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Myth of the Digital Native
posted by: Melissa | December 07, 2020, 05:40 PM   

This week is Computer Science Education Week and never has it been more important. This past year we have seen learning move online, we have seen bots flood social media with fake news, and viruses infect and disable school computing systems. 

 

Still, there are some educators who don’t acknowledge the importance of focusing on computer science in schools. There is a myth that has existed since I was young and persists to this day that modern children are “digital natives.” This myth asserts that because today’s children grow up surrounded by technology, they intuitively know how that technology works and will pick up skills like digital literacy, working with hardware, and basic programming skills through osmosis.

 

While being around technology certainly helps the development of these skills, any computer science teacher will tell you this is a myth. Students often struggle with basic computer skills like knowing the difference between a web page and a search engine, or how to set up a spreadsheet. Just like we explicitly teach students reading skills and math skills, we need to explicitly teach computer science skills to our students.

 

The truth is, that we do live in a world surrounded by technology and all evidence points to technology and technological skills becoming more and more entwined in our daily lives. Obviously, some students will want to go into science or tech fields and this should be encouraged, but even those that don’t choose those fields, need computer science skills. To excel, office workers need to be able to navigate computer platforms and their peripherals while using spreadsheets and databases with complicated macros and formulas. Even in “blue collar” jobs, tech skills are now a must. Service workers interact with computerized registers and reservation systems while factory workers work alongside robots.

 

Our students are not born with these skills, nor do they pick them up naturally. If we want our students to succeed in college and careers, we need to focus on these skills for more than just a week, but to make them a regular and integrated part of the curriculum.

 

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