Does Digital Dualism Exist?

Posted on September 26, 2015. Filed under: digital citizenship, Ed800, educational |

After reading and watching this week’s #Eci832 videos and articles, I want to have a little discussion on digital dualism. Is there such a thing as an offline and online self?

First, I want to address Marc Prensky’s idea of a digital native.  I, for one have used this term. I think I may have even used that term in my class blog or on notes to parents. This is the first time I have heard of someone not agreeing with it!  To be honest, I really liked their arguments. I liked that people such as beard man and David White, argued that it has more to do with the person, familiarity with tech, and individual context then a child’s age in what makes a digital native. I actually agree. That said, I don’t think I am going to retract my words to parents.  The students that I am dealing with now have plenty of access to technology, and from my experience, I have not come across any 5-8 year old student who didn’t know how to fluently use the hardware in my class. By addressing my students as “digital natives,” I want the parents to see that there is a place to teach these digital natives how to use technology as a tool for learning since they are already so comfortable with using the device.

Maurizio Pesce Digital Native

Maurizio Pesce Digital Native

What I find I have been fighting more, as of late, is the idea of digital dualism. I have some colleagues and parents who don’t agree with using technology at my grade level (grade one). Some are under the belief that it is pedagogically inappropriate, and others feel like their kids are too tech obsessed, so more access to technology in schools is a bad thing. I feel like we have reached the pendulum swing. When vaccines were new, people were very excited about them and happy about this new breakthrough. Enter the anti-vaccine movement.  When technology in schools was first an option, it was written into the curriculum and the computer lab was born. Some have now swung to the other side and are against it. Meet the Neo-Luddites.

After reading this article, I now agree with the author, and believe that digital dualism is a fallacy.  I do not believe that there is an online and an offline self. I don’t believe that just because the students are in a classroom that is not using technology, that the students are not thinking of it, being shaped by it, or posting things applicable to their lives later. (Ok maybe not a ton in grade one, but you never know!) I have parents who tell me that they want to protect their children, and so they don’t let their kids use technology at home.  I often want to ask them if they really think their kids aren’t watching YouTube videos or playing Minecraft at their friend’s houses. Is there really a way to “protect” your kids from technology, and is it something to be protected from?

Let me be straight. Balance is key.  I don’t think I would be a very good grade one teacher if the only learning tool we used was technology. I love the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood, and I think Sweden’s outdoor school is fascinating… I definitely wish we did more teaching/learning outside! I want to be a balanced teacher that shows students how to be balanced as well.  But while I am teaching my grade one students how to be digital citizens, I am also spending the first two weeks of our social unit teaching them how to be good “in person” citizens. Guess what? That’s not in the curriculum! But I’m not blind.  I also see how all of us can be guilty for not holding eye contact during conversations, or showing impolite habits of checking phones at inopportune times. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? Why not take this opportunity to teach children how to engage in “old fashioned” conversation.  I explain how to introduce themselves.  They learn how to answer a question and then throw the ball back and ask another one.  We even spend time looking at how to exit and enter conversations. We are learning how to be a good citizen and person all the time.

Do I think that technology has a part to play in these student’s lack of traditional conversation skills? Yes probably! But I don’t think that trying to “live offline” is the answer either. Furthermore, I disagree with Sherry Turkle when she says that “We need to focus on the many ways technology can lead us back to our real lives, our own bodies, our own communities, our own politics, our own planet.” I actually think technology connects and captures our real lives, our own bodies, our own communities, our own politics, and our own planet.” That is why I am going to continue using it as a learning tool in my classroom.

Troy Fleece

Troy Fleece

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One Response to “Does Digital Dualism Exist?”

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Hi Danielle – I’m so glad you spent some time reflecting on digital dualism!

I agree, Jurgenson’s idea of we are never logged off, is an interesting concept. Whatever we are doing while not ‘online’ has still become so much of our thought process of what we will be putting online, that it is in fact all connected.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching young children how to use and interact with technology – my 3 year old can access our word games on my ‘phone’ as well as the ipad, and that’s ok.

This is the world we live in now and we are almost at the point that if we are not giving children access to these things, they are going to be at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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