High School vs. College : A Digital Divide in My Face

This morning I was asked by my program director, Kathy Skubikowski, if I would join her in a brief presentation of writing at Middlebury to a group of high school students from New York City. Sure, I said, I’d be glad to give them the whizz-bang show of digital stories and blogging pizazz that my students having been blazing trails with up here in Vermont. I’m good at showing off.

What a trip. And an important message. While they did admire the work I showed them from the Contemporary Ireland Seminar Blog, but they weren’t wowed by it, something that a good teacher picks up on immediately (or any teacher half awake noticing the polite expressions tattooed to their faces).

So I stopped and asked how many of them had done Web writing projects and iMovie work in school, and yup, almost all of them had done both! They knew what I was getting at; they understood the possibilities and the accomplishments–they were just surprised, perhaps, that we thought it was news! Yessir. Finally.

Okay, so I have to factor into the equation that each year my students will be more and more comfortable with technology to the extent that they’re able and willing to push the envelope in ways I can’t even imagine. They’re going to leave yours truly in the old dust. And you know, that’s as it should be.

Of course the worrisome reality for the short term has to do with the tension this is creating in higher ed institutions– see my recent posting about Duderstadt’s contention about kids in the classroom. The real digital divide will ultimately be generational in this country at least. Some of the most traditionally “marginalized” schools are doing fabulous things with writing and technology. It is our faculty that is least able to take advantage of the rich possibilities of integrating blogs and digital stories and who knows what else into our disciplines–and the kids will demand it or they will divide themselves into the producers for an almost-obselete mode of academic discourse when they are in our classrooms, and smile winningly at us while they’re doing it when really, at the back of the room, they’re not taking notes on those laptops–they are brilliantly adept at listening to us (at least as much as is necessary) while they’re conducting business and romance and attending to friendships and creating all kinds of magic and mayhem.

Can’t wait for the fireworks!

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