Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Digital Natives and Academics

Do you know what a digital native or a digital immigrant is? A digital native is basically someone who grows up immersed in digital technology. It is the norm for them. A digital immigrant has to  play catch-up with technology because it came along much later in life for them.

When I was in high school the biggest advancement in technology for me was taking typing on an electric typewriter (no word processor when I needed one). We had a Commodore 64 computer in our house, but you better know DOS in order to use. Windows didn't exist, much less Internet. I do remember playing Pong. Do you? In my twenties, I dreamed of having a phone I could take in my car when I traveled long distances. I remember our first color television, our first microwave, our first blow dryer (complete with asbestos), our first t.v. remote (no more getting up to change channels for my Dad), our first dishwasher, our first cassette tape player (sure beat the 8-track)... As a married adult, my first cell phone came with 10 minutes a month, and I never went over! I grew up a semi-digital immigrant.

Nobody here is telling anyone how to homeschool, but I bet that most homeschool parents and classroom teachers try to keep up with the latest in technology and how to best use it with kids in an academic setting.

Today’s students - K through college - represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology.  They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.  Today's average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV).  Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. Marc Prensky

From  On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)
© 2001 Marc Prensky

Mr. Prensky goes on to say that "...today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize." He also states the digital immigrant is out-of-date when it comes to connecting to digital natives. Mr. Prensky believes the digital immigrant MUST learn a new language in order to teach the digital native, and furthermore, he is not convinced they can do it, or do it effectively. 

How do Mr. Prensky's thoughts strike you?

  • Do you agree or disagree, and why? 
  • Do you think your child processes information differently due to environment and technology? 
  • Do you think their brain is structured differently because of digital usage? 
  • Do you think our digital learners are at a disadvantage learning from digital immigrants or semi-digital immigrants? (I say semi-digital immigrants because even digital immigrants learn at different rates. Some pick up right away and some just scrape by.)
  • What is your digital accent?

I agree with Prensky on many issues, but I disagree with his notion that kids are at a disadvantage being taught by digital immigrants. I also disagree with his assumption that digital immigrants need to learn to speak a new language...change their accent. Many of us who are digital immigrants or semi-digital immigrants and teach, have adopted dynamic ways to engage students and promote learning in a way that challenges and encourages the student. It is wise to learn all we can about the digital native culture in order to help kids learn and grow, however, good teaching is good teaching regardless. A good teacher has the goal of meeting a student's needs by embracing his learning style, engaging them in higher-order thinking, and encouraging them to love learning. That might include using printable worksheets, an app on their cell phone or iPad, a video lesson, or an old-fashioned workbook. A good teacher uses whatever tools are necessary to reach a goal. 

In conclusion, I do believe the use of technology to further  academics is here to stay. I believe it has its place and, if used correctly, is a great teacher. I also believe most parents, learning coaches, and classroom teachers are effective in their role. They must pick and choose wisely in order to reach the student. 

I look forward to reading your take on digital natives and schooling. 

Digital Native/Digital Immigrant humor:


  1. You find the best cartoons!!! Gotta share 1 or 2 of those on Facebook. What a hoot!!! I'm loving your posts!!

  2. I agree about the cartoons! I also like what you said about how a teacher is still a teacher. We use whatever tools we have at our disposal to teach. Thanks.