Homo Interneticus

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Interesting term, isn’t it?

I heard it for the first time late Wednesday night on a BBC programme called ‘Virtual Revolution‘. I’ve heard about this programme, but hadn’t actually watched it before – sadly, only two episodes are now available on iPlayer, but they’ll do (sorry to those of you reading this from outside the UK – iPlayer won’t work for you – but you can go to the series’ website and watch there – thanks to Simon Bewick for this information: BBC  Virtual Revolution – 3D).

The series

… charts two decades of profound change since the invention of the World Wide Web, weighing up the huge benefits and the unforeseen downsides …

Two decades! That’s only half my life. For the other half it was all telephones, snail-mail, three (then four) TV channels (which only worked half the day) and later the fax. Blimey.

But what is fascinating about this idea – that essentially people, our students, are growing up ‘being connected’ – is how that is changing our approach to them as teachers, as publishers. How many times have you or I said, ‘I wish we’d had {insert something digital here} when I was teaching in {insert country here} – that would have been brilliant!’?

Ah, there it is, an ‘unforeseen downside’ perhaps – wouldn’t it have been brilliant for me as a teacher to have X or Y? Publishers will tend to see the teachers as the people they need to make materials for – after all, it is the teachers who make decisions about which course is best suited to their students. I have often heard ‘my students like/don’t like…’ or ‘my students want/don’t want’ but I fear that this is rarely the case. A truer statement would be ‘I want/don’t want…’ – on very few occasions do publishers get the chance to talk to students directly about what they would like to see in an ELT course; the students’ ‘needs’ are mediated through the teacher. Thankfully, I think teachers are mostly right, though.

But, in an interconnected world, with a student population spending more time than their teachers on the Internet, on mobile devices and knowing only an existence that is wired (‘wirelessed’?) how can we – the educators and the publishers – ever be completely sure that we are really effective in helping students to learn? For example, as others have waxed lyrical about (both approvingly and disapprovingly), we’ve all heard of teachers that ban mobile phones etc from the classroom – I won’t go into the arguments here, but I will say that I would favour bringing these tech tools in and using them to aid learning. Play to the natural inclinations of the digitally capable learner.

And not to resurrect the old debate (‘old’? sheesh!) of the digital native vs. digital immigrant (Marc Prensky)* is it not true that only at this time in history will we have the crossover between those who grew up unconnected and those who grew up knowing only connectedness. Digitally-speaking.

This video (which I’ve linked to on Twitter in the past) is one I come back to a lot – it helps me remember my role as a publisher in joining up the divide as best I can.

The problem is, perhaps, that those of us educating, creating materials, training are largely Homo Unconnecticus.

*I see Marc Prensky has a new book coming out – Teaching Digital Natives – when I get a copy, I’ll post a review.

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One thought on “Homo Interneticus

  1. Good point about what ‘I wish we’d had {insert something digital here} when I was teaching in {insert country here} – that would have been brilliant!’ usually means. I’ve just become a tutor for the Cambridge DELTA, and at times it seems like the whole course is designed to remove that thought from Ts’ minds

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