In a recent Demos report out of the UK (Their Space: Education for a digital generation), Hannah Green and Celia Hannon identify a number of ICT myths held by the moral panickers and by the followers of the digital faith. Here they are.
Moral panic myths
- The internet is dangerous for children. The Demos research showed that most children are aware of stranger danger on the internet and are quite capable of self-regulating (p. 32). This is consistent with the findings of other reports such as that put out by the NSBA (pdf, 1MB).
- Junk culture is poisoning young people and taking over their lives. Green and Hannon basically point out what an oooooold argument this is: youth culture always challenges the orthodoxy, they write, and they further point out that where once TV was the target, now the blame is spread across a wider spectrum of media (p. 34).
- No learning happens and digital technologies are a waste of time. On the contrary, students are deploying a broad range of skills when using ICTs, which, the authors argue, often gives students the confidence to succeed in other, more formal contexts (pp. 35-36). Indeed, Green and Hannon demonstrate that children are often more able to identify educationally beneficial computer games than are adults (p. 36-37).
- There is an epidemic of internet plagiarism in schools. Plagiarism should not be conflated with new ways of accessing information, say Green and Hannon (p. 38), and we need to teach students the higher-order thinking skills of critique, interpretation, assessment and evaluation.
- Young people are disengaged and disconnected. This is just flat-out wrong. Many students are using ICTs to engage with cultural and political issues and many also seek mentoring via their connections (p. 39).
- We’re seeing the rise of a generation of passive consumers. Not true. Students are taking part in media communities, gaming communities, networking communities, you name it, and often there is a large element of production, communication and creativity going on with what Net Gen are doing online (p. 40-41). Hardly passive.
Digital faith myths
- All gaming is good. There are different orders of digital activity in gaming, say Green and Hannon, and we need to be aware of that — just as many children are themselves, and not all activites are equal (p. 42).
- All children are cyberkids. Here, we have to be careful not to talk about a certain set of behaviours demonstrated by those with high access and motivation with a whole generation. Green and Hannon found that there was a gap between ‘everyday communicators’ and the ‘digital pioneers’ (p. 42-43).