First, it seems natural to distinguish between how we learn (learning theory) and the tools available to aggregate, store and access knowledge. For example, we cannot logically conclude that a Digital Immigrant reading a text book encodes information differently than a Digital Native reading the same text in electronic form. According to Prenske: (2009) “But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human.”
Of course, this begs the question as to, who exactly are these “digitally unenhanced” people? Perhaps we should call them the long-lost “Strawman” tribe of Brazil; for surely the onslaught of technology has made inroads in all but the most remote corners of the third world. By way of example, most third world nations (lacking traditional phone lines) transitioned directly into the digital age using smart phone technology. A substantial number of such nations also have access to high-speed fiber optic networks. Furthermore, those nations left behind have more pressing needs (food, water, housing and fuel to name a few) than that which can be obtained through the advancement of wisdom. Here we see the real disadvantage is more a matter of persistent residence at the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, than a want for digital wisdom.
So yes, you and I live in a digital age and as illustrated in the chart above, technology is integral to the learning process at an online university. That is to say, we are users of technology…and the technology, in turn, assists us in the quest to access and store knowledge. The World Wide Web provides unprecedented access to information, while ever-increasing processor speeds, storage capacity and operating systems provide the means to partition information in logical sequence. One of the central tenants of Connectivism relates to expansive social networks. Surely, there some truth to this notion, but research (and my own empirical data) calls into question the quality of such relationships; which frequently seem remote at best. So, while I may enjoy corresponding with a globally diverse group of people at Walden University, I can’t even begin to tell you how a single student looks when he or she feels perplexed, agreeable, ambivalent or angry.