I have James Bridle to thank for recently reminding me of Piotr Czerski’s The Web Kids. I used a portion of that piece in my presentation at the Covent Garden Apple Store last week:
We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment.
We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online.
The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us.
Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.
I know what you think I’m going to say next: that these are the children we are teaching today. That we need to change our teaching approach to cater for this shift.
Wrong. The people Czserski describes are not today’s pupils but the parents of today’s pupils. Those who were teenagers coming of age when the consumer Internet arrived in the mid-90s are today’s thirtysomethings whose five-year-olds are enrolling in your schools right now.
The transition to teaching ‘digital children’ is long since past. In a sense, they’re our missed generation. The children whose first baby photos were digital are about to enter university.
We have five to seven years - maybe ten - until Czserski’s Web Kids are the majority of parents. This is a trend that will never reverse itself, so we had better figure out how to meet these parents’ aspirations for their children. These parents who grew up fast and online; who adopted laptops and mobile phones, then smartphones and who are now embracing iPad and Kindle.
Computers aren’t an afterthought for these post-digital Web Parents. They’re not even a thought – they just are.