Born Digitals Love To Make Things – Vintage Matters!

Source: ASIDE 2016

Born digitals deftly use technology; for them, it just is. Yet we constantly see discussions, blog posts, and articles about where and whether we should integrate technology, how it should be done, does it motivate learners, etc. We are decades past this discussion. Of course technology feeds motivation. What else would — filling in worksheets, taking linear notes, or sitting through text-laden PowerPoint presentations?

Education seems to view technology as something separate. It’s not for us, nor is it for our students. We use our devices all the time, and so do they. In fact, they approach technology fearlessly and can find workarounds with little trouble. Internet down? No problem. They set up hot spots using their phones to work on their iPads. Looking for contact information? No problem. They conduct a Google image search to connect to a LinkedIn profile. Need to send a direct message? No problem.  They do it through social media. We've witnessed all of these scenarios with our middle schoolers.

So why do we now see a surge in kids regarding making things with their hands as so exciting? Simple. They rarely enjoy opportunities to do this type of work anymore in most classrooms across the country. Few students experience “free play.” They live in a play date world of scheduled activities and rarely take risks without a helmet and harness.

Physically designing, building, prototyping, and testing things they construct is the novelty, not the technology. Most of them have grown up using tech since infancy. It’s a no-brainer to search to find information or watch a YouTube video for ideas, tutorials, and entertainment. But to actually make something is the memorable part. It’s what John Spencer describes in his video entitled "Kids Need Vintage Tools."

Vintage does not mean old; instead, it refers to something of high quality and lasting value about a particular object from the past. We see the lasting value in balancing high tech with high touch in our curricula, and we make room every chance we can to incorporate it. This includes hand-drawing maps, constructing early farming settlements outside, or planning community villages. Our students may use technology in the process to document their work, but what they remember most is making it. They use vintage tools all right, including pencils, paint, and glue. They love it.

So while we applaud, integrate, and depend on technology using any device, in the end what we find is using tactile materials changes the way students feel about their creations. We don’t slight tech at all; in fact, we love it. We would argue that today's heightened interest in robotics is not in using the technology to program, but instead in actually watching the robots come alive. This applies to creating stop-motion movies, designing apps, and creating computer games. Each of these endeavors turns out a product in the end. The process in making any one of these, however, is the addictive part and the one that is most remembered. Making matters.

Our high tech born digitals may just thrive on high touch even more!