Let me tell you where I am going with this in hopes that you will stick with me. Those in the midst of innovations tend to focus on how what they are doing is drastically different and better than what came before. The lens of history often reveals it was the generation before that was actually responsible for the change. In addition, a preoccupation with what is new may limit learning from what came before and it may actually be the third generation that is able to tie things together.
Back to sex (in case your mind has started to wander) – I am a product of the 60s and I was in college during the “sexual revolution”. It was a time of many changes and many challenges and an age group was labeled as if this group were somehow responsible. As participants, we thought so. However, from what I have read of historical analyses of such matters, the greatest change actually occured among those in the generation preceding the generation associated with the phenomenon.
The focus on the distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants (not my favorite terms) has elements of the same misperceptions. Mixed within the generation of digital immigrants is a group that might be called the digital discoverers. These individuals created the applications and enabled the trends responsible for the activities of the digital natives. In contrast to digital natives, the discoverers actually understand how the applications work and understand the social and technological contexts out of which these applications emerged. While it is true that an understanding of technological or sociological context are not necessary to use the present applications, I tend to believe that adapting applications occurs more productively when connections with the past are appreciated. This is true of those programmers creating new tools and also of those who use such tools. Concepts such as metadata are hardly new. Database design and relational database structure use techniques that include attaching descriptors to records and systems for linking existing databases. Perhaps the same is true for those focusing on tool applications.
Adaptation is what many are really interested in. Educators are not using blogs, wikis as they tend to be used at present – the intent is to adapt common use to classroom use. “Native” bloggers did not take up blogging within the context of “blogging to learn.” The interest in social software applications could have roots in existing experience. Researchers have been struggling with how to productively engage students in online discussion for some time. The research on “writing to learn” has a longer history. Back in the ’60s when I was told I was part of that “other revolution” there was a lot of interest in productive “face to face” discussion. What should be done to engage ALL learners? What should be done to encourage deep rather than shallow thought?
So, what has changed?