Demos: Their Space Revealed

Via the venerable Kerrie Smith from education.au comes a link to a must read report from the UK Demos organisation, the ‘the think tank for everyday democracy‘. Some 81 pages in length, the report draws on a range of date collections including focus groups, diaries, polls of parents and interviews with more than 60 students across the UK.

“The baseline finding from our research was that the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation, and it is now fully integrated into their daily lives. The majority of young people simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites. However, we discovered a gap between a smaller group of digital pioneers engaged in groundbreaking activities and the majority of children who rarely strayed into this category. Meanwhile, contrary to society’s assumptions about safety, this generation is also capable of self-regulation when kept well informed about levels of risk. Finally, many children we interviewed had their own hierarchy of digital activities when it came to assessing the potential for learning. In contrast to their teachers and parents they were very conscious that some activities were more worthwhile than others.”

The report is full of fascinating vignettes and insights, (I particularly liked the notion of teenagers doing things as a matter of course today that ten years ago the equivalent group of teenagers never have even thought of). The notion of a generation who no longer had cause to remember when they first came across a computer also struck a chord.

The report discusses the disconnect between policy makers ideas on what future economies will be based and how students can be best prepared for it. The dichotomy between encouraging creativity and the imperative to teach for measurable skills is explored. It suggests very strongly that there needs to be greater recognition of students as ‘critical participants’ in the learning process.

The report also seeks to debunk the notions of ‘moral panic’ and ‘digital faith’ that seem to pervade most discussion around children and students and ICT; the idea that everything online is either riddled with pornography or bullying or is the magic bullet that will make this generation one of geniuses. Through reference to the interviews and other data, the report explores eight of these ‘myths’.

The report concludes with a look at what some successful students consider to be significant experiences in their learning. As one of the students said one of the keys is

“I don’t let school interfere with my education if that’s what you mean.”

Echoing similar sentiments David Warlick alerts us to a newly reworked version of the Did You Know YouTube video with particular reference to the chronological development of the video from its earlier version through to this one. Warlick also alerts readers to eht Shift Happens wiki.

Taken together, the Demos report and Did You Know present a real challenge for we teachers interested in the best connect between ourselves our students and technology.

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