As a person of a “certain age”, I have to admit to being a very early immigrant. I am ashamed to admit that I have been mucking around with zeroes and ones for the last 35 years or so but I am still = technically – classed as a digital immigrant. Perhaps being such an early adopter, I have never seen the computer, video camera, the variety of recording devices that have come and gone as anything more than tools. The digital revolution can be seen as quite similar to that of the internal combustion engine revolution that took place at the end of the 19th century and continues to this very day. It is quite interesting to note that it has only become apparent to users of the car tool in recent times that the most fundamental challenge facing them is the appropriate use of the tool!
Appropriate use seems to be the largest challenge facing those who take on the digital challenge. A small child can now play with tools that possess more computing power than NASA used in 1969 to land Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon. A form of sophistry is being practiced by some who would have you believe that because of technological convergence, the tool has become mammon. Others would have you believe that the tool is so sophisticated that it obviates the need for much of the education we have proudly cherished.
An old analogy described learning as being like a train journey. Where enjoying and appreciating the people and scenery along the way is at least as important as arriving at a prescribed destination. We experienced the journey with all our senses in the days before carriages became hermetically sealed and sterile. The subtle nuances of our fellow passengers were often as telling as what they actually said or did. In short – we were able to enjoy a holistic learning experience if we chose to embrace the whole ride.
Fast forward – if we are prepared to accept the train analogy, and then attempt to apply it to the modern digital paradigm what do we see? Immediacy – it would seem to many that we are able to virtually arrive in an instant. No need for the meandering journey. No need for any human interaction whatsoever. In fact, one might suggest that it is possible to lose all sense of the journey itself. Gone are the fleeting views and the contact with other human beings. The skills that acted as subtle building blocks are rendered obsolete.
Vygotsky (1978) asserted that learning always precedes development. In other words, through the assistance of a more capable person, a child is able to learn skills or aspects of a skill that go beyond the child’s actual developmental or level of maturity. It follows that development always follows the child’s potential to learn. In this sense, Vygotsky’s theory of a Zone of Proximal Development provides a prospective view of cognitive development, as opposed to a retrospective view that considers development in terms of a child’s independent capabilities. Vygotsky considers the experience and the assistance as being inextricably linked.