The great Digital Native/Immigrant thing debate

The great Digital Native/Immigrant thing debate

Since Marc Prensky’s presentation I have been involved in some interesting f2f discussions on the validity of Digital Native-Digital Immigrant ((digital immigrants = those of us who were not born into the digital world and digital natives = generation that has grown up in the digital age). Thanks Graham Wegner for your great post Digital Whatevers which has prompted me to post my thoughts.

Many of those that argue against Digital Native/Immigrant term being valid feel the same as Karyn “Why should late adopters have to start where the innovators and early adopters did? They’ll jump straight in at the point that these leaders have reached, and pretty soon be indistinguishable from them!” That an immigrant who is good at using technology is no longer an immigrant and is no different from an native.

The real issue is not about the digital natives ability to use technology but the fact that “today‚Äôs students think and process information fundamentally differently from” the most of their teachers i.e. how our students learn is very different from how their teachers were taught and how their teachers learnt.

Image from Terry Wassall blog (Leedsblog Community Spaces)

I am really good at using technology (considerably better than most my students) but how my brain works, how I learn and what engages me is a World apart from my students. My use of technology has helped me relate better to how my students learn because as my digital literacy increases how my brain functions has changed (e.g. I am so used to rapid response and multitasking that I find it extremely difficult to sit and just listen to other people’s lectures as my brain can not power down). However there is still a divide between me and them. Here are some examples:

  • They are good at using technology for their intended purposes – but not always good at using it for our purposes
  • For me listening to music while working means I can not focus however for many of my students it actually helps them focus
  • I know that books in our library contain more information and will help my students complete their work much faster than using the Internet. For them – using the books is like asking them to visit Mars (actually they would not mind visiting Mars). For them getting the information from a text book is considered unengaging and too hard compared to using the Internet

I am a Digital Immigrant. I will use the term to remind myself that I do learn differently from my students and it is important to understand what engages them. My use of technology does help me relate to them better but the most important thing is make time to talk to them about what works/what doesn’t work for them and not stop asking them the questions.

Maybe Darren 5th reason Why Every Teacher Should Blog is to reduce the divide between the Digital Native-Digital Immigrant.

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