Our Digital Kids

Below is an excerpt from a book written in 2010 by Jason Ohler (jasonohler.com) titled Digital Community, Digital Citizen. It is a still-timely reflection on the disparity between the generation in power and the generation in our schools. It’s a tragedy that the questions he phrases below even have to be considered, really. Read on and consider how things could be different if those that participated in creating this tech-infused world cared less of themselves and more of posterity.


Our Choice for Our Children – Two Lives or One

We have a fundamental question to address with regards to educating our Digital Age children. How we answer this question will determine how we plan for and implement education in the broadest sense for many years to come. In its simplest form, the question is, Should we consider students to have two lives or one?

Allow me to restate this question with a bit more detail: Should we consider students to have two separate lives—a relatively digital free life at school and a digitally saturated life away from school—or should we consider them to have one life that integrates their lives as students and digital citizens?

The “two lives” perspective contends that our students should live a traditional educational life at school, much like their parents did, and a second, digital life outside school. It says that the technology that kids use is too expensive, problematic, or distracting to integrate into teaching and learning. It says that issues concerning the personal, social, and environmental impacts of living a digital, technological lifestyle are tangential to a school curriculum. Above all, it says that kids will have to figure out how to navigate the digital world beyond school on their own and puzzle through issues of cyber safety, technological responsibility, and digital citizenship without the help of the educational system.

On the other hand, the one life perspective says it is time to help students blend their two lives into an integrated, meaningful approach to living in the digital age. It says that if schools don’t make it their primary mission to help students understand not only how to use technology but also when and why, then we have no right to expect our children to grow up to be the citizens we want them to be and that the world needs them to be. It says that if we don’t help our digital kids balance personal empowerment with a sense of community responsibility, then future generations will inherit a world that does not represent anyone’s dream of what is best for humanity. It says that if we don’t understand that schools are exactly the place for kids to learn how to use technology not only effectively and creatively but also responsibly and wisely, then heaven help us all.

Dr. Jason Ohler is a professor emeritus, speaker, writer, teacher, researcher and lifelong digital humanist. Read more at jasonOhler.com.

Jason provides a relevant decision-making reflection based on where we’ve come regarding the gap between two worlds – one world run by an older generation who have learned to live with increasing digital demands as adults, and another world whose entire lifetime exists within the parameters of a digital society, knowing only mobile devices, mp3s, Facebook, and YouTube. Where do the two worlds come to terms? Why does one world have to submit and conform to the other? What if the balance of power were different?


How does this shape your perspective as you enter the 2012-2013 school year?

Posted in Blog, Uncategorized
One comment on “Our Digital Kids
  1. Mr. Bruce says:

    Hard to disagree with you, there. I have to admit, it has been one of my biggest fears that it would require a generational transition to usher the necessary change. It looks like it may happen no sooner. Thanks for the comment!

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