Opening Day and Dad

2:18 p.m., top of the fifth. Tigers 3, Minnesota 0. I sit in my favorite chair with my feet up on the ottoman and a cup of coffee in my hands. Relaxing to the soft sound of the low voices announcing all the game plays, I am reminded of my father. Dad loved listening to Ernie Harwell call the games decades ago…when Ernie was a permanent fixture on Detroit television in the early spring, summer and autumn. Those dulcet tones, I remember well.

The TV was a small screen in a twelve by fourteen foot “front” room…our tiny living room in our modest two-bedroom wooden home in Detroit, just outside of Hamtramck, Michigan. The black-and-white images on the television screen, a common sight in a low-to-mid income home in a blue-collar neighborhood comprised mainly of factory-line workers, was the focal point of our family’s indoor viewing pleasure. Mom was usually busy in the kitchen preparing our meal. Didn’t matter which meal we are discussing here, Mom prepared them all. Brother and sister, if not sitting next to Dad on the couch watching the game, were outside playing with friends somewhere in a one-to-three block radius of home. And, me? I was probably lying across the bed in the room I shared with my sister, reading. I was always reading, or drawing. If it wasn’t a schoolbook, it was a novel, or a sketchpad. The voice of Ernie Harwell would float in and out of my conscious state, only noticeable when I had a reading pause, for contemplation or other reasons, or if Ernie raised his voice in excitement, for a home run, or a fantastic play. I think I remember Ernie extending syllables at important moments, like, “Loooooong gone,” or similar exclamations of baseball glory. Being the daughter-not-particularly-interested-in-sports-of-any-kind, I was aware of my appreciation of the game only recently. In moments of awakening interest that jumped up to surprise me over the years, I occasionally found myself reveling in Red Wing playoff games, Michigan football, Nicklaus golf, a horse that had a chance at the Triple Crown, Olympic gymnastics or swimming, or the eighty-four-mile-per-hour pitch Price just threw. Detroit 4, Minnesota 0, top of the seventh.

The world, as I now live it, is a very different place compared to the world I knew as a child, young teen, or twenty-something newlywed. My quiet-yet-loud, grumbling-yet-happy, devout Catholic father was a bit of an enigma. His sternly knit eyebrows could relax in an instant when we, as children, caught him in a bit of family fun. Dad might gear up (bushy eyebrows coming together) for an onslaught of kids running in from playtime outside, sweaty, dirty, happy. But then the eyebrows would resume normal position when we all sat down to another excellent meal prepared by our loving mother. Or the volume might reach ear-piercing levels when Dad yelled at an errant driver, such as myself, trying to find first gear on our three-on-the-tree, stick shift, 1964 Plymouth. Remembering my dad’s soft-to-yelling reminders as we sat at a stoplight that had just changed, “The light is green, The Light Is Green, THE LIGHT IS GREEN!” I’m afraid I run out of fingers and toes on which to count the number of times I stalled that poor, old Plymouth. Finally my sweet father let an older nephew take a turn at driver’s training tasks with his eldest daughter, whose last tear-drenched, learning-to-drive-with-Dad experience included the following statement: “I will never learn to drive.”

3:39 p.m. Top of the ninth, one and two, strike three, “Tigers begin 2015 in an impressive fashion.” Twins 0, Tigers 4. “Opening Day in the ‘D.’”

Price “got the job done.” 56 degrees outside and the Tigers win our home opener. Fastest pitch time I saw, Price, 94 mph. Fun, fun, fun. Nice, nice, nice. One hundred sixty-one games to go.

Dad would have been pleased. Thinking of him now, gone over twenty-five years, my dear father was the redwood of the family unit. Tall and strong, with muscled shoulders and arms, tapered down to his hips, he strikes an impressive pose in my memory. When I was a child, nobody was as strong as my Daddy. When I was a child, nobody could protect our family as well as Daddy could. When I was a child, nobody could knit those brows, yell louder, walk faster, fix the car better, or be at Mass at our family parish earlier, than my Daddy. Dad did not walk me down the aisle at my wedding; he marched me down that aisle, double-time.

I stop typing to pet my dog, who has popped up by my side with tail wagging, demanding my attention. After a rousing round of “Where’s your toy?” my dog finally accepts my need to continue typing.

There are times when I try to calm myself. Petting my dog is usually the best way to stem the very regular tide of unwelcome nerves that threaten to encroach and dampen my day, week, or month. Sometimes composure eludes me. A chunk of time spent in my backyard, sitting on my covered patio, watching my dog run around, concentrating on the trees growing in my yard, can bring back the peacefulness I seek. That type of peace is what I refer to as “achieved calm.” It is purposefully sought by my active mind. To achieve my best state of mind, I would call “natural calm,” I have to feel the aura of my father. This cannot usually be planned, as in the scheduled baseball game viewing. It is a feeling that washes over me, with a breeze through the trees, the sighting of a penny on the sidewalk, a light rain hitting the windshield of the car on a cloudy day. My only living companion at such a time is my dog… or it may just be me. A gentle roll, the feeling washes over me and I am calm.

I have never seen an actual redwood in person, but, then, I take that back… as I stare into the depths of my memory and see my Father, standing tall.

Note: 2015 baseball quoted references are drawn from live viewing on Fox 2 Detroit station covering the Detroit Tigers home opener on April 6, 2015.

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And So It Goes

And So It Goes.

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And So It Goes

I thought I would post this short story I entered in a writing contest today. What do you think?

By Ann Frances Jerzowski

The day did not start well. I looked down at the coffee stain drying on the side of my right pant leg. On my way to school and I’m going to walk in with a huge coffee stain on pale pink jeans. How embarrassing.
I got out of the car and grabbed my book carrier on wheels. Carrying schoolbooks, a laptop, and a purse were a little much for a sixty-year-old university student. Rolling along up to the door another student took pity on me and held the door open. Probably saw the coffee stain. I gave her my best smile, walked in, and tripped on the rubber mat in the foyer. Maybe I should go home and crawl back into bed.
Entered the classroom and quickly sat down at my desk. I opened up my laptop and made ready for the three-hour lesson. It was difficult to concentrate because I was thinking about the part-time job interview I was supposed to go to right after class. Perhaps I should leave class early, go home to change, then go to the interview? I decided to stay in class and explain away the coffee stain at the interview. Impress the interviewer with my take-charge, nothing-bothers-me, go-with-the-flow attitude.
Surprisingly the interviewer was impressed. I was to start Monday. Clerical work, twenty hours a week. I was a little nervous, though, because schoolwork filled most hours of my day. Instead I thought fondly of my niece and the movie/lunch date we had set for tomorrow, Saturday afternoon. Schoolwork would wait for Sunday.
Sheila, my twenty-year-old niece, was in her third year at the university she attended. I was in my fourth year and we always compared notes. We chattered happily while waiting in line for our movie tickets, lunch to follow. I was fishing around in my purse for my wallet. Panic. My wallet was missing. Was today going to be as bad as yesterday? The coffee-stain-and-trip day lingered in my subconscious mind as my conscious mind busied itself with where my wallet may be. Sheila paid.
I let Sheila know my wallet was sitting on my kitchen counter in the very spot where I normally drop my purse as I walk in the door from the garage. Promised I’d pay next time. Grabbed the wallet and took off for the grocery store.
Pulling away from the grocery store parking lot my “check tires” light came on the dash. Fortunately a tire shop sat at the edge of the lot. Unfortunately for me, the tire store had just closed for the night. Three phone calls and a friend’s help finally got me back on the road.
I thought about just going to bed and covering my head up with the blanket. Convinced myself to read a homework assignment first for about thirty minutes, then succumbed to my pillow and blanket. Perhaps Sunday would be better.
Looking at my tire as I opened my garage door, all seemed fine. I tried singing to myself in the car on the way to the tire shop. They opened at noon Sunday. I explained I’d used a can of the fix-a-tire stuff before I let the tire attendant pull off my errant tire. Back at home I studied.
Monday came and school went without much of a hitch.
Walking into the part-time job location I noticed a young woman with a bright green sweater sitting in the waiting area. We nodded at one another and someone came to get her while I waited my turn. Mike, the interviewer, pulled me into his office. Before he closed the door to his office I caught a flash of bright green and the back of two heads studying something on a desk. I started to get a bad feeling.
“How are you doing today, Lisa?” Mike asked as he started to shuffle some papers on his desk. I noticed he was not looking at me directly.
“It’s ‘Linda,’ my name is Linda.” I wanted to add, “You just met me Friday, don’t you remember?”
I closed the door to the part-time opportunity I thought I was starting that day and walked down the steps to my car. Apparently the young woman in the green sweater was the niece of Mike’s partner, Jim. Jim and Mike were the business owners. Green sweater needed a part-time job and Jim did not consult Mike before he hired her. Nor did Mike tell Jim about me. A sorry, so sorry, mix up with me caught holding the bag, the quite empty bag, at the end of the story.
I was mad–not angry–mad. I threw open the door on the passenger side of my car, tossed my purse on the front seat, slammed the door, and a huge gush of surprised air flew from my lips. I had slammed the door on my thumb, and in the surprise and pain, dropped my car keys on the ground. Everything seemed to turn to slow motion mode. The car door was locked. My thumb was stuck. I had to crouch to pick up my keys with my one good hand. Thank God I was able to reach them. Another agonizing thirty seconds or so trying to maneuver the key fob into position to pop open the locked door, then, finally, freedom. My thumb hurt like a son-of-a-something. Knowing my face was now completely beet red, trying not to glance toward the windows of the office building I had just exited, I drove away as fast as I could looking for the nearest “Urgent Care” sign.
The next morning my thumb was still pounding while I readied for school. I had not finished my homework the night before finding the wrap around my aching thumb cumbersome and annoying. My Tuesday class started at one p.m. I stopped for a burger on the way to school. Just pulling away from the drive-thru window I saw the car in front of me slam on his brakes and blow the horn. A flash of red with a gold tail ran out from in front of the car. I pulled over and jumped out of my car still holding my paper bag with the burger in it. I could see the small dog, running freely through the parked cars heading straight for the busy street. Another person was trying to maneuver him back toward the relative safety of the parking lot. The dog’s coat was a brilliant shade of reddish/brown and his tail was tipped in golden beige. I called the first dog name that came to mind for a redheaded dog, as loudly as I could, “Sparky, come!”
He turned, I crinkled my sack of burger, he ran right to me. The other person who stopped to help followed. Neither one of us knew the dog. I took him to a vet to see if he had an i.d. chip in his shoulder. No school today.
The dog I was calling Sparky was probably a mix of some kind. No collar, no leash. He loved my burger and seemed to love me even more. He wouldn’t stop licking me with his smelly dog breath and wagged his tail with his whole little body. I started hoping his owners had not installed the i.d. chip.
But they did. I found out the owners had been looking for him for two days and their only son was frantic over his lost dog. I waited at the vet’s office while the boy’s father walked in and was led to an inner office to discuss the dog’s apparent good luck because little Sparky, as he was known to me, was not injured. Mom and young son soon followed, the boy crying so hard he could barely walk. After all was settled the family wanted to meet me, the savior of their little dog, whose real name was “Stinky.” I now thought of him as Stinky-Sparky. DeShawn, the little boy with drying tearstains on his angelic face, kept holding and hugging his little dog. Stinky, DeShawn, and I posed for a “happy reunion” photo. Mom and dad thanked me profusely and sent the photo from their phone to my phone. DeShawn took his eyes off Stinky for a total of 3 seconds and flashed me the biggest smile before they walked out of my life.
For a few moments I had forgotten about my thumb, the two days of homework I needed to complete, and the job I never started. Back home I received a voicemail from the vet about dogs they knew who needed fostering and adopting. I looked at my photo of Stinky-Sparky, DeShawn, and me, all smiles. I allowed myself to remember the strong thump, thump, thump of Stinky’s tail as it wagged against my arm while we posed for our photo. I felt contentment wash over me. I turned to my homework.
And so it goes.

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Sparky, my new little rescue

Sparky, my new little rescue.

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Sparky, my new little rescue

Sparky

I have a new companion dog. My mother suggested his name–Sparky. It suits him well. With a reddish-brown coat highlighted in white accents at his chest and paws and a little greying on his muzzle, Sparky entered my life just a few short weeks ago. Upon the losses of my Sophie and Izzy this past autumn, I have been one very sad human. Sophie was with me from the age of eight weeks until November 23, just shy of her fourteenth birthday. Izzy was with me for over five years. Izzy was the first dog I fostered as a rescued puppy mill dog. She was estimated to be only about nine years old when she passed of an apparent heart attack. Sadly, we were only about five minutes from the vet’s office when her heart gave out. To have two of my dogs die within five weeks of each other after they had been my companions for many years, shook me to my core. Any animal lover can understand that fact. At first I considered (very briefly) the possibility that I would live without a canine companion for a while during the grieving process. As anyone who has gone through the process knows, grieving never completely ends. With time we become less sad and we may even experience longer and longer episodes of joyful reminiscences as opposed to sad, end-of-life memories…but the grief can come back at any moment. Raging and angry or quiet and sad, grief takes many forms.
Up front, in my conscious thought, I choose happiness. My subconscious may have other plans for me, especially in dream state, but I dismiss that as quickly as I can and get back to the reality of what “is.” If you have ever studied the habits of a companion dog, you know they live in the “now.” They can remember the past, they can anticipate the future (as when the treat bag is pulled from the cabinet, or the garage door goes up signaling “Mommie is home”) but, for the most part, dogs live in the present…the reality of what “is.”
My current present is a little dog rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio named Sparky. This little fourteen pound dog is a mix of a Papillon with, possibly–just guessing, a dachsund. According to the information my vet, the rescue group at Serenity Animal Hospital, received, Sparky is a retired “breeder.” By retired the mill people meant to say ready-to-be-killed. That is what happens to dogs retired from puppy mills. They are put to sleep. Which is a nice way of saying they are killed. Sparky is not ready for the “long sleep” yet. Estimated to be about eight years old, he is full of life and a bit of a spitfire. Curious about everything, ready to squeeze into or around fences, barriers, or partially opened doors, this little papillon is full of life. Upon investigating the potential lifespan of a papillon I found that Sparky could live to be sixteen. So, at half his life expectancy, the puppy mill people were ready to end his life. All I can say is, thank God for the rescuers.

More and more people need to jump into the conversation about abolishing puppy mills. Spread the word as best you can. These days most of us have seen, or have looked away from, advertising depicting the deplorable conditions in which dogs are forced to live while penned up in a small crate at a puppy mill. Even if a person cannot afford to adopt a rescued animal, or are unable to donate time or money to a rescue organization, you can still pass along your condemnation of puppy mill owners and horrific practices.

May I be the first to say to the person reading this post who chooses to take a step toward helping innocent, abused animals–thank you–thank you very much.

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My vet passed along a very well written explanation of points to consider when one is thinking of adopting a dog that was rescued from a puppy mill.  I fostered, then adopted, my Izzy through my vet, Serenity Animal Hospital in Sterling Heights, Michigan after Serenity joined in the rescue efforts during a police raid on a local puppy mill in 2008.

Izzy

Izzy

Izzy had some of the tendencies/traits described in this essay.  Through patience and by constantly working with her, Izzy started to feel more comfortable–but this took years of effort.  In the last year and a half of her life, Izzy started greeting some visitors at the front door (before running away and hiding) instead of doing what she did the first few years she lived with me–which was to run and hide immediately–not greet first.  Another point of interest was my Izzy never licked anyone, not even me.  She loved to sniff a person’s hand when she felt comfortable enough to approach, but she never licked.  Despite all her fears, Izzy showed me in many subtle ways how happy she was to be a part of my family.  I wouldn’t trade one second of the time I had with her.  My suggestions for anyone interested in adopting or fostering a rescued puppy mill dog:  Be kind. Be patient. Speak softly. Be loving. Repeat short commands. Reward. Don’t threaten. Don’t yell. Then do it all over again. It is patient repetition with reward for accomplishments that will get you somewhere eventually.

This informational guide is worth the read, especially if one is considering adopting a dog rescued from a puppy mill:

http://members.petfinder.com/~OH568/puppymilldog.html

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The Space Between the Parentheses

The Space Between the Parentheses.

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The Space Between the Parentheses

Take the Time to Enjoy the Middle

Buy the book. Anticipation. Start to read. Get hooked. Live, love, enjoy the ride. Start to feel sad. The end.

There is always a beginning, a middle, and an end. I put my money on the middle every time. Sure, there’s the excitement of a new beginning. Some find the end to be very fulfilling. I beg to differ. There is nothing wrong with the excitement of a new beginning, but it is always fleeting. Endings always roll over into new beginnings, whether one wants them to or not. It’s the middle that’s the most fun. The middle, the guts, the center, or the space between the beginning and the end–once I am hooked, the story that unfolds takes me with it. I am enveloped. There are very few feelings that can match the intensity, the passion, and the pure joy one can experience in the middle. There have been times in my life when I was so involved in the action between the parentheses that I did not clearly see the experience until I looked at it from the other side. I am butted up against the end parentheses again. As I write this essay, a few days have passed since I walked out of my last in-person class session. Except for a final exam next week, I have completed my requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Both happiness and sadness live in my heart. The happiness will win, I predict. The sadness started with a very odd feeling as I walked down the hallway away from my last writing class at Oakland University.

Ready for graduation

Ready for graduation

For this last semester, the choice of WRT232 Writing for New Media was one of my options to earn my Minor in Writing and Rhetoric. With this choice I had a goal in mind—to start a blog (or two) and further my personal writing endeavors. I started a blog titled, School/Write/Dogs.  

Thinking a clarification of the title of the blog was needed, I wrote this: If it’s not about school or writing, it’s about my companion dogs and rescue. So far I haven’t had much time for postings, but I am very pleased that I have started doing what I set out to do. I do not know how long it might have taken me to start a blog without the guidance I received in this class.

Going back to the beginning of the semester, I was nervous about new media. I still am. The baby steps I have been able to make following the course instructions, however, have pleased me. Being a Digital Immigrant, as readings by Marc Prensky and other authors have explained, makes me squeamish about most things digital. I experience a distinct distaste for the speed at which the digital world seems to revolve around me and I feel like an outsider (or Immigrant). It’s a little like the dream I have where I am running in slow motion, never able to catch up to whatever it is I am running after. That feeling is hard to shake especially with sites like Twitter scaring me half to death. I believe Twitter might be a subject for me to discuss with my nieces. When one has difficulty, call a Digital Native. That’s what I do when I am stuck. Even though I have posted some thoughts on Twitter, it is still a mystery site for me. Knowing that our instructor only had so much time to devote to one-on-one training, I felt that he spent a goodly amount with me in class periods. Lucky for me the Digital Natives in the class (the rest of the class) did not need as much help. I look at this course as a good starting point for me—perhaps not for all things digital—but for the new media I am hoping to use after this class ends.

As my immigrant status dictates, I have printed out almost every article or instructional guidelines we have had for this class. I intend to keep these papers and refer to them in the coming months as I continue or start writing projects. Some of the topics we covered in class were a little over-the-top, even offensive, but interesting. I am reminded of Guillermo Gomez-Pena in The Virtual Barrio @ The Other Frontier:

I venture into the terra ignota of cyberlandia without documents, a map or an invitation at hand. In doing so, I become a sort of virus, the cyber-version of the Mexican fly: irritating, inescapable, and hopefully highly contagious (2).

Mr. Gomez-Pena can be funny and (almost) endearing when he is not obnoxious. Hmmm . . . I wonder how natives view me. Scary thought.

Overall I believe Writing for New Media is an important class and can be taken in many interesting directions. Its title alone calls for innovation and exploration of the ever-changing world that is New Media. One possible thought for future classes could be a version strictly for Digital Natives and a version strictly for Digital Immigrants. Perhaps the pace of the students would then be evenly matched. Perhaps. The trick would be finding enough Immigrants to fill the required student minimum. Plenty of Natives, less and less Immigrants . . . and that is New Media in a nutshell.

I finish my Writing for New Media class with this essay. It was the middle that I enjoyed the most. Can’t go back to that middle, but I will remember it fondly as I look for the next opportunity to write, then skip happily toward my new middle, whatever that might turn out to be.

I’d like to leave you with something attributed to the late Henry Ford: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are right.”

My favorite tree at Oakland University (a contemplation site).

My favorite tree at Oakland University (a contemplation site).

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Staring at Blades of Grass

Staring at Blades of Grass.

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Staring at Blades of Grass

Step back in time with me and think about the first days of summer. A soft, warm breeze touches my face. I am sitting on a lawn chair in my back yard and it is a just-about-perfect early summer day. Staring at blades of grass calms me. I concentrate on one patch of grass then zoom in on a tiny section until I am down to a few blades. I let everything leave my mind. It becomes just my breathing, in and out, and a few blades of grass. It is my way of escaping the daily workings of life for a few moments or a few minutes. I need that break from reality every so often. Stepping away from my computer and whatever I am doing online can be one of those times. Because I am a Digital Immigrant I may need a break more often than my fellow classmates. The overwhelming, all-consuming, vastness of the Internet along with the aggravation of “not catching on” to a function I am trying to perform can be very upsetting to me. Sometimes I just need to let go.

Being upset can be a way of life for a Digital Immigrant, such as myself. Re-entering university life after an absence of several decades brought me face-to-face with one huge difference from years past. The way I think and communicate is completely, 100 percent different from the way my young classmates communicate. This fact is extremely important for me, but it will become increasingly important for my young classmates as they enter the working world in which many persons in management and supervision may also be like me—Digital Immigrants. Communication is key and we all need to be able to communicate with each other in and out of new media.

Shall we start with the basics? One way a person can tell I am a Digital Immigrant, as described by Marc Prensky in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, is that I am printing out every piece of information of importance to me regarding this assignment. This entry is my “manifesto” regarding digital literacy for a Writing for New Media class at Oakland University. For those who don’t know the terms, Digital Native is a person who speaks the “native language” of digital—someone probably born in the 1980s or ‘90s who never knew a time without digital. Whether it is computers, games, the Internet, cell phones—you digitally name it, they know it. On the other hand, there’s someone like me, a Digital Immigrant. There was no digital anything when I was born. There was barely TV (no just kidding…sort of). Phones hung on the wall of the kitchen where everyone could hear your conversation. If you were lucky enough not to have the party line on when you wanted to call someone, good for you. If you were not home and you wanted to tell someone something you had to find a pay phone out on the street or ask to borrow use of a business phone that was attached to a wall and that you had to rotary dial. If you do not understand some of the things I just said, you were probably born after 1980. My YouTube manifesto statement highlights this difference (a little). I don a “babushka” in the video to represent an old-fashioned immigrant. If you do not know what a babushka is—it’s the scarf I put on my head for part of the video.

 

As with many an immigrant, I have a difficult time understanding or getting a grasp of what it is my classmates (digital natives) are talking about. A great deal of the confusion for me revolves around the new media my classmates may be using or describing in class. Some of the discussion may just be about current issues relevant to a fellow student’s life, work, friends, game playing, etc. It doesn’t take much for me to be lost. There are times when I wonder if I have lost them as well. I may choose to describe something I experienced decades ago and it often occurs to me that I may not be describing the event/details/thoughts in a way that is easy for my classmates to grasp. It is a two-way street. Digital Immigrants/Digital Natives do not think alike. As Marc Prensky stated in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” Prensky talks about Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine considering a possibility that “our students’ brains have physically changed.” But Prensky tempers that statement with this one: “whether or not this is literally true, we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed.” I see this every day at school. Basic language hasn’t changed all that much. There is still idle banter that includes colloquialisms relevant to today’s student. Each generation has that—a word here or there, or phrase that is unique to the specific generation. In my youth I believe I remember the word “cool” being used fairly frequently. A few years earlier the word “groovy” was used. In the case of the language of new media, a digital native adopts a word or talking point very matter-of-factly, whereas a digital immigrant flounders (or at least some of us flounder). How, then, do natives and immigrants come to terms with each other? It’s not going to be easy. Perhaps, as with any foreign language obstacle, the only possible solution is plenty of patience, immigrant-to-native AND native-to-immigrant and lots and lots of testing of what might work to “bridge the gap.”

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, in an excerpt from Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, write about the skills Digital Natives possess. Impressive graphics, videos, blogs, or even just the speed with which a Digital Native (i.e., young person) can move from social networks to blogs to schoolwork to music to news and back again is a sight to behold. As Palfrey and Gasser explain, “this new generation didn’t have to relearn anything to live lives of digital immersion. They learned in digital the first time around; they only know a world that is digital.” The constant connection that Digital Natives crave, Digital Immigrants shy away from. Digital Immigrants need to step away from new media to breathe. Digital Natives become nervous and agitated when separated from their digital connectivity—they breathe easier while connected. While it may be extremely difficult for Immigrants/Natives to understand each style of life, it becomes vital to try. We need to recognize in each other the strong points, pro-and-con, of our parallel existence of daily reality that is new media.

College professors and staff have learned to grow right along with the challenges of communicating and teaching Digital Natives. Most of the students in universities in 2013 are Digital Natives. Correctly teaching what they need to learn is one aspect. Learning to navigate in the working world the students are about to enter is of equal importance. Palfrey and Gasser discuss global implications and protecting children in the digital world while allowing them the room to grow. Their purpose in writing their book was “to separate what we need to worry about from what’s not so scary, what we ought to resist from what we ought to embrace.” All immigrants need to embrace new media, if not in all its forms, then in the forms they need to use in their daily lives. All natives, while highly skilled in “all that is digital” must also learn to open their minds to the people of the past, like Digital Immigrants, who live on this planet of new media right alongside the natives.

In preparing for this blog entry I read an interesting entry from the past, a previous Writing for New Media student named Aaron whose blog entry was titled: “The Invention of Self.” He made this statement: “With no physical image to worry about, the focus shifts to the intellectual presentation of the mind to the internet and the world as a whole, and that presentation can include all or none of who we actually believe ourselves to be.” That is a powerful statement. It tells another section of the story in which Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives face a gap. Immigrants are used to face-to-face presentations and learned the image disconnect from the physical body late in life, whereas Natives are used to the disconnected self that can be whatever they want it to be online. Natives may find face-to-face to be somewhat disconcerting (not all Natives, of course, but some). The New London Group, in writing A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, explains some of the needed approaches:

The use of multiliteracies approaches to pedagogy will enable students [Digital Natives] to achieve the authors’ twin goals for literacy learning: creating access to the evolving language of work, power, and community, and fostering the critical engagement necessary for them to design their social futures and achieve success through fulfilling employment.

The operative words in the above quote are “critical engagement necessary.” Natives need to fully engage with Immigrants as well as the digital world. For some natives this may mean pulling away from new media to learn not necessarily how an immigrant thinks, but how to communicate with an immigrant. Sometimes this means learning the language of the Digital Immigrant as well as knowing their own native language.

One day Digital Natives and New Media will rule the world. Some might say that day is now. As a Digital Immigrant I believe that day is coming (rapidly) but is not quite here yet. It is important for each of us to communicate with each other. We need to find a way to bridge the gap that exists between us for all of us to function well in our brave new world of new media. As Howard Rheingold states in The Virtual Community:

Failing to fall under the spell of the ‘rhetoric of the technological sublime,’ actively questioning and examining social assumptions about the effects of new technologies, reminding ourselves that electronic communication has powerful illusory capabilities, are all good steps to take to prevent disasters.

The power of new media is addictive and that may be the point Digital Natives need to learn. Digital Immigrants can easily recognize the addiction and divorce themselves of it as needed. Natives may acknowledge the addiction exists, but actively object to being addicted. My point is, besides the great need for all of us to be able to communicate with each other, teachers of Digital Natives would be very wise to help young people to learn to appreciate the action of the disconnect, especially for face-to-face business and social relationships in real time, in the real world, in daily life, and in their upcoming work life.

Perhaps a practice exercise could be of use to Digital Natives. Step away from all forms digital media for a few minutes. Start with once a month, progress to once a week, then try it daily for one whole week. I know it may be a form of torture to some, but trust me; it’s worth the effort. Start in autumn with leaves scattered on the ground, or winter with sunlight glinting off the newly fallen snow, or in spring with tulips poking out of the ground, or, my favorite, in early summer with blades of grass. Free your mind of digital for a few moments—it could become a relaxation technique worth adopting. When you have mastered the technique take the next step—invite a friend to join you—not virtually, but in person. Afterwards you could perhaps talk for a few minutes before going inside the house/building/office and getting back on your computer/laptop/ipad/phone.

 

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