The persistent myth of the digital native

Digital native ≠ digitally competent. Librarians who work with college students in the classroom and at the reference desk are likely to understand this. Unfortunately, the assumption that today’s students naturally take to technology still persists in higher ed.

Today’s traditional-age students are digital natives. Google and Wi-Fi have been available for as long as they can remember; the first iPhone came out when they were in elementary school. But there’s a difference between familiarity and understanding. Quickly finding information online doesn’t mean you know how to evaluate its trustworthiness. Growing up using apps doesn’t mean you know how to build one. Some students are digitally savvy when they begin college. But others are not. How can a college ensure that all of its students graduate with the digital skills they will need to thrive in their careers and beyond?

Beckie Supiano, How One College Helps All Students Gain Digital Skills [paywalled]

For one, colleges can scaffold digital literacy competencies throughout the curriculum, or adapt already existing critical thinking or information literacy competencies to accommodate digital modes of existing and creating. Additionally, academic affairs units could strengthen their support (i.e. $$ and staffing) for academic libraries and the librarians that are doing this work all the time.

The internet isn’t what we hoped it would be

Currently, I’m reading two articles by journalist and blogger Quinn Norton. The first discusses the convergence of encryption, journalism ethics, and digital literacy in light of recent hacks and data dumps. Of particular interest to librarians and teachers, Quinn urges that:

“Kids should be learning about networks from a young age, and the basics of how computers work. This means teachers need to learn about these things, need to make it their business, if their business is still preparing child to be functional 21st century people. From there, kids will know how to demand a better network as consumer and political actors when they grow up.”

The second article is also a good read for those interested in digital literacy. In “The Hypocrisy of the Internet Journalist,” Quinn describes her experience building tools that track consumer behavior online. As she notes, credit card companies have been doing this for decades and most people probably wouldn’t bat an eye at it. What is more insidious is the way in which, Quinn claims, these tools can change your behavior.

“What I’d do next is: create a world for you to inhabit that doesn’t reflect your taste, but over time, creates it. I could slowly massage the ad messages you see, and in many cases, even the content, and predictably and reliably remake your worldview. I could nudge you, by the thousands or the millions, into being just a little bit different, again and again and again.”

My reaction to consumer “analytics” oscillates between a stoic agnosticism and utter Stallmanism. I like seeing ads for bow ties when I visit the New York Times. At the same time, I often contemplate building my own secure system at home and completely dropping off the social media landscape.

Somewhat related is Jennifer Granick’s recent talk at blackhat 2015: