, but the bottom line is I took a break from all the cool stuff we in the DEN constantly talk about because I myself felt overloaded.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m still a digital immigrant when compared to my digital native students.  I may be more tech savvy than many, but I still remember a time before DSL and cable modems, a time when floppy disks really were floppy, and a time when the Apple II was more computing power than I knew what to do with.

I immerse myself in the new, cutting edge technology, but even I get overwhelmed at times.

Our students, on the other hand, have grown up with this stuff.  Social media (blogs, wikis, podcasts, Twitter, etc.) come naturally to them … sort of.

Look at it this way:

Flickr PhotoWhen I go to a library I understand what I should and should not do there, because I was taught by the previous generation.

Now imagine if I had instead entered a library without my mother there to guide me, and with the librarians possessing only a cursory knowledge of the routines and processes.

Some things would be readily apparent to me.  I could find a large variety of books and magazines.  I would quickly discover that books with similar themes were placed next to each other.  People gathering in the same location of the library would most likely be looking for the same types of books.

But could I take the books and keep them forever?  Could I use the conveniently placed copier  to duplicate an entire book and redistribute it, or perhaps parts of several books and refer to my collection as a new book?  Could I use the whole of the nonfiction section to build a giant fort which I could use to hold all others at bay?

Well, sure, I could,  but there would be certain undesirable repercussions for my actions.  What you can do is not the same as what you should do.  I know better, because I’ve been taught.

So where am I going with this?

Don’t always expect that you have to be the technology guru who can answer every question your students have about the cutting edge technology.  In all likelihood  what you can and cannot do with technology will be a learning experience for everyone involved, and nothing will be carved in stone.  With this strategy, saying “I don’t know” is acceptable so long as it’s followed with “So how can we learn the answer?”

However, your students will need you to help them understand what they should and should not do with those very same emerging technologies.  The morals and safety tips you provide them in most cases can be applied across the board to all digital technologies, which makes the slope of your learning curve just a little more gentle.

And that, I think, is something that’s just a little less overwhelming.

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