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Prensky's notion of digital natives has been under discussion for a while as something that is not unproblematic. In a session I was involved in, facilitated by Noeline Wright, she started with a reference to the fact that 'digital native' was always supposed to be a metaphor, but it has since been used in ways that Prensky never initially meant. The notions of digital natives do not replace, for example intuition, good judgement, problem solving, and ability to discern patterns.
Noeline also pointed out that, "in an unimaginable complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human" (Prensky). This suggests that the delayed use of these types of tools will lead to impoverished use. As such, media should not be regarded merely as teaching aids or tools for learning. Education about the media should be seen seen an indispensable pre-requisite for education with or though media (Buckingham and Burn, 2007).
Critical thinking and metacognitive skills need to be present alongside engagement, intention, deliberation, self-monitoring, and self-regulation (MacDonald et al, 2011). The ability to engage often comes after the means to engage have happened. Engagement does not happen before the ability to work on the learning...that it is accessible. The learners need to have the confidence to have different points of view, to be able to agree and disagree with each other. "Extended cognition is a core cognitive process, not an add-on extra [because] the brain develops in a way that complements the external structures in ways that people who have not experience these types of interactions would be unable to do. There is a strong link between high achievement and metacognition, which "highlights the importance of learning the self-monitoring and self-regulating behaviours that will ensure task-specific meaning-making" (MacDonald et al, 2011).
"Multimodal texts are fast becoming the dominant mode of communication...students need to be a discerning user of them" (MacDonald et al, 2011). The facilitator, therefore, guides students through an analysis of the text type, working out what is conveyed, what can be deduced about the writer and/or the origin of the text, how the student located and collected information, and what produce they would create from it.
If the key focus of education is to reduce the distance between a learner and a text, and for the learner to then make that their own - then the role of the teacher is to facilitate the process, and this requires explicit teaching around critical thinking and inference. Noeline closed by saying that what she believes is that there needs to be deliberate acts to teach metacognition, and critical thinking about all types of texts.
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