The Digital Abyss?

29 Sep

My college reading class was discussing the Lonelygirl15 video blog phenomenon the other day  in which an actress and script writer “fooled” millions of viewers for more than 4 months by having her pretend to be a 15 year old girlbeing raised in a very strict religious household.  Lonelygirl15 had posted video “diaries” every few days on about her daily angst as a “teenager.”  (She later was outed as an actress and appeared on Jay Leno as herself – a 20something graduate of NY acting school).

I’d written a blog post about it, included some of the video, and assigned my students to read it and post a reaction to it – this was to promote their digital literacy skills. To my great surprise (Prensky didn’t prepare me for this), about 40% of my students in this class, while liking the subject matter, have not liked going out on the internet.  I did all the normal preteaching – demonstrated where the site was, how to make a comment, gave them a handout to take with them even – but there has been some complaining. So I took the time yesterday to investigate the root of the problem…and I think I get it. 

It’s “The Gap.”

Most of the students in my classes were students who were in remedial or “basic” courses all through their public education, according to my pre-course survey, and some did not graduate at all so they are completing their ABE or high school diploma here at the college. They didn’t go to the computer lab in College Prep Biology; they didn’t use graphing calculators in Advanced Algebra because they never took Advanced Algebra; and the highest form of technology they use regularly is a cell phone or maybe an .mp3 player. 

Even at their young age…they are digital immigrants…and are resistant to the technology. Comments included, “I prefer working with paper and pencils” or “I hate that in all my classes at this college it seems like every teacher is trying to make us use the computers in some way” and “All this logging in stuff for every little thing is confusing.”

I keep having this image of the wave of immigrants coming to this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s – those that adapted to the language and culture survived and thrived, while those that didn’t became increasingly closed off and dependent upon others to translate so they could get basic  goods and services.   And then I project into the digital future another 10-15 years, and I wonder what is in store for the type of student sitting in my class.

Will the  digital divide become something insurmountable? A digital abyss?

Ellis Island Immigrants

Tags: , , , eLearning, ,


Posted by on September 29, 2006 in Teaching Online


2 responses to “The Digital Abyss?

  1. Daniel Livingstone

    September 30, 2006 at 4:04 am

    Nice piece. As it happens, I don’t think its as simple as a digital divide thing – though that is part of it. In short, not all children enjoy playing with technology equally.
    And many of those that do enjoy playing games, and using mobile phones, websites and mp3 players without significant desire to go beyond this.
    I recently found a piece by the director of learning of the UK’s Futurelab (one of the most innovative agencies we have for introducing new technology into the classroom) on the myth of the digital native here:


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