Tag Archives: Digital natives

April 5, 2010, 12:00 pm

The MATLAB class at midterm: Comfort level

To end the first half of the semester in the MATLAB course, I gave students a lengthier-than-usual survey about the course — a sort of mid-semester course evaluation. I have a load of interesting data to sift through and analyze, relating to various aspects of the course and tagged with metadata about gender, GPA, major, whether they live on or off campus, and so on. I hope to finish analyzing the data before the semester is over. (Ba-dum-ching.)

One of the questions I asked was a mirror of a question I asked in the beginning: On a scale of 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest), rate your personal comfort level with using computers to do the kinds of things we do in this class. I’m thinking that there are affective issues about working with computers, and especially MATLAB, that are never discussed but which play a huge factor in student learning. (We seem to just tell engineers to suck it up and…

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February 17, 2010, 9:59 pm

And so it begins: Lab #1 in the MATLAB course

The MATLAB course began in earnest on Monday this week with our first full-length lab activity session. This was the second overall meeting, the first one being some organizational stuff and a lengthy fly-through of the main features of MATLAB. What follows is a breakdown of what we did and how it went, which also serves as an invitation for critique and suggestions in the comments.

First, some context. I intend for this course to be heavily hands-on with an emphasis on self-teaching within reasonable bounds. I laid a ground rule in the first class meeting that any question of the form “How do you do ____ in MATLAB?” was going to be met with the responses “What have you found in the MATLAB help documentation? What have you found via a Google search? What have you found out from your lab partner?” I’m not above giving hints to students in the class, but I insist that they exhaust all…

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March 13, 2008, 10:54 am

True library story

I don’t make it out of my building very often at work, but I needed to go over to our library this morning to reserve a computer lab and to look for a particular book. I didn’t know the call number for the book, so I went to the nearest available kiosk computer to look it up in the online catalog.

I should have known it was going to be trouble when the nearest computer was an ancient, beige tower PC with a sticker on the side proclaiming it to be “Designed for Windows 98 and Windows NT“. And it was turned off, which is unusual for a public kiosk. So I turned it on, and it proceeded to literally rattle and whine while it booted. After entering in my login information, I was able to access the web browser — after 15 minutes had passed. 15 minutes from login to usability! I couldn’t even walk away and get on with the stuff I had to do today, because once the interminable login procedure…

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January 27, 2008, 12:06 pm


Here’s a promotional video for a new math curriculum from Pearson called enVisionMATH. (It must be a sign of the times that grade school math curricula have promotional videos.) Watch carefully.

Four questions about this:

  1. Should it be a requirement of parenthood that you must remember enough 5th grade math to teach it halfway decently to your kids?
  2. Does the smartboard come included with the textbooks?
  3. Did anybody else have the overwhelming urge to yell “Bingo!” after about 2 minutes in?
  4. When will textbook companies stop drawing the conclusion that because kids today like to play video games, talk on cell phones, and listen to MP3 players, that they are therefore learning in a fundamentally different way than anybody else in history?

The last question is all about the research-free digital nativist assumption that is the source of many lucrative curriculum deals these …

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November 1, 2007, 2:00 pm

Retrospective: A proposal about digital natives (4.12.2007)

Editorial: We’re getting near the end of this week’s look back at articles from the past here at CO9s. I’ll have two more tomorrow and one more Saturday. Why twelve? Why, because 12 is an integer of the form \(3 \times 2^n\), of course. Didn’t you know those are the best kinds of numbers?

One of the things I want to accomplish on this blog is question assumptions, especially where those assumptions have an impact on students and how we teach them. For me, there’s no bigger source of unquestioned assumptions than the current movement built around the digital native hypothesis — the notion that children today are native to the digital world and come pre-loaded with technological skills that we “digital immigrants” have to acquire. These assumptions simply don’t square in any way with what I’ve experienced as a teacher, and the extent to which these assumptions are driving…

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September 29, 2007, 9:56 am

What's the best electronic medium for professor/student interaction?

The comments at my last post are suggesting that email has been surpassed by IM, Facebook, and text messaging among the younger generation as the preferred means of electronic communication. (Maybe of any kind of communication.) That really gives me, as a professor, some pause as to my assumption that if I need to get information out to students in a timely way (say, about a change in an assignment or a last-minute announcement for class) or create a space for out-of-classroom discussion of ideas or assignments, email isn’t nearly as reliable as I think it is.

I’m OK with that if it’s true, but then there are two questions that come to mind as being pretty important from my perspective:

  • If I have information that I need to get out to my students quickly and be reasonably assured that they’ll get it in time for it to be useful, what is the best way to do this? Is there no one best way,…

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September 27, 2007, 8:57 pm

These digital natives don't email

If you read enough edublogs, you begin to encounter the factions that believe that students today are digital natives and have all sorts of rich information experiences all the time in their everyday lives. This is usually taken to mean that they use all kinds of electronic means of sending and receiving information, such as email. I’m already skeptical of that claim, and after the following experience from today I am even less sure about it.

We had some high school students visiting the math department at my college, and part of the program was a discussion panel with current math majors. One of the math majors was asked about some of the main differences between high school and college, and he mentioned the quantity of email that one has to keep up with as a major difference. He asked the high school students how often they checked their emails now. They all looked at each other…

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