Just when you feel good about your digital world learning curve, a new device operating system brings a serious case of update-time discomfort. While none of us ever stops learning, sometimes these periods of relearning tasks that, in theory, we already know pretty well can be daunting.
I work with educational technology in a school, where updates are part of the job. Yet each time I need to relearn routine tasks I get a healthy reminder that when it comes to digital skill problem-solving and tinkering, I remain a digital immigrant — always a bit slower at figuring out new things than most of my digitally native students. [See note at the end of this post.]
A few nights ago, when I read the stories about the new iOS7 for my iPhone, I resolved to wait a week or two and let any glitches work themselves out. But the next afternoon, Julian, a middle school student, stopped by my technology office asking questions about the cool new iOS7 system that he was downloading — that very minute. I did not know the answers to his questions.
Aha, I thought. Some of my students may need my help. So the next morning at 5:30, I downloaded the new operating system on my iPhone. An hour later with a somewhat different looking device, I fumbled around, located my Audible account, and listened to my latest recorded book as I drove to school — while patting myself on the back. I can manage the new iOS7 — not to mention change.
Then I arrived at school, got out of the car, and could not turn off my book. For more than five minutes I stood in the parking lot tapping at vaguely familiar iPhone icons and finally managed to turn it off. But in the process I turned on some bluegrass music. I had no idea where that music was coming from, because as far as I know, bluegrass does not reside on my iPhone.
So I did what any self-respecting digital immigrant adult would do, I turned the sound all the way down and rushed, a bit late, into school.
That’s when I saw Julian.
I asked him how he was doing with his new iOS7 operating system. Needless to say, he was “doing really, really well.” I asked him about the bluegrass music that was still playing — albeit silently — on my phone. Of course, he knew just what to do. During the next 60 seconds Justin gave me a comprehensive tour of the new iPhone control panels as well as a summary of other features I might turn on by accident.
Wasn’t he just asking me for help yesterday?
Julian’s mini-tour was all I needed. For two days I’ve had great iPhone fun exploring so many neat new icons and features, including a flashlight and Siri with a variety of English dialects (my Siri now speaks as if she lives in Australia), that it almost feels like, well, a new device.
So I’m managing change — but with heartfelt thanks to Julian!
And that’s the way of the world for those who were not born into the digital era. We often need support or at least gentle nudges from children (digital natives) who cope with change (and serious updates) a lot better than we do.
But here’s the rub. No matter how fast our young 21st Century learners master new things, they still need continuous guidance from mature parents and teachers. The values that we teach and the limits we set are timeless learning tools. While applauding our kids’ amazing digital skills, we adults can model and help them understand topics such as respect, honesty, gratitude, humor, and perseverance. In an always-changing world with unending updates, it’s our responsibility to help digitally precocious children build character that will be a strong foundation for their lives in the digital world.
While operating systems change all the time, values do not.
Note: If you are not familiar with the concepts of digital immigrants and digital natives, you might want to read Marc Prensky’s 2001 essay, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.