Born Digital

I resisted getting a computer in our home until my oldest was in the fifth grade. We were about a year behind most of his classmates in joining the trend and we didn't have the internet at home for another two or three years. Now, about 13 years later, we have a desktop computer and four laptops (one for each of the kids and one for me from my employer) plus a wireless network. (I resisted going wireless when I last purchased a printer, but I'm beginning to see the advantages of having one). All of this equipment is in pretty much constant use--I'll even admit to IMing my children when I am on the desktop in the basement and they are on laptops in their rooms (but for a really good reason as I was having trouble with some sort of computer application, probably the iPod). So it was really frustrating last weekend when our internet service was out for two days. Questions came up several times about various things, mainly about the college admissions process that our daughter is currently involved in, and I said each time that I would have been able to provide an answer if I'd had the internet. It's amazing to me how much I've come to rely on easy access to information along with e-mail and texting.

I used some of the "down" time over the weekend to read Born Digital by Paltrey and Gasser. It's pretty dry and I think they spend a lot of words hammering home their points. Really all you need to read is the final chapter to get the gist of the book. But I was struck by their estimate that their children who are millenial babies (or Digital Natives) will have spent 10,000 hours as active users of the internet by the time they are 20. They say that this amount of time is roughly equivalent to what a musician is expected to practice in order to become a professional.

All of this has obvious implications for educators and how we deliver instruction, but it also gives me pause to think about how I'm spending my time online. I love reading stitching and quilting blogs and looking at what the shops have to offer. I love being able to get access to book and restaurant reviews instantly. I love that I was able to get airline tickets and book the hotels for two upcoming trips in less than 30 minutes. I love that I was able to buy theater tickets to surprise my son for his birthday. But. . .there are those days when I can spend an hour or more surfing just to unwind. I'm having to make choices about using my time that my parents never had to make (wonder it they felt the same way about television). It's a matter of learning to prioritize and figure out what's really important. (Edited to add) And what would I be really good at if I spent 10,000 hours on it?

What are your thoughts?


  1. yeah susan - I don't think any of us could live w/o the convenience and comraderie a connection to the world wide web gives us.

    I'm so sorry to hear of the horrible trial you are having to endure. I hate that you have to go thru this - I hope the court will rule in your (the school's) favor. Peace be with you - Melody


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