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Digital natives–OR–what should be taught by English departments

July 2, 2007

Last week or so InsideHigherEd ran a piece about teaching digital natives (young’ens those know about ‘puters)about going to the dusty ole library. On this, I am of two minds:

Mind One: the current library system is an antiquated shrine to the book gods that should be overhauled–perhaps by the Google initiative to scan all the books or some other means. But the shrine should be opened to all, not just tuition-paying elites.

That said, my other mind takes over: One does not teach “digital natives” about computers and online offerings, one opens the services up and lets the “natives” run. That is, the services should be online and intuitive so that the insticnt of the natives can be accommodated. This is what the article proposed. I think it is partially correct.

When Lovely Wife was ensconced at Brand U, it became clear that the students and profs (more prof than student) had tools well beyond my exposure. These tools allowed for massive categorization, collocation and research. In short, these people were privy to some kick-ass software that cut the research time down and the ability to footnote to exponential levels. Such software as Endnote came into my consciousness, and I got really pissed off. Why hadn’t my grad school flagged this for me? Why hadn’t my undergraduate for that matter? Why must I learn about such a tool by chance?

If English really wants to legitimize itself, teach the newest technology that will allow a graduate at least a fighting chance for publication.


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