Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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6/9/15: definitely a digital immigrant

To be fair to myself, in many respects I'm a very skilled user of ICT.  I use a computer through the working day, I run classes on the use of ICT in the mathematics classroom, I can often solve problems faced by colleagues, eg. in switching from US to UK English spell checking in Microsoft Word - not as easy as it sounds!

And yet I quite often find myself reminded of my status as a digital immigrant.  A few years ago, when still working as an initial teacher trainer, we had an end of year celebration, as part of which the ICT group had organised an online real time questionnaire in which we were required to text our answers to various fun questions.  All fine - very much within the spirit of the occasion - except for one thing: I was still trying to text my answer to question 1 when the presenters had already  moved onto question 4.  I genuinely could not - and cannot - see how people were able to text so fast, although the calm atmosphere generally in the hall would indicate that I was very much the exception rather than the rule here.

And in other respects my ICT skills are not what they seem.  The fact that I can type very fast may look very 21st century, actually I taught myself on an old fashioned typewriter at the age of 10, a bit of an odd thing to do to at the time but I'm so very pleased that I did.  Also, I do rather enjoy the mystified old buffer persona, along the lines of the High Court judge Sir Jeremiah LeRoy Harman who, when told that Paul Gascoigne was a well known footballer, replied, "Rugby or association football?"  Although I overplayed that on at least one occasion: towards the end of a 6 month subject knowledge course I ran a session on ICT in the mathematics classroom and afterwards one of the students confided that, having seen me working over the last few months she didn't want to attend and was quite pleasantly surprised to find that I did, after all, know what I was talking about.

The reason this is on my mind is because I've recently been given a new work phone handset.  Let me be very clear, the old BlackBerry was still working perfectly well and, had the choice been mine, I would have continued using it until I'd worn it completely into the ground.  But as a matter of policy the phones have been 'upgraded' (I use the word in a purely technical sense) so I was given a new Samsung handset.

First thing: get the SIM card reduced in size.  Somewhat taken aback, when the moment came, to find that out came a pair of scissors to cut round the edges of the circuit board, I felt that the process should be more technical - scientific? - than that.  And so to start using it.  Which of course means re-registering for various faciliites - Facebook, Dropbox, that kind of thing - which means typing in a password.  On a new interface, oftentimes without being able to see the password as I typed it in.  Grief that was frustrating, in the end I resorted to changing the passwords to something simpler - but not too simple or they wouldn't be accepted.  At one stage in the proceedings I was wondering whether there was something wrong withe the touch sensitive screen, but no, nothing wrong with the equipment, problem with the user beyond the edge of his capabilities, at least temporarily.

So, managed to get most things sorted out, leaving a few which took me to the technician at work last Monday morning.  Somewhat bizarrely, as I was explaining what needed doing, the phone actually started ringing which startled me somewhat - mobile phones for me are devices for texting and sending and receiving emails, I avoid speaking on the phone as much as I can which is one of the reasons why losing my bags in Uganda recently was so annoying, having to explain over and over again over a period of some days to more and more people what the problem was.  So, as the phone rang, a green circle and a red circle appeared.  I could just about work out that green circle meant answer and red meant don't answer, but what do you do?  Press inside the circle?  Drag it somewhere?  If so, where?  I was still trying to work this out when the ringing stopped, the digital native (I assume) at the other end of the line presumably taking the view that if a phone isn't answered within two rings it's not going to be answered, that digitial immigrants like me are still working out what to do not really connecting as a possibility.

Anyway, now have it working pretty well how I want it, even managed to impress colleagues by having worked out how to display my name in the locked screen position, since there are a lot of the same model around the office it seemed to be a sensible precaution.  And I no longer think that the screen is malfunctioning.  So the crisis is past. But my status as a digitial immigrant remains intact.

I would say that I consider the language of digital immigrant and native problematic, in the sense that it can lead us to assuming that people - not least children - can do things which actually they can't.  So, I've seen youngsters manipulate electronic devices with a speed which I find absolutely breathtaking, but I also meet many people with very little experience of using computers at all, finding basic control eg. of the mouse quite hard (I seem to remember hearing a joke once with the punch line depending on the misunderstanding that a mouse is a foot pedal, but can't now remember the details).  In a similar way, starting to teach in the late 1980s just as the UK National Curriculum came into being, I found myself constantly being told 'Children should be able to ....' and I watched them in the classroom thinking '...but they can't, that is an observable fact'.

Not quite sure where I'm heading here, any help in joining the dots much appreciated.  Meanwhile, I may find it necessary to do a special mid week posting this coming Wednesday to commemorate a very important day in our motherland's history.  More soon, meanwhile, hurrah for Her Majesty!

2 Comments to 6/9/15: definitely a digital immigrant:

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Carolyn on 07 September 2015 15:43
Hi Geoff,a few things sprung to mind as I read this entry. Firtsly, I think it might have been me who told you the joke about the mouse! Think it goes something like this... Woman on phone to tech help line: I can't get this mouse to work. Helpline: Have you got it plugged in? Woman: Yes Helpline: Is your computer switched on? Woman: Yes etc. etc. Helpline:(having exhausted all usual lines of questioning) So,how exactly are you using this mouse? Woman: Like any other foot pedal! (Of course, it doesn't have to be a woman in the joke!) Re texting, I have to give you credit for introducing me to the whole business. We were sitting in a cafe in Barnstaple (in the 90s) and you demonstrated this remarkable thing! between us we sent a message ('Hello Geoff' probably) between our phones. I was amazed! Months later I discovered that you could use lower case letters too! I am probably quicker at texting than you (if Pete's speed is anything to go by!) But in turn, I'm stunned by Lissy's lightning touch in these respects. She and Ashley audibly groan and flinch when they watch me hunched over a keyboard or sitting with my finger poised over a left click! Apparently this is a real 'mum' thing to do! As with learning many things, experience helps. Fear hinders. So, at school nowadays, most children are adept with technology and certainly are not held back by thinking themselves not up to the challenge. I smiled at the story of the girl who was going to skip your training! Ashley and Lissy used to cringe from year 7 at teachers trying to use an IWB of course! Student teachers now are glued to their laptops here (and all other gadgets). I do remember being rather shocked at your excitement of discovering Powerpoint though (some years ago) when it was already securely 'in the ark'! So, I am not making any remarkable points here, just some anecdotal thoughts! As far as learning anything new goes, it's a mixture of skill and will! and also exposure/experience. We too were caught out with trying to answer our Samsung phones (but that was years ago!)
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Geoff on 07 September 2015 22:52
Thank you, Carolyn, actually, you've reminded me of a few other bits and pieces, including my dislike of text-speak - why write 'gr8' when 'great' will do just as well? In fact one thing I've succeeded in doing with the Samsung that I've not previously been able to do is use it to create a wifi hotspot for my laptop through bluetooth, very straightforward once you know how! See you soon, Geoff

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