Wednesday, 9 February 2011

When Age is NOT About Chronology

Anyone who stops learning is old - whether at twenty or eighty (Henry Ford)

Today I was watching a video with my class. We are currently exploring the origins of the Internet and were watching Nerds 2.0.1 - an entertaining look how the Internet has come to be. Whilst this documentary was produced in 1998 (at the height of the dot com boom) and in some ways is dated, it contains lots of interesting information.

In the first section, the host, Robert X. Cringely (writer Mark Stephens) laboriously highlights the speed of change in the world of technology - especially in Internet development at that time.

He likens an "Internet Year" to the concept of a dog year; ie things were happening so fast that one year seemed like seven - time was racing by - change was happening rapidly.

A theme was developing in my boys' minds that "this was all about young people!" That technological change was for the young! Many boys cited the experiences of observing their parents struggle with technology as "proof" of this theory.

As a more mature member of the class, I offered myself as an example to disprove their generalization, only to be told that I was different because "you studied that to be a teacher of this subject sir!" Some did concede that it was possible for some (chronologically) older people to survive in this technological world.

I was reminded of the much talked about "Digital Native". Simply put - the dividing of the populous into Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants based on ones chronological age.

Personally I have drawn issue with those that simply use this model.

Firstly, rather than two distinct groups, such classification would be better described along a continuum. People do not neatly fall into the two groups.

Secondly, whilst Presnky is typically correct about the kinds of technological experiences and stimulations to which the younger generations are exposed resulting in different thinking patterns- I see many examples daily of young people displaying the characteristics of a Digital Immigrant and Digital Natives who are far more mature than The Prensky model would typify.

Some make the mistake of assuming that because our children have always had this technology around them, that somehow they are better equipped to survive in this rapidly changing, technological world.

The reality for me is that this is not about age.

One of the few constants in modern life is CHANGE.

The most important skill we can have is the ability to learn - to unlearn - and to relearn.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. (Alvin Toffler)

When we no longer have the ability or desire to adapt, to change, to learn - this is when we truly age.

Our job as educators must primarily be to instill a love and passion for learning in our students. A desire to find the answer.

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. (John Cotton Dana)

Our students must see in us our own personal quest for understanding the world around us. Our ability to adapt to the change which is the reality of the world around us. Our passion, not only for our subject areas, but for learning in general.

If we fail to do this we truly are old - whether we be twenty or eighty!