No honey, Webkinz is not in my computer…

So I spent this past weekend on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire’s lake’s region.  I brought my computer to edit some writing that I have been doing offline, but there was no internet there.  To further complicate my life, cell service was so spotty that I was virtually disconnected – well okay, we had cable and a land line, but who uses only those these days?

On Saturday morning, my 5 year old daughter, Emma, asked if she could go on Webkinz.com.  I told her that it was not available, to which she replied, “No, I’ve done it on your computer before.”

“Yes, but there is no internet, we can’t get to Webkinz.”  I replied, assuming that was going to satisfy her inquiry.

“No, I can get on, I’ll show you.”  She corrected.

Uh oh.

I quickly realized that I was in trouble.  There was no way that I was going to convince her that Webkinz was not available and that it was not housed in my computer.  I realized that she had no idea “what” the internet was, nor how it helped her connect to Webkinz.  She only knew that if she pressed the right combination of buttons, in the right order, she would be able to “visit” her Webkinz, play games, solve problems, virtually connect with her brother and sister (yes, they go to different parts of the house and meet online sometimes) and shop using her webkinz cash.  She has no idea “how” this happens, she just knows that it does – kind of like me and my car, I have no idea how it works, I just know that when I turn the key, it runs.

But, here’s the story, Emma has never lived in a disconnected world.  To channel Chris Lehmann, the internet to her is like oxygen.  It is always there, always surrounding her, always available when needed, and when it is not available, there is a problem.  She just assumes that it is available, all the time.  In fact, she doesn’t even know that the internet exists!  It would be akin to me not knowing that a car needs gas.  She is part of a generation of students who have never known the difference between being connected and not.  She is part of a generation that simply assumes that they will be able to connect.  She is part of a generation of students who do not differentiate between local and global applications – to them applications are simply there, in their hands, ready to use.  She is part of a generation that expects to be connected and expects to have resources regardless of where they are “housed”.

Which makes me think of this video about “connectivism” and wonder, will Emma have teachers who will meet her expectations.

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4 Responses to No honey, Webkinz is not in my computer…

  1. rellis says:

    Tony you bring up a great point. If we think the students sitting in our classrooms now are not engaged and we ask them to disconnect, what will happen when the next generation of students, Emma’s age, enter our educational system? She will expect to be connected and hopefully parents of the next generation will expect them to be connected, maybe those who are the ones who will be the catalyst for change. We can’t continue to wait and do what we have always done.

    • tbaldasaro says:

      My fear is that we are only going to act when Emma and her peers demand connectivity. If that is the case, the current generation of learners will lose out. We can’t wait any longer.

  2. Lynn says:

    It’s funny how much your five-year-old and a lot of older people have in common – being unable to understand the difference between what is on the computer locally and what is on the Internet. Children are naturally adaptable and pre-wired to learn. It seems to me that with sufficient patience it should be possible to explain to an intelligent child how the Internet works.

  3. CBI says:

    The example detracts somewhat from his point. It should be fairly simple to explain concepts such as connectivity and the like. My kids are now older than five, but looking back to those days (and I’m a bit of a geek: my first email account was in 1985, and I’m online a *lot*), I think I could have adequately explained to each of them at that level such concepts as the need for wired connections, radio coverage, and the like. In my experience, that wouldn’t be unusual in a parent.

    I think there is also a danger to kids in being “connected” all the time. No, here I don’t mean from internet predators. The danger is not developing from an early age on the self-confidence of an individual: a bit of self-reliance, so to speak. I think that the ability to think for oneself requires a bit of practice, and a realization of one’s independence from easy answers.

    That is not well worded, but should give the flavor of what I’m getting at. Tony didn’t write it down, but I’m sure that there’s more to the story, and that he and his daughter had a nice amble around their place in the Lake Country that summer. Perhaps its my “Destination ImagiNation” experiences coming out, but a vacation like that is a wonderful opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time.

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