Much like riding a bicycle, when learning, you have to start somewhere. This past week I have been preparing students for a winter homework assignment that is to be done at home over the winter vacation, using both Edmodo and Google Drive. I was expecting students to be excited and even somewhat relieved that they could use a computer or their mobile device to do homework, rather than spend hours writing it out on paper. The reality, however, was that most students have very little experience using computers, some of whom did not have any Internet accessible device at home. Watching these high school students use computers as we were signing them up for the services was astounding. Despite the lack of typing skills, students just did not want to touch the things. Checking email, typing in a URL, or even understanding the difference between right and left clicking a mouse were all foreign skills to many of them. They we frustrated, lost, and even a little scared with using the computers. I saw similar expressions when using the iPads and iPods for the first time, but after a few class sessions, students seem to be comfortable with them; but at the same time, these are still fairly new devices, and in Japan are still seen as some what of a luxury to have them, but a personal computer? Whether it be a Mac or a Windows machine, the computer has been around long enough to become a standard commodity… Or has it? Japan, despite being seen as a techno hub, still is very traditional in how business is handled, especially in education. Students are so used to paper, and expect teachers to guide them through all their work. Cell phones and other mobile devices are seen as distractions, and are even banned in many schools (mine included).
One of the ICT instructors at my school informed me that most students just don’t use email, because they have apps like Line, which is Japan’s answer to Skype. I use this app as well. Thinking about its workings, users don’t need to know how to type on a qwerty keyboard, how to send and receive email, how to enter URLs, or how to move from one tab to another. In fact, most mobile apps don’t require anyone to know how to use a computer. So then it’s not that the students don’t have access to Internet accessible devices, but rather that the devices they have don’t allow them to see the Internet the way I saw it growing up in the .com bubble. The GUI has changed, how the Internet is accessed has developed past the entering of a URL, and the traditional qwerty keyboard is going the way of the typewriter.
We have entered into a post-PC era.