Facility vs. Fluency

We confuse kids’ facility with technology with fluency. We go on about how “tech-savvy” kids are, how the “digital natives” outpace us oldsters in what they can do. In my experience, kids who really know what they are doing technology are the exceptions, the rest of them just muddle through, doing just enough to get by. They just do it quickly, don’t get married to one service or system, and don’t get upset when things don’t work.

Digital natives are completely different than previous generations? Oh please. Of course we need to treat them differently. Every child is different, not just generationally, but individually. Of course that means a teacher has to be aware of their worldview — when has this not been true?

We wonder why students don’t have good information literacy skills, but we reap what we sow. School has traditionally set itself up to be the single, unquestioned authority – teacher, curriculum, textbook, test — all taking place in a closed classroom, the beginning, middle and end of what the student needs.

So before, kids could NOT go to the library and NOT search out primary sources and NOT find the dozens of resources that might be out there. Today, kids can NOT search effectively and NOT learn about millions of resources–really, what’s changed?

Kids have always skimmed and crammed, because you can easily complete superficial assessments that way. In fact, it’s sometimes better if you don’t think too hard, you might confuse yourself with too complex thinking on simple test questions. Now, kids just skim a lot more stuff a lot faster and more easily share their skimming with their other friends, not unlike the well-worn Cliff Notes we passed around back in the day.

We dazzle ourselves with new technology, pretending that something has changed and that by studying this change, we will magically find solutions to problems that have nothing to do with the change.

2 Replies to “Facility vs. Fluency”

  1. I was thinking about Joyce Valenza’s comment in her session at NECC when reading this–that we can’t let our students settle for a “good enough/why bother” world.

    Although I agree with your comment that many students have technology skills, many of them aren’t that information savvy. But it seems to me that many of the ones that have the facility, also have the savvy–but a lot of others are still “wandering in the dark” online. It is too often assumed that all students “know what they’re doing” and therefore don’t need guidance or support.

    I do think our students learn differently, as per some things that Doug Johnson spoke about in his NECC session and that came up in the session VErizon sponsored. They are definitely quicker at everything….whether that is a good or bad trait–their expectation is that things are more immediate. This is an area where I feel like schools are struggling, because as institutions we move so slowly.

  2. I appreciate your comments, Carolyn. I think we have to be as precise as we can when we talk about things like expectations. Sure expectations have changed, but that change may or may not imply that learning has changed. I believe it’s always part of the package of being an educator to be aware of the world of the people you are teaching. Judging whether it’s a good or bad trait seems like a sidebar discussion – not really relevant and sort of like complaining about the music kids listen to these days…

    I think schools do move slowly, but it’s just a distraction to blame technology for teachers not connecting with students, mistrusting students, or treating students like they are unknowable aliens from planet X. As a flip side of that coin, it’s just as silly to say that technology will solve thiese problems.

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