Register |  Lost Password?
eSchool News

Our digital natives are immigrating

As technology changes, so do digital languages.

Marc Prensky eloquently coined the metaphor of the “digital immigrant” to define an adult who has “immigrated” into the use of technology. This is opposed to a “digital native” who has grown up with and surrounded by technology from their conception.  According to Prensky, these digital natives are more fluent and more accepting of technology than older generations who, from old habits, use technology less frequently and less eloquently than our younger successors.

When I first heard Prensky speak about the digital immigrants and digital natives, it hit home as an easy framework for my mind to wrap around. Back then, my five-year-old daughter could play Freddy Fish on the computer and read and listen along on an Arthur CD-ROM disk, while I, as a digital immigrant, carried a “digital accent” from my first technology language, such as looking up answers to questions in books rather than searching online for the answers. Worse yet, I might call a person I just eMailed to make sure they got my eMail.  We all have those little stories on how our digital accents permeate technology use today.

Prensky warned us that it is not “cute” or “a joke” that our digital natives speak a technology-based language that is immersed in their learning, while teachers and society speak a different language.  In the 10 years since Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants was published, educators have struggled to interpret and translate this digital language into an effective curriculum using a potpourri of hardware, software, and Web 2.0 tools.

Through the years, I have aimed to integrate the latest technology into my classroom to accommodate the digital native. From my experiences teaching students about integrating technology in the K-12 classroom, and raising my high school daughters, I have slowly seen a paradigm shift among these digital natives. These natives, who once laughed at my own digital accent, now speak with digital accents reminiscent of a digital immigrant. Accents include questions such as, “Can you tape this television show?” when on a DVR, no physical tape exists; renting a DVD when it is a Blue-Ray disk; or calling internet searches “Googling” when actually using Bing.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
1  2  Next >  

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Comments:

  1. cnansen

    August 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    As an experienced Technology Director (over 25 years) I have felt this way for quite some time, especially about new teachers. When in school they were always on the other side of the desk, using the technology required by their teachers to accomplish assigned tasks.

    Then they went into a technology void for four to five years while new educational technologies totally passed them by. During this time they became proficient at texting, surfing the net, doing superficial searches using Google, writing papers using a word processor and maybe creating one or two PowerPoint presentation (while watching countless others). The may take one technology course where they get to spend one class period on an IWB, one class period on iMovie, one class period making a podcast, etc.

    During this time few of their instructors model the use of technology like we expect our K-12 teacher to use.

    And then when we get these newly graduated teachers, we wonder why they don’t know how to seamlessly integrate technology into their teaching.

  2. cnansen

    August 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    As an experienced Technology Director (over 25 years) I have felt this way for quite some time, especially about new teachers. When in school they were always on the other side of the desk, using the technology required by their teachers to accomplish assigned tasks.

    Then they went into a technology void for four to five years while new educational technologies totally passed them by. During this time they became proficient at texting, surfing the net, doing superficial searches using Google, writing papers using a word processor and maybe creating one or two PowerPoint presentation (while watching countless others). The may take one technology course where they get to spend one class period on an IWB, one class period on iMovie, one class period making a podcast, etc.

    During this time few of their instructors model the use of technology like we expect our K-12 teacher to use.

    And then when we get these newly graduated teachers, we wonder why they don’t know how to seamlessly integrate technology into their teaching.

  3. ctdahle

    August 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    You are surprised that kids wanted to print out the text? You are puzzled that the kids would rather have a printed page than view the text through the tiny pane of a document window on a net book? You are bewildered that kids would rather respond to test questions on a full sized page than try to squish their learning into the confines of a teeny tiny response field window like the terribly awkward one I am trying to write in RIGHT NOW? It puzzles you that students who have to respond with clickers instantly do not do as well as those who have the opportunity to read through the entirety of a test, examine the questions, respond slowly and thoughtfully, and have the ability to flip back to questions that confused them?

    This surprises you? Any you are a teacher?

    Technology may be good at delivering certain types of content; fiction, memoir, or simplistic animation of some processes for example, but it is terrible for delivering intense technical information such as that contained in nearly every sort of text book.

    Personally, I am fluent in several programming languages, a number of text editing, photo manipulation and graphic production tools. I am comfortable sending text messages and tweets. I’ve had a cellular telephone since 1988. I read books on Kindle. I maintain a blog, and am quite capable of producing video to upload to You Tube. In short, while I may technically be a digital immigrant, I was adopted into the family when quite young.

    However, when I decided to learn C++ and its dialects, Arduino and Processing, I bought BOUND PAPER BOOKS.

    Why? Because for any serious text in science, mathematics, or other technical fields, having a book in my hand that I can dog ear, annotate, tab, and underline is FASTER and more efficient then using the inflexible, awkward, clunky tools that electronic textbooks provide.

    Recording my notes in a spiral notebook with a pencil is quicker and more efficient than trying to type them, even though I am a very fast typist and have horrid handwriting.

    This past summer, taking a graduate level biology class that was delivered and assessed ENTIRELY on line, I found that I could complete the assignments in an hour or two, ON PAPER, but then had to spend MANY hours converting hand drawn diagrams of reactions, cellular processes, mathematical formulas into digital form to be submitted over the internet. This was time that would have been better spent learning content, completing optional exercises, or doing supplemental reading. In short, the requirement to respond using the computer, a tool I have used since I was 14 and learned FORTRAN, hampered my learning, wasted my time, and prevented me from getting the full value of the course.

    There are wonderful technology tools available, but many aspects of a real education remain best studied with paper and pencil.

    An interactive periodic table of the elements may look cool, but if you want an 11 year old to understand the structure and organization of the table as a TOOL for understanding the properties of elements, she is far better off sketching the groups and rows in her note book.

    Too many teachers and too many technology companies have come to believe that the technology tools are the end all and be all, when a set of colored pencils and a note pad are far better suited to the task.

    The fact that some of your students are balking at these technology tools is a sign of hope. For serious students, a text book that vanishes into the ether at the end of the quarter, or that can’t be left laying open on the table while he makes a note or reads side by side with another text is mental poison. A test that is delivered electronically, immediately scored and then archived out of reach is useless for the student who desires some feedback and the opportunity to review and eventually master tricky concepts.

    The confines of the tools available for digital learning hamper that learning and like the tiny editing window I am using to type this post, prevent students from organizing their thoughts. It is for this reason that many “digital natives” in their 20′s and 30′s carry a Moleskin notebook in the same pocket as their Android tablet or I-pad.

    Using technology to learn is an effective tool for SOME, perhaps even MANY students. But the push to move all students, teachers, and schools into a solely tech based learning paradigm is as short sighted as the fiasco of one size fits all standardized testing.

  4. ctdahle

    August 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    You are surprised that kids wanted to print out the text? You are puzzled that the kids would rather have a printed page than view the text through the tiny pane of a document window on a net book? You are bewildered that kids would rather respond to test questions on a full sized page than try to squish their learning into the confines of a teeny tiny response field window like the terribly awkward one I am trying to write in RIGHT NOW? It puzzles you that students who have to respond with clickers instantly do not do as well as those who have the opportunity to read through the entirety of a test, examine the questions, respond slowly and thoughtfully, and have the ability to flip back to questions that confused them?

    This surprises you? Any you are a teacher?

    Technology may be good at delivering certain types of content; fiction, memoir, or simplistic animation of some processes for example, but it is terrible for delivering intense technical information such as that contained in nearly every sort of text book.

    Personally, I am fluent in several programming languages, a number of text editing, photo manipulation and graphic production tools. I am comfortable sending text messages and tweets. I’ve had a cellular telephone since 1988. I read books on Kindle. I maintain a blog, and am quite capable of producing video to upload to You Tube. In short, while I may technically be a digital immigrant, I was adopted into the family when quite young.

    However, when I decided to learn C++ and its dialects, Arduino and Processing, I bought BOUND PAPER BOOKS.

    Why? Because for any serious text in science, mathematics, or other technical fields, having a book in my hand that I can dog ear, annotate, tab, and underline is FASTER and more efficient then using the inflexible, awkward, clunky tools that electronic textbooks provide.

    Recording my notes in a spiral notebook with a pencil is quicker and more efficient than trying to type them, even though I am a very fast typist and have horrid handwriting.

    This past summer, taking a graduate level biology class that was delivered and assessed ENTIRELY on line, I found that I could complete the assignments in an hour or two, ON PAPER, but then had to spend MANY hours converting hand drawn diagrams of reactions, cellular processes, mathematical formulas into digital form to be submitted over the internet. This was time that would have been better spent learning content, completing optional exercises, or doing supplemental reading. In short, the requirement to respond using the computer, a tool I have used since I was 14 and learned FORTRAN, hampered my learning, wasted my time, and prevented me from getting the full value of the course.

    There are wonderful technology tools available, but many aspects of a real education remain best studied with paper and pencil.

    An interactive periodic table of the elements may look cool, but if you want an 11 year old to understand the structure and organization of the table as a TOOL for understanding the properties of elements, she is far better off sketching the groups and rows in her note book.

    Too many teachers and too many technology companies have come to believe that the technology tools are the end all and be all, when a set of colored pencils and a note pad are far better suited to the task.

    The fact that some of your students are balking at these technology tools is a sign of hope. For serious students, a text book that vanishes into the ether at the end of the quarter, or that can’t be left laying open on the table while he makes a note or reads side by side with another text is mental poison. A test that is delivered electronically, immediately scored and then archived out of reach is useless for the student who desires some feedback and the opportunity to review and eventually master tricky concepts.

    The confines of the tools available for digital learning hamper that learning and like the tiny editing window I am using to type this post, prevent students from organizing their thoughts. It is for this reason that many “digital natives” in their 20′s and 30′s carry a Moleskin notebook in the same pocket as their Android tablet or I-pad.

    Using technology to learn is an effective tool for SOME, perhaps even MANY students. But the push to move all students, teachers, and schools into a solely tech based learning paradigm is as short sighted as the fiasco of one size fits all standardized testing.

  5. kjanowski

    August 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

    @ctdahle – I’m left wondering why you didn’t either take a picture of your hand-drawn diagrams or scan them and post them online. This task woulld take minutes (seconds?).

    In any case, what you describing as easier for you, using paper and pencil, is impossible for those who are blind or visually impaired. Many student with learning disabilities have a much easier time accessing the content and demonstrating what they know because of the opportunities digital tools provide.

    The point is choice. Before, there werent any choices. Paper was the only option. Now there are choices and everyone can choose what works best for their learning. (see Ira Socol’s Toolbelt Theory http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2008/05/toolbelt-theory-for-everyone.html)

  6. kjanowski

    August 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

    @ctdahle – I’m left wondering why you didn’t either take a picture of your hand-drawn diagrams or scan them and post them online. This task woulld take minutes (seconds?).

    In any case, what you describing as easier for you, using paper and pencil, is impossible for those who are blind or visually impaired. Many student with learning disabilities have a much easier time accessing the content and demonstrating what they know because of the opportunities digital tools provide.

    The point is choice. Before, there werent any choices. Paper was the only option. Now there are choices and everyone can choose what works best for their learning. (see Ira Socol’s Toolbelt Theory http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2008/05/toolbelt-theory-for-everyone.html)

  7. drdouggreen

    August 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

    There is a mis concept that digital natives have a certain set of desirable skills that include open ended problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Read my summary of “Academically Adrift” at http://bit.ly/mkwKxq for research that discounts this. Being a digital native means you have been immersed in a digital environment from an early age. Read my summary of Sherry Terkle’s “Alone Together” http://bit.ly/qy9bY9 to learn about what a digital native really experiences. They wait to be interrupted, long for someone’s full attention, and create multiple different identities as they engage in social media and gaming.

  8. drdouggreen

    August 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

    There is a mis concept that digital natives have a certain set of desirable skills that include open ended problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Read my summary of “Academically Adrift” at http://bit.ly/mkwKxq for research that discounts this. Being a digital native means you have been immersed in a digital environment from an early age. Read my summary of Sherry Terkle’s “Alone Together” http://bit.ly/qy9bY9 to learn about what a digital native really experiences. They wait to be interrupted, long for someone’s full attention, and create multiple different identities as they engage in social media and gaming.

  9. r_vasilakis

    August 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I never liked the designation of “digital native” /”digital immigrant”. I always felt the theory was a throw back to the 60′s generation gap that pitted under 30 with the over 30 crowd. The problem is that having been born in 1956 I considered myself a digital native. After all I had a commadore and a PCjr and am quite comfortable with trying new technologies. The real divide is between those with time to spend playing with the newest technologies and those of us with real life resonsibilities who don’t get to sit down until after 10:00 pm to play with the latest and greatest. This is especially true in education where many school districts want teachers to be up on the latest technologies and integrate them into classsrooms but never carve out time for teachers to learn and revamp leson plans (which can be very time consuming) to reflect new technologies.

  10. r_vasilakis

    August 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I never liked the designation of “digital native” /”digital immigrant”. I always felt the theory was a throw back to the 60′s generation gap that pitted under 30 with the over 30 crowd. The problem is that having been born in 1956 I considered myself a digital native. After all I had a commadore and a PCjr and am quite comfortable with trying new technologies. The real divide is between those with time to spend playing with the newest technologies and those of us with real life resonsibilities who don’t get to sit down until after 10:00 pm to play with the latest and greatest. This is especially true in education where many school districts want teachers to be up on the latest technologies and integrate them into classsrooms but never carve out time for teachers to learn and revamp leson plans (which can be very time consuming) to reflect new technologies.