The dominant information technology has been print for so long that it has been natural for generations of students and teachers to conclude skills using text should be the focus of what we do in schools. Many of today’s educators were adolescents when print still dominated culture, but print is being replaced by digital electronic information. This is leading to dissonance in several aspects of information technology that have implications for educators.
Information technology has penetrated much further into young people’s lives than it did in previous generations. For the adult who grew up with a phone that was attached to the wall of one’s home and shared with all members for the family, the concept of each child having a phone for his or her own exclusive use that is always in his or her pocket seems unnatural (this perception is disappearing as digital immigrants become cell phone users—frequently a practice they adopt to maintain contact with their children). The digital generations live in a world where it is natural for everyone to have and control a device to connect to information and interaction all the time.
In modern ICT, multiple capacities have converged in one device so the same handheld device is used for phone calls, short message system (text) messages, taking pictures and video and accessing web sites (as well as any other function for which there is an app). This seems unnatural to adults whose phones and cameras and notebooks were different devices. Because convergence is especially observed in handheld devices, all of these information tools are becoming ubiquitous and can reasonably be used applied to cognitive tasks in the classroom. Students have the capacity to take a picture of notes and diagrams drawn on the board, they have calculators, and they have the capacity to post notes on the web using the devices in their pockets.
Whereas the information skills necessary for using print were largely taught through formal instruction, the skills for using 21st century ICT are being learned organically and informally. Because devices and needed skills change so rapidly, those who are quick learners about ICT tend to be the most skilled users of ICT. Also, those who persevere when they encounter difficulties using ICT and those who are resilient after difficulties, tend to have higher levels of satisfaction when using ICT, and that satisfaction is associated with a positive affect towards technology and higher skill with technology.
Digital electronic networked information technology is changing the nature of social interaction, and thus it is redefining the information skills necessary for and expected by the digital generations. Specifically, Mark Deuze (2006), a scholar from Indiana University, Bloomington, identified participation, remediation, and bricolage as skills needed for the 21st century media landscape. Whereas previous generations were primarily consumers of media, there is an emerging expectation that individuals participate in the creation of the digital media landscape as much as they consume in that landscape. Social networking sites and media sharing sites are examples of ICT that encourage this participation. The Internet provides access to vast information from sources of dubious reliability necessitating individuals take a more active role in assessing and evaluating the information then was necessary when most print-based information had been professionally reviewed and edited; this necessitates users remediate the information they use. Bricolage is a term that refers to one’s openness to exploring new technologies and tools, and discovering both how a new tool can be used to perform familiar tasks and to discover how a tool can be used to perform tasks not previously known. Being a bricoleur requires one to approach a new technology with openness to new connections and without feeling compelled to follow prescribed uses.
Deuze, Mark. 2006. “Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture.” The Information Society 22(2): 63-75. doi:10.1080 /01972240600567170.