January 2010 Archives

Hypertext and Linking

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When I first read Bolter, Wikipedia was the first thing that came to mind. I must admit that I am an avid user of Wikipedia. It is my preferred method of learning about new topics and finding answers to questions that I may have. Why have I, among many others, found Wikipedia to be such a great source of information? Why is it so easy to use? The answer: hypertext.

Hypertext links information together in an organized and logical manner. While I have always considered hypertext to purely be a thing of the World Wide Web, it was interesting to discover that the precursors to hypertext -- as we know it -- were not digital at all. For instance, dictionaries and encyclopedias are both examples of a pre-digital forms of hypertext. Whether digital or not, hypertext disrupts the linear tradition (Bolter, 32). While reading an encyclopedia, one does not read it front to back. In fact, this traditional print form of communication mirrors what we see in today's Wikipedia.

According to David Bolter, "hypertext has become an integral feature of our culture's reading and writing" (40). Since so much of our communication is now done online, it is not shocking that all the medium that easily allow hypertext are increasingly popular. For instance, blogs have quickly become popular -- 30% of the world population blogs. Digital hypertext has allowed us to create an expansive "information web," which could have never taken place in print.

Digital hypertext has expanded our ability to communicate.

Digital Generations

Marc Prensky's article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants discusses the growing rift between users of digital technology. According to Prensky, there are two types of digital users: Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Natives are the generation that have grown up using technology; Immigrants are those that have adapted to technology. I am the former.

What is the opinion of a Digital Native then? How do we view ourselves? If we defined ourselves according to Prensky, I believe that we would be doing a whole generation a grave injustice. Prensky does make truthful claims, but his attempt to sum up the Digital Generation is too simplified. At times, it is insulting. When discussing Digital Natives, Pensky described them as "thriv[ing] on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to "serious" work." While the purpose of the article is to push Digital Immigrants to better understand and work with Natives, I can't help but feel that the author lacks personal understanding.

As a Digital Native, I use technology on a daily basis. I use it for school, work, and entertainment. Literally, I have the world at my fingertips almost 24/7. As a generation, we were not born with an innate sense of technology; instead, it was learned. Fortunately, this experience occurred early in our childhoods, which has made us by nature digital wiz-kids. Our search to find a way to do things quickly and effectively does not reflect on our ability to learn traditional information. Our ability to learn the "old fashion" way was not stunted due to our digital knowledge, but we have adopted a new motto though. "Work smarter, not harder." Prensky seems to have misunderstood our new found motto as seeking instant gratification. Learning is difficult and time consuming, which is all the more reason for reform.

Deducting from appearance that "work smarter, not harder" creates, Prensky presents the idea that the topic of education needs reform. From a Digital Native perspective, I believe that we still need the traditional education. The idea that "reading, writing, arithmetic, logical thinking, understanding the writings and ideas of the past, etc" are educational cores of the past is -- quite frankly -- unreasonable. We are not seeking to rid ourselves of these core stepping stones of education. As a generation, we are seeking a way to do it more effectively.

Overall, Prensky's motive seems to be driven in the right direction. He has grasped that we need to change the way we teach, but he seems to have misunderstood the Digital Natives pleas. We do not need an extreme overhaul of education; we only need to tweak the way we do it. Simply, we need to "work smarter, not harder."

For additional information on how this reform may look, click here.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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