A student recently wrote an essay in class and left the computer lab. She returned the next day, logged in, and could not find her essay. She asked me to help. “Where did you save it?”
“What was the file name?”
She was only passingly familiar with the idea of “saving a document,” and the idea of being able to save it in different “locations” was completely alien to her. She was not underprivileged at all. In fact, she was fairly typical.
We assume that each generation will be more skilled with computers. People bandy about the term, “digital native.” I know a few teachers that are coming to the realization that I have: kids today, in high school and middle school, are actually quite clueless about computers.
They can use cellphones and social media adeptly, but these are limited. Using basic word processing programs is a dying art. They may be able to open a document, but creating tables and manipulating the text is beyond their abilities. Some students have submitted essays written in the notepad programs on their smartphones.
Their attempts at cheating are hilarious. Students have cut web content and pasted it, colors and sans-serif font and all, into a word document.
Even scarier is the acceptance, without reservation, of the first results of a Google search. “The internet said so.” Many students do not even read beyond the short summary under the search result. Hand them a textbook, and many students have no idea how to use the index. I’m not kidding.
People between the ages of 30 and 45 form, I assert, the “Digital Greatest Generation.” We are old enough to understand the analog world and young enough for computer use to feel natural.
All this talk of teaching coding in schools is great, but most students today need much more basic skills. Here are a few suggestions:
The title of this blog post is not meant to trivialize the accomplishments of the WWII generation, but there is a parallel: they lived through the transition to a globalized world. We have not made the personal sacrifices they did, but we lived through the transition to an online world. It is our responsibility to prevent the younger generations from getting lost in it.
I'm an entrepreneur and I teach math, history, economics, and fitness. I'm looking for arguments.