I wonder about the wisdom of perpetuating a craze that appears to have created a division where none exists. I read, hear and see a lot of evidence to suggest that young people born into this age are more accepting of its digital equipment and the development of this than some who were born decades before. This is entirely to be expected.
My personal experience is that the young don't necessarily have any better command of the use of the technology nor keener vision of its potential.
The terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’, used in a digital context, place unnecessary and unwarranted barriers between older people who have a command of present-day technology, and yet are labelled ‘immigrants’, and the similarly able individuals who are younger, and are labelled ‘natives’.
Humans have an innate tendency to isolate people into groups, through criteria that involve seemingly peripheral and irrelevant differences. These can be of gender, age, skin or hair colour, height, girth, voice accent, ethnic origin or religious belief. You identify it; a category will exist for it.
The unfortunate use of the terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’ tends to bring to mind times or situations when these were used commonly in derogatory contexts. Their use can provoke prejudice. I’ve actually seen this happen. It isn’t pretty to watch.
A + B = C
Criteria for distinguishing so-called digital natives from so-called digital immigrants, some of which is seriously flawed, have been drafted since the beginning of this century. And they continue to be refined. I see more references to their mythical existence every day. The recognition of that is as if it were something clear-cut like 1 + 1 = 2.
This is despite recent and not so recent findings and reports that clearly indicate there is more to becoming digitally savvy and acquiring acumen with present-day technology than being born close to 1990. Just check out some of the references cited in Sharon Stoerger’s article, 2009.
One thing that’s clear from my experience as a teacher of both children and adults, is that young people, new to present-day technology, are no faster at understanding it and getting useful command of it, than newbies who are mature and perhaps decades older than they.
Those who are born into a digital-technology-rich environment are familiar with it, certainly. But it is in a way similar to how all of us in the western world are accepting of a 24/7 electricity supply, the technology to record sound and ‘moving pictures’, or the capacity to be able to make a direct call – Skype with video if you wish – from one side of the globe to the other.
I make no apology for this rant. It’s been a long time coming.
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