Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Digital Natives

Meet Jacob. A very technology savvy 5th grader with an iPhone, an XBox and a Wii. He is comfortable writing reports on a laptop, chatting and doing research online. Jacob is a "Digital Native". He has never known a world without technology.

Enter the phrase: "Dial a Phone"

I asked Jacob if he knew why we say we "dial a phone number" and he had no clue. So, for his 11th birthday, I went on eBay and ordered him a "Classic Rotary Phone", the Model 500, to be exact, which was in production from 1949 until 1984.

He got the iPhone first, and I waited until he had it all synced up with his MacBook Air, songs loaded, and the "wow" factor had worn off and it was just another device to him.

Then I handed him the box. We opened it. There was an information card explaining the history of this phone, which was made in the US and Canada, not China. It was a heavy metal object, and he asked me to explain to him how it worked. I showed him the wheel on the bottom to make the ringer louder and softer, showed him the plugs and then explained how the phone works. After we plugged it in the wall in the kitchen, he made his first phone call, actually dialing a number.

He said, "This is so cool. I'm dialing." Because it was. It was different to him. It wasn't wireless. There were no buttons to push. It was solid and old, and most importantly, still functional.

This really got me thinking about how children today are being conditioned to a "push the button and something will happen quickly" mentality. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. But, they don't have a lot of exposure to mechanical devices. Even money to them is really digital math. They rarely handle currency, except when brought from the tooth fairy, making it a special event.

I'll save the story for opening the lock on a backgammon set for another day.

Do you have any similar stories to share?

How do we keep up with all of these new technologies and ways of learning, but at the same time instill in our students and children the value of the past as stages on the journey to the world in which we now live? The rotary phone episode brings this to life.

Thanks for reading!


  1. thanks for the post it helps me to make my paper topics

  2. Years ago after the push button phones became pretty standard, we had a child come into the office to use the phone. He was very frustrated because he didn't know how to work the rotary model!

  3. I agree. Kids aren't that comfortable with mechanical devices. I had one of those backgammon sets, with the sliding button lock. Jacob stared at it and couldn't figure out how to open it. He kept pushing it, never thinking to slide it. When I showed it to him, he thought it was so "cool"...