Sometimes you just have to write…
Okay, I have a website. I have a blog. I set up a Yahoo group for my students. I know how to use msn and Skype and most of the Office Suite and I can make a simple quiz using Hot Potatoes. This does not make me a computer expert!
People keep taking me for a digital native! The other day, when I had to do a presentation with my team leader for a group of parents, she sent home the man who supplies and sets up the beamer. She said, “You know how to do it.” I didn’t. Fair enough, we figured it out with very little trouble, but the fact is I had never actually set one up before! (Never mind the fact that I’d brought the wrong memory stick and had to go speeding home to get the right one!)
We do an annual project at school, in which the students can choose from a list of workshops, all built around one theme. One of the workshops, I was told, was to produce a website reporting on the activities of all the other workshops, and I was in charge of it. I asked who was assigned to show the students how to set up the website. The answer: “You can do it, can’t you?”
The fact is, I can’t! Yes, I set up a website several years ago, but it took me weeks and a whole lot of cursing and help from several other people to get it going, and it’s incredibly childish-looking and even my students think it’s funny how amateurish it is! (It won’t look bad for much longer, but only because a student ordered me to stop using Frontpage and ws_ftp and wait while he completely redesigned it for me. It looks wonderful and professional and it’s almost ready to go on-line so I don’t have to be embarrassed anymore! Thank you, Wouter!)
So what’s going on? I think that I just immigrated to Digitalland a little earlier than most of my colleagues. I’m no more a digital native than they are; I’ve just had more time to learn the language. Okay, perhaps I’ve been a bit more willing to learn the language than some of them, but the basic idea of computers and how they work is as much a mystery to me as it is to them.
This metaphor of “digital native” and “digital immigrant” is very apt, by the way. There are very neat parallels between that and my experiences being an immigrant to Holland. After 10 years, I still don’t speak Dutch like a native or understand the Dutch people or culture like a native. I’ve owned a computer since I bought my first Macintosh 512 enhanced back in 1987, but I still don’t understand how any of it works.
(And that was a much simpler machine. There was no hard drive, only 512kb of RAM, whatever that means. There was one floppy disk drive. If I wanted to use a word processing programme, it had to be on a floppy. I would insert the floppy, write the document, and then have to take out the floppy and put in another to save the document onto. That saving process usually involved switching between the two disks numerous times, as the computer demanded.)
Another analogy might be cars: I can drive one just fine, but I haven’t a clue how they work.
What it comes down to is that I’m a fraud. Not intentionally, mind you! I don’t make any pretense of being an expert, but, well, there it is.