Empowering “Digital Immigrants”: Challenges and Solutions

Empowering “Digital Immigrants”: Challenges and Solutions

Shufang Shi Strause (State University of New York at Cortland, USA) and Sophia Tan (CEMSoL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1747-4.ch014
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Abstract

Contemporary research shows that a significant proportion of American K-12 teachers feel that they are inadequately prepared for the challenges of applying new and unfamiliar technology to existing curricula and using technology as part of their daily practice in classrooms (Tondeur et al., 2012). In this chapter, the authors examine how they motivate a group of in-service teachers to use emerging technology tools for teaching and learning through their educational technology courses. For a few semesters in their educational technology courses, the authors have experimented with different ways to help both pre-service and in-service teachers overcome their challenges. Through trial and error, the authors have found strategies to help these digital immigrants to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” (Toffler, 1973) their acquired misconceptions and habits regarding technology. This inquiry is a distillation of these strategies.
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Introduction

Contemporary research shows that a significant proportion of American teachers feel that they are inadequately prepared for the challenges of applying new and unfamiliar technology to existing curricula and using technology as part of their daily practice in classrooms (Tondeur, Jo, et al, 2012). Rapid technological changes will inevitably divide students and teachers into two different groups:

  • 1.

    Those who grew up with pop culture media – the type of technology and media the younger generation today are engaged in – and

  • 2.

    Those who did not (Prensky, 2001; 2013).

The former group consists mostly of young students born in the 1990s and 2000s who have had lifelong exposure to pop culture media, as what Prensky (2001, 2013) refers to as the “digital natives” (2001, 2013). The latter group, including both pre-service and in-service teachers who are less familiar with the new cultural landscape of information exchange and social media, is correspondingly the “digital immigrants.” The gap between these two groups is a major new source of problems in our education system. It is vital for the digital immigrant to become comfortable with the multi-directional, dynamic, and interactive Web 2.0 tools in use today, and engage digital natives using the technology and media they are familiar with.

In the majority of teacher education programs, the responsibility for closing the gap is largely dependent on a few educational technology courses. Frequently, these classes are where the digital immigrants become exasperated and discouraged. The authors have personally observed the hesitation displayed by digital immigrants confronted with new technologies and a new digital culture. Many in-service teachers who are enrolled in these technology courses are reluctant to learn, and are resistant towards incorporating these new technologies into their curriculum. As digital immigrants, many of these in-service teachers are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and video sharing services, and other emerging learning technologies. To bridge the gap, the digital immigrants will have to first abandon their old linear, non-interactive, and structured learning framework, face their aversion and fear, and embrace the new multi-directional non-linear framework. Only then will they become proficient in speaking the language of the digital natives and be able to teach in a way that will engage the digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2013).

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Solutions

For a few subsequent semesters in their educational technology courses, the authors have experimented with different ways to help both pre-service and in-service teachers overcome their challenges. Through trail and error, the authors have found strategies to help these digital immigrants to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” (Toffler, 1973) their acquired misconceptions and habits regarding technology. This inquiry is a distillation of these strategies.

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