Monday, July 17, 2006

Day 3 -- Jenny's two cents

Day 3 of the Digital Natives Conference…

How to offend a digital native? Ask them to put away their computers because it’s a barrier to communication. How about asking me to cut off my right arm? Maybe you could ask me to not take notes, think or otherwise process a conference.

I’m wondering how we can possibly reach digital natives when there is a preconceived idea that having a computer open is to create a barrier. I was completely blindsided when the facilitator for our discussion asked those of us with open notebook computers to put them away for this part of the conference. I immediately became defensive and offensive. The Russet Vixen blog has become an integral part of this conference experience not just for us, but for others at the conference. There was no way I was going to allow anyone to make Kris stop blogging. I conceded that I may not need mine. As already noted out, this IS a DIGITAL NATIVES conference. We’re supposed to be learning how to accommodate this type of experience/technology/learning/working style. I pointed this out and was told that basically “We’re not digital natives so you need to accommodate us.” I think the facilitator was the only one at the table who truly felt that way.

Eventually I had to reopen my computer and use it. I cannot take notes on paper as efficiently or effectively as I can on computer. My handwriting has deteriorated to inscrutability and my memory is like a leaky raft sometimes. Only when I have something integrated into my digital world does it "stick".

While considering all of the changes we need to make to services in the library to support and encourage use of the library by the “Digital Natives”. We need to work even harder, I suspect, on overcoming the attitude that technology is a barrier. Maybe it’s even an ‘us versus them’ point of view. I’m not certain what the real attitude is, nor why it exists, but we have to find ways of countering it. If I had been a library patron/customer and was told this, I would have packed up my computer and never gone back to the library. If we are going to proceed into the future we must embrace the technologies that are before us and recognize that barriers exist only where we put them. This is true with the differently abled, the technologically advanced and the technologically different.

I must restate that I thought this conference was wonderful and supportive of the ways we have learned to integrate technology into our lives. I am looking forward to working with a fraction of the material that was presented. I am also grateful for the comment "to put away your computers" because it made me really think about the difficulty some will have in accepting this new communication style. I am now thinking more about how educate and facilitate understanding while implementing these new technologies.


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