Last week, Digital Natives’ principle investigator John Palfrey presented at the Fikr6 in Bahrain.  The conference was not explicitly about digital youth, but so much of the conversation ended up dominated by related themes.

Much of the conversation centered around digital youth and education – incredibly similar to conversations taking place here in the US, and throughout much of the world.  A key question, one that is being pronounced globally:  How can we reform our education system (and get our educators up to speed!) to take into account what youth are doing online, and with digital technologies – and how can the informal learning and creative skills arising from young people’s digital fluency be incorporated into the formal education system?

Mahmood, one of the leading bloggers in the Arab world, and certainly in Bahrain, reflects on the conference, and on how the fluency of youth in the digital world calls for a re-formulation of the educator’s role.  He writes:

 Young people are at the forefront of the technology curve, most of the time way ahead of their own teachers; hence, a serious investment should be applied to the teachers to get them retrained in new technologies not as “rote learning providers” or ones who teach how to use simple computer operations, but be mentors and enthusiastic educators who can explain the new trends and technologies which in turn will allow their charges to easily absorb and apply that information.

Digital Natives in the Arab world certainly have a unique set of issues to tackle within the digital world – from cultural differences in what should be available online, as Berkman Center’s Open Net Initiative investigates, to what to do about the “brain drain” (or what not to do – when considering how global connectivity enables “drained brain(s)” to be present, in many ways, at home), to thinking about the expansions of new industries within the region.  Certainly, youth in the Arab world experience high levels of inequality in terms of access to digital technologies – although Global Voices Bahrain blogger Esra’a blogs that this divide is closing.

Nevertheless, the common, global strains of issues arising from the emergence of the new digital generation – the digital natives that exist worldwide – are definitely present.   Now, how can we best collaborate to come up with globally-informed solutions to local challenges facing countries the world-over?  Education seems like a great place to start.

– Miriam S.

Be Sociable, Share!