digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

Our Latest New footage and updates from our documentary team.

Guest Blogger:'s Rachel Fishman Feddersen

January 28, 2010 _ 14:51 / dignat / comments (0)

Rachel Fishman Feddersen is the editor-in-chief of and a mom. We asked her to share a story about how the web and digital tools are affecting her life and her family. Read what she had to say, and check out her video on Your Stories.

In my video testimonial for Digital Nation, I talked about how I'd like my son's childhood to remain as screen-free as possible. Although there are times where a video comes in handy, I'd rather he play creatively than get sucked into the TV. (He gets waaay too into it - trust me, he gets the zombie face)

But that's not to say that I'm not a totally geeky lover of tech - I am. Checking out my Google reader is my first to-do every morning. Traveling today, I am keeping in touch with what's going on in the office via my Blackberry. At 5 months pregnant, I'm getting a constant stream of info about my baby with our online pregnancy calendar. We're letting our readers know about fresh new content as soon as it's live on Twitter. And I'm getting constant feedback about our mag and site from the folks on our boards and our Facebook page -- no more waiting for letters to the editor to come in to find out how we're doing.

So suffice it to say - I don't know how I could live without the many screens in my life. But, at least until he's a little older, I'd like my son to.

Rachel Fishman Feddersen


A Collaboration with the Public

January 7, 2010 _ 09:08 / dignat / comments (0)

Since we launched the Digital Nation website in March 2009, hundreds of people-- teens, grandparents, online stars, avatars and everyone in between -- have shared their stories with us about life in the digital age. You've told us about all parts of your lives, from romance to parenting to addiction, and in so doing, you've helped us piece together a panorama of technology's impact on ourselves and our world.

oliviawong.jpgsonyaarias.jpg Along the way, we've partnered with some great organizations who share an interest in exploring this new virtual frontier. Our colleagues at MTV recently launched a campaign called "A Thin Line." The effort is aimed at helping teens recognize and deal with abuse online (a topic we covered in our previous FRONTLINE report, Growing Up Online.) We went with MTV to the Woody Awards to hear how teens are coping with digital life, and we discovered a mix of perspectives: teens are plugged in all the time, some sending "thousands of texts a day" (Sonya Arias), and yet many still prefer face to face communication for serious conversations. (Olivia Wong)

Through Smith Magazine, another partner, we received more than 850 entries to the Six Words on The Digital Life contest. Submissions like "Introverted autistic son blossoms on internet" by Claire Luna-Pinsker and "Sexting is saving our relationship" by Dana Newsome revealed that the digital frontier is no less complex for adults. Here's a video compilation of some of the best entries:

We still want to hear from you. Take a look through the site and share your thoughts, and after the broadcast on February 2nd, send in a video telling us about your own Digital Nation experiences.


Multitasking at M.I.T.

December 24, 2009 _ 16:22 / dignat / comments (2)

At the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, one of the most high powered universities in the world, students claim they can and must multitask through all parts of their lives -- on their laptops doing work, in class, and even at the bar. They say they're preparing for a world that demands short term bursts of attention and the ability to manage multiple streams of information at once. Their professors, however, are concerned that in all this Googling, something integral to the university experience is being lost. What do you think?


Plea for a Digital Love Story

November 25, 2009 _ 10:27 / cbmcnally / comments (11)

people in jpg
We're desperately seeking a great story about love in the digital age, and we need your help.

We all know the stories about people who have met online, rekindled old flames through Facebook, and texted their way to marital bliss. We know that the Internet and digital technology have helped bring us together in ways that would have been impossible in the past. Now, we're looking to go a little deeper.

We're seeking to find a true love story; a tale of heartbreak, a struggle with infidelity and temptation, or a seemingly hopeless situation that was turned around due to technology's role. For example, an innocent text message that spiraled in to a steamy back and forth and almost broke up a happy marriage. Or, alternately, a story about someone in a committed relationship who finds a way to rekindle excitement and danger through Facebook messages, Skype or some other digital tool.

According to Alice Mathias in the New York Times, "Communication has been streamlined by the Internet, and something essential to the process of falling in love has been lost. We can type up carefully crafted statements rather than go face-to-face and improvise from the heart, thereby risking embarrassment, vulnerability or Oscar-worthy dialogue. We can Google our way into the museums of each other's identities -- and fall in love there." Digital Nation wants to find out if this is indeed true: we want to investigate if we're losing control in the face of the limitless possibility and instant gratification technology provides.

Ideally, we'd like to hear from people between the ages of 30 and 50. We all know that teens are texting and sexting, hooking up and breaking up online, but what is really of interest to us is mature relationships in the digital age.

We're of course looking for people who are good talkers and willing to share their stories, and we're also hoping to find people for whom these experiences with love online have been deep and meaningful. We're searching for a story that will hopefully work its way in to our film, so we're looking to go beyond just casual anecdote. In other words, we're looking for real drama, with real stakes and consequences.

If you know someone who has a story or if you can think of someone we should talk to who might know someone who has a story, please let us know! You can comment on our site, twitter with the #dig_nat tag, or just send us a good old-fashioned at If you've got an idea for us, please write out as many of the details as possible, and also be sure to include a way for us to get in touch with you.

photo credit: cc flickr pyrogenic


Is WoW on your resume?

November 6, 2009 _ 16:07 / cbmcnally / comments (2)

Who would have thought all that time spent raiding and leading guilds would contribute to your professional marketability? Well, according to various media reports in the past few years, it very well could. We brought this idea up with a vice president at IBM, and to our surprise, she enthusiastically confirmed what people haven been whispering for awhile. The leadership skills and strategy prowess it takes to flourish in World of Warcraft are just the kinds of qualities Fortune 500 companies are seeking in their employees. Hear the VP's comments here, and tell us what you think.


New video: Going Digital at 83

October 23, 2009 _ 14:05 / cbmcnally / comments (6)

"I became everyone's Grandmother all over the world!" So spoke the indefatigable Bubbe, an 83-year-old Jewish grandmother in Massachusetts who made a video with her grandson, Avrom, and submitted it to our site. Bubbe and Avrom have an online cooking show, "Feed Me Bubbe," that features cooking lessons and words of wisdom from Bubbe's kitchen. In the video they sent us, they told us all about how Bubbe's foray in to the web has endeared her to an audience all over the world. It turns out there are hundreds of people yearning for the warmth and coziness of a grandmother's kitchen and a good matzo ball soup recipe; through the internet, Bubbe provides just that. We were charmed and intrigued, so we decided to head up to Bubbe's to see how she and Avrom cook up their magic, and find out what it's like to become an octogenarian online star. You can see footage from our trip here, and Bubbe and Avrom's original video submission here.


War by remote: What do you think?

October 16, 2009 _ 15:01 / dignat / comments (100)

We've just posted a short excerpt from our footage with the pilots who fly unmanned Predator and Reaper planes over Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes are in the war zones; the pilots are at an Air Force base in the desert north of Las Vegas. A colonel tells us how his unit struggles against the possibility of detachment as they experience combat remotely. Some pilots, however, are able to so completely immerse themselves in conducting battle via video screen that their nightly return to suburban life in Las Vegas becomes all the more jarring and challenging. Watch our rough cut here, and let us know what you think -- there's a space for comments directly below the video. As the national debate over strategy in Afghanistan rages (see FRONTLINE's season-premiere report, "Obama's War"), we would love to hear your thoughts.



Is "Halo" the Army's best recruiting tool?

September 29, 2009 _ 12:00 / rdretzin / comments (3)

AECfilmstrip.jpgWe just posted a short rough cut of a piece we shot at the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia that we would love you to check out.

In 2008, the Army shut down five recruiting centers in the Philadelphia area and replaced them with a multimillion dollar facility where kids as young as 13 can play military-themed video games for free and fire at digital enemies from inside a simulated humvee and Apache helicopter. Army recruiters circle around, ready to chat, answer questions, and sometimes even play Xbox with the kids.

It's all part of a new experiential marketing strategy inspired, in part, by the Apple Store. The idea is to give people a "sampling experience" of the Army, just as the Apple Store gives people a sampling experience of what Apple is all about.

The AEC has been targeted by protesters who accuse the Army of deceiving kids into thinking war is fun, and chant slogans like "war is not a game" and "there is no reset button in war."

But the irony is that increasingly wars are being fought by remote control, with UAVs flying over the mountains of Afghanistan, operated by 25-year-olds based thousands of miles away in the desert outside of Las Vegas. We just came back from a shoot at the Creech Air Force Base, where we interviewed pilots who spend their afternoons tracking and sometimes killing insurgents and are home in time for dinner. (Read Caitlin's blog about it here.)

You won't get all this from the four minute clip here, but you will get a taste of the AEC and some of the controversy around it. Watch the Digital Nation documentary in February to see more!

-- Rachel


Scenes from a new kind of front line

September 24, 2009 _ 20:32 / cbmcnally / comments (2)

creech1.jpgToday, American air combat very often looks like this: two people, a pilot with traditional Air Force flight training and a typically younger sensor operator with no necessary flight experience at all, sitting next to each other at a large console surrounded by computer screens. Both the pilot and the sensor are responsible for up to 8 screens each. They're also controlling joysticks and throttles to direct the plane and its high-tech camera, they're making notes on a whiteboard, they're typing away at keyboards to send messages in a secure AOL-like chat room, and they're talking via radio to guys on the ground in the war zone.

We witnessed this symphony of multitasking recently while we filmed at Creech Air Force base in the Nevada desert, about an hour from the Las Vegas strip. Here, the Air Force flies constant, round-the-clock missions, gathering surveillance, supporting ground troops and sometimes unleashing weapons. The pilots are not physically inside the planes -- they sit at Creech, working from small, heavily air-conditioned rooms and trailers. The planes themselves are at least 7000 miles away, somewhere over Iraq or, these days more likely than not, Afghanistan. Each plane can carry a number of Hellfire missiles, and the larger models can release 500-pound bombs.

creech2.jpgA lot of people have been tempted to analogize remote flying to a video game. While the agile brain work required to dominate Call of Duty may be similar, each pilot and sensor operator I met at Creech firmly insisted on one major difference: when they fly, and when they fire weapons, there is no reset button. Despite the great physical distance and the experience of war mediated through screens, the pilots and sensors must convince themselves that they're right there in the fight, in the mountains and towns of Afghanistan or Iraq. They say the mental acrobatics help them from becoming detached.

One pilot described the feeling of being pulled in to a battle that's occurring thousands of miles away via video screen:

"It's very easy to go from, oh, I'm looking at an intersection, I'm looking at an intersection. And then all of a sudden, you hear troops in contact. You hear the guy calling on the radio and you hear, I mean, gunfire and explosions and everything ripping by his nugget there. And you're just like, yeah, I need to get there right now and help this guy. It's very easy to go from zero to completely spun up in this aircraft."

-- Caitlin


Six Words on the Digital Life

September 16, 2009 _ 15:11 / dignat / comments (2)

Over the past few months, Your Digital Nation has grown into a rich collage of experiences and perspectives on life in the digital age.

Fascinated by what you have to say, we decided to add a new platform for you to share your stories:

Digital Nation just launched a really exciting contest with SMITH Magazine to hear your stories about life in the digital age. In 6 words. Yes, in six words, tell us how the web and digital technology are changing the way you think, work, live, or love.


I was immediately excited by this contest: What better way to comment on digital life than in the "language" of the age: Twitter- or text message- sized bytes.

In the first two days of the contest, we received over 200 submissions, including:
"Stay on-line, miss out on life."
"Son won't friend me. Step-daughters will."
"Mom on cell, kid in carseat."

Six word submissions that are accompanied by photos/drawings/images will be posted on Your Digital Nation on the FRONTLINE Digital Nation website.

Here are some examples, from the Digital Nation team:

"Three kids. One dog. Five laptops."
Rachel Dretzin

"Who's the person behind that avatar?" Ramona Pringle

Whether you've done things unimaginable just a few years ago ("I have even Twittered during sex") or are trying to make sense of how rapidly the world is changing ("Dull persona. Second Life ego enormous"), we want to hear who you are, in you digital life, in six well-chosen words. We're giving away prizes, too: Winners will receive a DVD of the FRONTLINE shows. The top six will receive a copy of a Six-Word Memoir book from SMITH Magazine, and be featured in a Digital Nation video.

On Twitter? Help us spread the word! Just copy and paste the following Tweet:
RT @dig_nat CONTEST "6 Words on the Digital Life" (or:"My dad has more MySpace friends"), from PBS & SMITH @smithmag #6WM

I can't wait to hear from all of you!

-- Ramona



September 2, 2009 _ 12:05 / rdretzin / comments (0)

Recently we were out in Anaheim CA filming at BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment's massive annual convention for its biggest videogame franchises: World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. We spoke to dozens of hardcore gamers, most of whom didn't fit the stereotype of hardcore gamers at all. A bunch of them were parents, professionals: people who saw video gaming as a profoundly rewarding hobby in their lives.

In some of the interviews, people told us about ways in which their actions in the game world have given them more confidence in the real one:

This reminded me of the studies Jeremy Bailenson has done at Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction lab, where he gives people a tall avatar in a virtual world, and then has them conduct a negotiation in real life with someone who is the same size they are. He finds that people are more successful and confident negotiators if they have a tall avatar, even if in real life they have no height advantage. See him talk about his studies here.
We'll have more from our BlizzCon experience coming up.

- Rachel




The new and improved Digital Nation

August 20, 2009 _ 23:18 / rdretzin / comments (1)

Welcome to the new and improved Digital Nation website. We've redesigned it to make it more interactive and easier to navigate. We've also added some new content. Let us know what you think.

There's much to explore on this very deep website. Check out the interactive body map of a digital native in Living Faster, and watch writer Abby Pogrebin talk about how she and her husband read Kindles under the covers at night. In Virtual Worlds, watch our footage of a virtual therapy session with a vet from the Iraq war; in Learning, see our short film called How Google Saved a School. On our Your Stories page you can see a grandmother and her grandson bond over Twitter and hear from a professor who took her sabbatical in the virtual world Second Life.

There are countless stories to tell about how our crazy non-stop culture of connectivity is changing the very nature of what it means to be alive. Some of them are already on this website; we hope many more are to come.

Starting just about now, we at the Digital Nation headquarters in Brooklyn will be turning our attention to editing some of the material we're gathering on this website into a documentary for broadcast on FRONTLINE early next year. Stay tuned.

Rachel Dretzin


The Art of Flying

August 3, 2009 _ 12:22 / cbmcnally / comments (3)

Recently, I went up in a small Cessna plane above the San Francisco Bay area with Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life. We were on a mission to find gorgeous Northern California landscapes to film -- eventually, our hope is to cut these real landscapes with the sumptuous hills, oceans and valleys in the virtual world of Second Life. Philip and I are also both pilots-in-training (he's an expert; I'm just starting). It intrigued me to discover his background as a pilot. It somehow made sense that the guy who dreamed up a virtual reflection of human experience would get deep satisfaction from the freedom and exhilaration of flying a plane.

Philip and I had a conversation about the difference between flying in real life and flying in the virtual world. He mused on the danger inherent in flying a real plane versus the safety and whimsy of flying virtually. Here, the division between the real and the virtual is stark. But he also mentioned a fascinating fact: some people haven't been able to jump off bridges in Second Life, because their connection to their avatar is that strong, that visceral.

Airplane5.jpgHere's a little teaser of the footage from the flight; enough just to get us off the ground. Now we're working to find landscapes in Second Life to match our soaring real-world aerial shots (and, by the way, if you're active in Second Life and know of some beautiful places for us to visit and film in-world, speak up here!). We'll see how it all comes together, and we'll show you in the documentary when it airs next year.

-- Caitlin


Field Report from BlogHer09 in Chicago

July 27, 2009 _ 17:03 / dignat / comments (2)

I just returned from BlogHer09, a conference that brought together over 1000 female bloggers from far and wide for a weekend of sharing stories from the blogosphere and meeting online friends face-to-face. (You can see why we wanted to be there.)

I spent Friday at the Frontline Digital Nation booth, talking about the project, meeting bloggers and hearing their stories about life in the digital age. I met so many incredible women (and yes, a handful of guys came by too). We heard stories about parenting, information overload, multitasking and dating, (One woman met a guy through Twitter, only to discover he lived in the same apartment building as her!)


Friday evening we went to the community keynote organized by Eden Kennedy (who shared her own great stories with us on Saturday) where blog posts were read aloud. What struck me at this particular event was seeing all of the bloggers blogging about the blogs they were listening to!

After the keynote we went to the Friday night cocktail party, hoping to hear more stories. There was a photobooth on site, and Sam (our videographer) and I couldn't resist (though also couldn't separate from our phones!)

Aware of our own need to be connected at all time, we decided that our tactic for talking to people that night would be to be on the lookout for people who couldn't detach from their phones/laptops/Blackberries even at the cocktail party.


That was a late night, reading over the profiles of some of the amazing women we had scheduled to speak with us the following day... And Saturday started bright and early, with a full day of interviews for Your Digital Nation and the PBS Youtube Channel.

I was so impressed by the women we spoke with, and their candor to open up and share their stories about life in the digital age. Elisa, the cofounder of BlogHer shared a story about being forced to unplug during a recent trip of Africa; Dr. Gwenn told us about how she has to instant message her daughter to get her to come to dinner, even when they are in the same room. Both were common experiences we heard repeated throughout our time at BlogHer; this is the new normal of our Digital Nation.

Raney Aronson-Rath, Frontline's senior producer, was part of the panel at the closing keynote moderated by Elisa Camahort, alongside Danah Boyd, Eszter Hargittai, where the conversation was focused on the future, and a lot of the questions we've been addressing (and asking) were raised. This was a fascinating discussion, especially so the dialogue between experts and "real people" the bloggers in the front line of the digital age.

We'll be posting stories to Your Digital Nation from BlogHer over the next few weeks, so definitely come back to hear some of the wonderful, touching, funny and very timely stories this great group of women had to share. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us at BlogHer, and for those of you reading this blog, we look forward to hearing your stories about life in the digital age.



A chat with Obama's new Secretary of Education

July 14, 2009 _ 13:16 / rdretzin / comments (4)

Yesterday morning I flew to DC to interview Obama's new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Since there's still no confirmed Deputy Secretary of Education, we chatted in the Deputy's empty office next door to Duncan's own. Duncan's about my age (43) with a freshly scrubbed face that makes him look even younger. He surprised me right off the start with his enthusiastic endorsement of using digital tools like video games and cellphones in the classroom. He's a pragmatist; his attitude is that kids are on this stuff all day anyway, so why not put them to educational use?

I knew that Duncan was a big believer in standardized assessments, but those didn't come up in our conversation. He came off as solidly on the side of those who think that schools need to move with kids instead of against them, and that means using the toys kids love--games and cellphones--to teach them, inside and outside the classroom walls.

Here's a brief excerpt from our conversation. We'll post the rest of the interview on this website in the next week or two.

- Rachel


A Certified Multitasking Master

July 6, 2009 _ 15:46 / rdretzin / comments (0)

Gloria Mark, a professor in the Informatics Department at the University of California at Irvine, studies the impact of technology on the way we live and work. She's especially interested in the way we multitask, moving from one task, even project to another extremely quickly. Last week, we interviewed her at our production offices in Brooklyn, and she also spent the day observing me work. Her conclusions were alarming, if not surprising; I knew that I was in trouble before the day even began. Since I started working on the Digital Nation project, my ability to focus on one thing for longer than a few minutes has dropped precipitously. See the results of Mark's evaluation here, and stay tuned for more on how the rest of the Digital Nation team and I fare at managing our own culture of distraction.


Digital Stories, Opinions, Quesions: LIVE From NECC

June 30, 2009 _ 08:08 / dignat / comments (1)

Hi Digital Natives, residents & visitors,

We're live at the NECC Conference today, and want to hear from you. We had an amazing day yesterday, meeting interesting educators and hearing a huge range of stories about how digital technology is impacting their classrooms, personal lives and attention spans.

Here's a sample:

MollyLynne, a teacher from Virginia, told us that despite being in an amazingly hi-tech one-to-one laptop school, her students still want their assignments on paper... And she wonders why?


So, we showed some other people her video submission, and encouraged them to respond.

Jennifer Downey, an instructional technologist thinks that some of it may have to do with resources, and students not having computers at home (though MollyLynne is in a one-to-one program). She says that in her classes, they have the digital tools and still use them, but are ultimately more comfortable with paper. She also suggested that cellphones be integrated into learning.


Susan Davis, an English teacher from Houston, has had a different experience. She says that in her classroom, students write with media, no longer just words, and that digital tools have allowed them to become more thoughtful storytellers.


Stay tuned to the Digital Nation website, and our Twitter feed dig_nat as we continue to post responses to this question, as well as our own new prompts and questions throughout the conference.

Share your ideas and experiences in Your Stories, on Twitter using the #dig_nat hashtag, or by emailing

Video submissions received before July 6 are eligible to win a flip cam (WOW!!) so create a video response for Your Digital Nation, or if you're at NECC, come by booth 1904 to record yours!

More soon,
- Ramona


Some new things at DN: Twitter, Your Stories & more...

June 25, 2009 _ 18:35 / dignat / comments (1)

Digital Nation is now on Twitter! Follow us @dig_nat, and join our ever-evolving dialogue about life in the digital age... Keep tagging your posts with the #dig_nat hashtag so that they show up in the discussion.

Photo of a booth at the 2006 NECC conferenceThe DN team is heading to the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC 09) in Washington DC on Monday, and we'll be trying something new:

Digital Nation will be at Booth 1904 to talk about the project and help record Your Stories, so if you're planning on attending the event, please come by to share your stories, experiences and opinions on life in the digital age. You don't need to worry about camera setup or uploading footage, all you have to do is come by and talk to us, to be a part of the project. This Digital Nation "your stories booth" is something we're hoping to do a lot more of, and we're excited to be running the concept at NECC.

Here's where the launch of our new Twitter account comes in: We want to engage not only those of you attending NECC, but anyone who is interested in following along, or joining in on this conversation. So, over the course of Monday 6/29 and Tuesday 6/30, we will be posting questions on Twitter for everyone to weigh in on. (For instance: "Tell us how digital tools are affecting your attention span.") If you're at the conference, come by and share a story with our cameras; if not, join the conversation on Twitter (#dig_nat) or by sending in longer comments, photos or videos to the Digital Nation website.

Keep checking in here for new prompts so that you can stay up to date with the conversation. Everyone who submits a video at the NECC conference will be eligible to win a Flip cam! And, even if you're not at the conference, create your own video response to one of our NECC Twitter questions and submit it before July 6th to also be included in the drawing!

We want to hear from you, so let me know your thoughts too.

- Ramona

Photo credit: A 2006 NECC booth by CC ajc3/Flickr


Education Technology Forum Transcript

June 25, 2009 _ 12:08 / dignat / comments (1)

FRONTLINE's Digital Nation hosted a live online discussion Wednesday, June 24, at 11 am EDT on the topic of education in the digital age. A panel of experts answered questions and discussed how technology is -- and isn't -- changing our schools and how we learn.

Guests included Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation and a professor at Emory University; Marc Prensky, author of Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning and a leading proponent of video games as educational tools; journalist Todd Oppenheimer, who has followed technology's role in education for many years and compiled the findings in his book The Flickering Mind, which was a finalist for an investigative book award; and Debra Socia, principal of the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, a public school in Boston, MA.

Digital Nation: Good morning, and welcome to Digital Nation's live discussion about education and technology.

Marc Prensky: I'm here-Marc

Digital Nation: We'll get started in a minute or two as our panelists join us

Mark Bauerlein: I'm in--Mark B.

Debra Socia: I'm here as well - Deb

Marc Prensky: Hi Mariana!

Digital Nation: And there's Marc Prensky! Marc is the author of Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning.

Digital Nation: Mark Bauerlein is a professor at Emory University and author of The Dumbest Generation.

Marc Prensky: Now that's being respectful :-)

Digital Nation: And Debra Socia is principal of the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, a public school in Boston

Digital Nation: Looks like Todd isn't here yet, but hopefully he'll join in shortly.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] ´This discussion is only by chat or we can hear you...?

Digital Nation: Hi Mariana, it's just text!

Mark Bauerlein: True, Marc, not respectful, but provocative--which I've found on occasion works better with students than does the encouragement-support-inspiration approach.

Digital Nation: Let's go ahead and get started!

Marc Prensky: Students?, I assumed that the gneration you were talking about it was yours :-) !

Digital Nation: Our first question comes from atmzeal: Distractions in the classroom have always existed going back to days where kids blew spit balls through straws. With cell phones, we also face the issue where it has evolved from a safety net with our 911 into a cheat tool, an sms tool, or a mini "black box" electronic gateway. I've seen small high school classrooms and large lecture halls become power struggles between professor and student. How will we face problems like cell phones or computer games which can distract not only the using student, but surrounding students as well?

Debra Socia: Great question. We have to make the actual lessons far more interesting and engaging. We have to insist that students are on task. We can and should have high expectations - which students will meet if we give them the opportunity.

Mark Bauerlein: Indeed, the question is excellent. The difficulty with digital tools in classrooms is that while they provide miraculous access to information and resources, they also empower so many adolescent mores and expressions. How do teachers support the one and limit the other?

Marc Prensky: Computers don't support the "lecture" or "tell-test" pedagogy at all. If you are sitting with your laptop during a lecture it's Facebook City for all of us!

Marc Prensky: If on the other hand studet have something challenging to dso on their computers that realtres to the class...

Debra Socia: My suggestion is that we change our thinking about what a lesson looks like. We should not assume that a lecture is an effective tool.

Digital Nation: Another reader wrote, and this seems related,
That history teacher in Growing Up Online said something that really stuck with me, that teachers have to also be entertainers to keep kids' attention. Do you feel that's true, and if so, is it a problem we should be working to solve?

Mark Bauerlein: Yes, the pedagogies will have to change with the new technologies, and finding ways to hold students' attention will become all the more crucial. But what if the kids, equipped with the latest tools, keep moving faster than the teachers, at least in terms of what they find relevant?

Marc Prensky: Attributed to marshall Mcluhan: Anyone who makes a distiction between education and entertainment son't know the first thing about eiyther one!

Debra Socia: As a 30 year educator, I have to say that I always felt i had to be "on" when I was teaching. That meant that I had to be engaging and interesting!

Marc Prensky: Relevance is not the answe--make it REAL and students will be interestdd

Digital Nation: Can you talk about ways that you've seen technology used in a classroom, either really successfully or really unsuccessfully?

Marc Prensky: Hdelp kids affect and change the sworld while they are in your class!

Digital Nation: More specifically?

Mark Bauerlein: Agreed, and what too many teachers give up on, I think, is that The Aeneid, the Federalist Papers, Macbeth, and The House of Mirth are all deeply REAL, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Debra Socia: We have used technology to read and listen to themselves as they learn English. A very effective tool. Students save their practice sessions and critique their efforts over time.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] What does that say about all the information that our students recive, and have to contrast, filter, what do you say about "cut and copy" in students work?

Marc Prensky: Sure. A lesson on Malaria. Kids link t, then make a movie urging others to do so

Mark Bauerlein: Since I disallow laptops and cell phones in my classes, and stick to activities such as memorizing and reciting poems, I can't give examples.

Debra Socia: Mariana, I would say that 35 years ago, when I was in college, I copied and quoted. It was just like cut and paste, but it sure took longer!

Marc Prensky: Hamlet - How many versions of 2b or not 2b are there online? Which do you prefer? Why?

[Comment From DignationFAN ] Semantically, there's a different between "entertainment" and "engagement"....

Marc Prensky: Note to software makers--I hate thqt you can't hit enter to send

Mark Bauerlein: Not sure, Marc, but an exercise in comparison/contrast using the Web would be great.

Digital Nation: From RMY in Honolulu:
Often times we draw attention to the learner and learner capability to be taught in the digital world (focusing on tech tools and gadgets - and not on experience and content), when the reality is that our educators are a key component to the success of the next generation. What should education institutions do to ensure teacher conversion from Digital "Refugees" to at least be Digital Immigrants - if not New Natives themselves?

Marc Prensky: Mark-Of course, that's just one of the things it allows us 2 do that we couln't do before

Marc Prensky: We need to partner and each do what we do best. Kids crete with technology. Teachers evaluate, provide context, quality and rigor

Debra Socia: At the Frederick, we have a whole series of learning opportunities. We differentiate the instruction, we make some of the sessions voluntary, others mandatory, we get students to help, we have teachers helping teachers.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] yes, Debra, but for a lot of teachers "Copy/paste" is a problem, because students use it a lot,

Mark Bauerlein: I think as more teachers who grew up with digital tools enter the classroom, the problem will diminish. But teachers groove habits over time, and it's a lot of work to re-tool. They need and deserve incentives (i.e., cash) to do so.

Debra Socia: We make learning fun for the teachers as well as the students.

Marc Prensky: BS Mark. Do doctors need incentives to keep up with the profession? Or any other professionals?

Marc Prensky: It's expected. Why is it not for teachers?

[Comment From UrEnglishTeacher ] If "cut/copy and paste" is a problem, the assignment needs to be changed.

Debra Socia: We have not provided financial incentives, though we do give stipends to teachers who are teaching other teachers.

Marc Prensky: Teachers who get into real discussionas and learning with their students have fun

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] I am a professor at Union county College in Cranford NJ. I listened to the interview of James Paul Gee who talks about using computers to play games ..since what we are trying to teach is problem solving not memorization of facts (content)

Marc Prensky: Games can be a great learning tool -- if they are well constructed

Mark Bauerlein: Fair enough, Marc, but with doctors you're looking at immediate incentives to keep up--that is, fears of litigation, pressure from peers, etc. With teachers, the impact is less immediate. Yes, teachers are expected to keep up, but they have so many other things to handle every day, keeping up with technology can be a secondary motive.

Debra Socia: Maureen, I love your point. Our end goal is that students are educated, that they meet the expectations, that our objectives are met. We can and must use all the tools we have to get there.

[Comment From Linda F ] I use the digital probe technology with either graphing calculators/computers, and find that it takes science education to a whole new level

Debra Socia: Mark, I think that it becomes a priority for teachers when we make it a priority.

Marc Prensky: I just don't buy that teachers are overloaded. They overload themselves, in many cases, by focusng on the wrong things, l(like preparing lectures, for example)

Mark Bauerlein: Quick admission--I think memorization of facts is a crucial element of learning.

[Comment From Linda F ] The trouble with teaching incentives is that they so often don't relate to what is useful in the classroom. Most PD activity is worthless

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Teachers do not see themselves are professionals because they are not treated as such which is why they do not expect to continually learn throughout their professional career. Schools have to get over the whole punch in and punch out culture in order to foster a more professionally curious culture for their faculty to thrive in (like Doctors)

Marc Prensky: Fact are important. Memorizaton of them is not.

[Comment From Joan B. ] To Mr. Baurlein: what can we change so that for teachers, there IS the incentive/ability to keep up

[Comment From henrybuz ] memorization of facts can sink in better if it's fun, relevant, concrete.

Debra Socia: We have to show folks that use of technology can save time, improve their efficacy, and allow for more creativity. Then teachers weill actively engage.

Mark Bauerlein: Pay them to do so. I'm in higher ed, so I can't speak with authority about K-12, but from what I see among colleagues, if you don't align salary and working conditions with an activity, it won't much happen.

Digital Nation: Speaking of memorizing facts, here's a question:
Standardized testing seems like it is becoming increasingly less relevant to the real world, but students should be evaluated in some form or other. What are some ways we could be testing real knowledge -- problem-solving, comprehension, communication, etc -- instead of fact-memorization on a grand scale? Could we -- should we -- get rid of the SAT?

[Comment From Linda F ] Stop rewarding "seat-time" in PD, and give teachers credit for learning technology, even if on their own

Mark Bauerlein: Memorization of facts works best when the facts become part of a meaningful story or image. Make them atomic and they are forgotten.

Debra Socia: on-line grade books, digital drop boxes, connections to web based learning tools...all are great ways to engage teachers.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Incentives will only be yet another band aid on a broken system. Teachers know that they are going to be rich when they decide to enter the profession. They are in it for other reasons.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Their incentive is to see their students do well much like a Dr. likes to see his/her patients do well

Marc Prensky: I think every teacheer should take the SAT and make their sores public. Then we'll see just how useful a test it is

[Comment From UrEnglishTeacher ] If you need some facts, text message Google (466453), anywhere, any time. We'll still learn our multiplication facts though.

Mark Bauerlein: A quick point about standardized testing. Many tests do involve real knowledge or "higher-order thinking" than just multiple choice selection. Many of the NAEP questions, in fact, ask for paragraph responses (which are graded as adequate or not).

Debra Socia: I would love to see a new way of looking at success. Standardized testing so rarely identifies students who can solve real world problems that arise in the curent job market.

[Comment From holly a ] some colleges have stopped using the SAT as a way of knowing if you get in. Wake forest for example

[Comment From henrybuz ] Can teachers somehow collaborate with their students (who may know the technology better) to help them use the technology better, rather than feel they must do it all on their own?

Mark Bauerlein: Agreed, Marc, have the teachers take the tests. Debra may recall what happened in New York (I believe) when some of the teachers' scores were made public.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] why do we continually try to fit technology into an already broken system expect that it will improve?

[Comment From Dan N. ] I have a question for Ms. Socia... how have you seen technology impact the culture of your school?

Marc Prensky: Making students memorize the multiplication tables is a mistake. If we cut out that, the long division algorithm and cursive handwieing we would have yreas in elementary school to teach problem solving and other things that are important today

Debra Socia: Gregg, agreed, we need a new way of thinking about teaching. We should not be using the technology to do the same old "stuff" we did before!

Digital Nation: I'm curious about that too, Dan - Debra, can you describe a little how your school is using tech?

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Testing is an area where technology can make huge improvements. Instead of these drive by assessments, technology can observe student progress in real-time - we need people to innovate in this area to help drive the culture to individualized learning

Debra Socia: Dan, we are far better communicators, much stronger educators, more able to engage parents, and we have seen the students' ability to creatively respond to a dilemma.

Marc Prensky: Personal plug: I'm writing a "how to book for teachers on "Partnering with your Digital native Learners" Would love to hear good examples

[Comment From Linda F ] The same with kids - the Carnegie unit measurement has to go. Let's have mastery learning. When they can prove that they understand the content, they get to move on. Scores on standardized tests are useful, but need to be put into context.

Marc Prensky: You mean like their video games?

Mark Bauerlein: The problem with regarding facts as simply something to retrieve from Google is that it denies facts any significance beyond information. Some facts, though, are deeply suffused with value and meaning, such as the opening sentence of the Gettysburg Address. Students shouldn't have to go to Google to remember it.

[Comment From Linda F ] I do collaborate with students; they get points for what they do, over and above the expected. The incentive (and copious public praise) lead my students to work to be the uber-geeks.

Marc Prensky: If you are level 60, everyone knows what yu know and can do

Debra Socia: We use video, digital portfolios, blogging, on-line courses, email with parents, chatting between colleagues, on-line language learning, differentiated literacy tools...

Marc Prensky: The opening snetence of the Gettysburg address is not a fact

Debra Socia: Mark - why shouldn't it be OK to go to Google to get a fact or an openning line?

Marc Prensky: But I do agree that that and other things are worth memorizing

[Comment From Linda F ] Interactive systems are a START - I've used them, and they do give quick feedback, as well as focus attention for the entire quiz (poor students often "shut down" midway through a test/quiz)

Marc Prensky: Becuase you can reflect on them.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] debra - all of those apps you are using can inform a larger system that measures individual student learning progress and inform the teacher and parent each day where the student needs to focus

Mark Bauerlein: Because certain of these materials should be taken to heart. They rise to the level of being essential to an educated, informed adulthood. They are the raw materials of character and belief.

Debra Socia: Absolutely, Gregg. We know where students are, what else they need to know, and how to better respond to their needs.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] but mark P , some information we have to memorize... to make wisdom..

[Comment From Joan B. ] yes, but I find that the facts most students end up remembering are facts that they never were forced to memorize in the first place--facts that they picked up in the course of, say, writing a paper on Egyptian pyramids (or something)

Marc Prensky: Yes Marc, but good people might disagree profoundly on what the important things are

[Comment From UrEnglishTeacher ] Marc: What is worth memorizing? I never really learned ALL that multiplication stuff anyway, so . . . going ok so far. PS-40 Texas Teachers "listening" here right now

[Comment From henrybuz ] Out of curiosity, are any of you using technology in the classroom to get students to collaborate on projects? If so, any examples?

Marc Prensky: I agree with Mark that some important thoughts (not facts0 are worth knowing by heart--if you recall them and reflect on them periodically

Mark Bauerlein: Indeed, Marc, and that's the difficulty in a multicultural society. Which cultural traditions are respected? Other nations, for instance, have no trouble laying out a set reading list for their language classes. Everybody in Italy must read Dante. We can't agree on any such core in English in the United States, not even Shakespeare.

Marc Prensky: Nor should we

Digital Nation: Let's turn to reading, another area where I know Marc and Mark differ...

Debra Socia: We lots of collaboration - digital storytelling, peer to peer editing of written and oral work. Google docs make collaboration EASY

Digital Nation: ANother question: Do you foresee a day when eReaders like Kindle replace textbooks in schools?

Mark Bauerlein: The state of Massachusetts laid out a large recommended reading list for English a few years ago. Some like it, some hate it.

Debra Socia: We don't have textbooks now. We do, however, have lots of novels. I do think Kindles are like to replace those!

[Comment From Linda F ] Do students have to memorize all the dates of Amercan history? No. But, they do have to have a sense of which events follow others; that the War of 1812 followed the Revolutionary War, as well as the fact that the Constitution was ratified before 1812. Those facts help students put the flow of history into perspective.

Mark Bauerlein: The Kindle is great, and it may ease some spinal problems for 7th-graders.

Marc Prensky: I forsee the day when most informaton will be delivered in non-textual frm, and reading will be unnecessary, (as it already is for 80 percent of the population, who can get the info (e.g. news) in other ways

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] re: critical information - information is evolutionary by definition. We need to teach hardcore fundamentals like reading and arithmetic at the primary grade level to mastery then unleash the literate students from grade 3 -12 on learning and making sense of the vast volumes of info they now have at their fingertips through project based learning with technology as a tool

[Comment From Linda F ] However, the Kindle, right now, is fragile - I doubt it can take childish abuse.

Mark Bauerlein: What, though, is the quality of the information they get, Marc? I think that reading a newspaper in paper form produces a more informed individual than readiing it in electronic form.

Marc Prensky: Reading and writing is a temporary, inefficient disconnected (before the web) form of information storage and retrieval -- we will do better

Debra Socia: We agree here at the Frederick - technology is a powerful tool in our teaching toolbox. Not the only tool!

[Comment From Joan B ] ...reading will be unnecessary? Come on, Prensky. You still read, even if it's on a screen

Marc Prensky: I'm old!

Mark Bauerlein: So am I!

Debra Socia: me too!

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] I don't know if reading skils will be evolve out - but they will certainly be less important than media literacy skills in the future

Marc Prensky: and there is a portion of the population that will read for a long time. But it may e worth the struggle to teach that particular form of literaqcy to everyone, when other forms are available
not b

Mark Bauerlein: Regarding information, I sometimes think that with knowledge so available to young people these days, they take being knowledgeable less seriously.

Marc Prensky: it may not be worth the struggle

[Comment From henrybuz ] Can you briefly elaborate on why reading the news in paper form is better than electronic?

Marc Prensky: Fihe, teach them -- it's your job!

Debra Socia: I suspect that our children will always be readers, but I think the manner in which they receive the written word will differ.

Marc Prensky: I*s hearing an ebook "reading"? if so I agree. But its' reading with our ears"

[Comment From Steve J. ] Ms. Socia... has having more technology in your school impacted attendance? behavior issues?

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] you say" I think that reading a newspaper in paper form produces a more informed individual than readiing it in electronic form. " but that is YOU. Today's generation feel the same about reading online with its links and comments...

Debra Socia: Steve J. - We have seen a huge decrease in student behavioral issues and have seen our attendance increase. In addition, students do not transfer out - we have the lowest transfer rate of any middle school in Boston.

Marc Prensky: I went to an alrernative HS is Texas where dorpout can come back, wok individually at computers and get the credits they need to gradualte. Pretty full.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Again, depends on your definition of reading - if reading is defined as consuming information then we are not teaching ALL of the skills students need

Mark Bauerlein: Well, it's more a matter of disposition and habit. When you read the newspaper in paper form, it takes longer, you tend to look at headlines and stories more carefully, and you find a spot for a moment of reflection. You also spend a bit more time with things you aren't interested in. On the screen, readers tend to move quickly and cull their news in bits and pieces, attracted to things that they already care about. The screen, for most kids, is a customization, personalization tool.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] It is the teacher's job to teach how to evaluate the information found on the internet or on paper for veracity

Marc Prensky: Disagree- that's opinon, not fact

Digital Nation: MrsLFox from Rock Hill asks, Who are likelier to be the main force in online education, private or public schools?

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] yes teach what is opinion and what is fact..

Mark Bauerlein: I base the reading habits online vs. offline on excellent research conducted by Jakob Nielsen.

Marc Prensky: That's a pert of what needs to be done, but student can do it too

Marc Prensky: I'm in general not a fan of his (I disagreed with almost eerything he said on interface design) but I'll check it out.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] this debate will be moot in a few years since we will not be able to put the genie back in the bottle

[Comment From Guest ] what about the issue of financing technological updates in school? who can afford to keep up with this- is it even possible?

Marc Prensky: How do you define "excellent research?" Most research is terrible.

Marc Prensky: And, at least in scin ece, needs to be reproduced several times before we tke it as anythng but hypothesis

[Comment From Guest ] What would be your recommendations of standards for "excellent research"?

Marc Prensky: There is far too much jumpint to conclusins in education based on poor or little data. Very little talking and listening to students

Mark Bauerlein: His studies seem well-designed except for occasional problems with small sample sizes. But his use of eye-tracking technology to study reading habits on the screen looks warranted and illuminating.

Debra Socia: RE sustainability - if we stop purchasing the "stuff" we don't need (like paper, copiers, and texts), and as the cost of the computers goes down, we will more easily move the cost of the laptops into our general school budgets.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] what do you think about the experiences in "Uruguay" and other countries about "1 PC kid"?

Marc Prensky: Maybe. But who os verifying his conclusions. And ONLY small sample size?

Digital Nation: Here's a related budget question - If you were the Secretary of Education and were suddenly granted an unlimited budget, what would you do to improve schools right now? What's the most important thing we should be looking at on the national level to improve education?

Marc Prensky: Did neilson doing eye tracking on paper and compare? Or are u drawing these conclusions of one thing being better meshng his reasearch and your conjectures?

Mark Bauerlein: A word about the techno-savvy of the young. In 20067 when ETS released the findings of its study of tech skills of high school and college students, it found that while they are adroit with lower-order skills of searching and retrieving, they floundered when it came time to do more complex things such as evaluate the material they retrieved. Their conclusion: "Few test takers demonstratedkey ICT skills."

Debra Socia: RE budget, I think we must provide teachers with preparation to be teachers - currently they are so engaged in content learning that they are not able to focus on the ART of teaching. This training must include the opportunity for teachers to deeply engage in understanding the use of technology in the classroom.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] unlimited budget --- hmm. shut down schools for a year - redesign from the ground up and start over - it is too broken to improve :)

Marc Prensky: of course-these are not things you are born with--their teachers have been deficient in teaching these skills

Mark Bauerlein: His work doesn't examine paper, so far as I know, Marc, but he did find that when people did encounter page-like sites, such as with pdf. files, they tended to print them up, then read them.

Marc Prensky: Joel Klein patted himself on the back in HuffPost about the new iSchool (i've been there andI like it). But it's taken him seven years to get 100 kids out of 1.1 million a 21st century education!

[Comment From Todd Oppenheimer ] I'm finally on -- sorry, as coincidence would have it, I was experiencing, uh, technical difficulties

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] give every child a computer and spend the $$ teaching today's teacher to be coaches NOT "lecturer's" Per J Papert it needs to be ONE ($400 each) per child

Mark Bauerlein: Yes, this is the question, Marc. Are the huge costs of technology in schools justified by the outcomes?

Debra Socia: In my humble opinion, yes. The question is how do we measure success and what are the outcomes we wish to see?

Marc Prensky: They will be, if we use the technology in the right way.

Mark Bauerlein: Question: How much does a music teacher in a school cost? And how much does a tech support specialist cost?

Marc Prensky: It took business decades to figure out how to do this.

Digital Nation: Trig Inkpen from Burlington, NC asks,
How do you see MUVEs (multi-user virtual environments) benefiting student learning? Is this something that teachers should be focusing on or are they a waste of time?

Debra Socia: And we can learn from them.

Marc Prensky: The kids can be the tech support specialists

[Comment From Guest ] Excellent point Debra...what are the outcomes we need to see. Are the ones we're using still in the 19th century?

Digital Nation: I think Trig is asking about Second Life and similar.

Mark Bauerlein: Also, we should ask about all the evaluations of big tech initiatves in schools that demonstrated some improvement in attitudes of students, but absolutely no impact on academic achievement?

Debra Socia: We do have student tech support at the Frederick. It works VERY well. :)

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] prohibitive costs cannot justify maintaining an education system that does not educate.

Marc Prensky: May I recommend my "Five Meta-Skills for the 21st century" online at

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Mark - please define academic achievement?

Debra Socia: What is the measure of academic achievement, Mark? Whether or not someone has memorized a formula that could be found quickly from google? Or is it the synthesis of a variety of data into a cogent argument?

Todd Oppenheimer: Sorry to be late on this. Have any of you adequately looked at the great moment of opportunity we have now with today's economic troubles. That is, as the government, and schools in particular, face drastic cuts, this is a great moment to lose the stuff that is most expensive for the least bang (technology) and spend more for what counts: good teaching.

Mark Bauerlein: One study by two University of Chicago economists examined the impact of E-Rate, the federal program of subsidies to schools for Internet access. Their conclusion: "the additional investments in technology generated by E-Rate had no immediate impact on measured student outcomes." The achievement such evaluations focus on is test scores.

Marc Prensky: The main reason those technologies didn't increase achievement, IMHO, is that the teachers didn't change their pedagogy. Teachology doesn't support tell-test, except in the most trivial of ways (e.g. showing picytures and videos)

Digital Nation: Weelcome Todd Oppenheimer! Todd has followed technology's role in education for many years and compiled the findings in his book The Flickering Mind, has managed to join us now.

Mark Bauerlein: Could be, Marc, but then this adds a whole new layer of cost to implementation.

Todd Oppenheimer: Glad someone mentioned e-rate, which has been an open invitation to the less ethical among the technology companies to basically swindle one school after another. It is government sanctioned robbery, and that's putting it politely.

Marc Prensky: it doens't have to be costly -- we put in lot of stuff that becmes obsolete before it is ever used.

Mark Bauerlein: Remember, too, that E-Rate is something paid by every person who has a phone, every month.

Digital Nation: Ouch! Todd, I'm curious how you'd respond to an earlier question -
If you were the Secretary of Education and were suddenly granted an unlimited budget, what would you do to improve schools right now? What's the most important thing we should be looking at on the national level to improve education?

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] Mark - one of the requirements of eRate is to have Internet blocking software on the server it pays for - limiting teachers and students access to sites like youtube - talk about a waste of money!

Marc Prensky: if i were to equip a classroom, I'd suggest great WI-FI and a bunch of iTouches (say one for every 2 students. Cheap.

[Comment From Joan B ] I've heard about that, Todd---it makes me very erate, so to speak

Debra Socia: there are many netbooks and nettops that work very well in schools -- and cost as little as a good science text might cost.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] I have seen LCD projectors stacked in Principals closets for years because they were afraid the students would steal them - in effect - the principal stole them

[Comment From Tom B. ] Having taught in schools without computers and now a school with technology, the contrast is like night and day. Technology has opened more of the world to my students, some of whom have never left their neighborhood, nevermind the country.

Marc Prensky: Does anyone wathch the kids? it's about handhelds and clell phnes?

Mark Bauerlein: Do you mean, Tom B., that without the computers the students were lost and benighted?

Debra Socia: FYI, we have never had a student computer or LCD projector stolen by any of our staff or students! We are an inner city school with many neighborhood issues. Not a problem. Students are proud of their computers and take the responsbility quite seriously.

Todd Oppenheimer: Thanks for the question. If I were secretary of ed, I'd invest first in much more robust teacher training. And I'd strike a bargain with the teacher's unions -- they only get this if they, in return, offer schools greater leeway (and union hands off) in getting rid of dead wood teachers, which are numerous. I'd then try to articulate the proper hierarchy of learning, beginning with real inquiries in the real world -- not on screen.

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] yes Marc - I run an after-school program in a depressed urban area - no digital divide there - all of the kids (300 plus) have cell phones and are facebooking

Marc Prensky: I try to make the distiction between verbs (problem solving, creative or critical thinking, communicating, presenting) and the tools or nouns that we use to do these things

Marc Prensky: The verbs change very little, but the nous change rapidly

Digital Nation: Another question on the use of gaming in schools from maxwell judd:
Ever since I first began playing video games as a child, I've been enthralled with the genre of adventure games like Myst. Here in America very few people make, or play, these games any longer. However there is still a sizable volume of titles that stream out of Europe and Asia. These adventure games often require patience and logic solving. So my question is this.
Do these types of games promote a tendency towards problem solving and patience in real life situations and as a follow up, why do Americans seem to be so opposed to this genre?

Marc Prensky: And our kids should be using the latest, best nous (tools)

[Comment From Gregg Festa ] That's right Debra! They know a good thing when they see it!

[Comment From Guest ] @Mark B: Is your class required?

Digital Nation: Can you comment on using games for education? Should we be doing more of that, or are there dangers to look out for?

Marc Prensky: Gaming in schools if fnally catching on -- but it's still not easy for a teacher to do

[Comment From Guest ] WoW is an adventure game and plenty of students play that.

Mark Bauerlein: Check out the film "Flunked" for good profile of renegade school principals who implemented innovative policies and got good results. And no, my class isn't required.

Debra Socia: I think that games for education works just fine - as long as the anticipated outcomes match those we wish to see.

Marc Prensky: Mostly we lack good curricular games, and g

[Comment From Kevin ] Principal Socia... is this your school's website? ... I particularly like the "LGF On Camera!" page.

Marc Prensky: ood ways t integrate them into teaching

Todd Oppenheimer: The best of these games (like Myst & the Journey of the Zoombeenies) do teach some great logic skills. The key is not to exaggerate or over-romanticize those skills. They are only one small skill set, they are not worth sidelining other activities to make room for them.

Debra Socia: Yes, it is! Thanks, Kevin.

[Comment From asajohnson ] @Mark B: So, you don't have to teach the kids who don't want to learn your subject.

Marc Prensky: Yucan use a game to teach any skill. Try me-I'll design one on the fly, right hre

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] teachers are so concerned about covering content - getting the students to learn facts - games teach problem-solving

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] they are doing ..they keep students focused

Mark Bauerlein: It is a course that meets a general requirement, if they wish to use it that way, and many of the students in it are not English majors. Surprisingly, they often perform better than the humanities types.

Todd Oppenheimer: Lots of things teach problem solving. Why not have them solve real problems?

Debra Socia: And use the computer to do so!

[Comment From TX Teacher ] Game for prime factorization . . . or do we need to know how to do that?

Marc Prensky: Kids should be mastering the verbs and ,for the ontent, answering good guiding questions. They should be using the latest available tools to do so

Digital Nation: Another question, from Brooklyn:
What's the most important skill for kids to learn before college, in this generation and, say, the one following?

Marc Prensky: Not just probem solving. Fighuring out the right thing to do. G

Mark Bauerlein: Big question: WIth so many kids playing video games and doing other digital diversions that involve problem solving, why is it that problem solving skills for students in high school and college are so low?

Debra Socia: Our students identify issues of social justice in our community, do research, and create presentations that are given to a "real" audience, like folks in the Boston Mayor's office.

Marc Prensky: etting it done. Doing it with others. Doing it creatively. Continually improving

[Comment From asajohnson ] @Mark B: However, you still have a choice to take your class. They probably pick-a-prof'ed it and know what to expect. It's hard to lay down the law and demand old school memorization and reading to kids who have never experienced that and it is not their learning style.

[Comment From asajohnson ] IMO

Marc Prensky: Befuase teachers son't help kids make the leap.

Marc Prensky: Transfer, for most kids, is a skill that has to be taught.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] the sage on the stage is gone ..schools must be about students being learners (games players ..2nd life??) creators, does"r - rather than "teaching quality" - a quote I like is "the less I teach, the moe they learn"

Debra Socia: Collaboration, making connections, determining real vs fake, ability to use tools to solve problems.

Marc Prensky: Realy, Mark, teachers should stop blaming the kids, and look in the mirror

Mark Bauerlein: The reasons why students drop out in their first year of college (about 30 percent of them) are many. One, they have poor study skills, such as doing homework while watching television. Two, they don't study enough, not realizing the hours needed to do well. Three, they have skill deficiencies (note the rise in remediation). And four, they lack cultural literacy needed for the context of their liberal arts classes.

Todd Oppenheimer: To Brooklyn: I wrote about this in my book ("The Flickering Mind") and in a recent Op-Ed (SF Chronicle, 12/08): the most important skills in today's global world are reasoning, history, writiing, work habits, math, and more broadly cultural anthropology. Just read the great business theorist Peter Drucker, who was no enemy of technology. He emphasized the same things.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] collaboration works because the students become teachers...

Marc Prensky: Four- their teachers have never integrated their intersts and passions intor their teaching

[Comment From asajohnson ] Kids now a day won't work in a factory or one job their entire life. They need versatile skills to sell themselves and be mini-entrepreneurs to "sell" themselves for the multiple jobs they will have.

Mark Bauerlein: Agreed, Marc.

[Comment From asajohnson ] To be adaptable.

Todd Oppenheimer: collaboration also connects to a great teaching style that too often goes overlooked. It's called "constructivist" teaching. Bank Street Teachers College in NYC is probably its greatest practitioner

Marc Prensky: Shal we end on agreement?

Debra Socia: Mark, perhaps a 5th reason? Not all higher ed folks are comfortable teaching students using tools and methods that are exciting and engaging.

Digital Nation: We have to wrap it up pretty shortly, but here's a question that came in that might provide some interesting background on our panellists:
How many hours a week do you read for pleasure?

Debra Socia: Honestly - I read 3 to 5 novels a week. At the same time, I am often reading a few non-fiction books about education and/or technology. I am a reader!

Mark Bauerlein: Higher ed folks at research institutions, Debra, operate on two principles, one is inertia and two is "Don't bother me, I'm doing research."

Todd Oppenheimer: Interesting story in today's NYT -- that even in today's job layoffs, companies are starving for properly trained specialty workers. It's not hard to figure out why: excellence and attention to real world detail have been on decline for decades. And not just in our schools

[Comment From asajohnson ] Is there a written transcript for this? (I will READ it!) :)

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] 5) because the material is not relevant to their goal or at least they don't see it and6) because the teaching methods are not real cell phones...not open use of the internet...just go to the library and read as well as

Mark Bauerlein: I read about 12 hours a week for pleasure, these days mostly tough-guy mystery stories such as the Travis Magee series by John McDonald.

Marc Prensky: At least 1hr/night Try to balance fiction (mostly science fictiona dnc lassics with current stuff

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] The reasons why students drop out in their first year of college (about 30 percent of them) are many. One, they have poor study skills, such as doing homework while watching television. Two, they don't study enough, not realizing the hours needed to do well. Three, they have skill deficiencies (note the rise in remediation). And four, they lack cultural literacy needed for the context of their liberal arts classes.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] but looking for information or investigation in the reading or not?

Marc Prensky: I read Travis in the 70's!

Todd Oppenheimer: Maureen -- great observation

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] " properly trained specialty workers. " do you do that by teaching facts or problem solving...of course problem solving

[Comment From Joan B ] Or Five, they can't afford it any more (or find that higher education isn't worth working three jobs + classes)

Todd Oppenheimer: Marianna -- that is ONE layer of investigation. One must go well beyond that, and today's computer culture completely forgets that.

Marc Prensky: But mostly they're not engaged, and don't have something they WANT to learn

Marc Prensky: In the words of Will Wright: When someone wants to learn something you can't stop them!

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] you read books because you learned the pleasure of that as a's teenagers and 20 are enjoying themselves when reading on the internet ...forcing them to read will not get them to remember what they read

[Comment From mariana affronti ] yes, todd but for argentina´s teachers and educators it's difficult to think like that...

Marc Prensky: I don't read books becuase it's pleasurable -- I wish there were and easier wy to get the same info

Marc Prensky: and faster!

Debra Socia: Our students read every day in school, out of school. You see students here walking down the hall with a novel open...computers and technology integration are not mutually exclusive activites.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] they will remember what they learned by doing..following hyperlinks and finding information to solve problems'

[Comment From henrybuz ] agreed

Mark Bauerlein: Yes, if kids want to learn, they'll carry their ambitions beyond the classroom and make their leisure hours more intellectual.

Marc Prensky: Nobody remembers the books they read, except in the most general way

[Comment From Guest ] Kids read tons of things online, just not the standard novel.

Marc Prensky: A great book: How to talk about books you haven't read

Mark Bauerlein: Unless, Marc, those books hit them in a personal way, such as by identifying with a hero.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] ahhh but it is that general knowledge that can be put to good use

[Comment From Guest ] Probably kids are reading more because of rabbit-holing through Wikipedia and other news sources, than if they were limited to paper books.

Marc Prensky: I'm not saying there's no impact--of course there is, but most of the details fade fast

Debra Socia: We hope we are teaching children to read for pleasure AND to read for purpose. On-line, in books, in newspapers...

Mark Bauerlein: Another big question. Kids are, indeed, reading more than ever before. Why then, have 12-grade reading scores been flat since the early-70s and have slipped since the early 90s?

Marc Prensky: Mark - Have you read Pierre Bayard's book (above?)

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] yess...personal way, such as by identifying ...again this is the need for each student to have his/her own computer and follow the stuff that interest them under the GENERAL guidance of a coach

[Comment From Guest ] Do you concede that at least kids have more access to books and literature via technology as compared to lower-income kids who have no paper books at home?

Mark Bauerlein: Yes, Marc, some of it, and it was a wicked (and witty) theme.

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] you can't teach to read for pleasure

Debra Socia: BUT, we know that the ability to differentiate the levels, to provide non-fiction content, to engage more senses (sound, video) is important to the teaching of literacy to students who come to us with a very wide range of abilities.

Mark Bauerlein: On book access, today in the U.S. we have more public libraries than ever before.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] yes , Debra y like look at the world with another eyes, read in different formats...

[Comment From mariana affronti ] in a world in movement the one that remains quiet backs down

[Comment From asajohnson ] What do you have to say for the fact that engineering companies would require their engineers to do calculations with computers or calculators rather than risk hand-work?

Mark Bauerlein: But there are some things, Maureen, that kids must read whether they like them or not: the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, Huck Finn, etc.

Todd Oppenheimer: Back to the queston of what a Secty of Ed should do, which I think is central. (After all, we could beat up on what technology misses all day.) It's just like any industry -- the basic infrastructure of schooling has been neglected. And NCLB didn't help, with its overemphasis, first, on testing; and second, on only two subjects: math and reading. The physical, experiential material needed for sophisticated inquiries in the real world -- test tubes and field trips and the like for the sciences; library skills for history and social studies; writing and discussion skills for the whole gamut -- all of this has been buried under the demand for superficial numbers suggesting improved academics. We've got to get back to the basics -- or, what I call in my book "Enlightened Basics" -- how to think for oneself, how to fully investigate a problem, any problem, at whatever age; how to talk about it, and then write about it clearly and intelligently. How to know what you don't know, and then find out what's missing. That takes some equiipment but it mostly takes smart, motiivated teachers -- who will be paid properly, rewarded for their creativity -- and given the freedom to use their creativity -- and will be penalized promptly when they fall short on these fronts.

[Comment From asajohnson ] What are the demographics of library users?

Marc Prensky: We are so stuck on reading, in an age where it is becoming less and less relevant and important to sucess. 20 years ago yu couln't success without i. Now i bet, at some level, you can, and even thrive. And in ur kid's liftimes, the shift will be even more dramatic.

[Comment From Linda F ] Years ago, I turned off the TV in my home during the day. It wasn't turned on until my husband came home. My kids made their best academic progress during those years.

Debra Socia: Yes, Linda, but the television is not interractive, does not allow for the creation of content, and does not allow for a "search" for that which is interesting to the user.

Marc Prensky: But they know little about TV ,our most common cultural medium and thread

[Comment From maureen Greenbaum ] I volunteer for but I think it is Sisafian (sp) task to beings books back as the primary source of reading. But as a community college prof I am concerned with their distaste for reading anythng...which means theat if they can't watch a video they can't learn new stuff. So maybe the way to do it is to let them read things they enjoy in jr high and high school not Shakespear and Beawolf!

Debra Socia: Computers do!

[Comment From asajohnson ] What do you have to say for the importance of differentiated education per the states?

[Comment From asajohnson ] What kids need in New York might be different from those in Louisiana?

Mark Bauerlein: What is a life, Marc, without reading? Think of what Frederick Douglass said about reading: it was the path out of slavery. Or what John Stuart Mill said about reading poetry: a medicine for his mind.

[Comment From Matt Taylor ]
Haha. Success without reading. You are dreaming. It will always be an under the radar form of communication. Why is text based chat (like this) successful? Reading will simply change to be more packetized. Smaller bursts from multiple sources.

Digital Nation: This has been an amazing discussion! But I'm going to stop publishing questionsin the interest of letting our panel get on with their day.

Marc Prensky: You're OK with "if they can't read they can't learn new stuff" but you're not OK with "if they can't watch a video they can't learn new stuff." Media prejudice!

Debra Socia: I think we are moving toward national standards, Asa. According to Duncan, we are going to be there in a few years...along with a national test to go with the national standards.

Marc Prensky: That's becuasde, in FD's day, there were no alternativs! Come on! Enter the 21st century

Mark Bauerlein: Yes, the national standards movement is moving forward, led by the National Governor's Association.

Todd Oppenheimer: I have to leave you all now, but I thank you. And I hope you will all at least glance at my book ("The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology.") Ironically, although it was writtten in 2003 (then updated in paperback in 2004), its basic message remains nearly as relevant today as it was then. I say this for two reasons: 1. the education ship is still drifting in the horrible directions set by Clinton (too many computers) and Bush (too much NCLB); and 2. signs are that Obama and Arne Duncan are sympathetic and open to the smart ways of reversing this course.
Good luck. Sounds like each of you are doing some very smart thinking.

[Comment From mariana affronti ] our kids read all time, hipertext, books, etc, dont forget that

Digital Nation: Any parting thoughts from any of our panelists before we sign off?

Todd Oppenheimer: Mine just sent. Many thanks!

Marc Prensky: I will read it, but i sure disagree with your premises!

[Comment From Cristina ] Hi there! I'm an EFL professor in Brazil and the situation of schooling infrastructure is not that different here from what you are describing...and what's worse! common tech gadgets like Ipods and stuff are expensive for our stds... even so, my stds tell me they download loads of books on pdf format and read them on their computer screens!

Mark Bauerlein: An enjoyable back and forth, DN--many thanks to you and Marc, Debra, and Todd.

Digital Nation: Todd, thanks for joining us!

Marc Prensky: Thanks

Debra Socia: I invite you to come visit LGF! We are a school where lots of interesting things are happening! Computers galore and lots of great teaching and learning. Right in the heart of Boston!

[Comment From Matt Taylor ] Technology has been found to not necessarily improve learning. But just to help it stay engaging.

Todd Oppenheimer: Marc -- my premises are more nuanced and balanced in the book than they were here. just fyi

Digital Nation: And Mark, Marc, and Debra, this was fantastic.

Marc Prensky: I'm sure they are -- but they are leading you to false conclusions that are bad for our kids!

[Comment From mariana affronti ] clap, clap, clap, thanks to all of tou

Todd Oppenheimer: Oh, Marc. Take a look at what's happening to our youth cultuer. what's really happening.

[Comment From henrybuz ] Yeah thanks! I hope we can do more of these in the future.

Marc Prensky: I tak to thousand of kids. We dont listen to them, we don't respoect them.

[Comment From Matt Taylor ] You can still shape the youth culture. You're not powerless.

Marc Prensky: Let's focus on what they CAN do, and what they WANT to do.

Todd Oppenheimer: yes, matt hit it right. who is in charge here?

[Comment From mariana affronti ] evolution

Marc Prensky: But what if they're right and we're not?

Todd Oppenheimer: i have kids, so i don't say this out of ignorance. we respect them, we listen to them. but we are in charge of what's wrong and right.

Marc Prensky: Sorry, but I think you're the South in the Civil War. I hope the North wins!

Marc Prensky: But it's going to be a big fight!

[Comment From Malinda ] Here's a view from the kids themselves:

Todd Oppenheimer: by all. good luck. it's been fun...

[Comment From Cristina ] Hi Marc...I don't talk to that many kids... but I couldnt agree more! and speaking about what we CAN do, I guess we need to be humble and learn a bit from and with these kids

Marc Prensky: Thanks Christina--I agree.

[Comment From Matt Taylor ] Well, Marc, at least there's strength in overall diversity. Perhaps there will be an evolutionary need for kids with ADD -tendencies over those that can focus in the more said-to-be-outmoded ways.

Digital Nation: Clearly we could extend this discussion all day - it's definitely interesting enough! But unfortunately we're out of time.

Digital Nation: I want to thank all of our panellists again for their insights, and to everyone who joined in the debate today.

Marc Prensky: K- Thanks. People can contact me online at

Digital Nation: And please feel free to discuss further on the Digital Nation site!

Marc Prensky: l8r

Digital Nation: There will also be a transcript of the discussion, so you can review anything you may have missed.



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posted February 2, 2010

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