When teachers say this It is often accompanied by the statement that I am just learning alongside the children. At first glance this sounds very noble. It recognizes that we are all learning and that information exchange can go both ways. However there are intrinsic problems with the belief and the typical response to it.
The problem with this is that it is at best a half-truth. Pupil access to technology can be very varied in homes from almost identical social backgrounds. Without formative assessment of key skills you won't know what digital literacy skills they are capable of or what they have been exposed to at home.
There is a good research paper on the myth of the digital native here https://goo.gl/tBgfKB
The wider truth is that there are large swathes of computing that they won't know anything about. Very few have any idea how networks, the Internet and the Web function or how computing devices are programmed. They don’t understand the fundamental computational thinking skills of Algorithm and algorithm evaluation, decomposition, abstraction and generalization. They don’t appreciate sequence, repetition, selection or variable use or the resilience and logical thinking that come from computational doing. Even if they are keen users of web resources few will have inculcated the essential knowledge to develop into safe digital citizens or to question the veracity of information.
The problem for teachers is that if you don’t believe that you have anything valuable to teach because pupils know it all already this affects what you teach and the time you spend resourcing and planning it.
Teachers and school leaders who believe the myth of the digital native often find excuses to leave computing out of their timetables. When they do teach computing they tend to rely very heavily on unplanned exploration and they justify this by recourse to the shared journey narrative.
I wonder if they would be happy to learn Maths or Literacy alongside their pupils in this same woolly way?
Please don’t think I am attacking exploration, it’s a fundamental part of a good computing lesson but it needs to be balanced alongside instruction in some form(1). Instruction assumes that there is knowledge and skills worth teaching to pupils.
By way of balance too much instruction without any exploration leads to shallow learning, concepts grasped at but not internalised fully.
We can sum up this fundamental balance like this.
In conclusion as leaders in computing in our schools it is important to challenge the debilitating myth of the digital native and promote curricular that includes instruction and exploration.
For a humorous secondary school look at the myth of the digital native @codeboom article is well worth a read.
(1) The form of instruction should always be down to the needs of the students and the professional judgement of the teacher. Instruction can be as diverse as creating knowledge videos favoured by the flipped classroom model to whole class teaching.