Among many questions I’ve been asked during my work as a computer’s designer and technical SEO, the most frequent one concerns the relationship that young people, adolescents and children, have with internet and with the new web 2.0 tools. I can deal with such a delicate subject exclusively from my own experience as a designer of portals, taking account of my analysis based on the actual use of the portals, to which I add some personal conclusions. From these different experiences derive some simple tips.
I read for the first time the definition of “digital native” in the book “Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” wrote by J.Palfrey and U. Gasser, book that contains many interesting ideas to think about. In brief, in this category of digital natives, we find all those who are born having already available tools and electronic services such as video games, personal computers, mobile phones, etc. ..
The use of these tools had a first obvious effect, very evident, on us parents, and I refer to their rapidity of using these tools. The natives have another noticeable feature and that is the familiarity with which they manage their own universe 2.0. What we can infer in particular from the two behaviors is the easiness with which they expose themselves on network along with the true belief in the virtual friendships as being on the same level with the real ones.
Young people, even children, demonstrate great rapidity in the digital devices and services use, besides the remarkable capacity for self-learning. The natives are often able to move quickly into a new portal, configure a computer, a digital decoder or copy photos (or videos) from one device to another, etc, just observing the provision of services or the icons..
The difference between people who gather from digital tools and the ones that cannot make full use or even understand at all digital tools, is called “digital divide“, a term very much in vogue and like all fashionable terms, it implies many different meanings and interpretations.
Beware digital natives have a dexterity that is not always guided by a rational ability to select contents or by good analytical skills or even by the patience needed to build that personal “castle of knowledge” essential to judge the information found on Internet.
The act of cultural mediation that teachers, librarians, parents, also grandparents have to implement, is to look beyond the results proposed on the search engine’s first page. We all have to teach the new generations a meditated analysis that can overtake the very convenient method of “cut and paste” from the huge amount of contents on network, a very commune students temptation from time immemorial.
It wasn’t better before and it is not better now, but what I’m sure of is that we need to create educational web 2.0 tools able to explain to young people how to use the 2.0. Certainly there are lots of intelligent young people on the net who will see the network as a great opportunity for their future.
The teaching method must be suitable for the social dimension, it must be efficiently fast and immediate, we cannot expect that a sixteen read 12 pages of instructions before using a network search or fill in 5 or 10 fields when he can find elsewhere with a mono-field and one click everything he needs.
The first step is the production of short instructional videos, each video must have a maximum duration of one or two minutes, easy to select, simple and immediate to display. The instructional videos, short and concise, must, of course, be posted on YouTube and not elsewhere, we should not reinvent the wheel.
The second step is to interact with social networks, teachers and mediators must be present on Twitter and Facebook, collect the needs and demands expressed by students / users / readers and set the subsequent lessons / activities on that basis. The optimum would be to manage to interact in real time and to respond immediately to the questions proposed.
The third step is to allow students to “post” then to recommend other students or friends where to find the information and the method applied. Young people are “network’s major users ”, the best amplifiers of the network itself and therefore of the net culture . The network is collaborative and participatory and we must not forget that.
The fourth tip is to update frequently the content offered on the net in order to stimulate young people’s interest, to capture their attention with the support of tools capable of reporting any updates, such as RSS feeds.
We will win this challenge if our generation will be able to transmit contents and cultural values by presenting our own strategies of using the network: interactive didactic videos, social networks, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. … by standing beside the youngest and showing them the use of these tools and last but not least by collecting and responding to their needs in a smart fast way, as happens on the internet.