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Talking to the Natives

We got something of an unusual keynote yesterday afternoon. Instead of a standard speech, Deneen Frazier Bowen performed her four character piece called “The Natives are Restless” (you may have seen it if you’ve attended other technology conferences).

The dramatization features her portrayal of three students (the digital natives) who explain to the audience how they use technology (and their dissatisfaction with school). All of this is bookended by a teacher who very much wrapped up in data about kids relate to technology.

Bowen does a very nice job with this rather frantic presentation but, for some reason, it fell a little flat with me. I left feeling as if I missed something. Maybe I just don’t do well with allegory.

However, some of the missing pieces were filled in during a session this morning in which Bowen discussed where the characters came from. At the same time she also reinforced some excellent points about the communications disconnect between teachers and students.

She’s very right that we adults talk a lot among ourselves about what technologies to use in schools but we rarely invite the kids to join the process. But we do the same thing with almost every other aspect of education.

That point was really driven home when Bowen showed a list from the American School Boards Journal offering the top ten ways to make schools great places to learn and work.

The only place students are mentioned is number 6: Deal with student discipline. Number 8 is “Ask employees what’s going on.”

What about asking the kids? How can we make decisions about teaching and learning while leaving out the people most impacted by those decisions?

vste, deneen frazier bowen, digital natives


  1. Stephen Lazar

    Here here. While it may be impossible for the school to be as democratic as I would like it to be, I don’t see any reason why students input should not, at the VERY least, be solicited and considered in this, or any other, education matter.

  2. Susan Socha

    Hmm, just wanted to let you know that I do read your blog! I saw this presentation last year, and it left me a little flat too. It’s tiresome to keep hearing aoubt how “hip” our kids are, and how they are digital natives…. I think WE are the digital natives! We are the ones that had to learn enough BASIC to get a computer to run. We are the ones who had to load our own programs onto the computer, and put together all of the components! I would love to see how kids would react to the box of stuff that I got with my first computer! Natives…I don’t think so.

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