Saturday, July 18, 2009

Digital Natives? Digital Immigrants?

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
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.

Innate tendencies

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.

( 2 ) < - related post



Sreya Dutta said...

Hi Ken,

Very interesting that you brought this up. You made some really valid points about humans have a tendency to isolate people into groups and this is also true with other things in the world. In my opinion it is made so we can quantify something and say it in short using a new term. But anything we quantify will never be absolute. I totally agree that there are older people who are very tech savvy and have openly migrated to the tools. But that generation does have a large group that resists it just because they did not grow up with it. I've seen this with some of my senior colleagues, parents etc. They are just not used to and don't want to get 'sucked' into it. Thats their personal preference and the younger generation accepts all this with open arms. Thats the only diff these terms define to me. Having them makes it simpler than saying younger and older generation.

Those are my thoughts and thanks for sharing!


V Yonkers said...

I think that perhaps the problem is the assumption that if you are a "native" you somehow know more than the "immigrant." This is true in many things.

My knowledge of Spanish was not bilingual by any means, and yet my "native" speaking friends would have me proof read things written in Spanish because of my expertise in grammar and spelling (in Spanish).

In a comment I made to Michael Hanley, I was discussing the impact the walk on the moon had on my parents, but seemed ho-hum to me at the time having grown up with the apollo program. I think the distinction is not in weather "natives" and "immigrants" have differing ability, but rather their understanding of how the technology can be used (affordances) differ. Every technology will have different generations understanding its uses differently. My parents used to warn about sitting too close to the TV because first generation technology could emit rays that would strain and hurt the eyes. We basically ignored them because we were young and did not see the evidence of this happening. The calculator affected how math was taught (a difference between my sisters and I) and the understanding of calculation in math.

I agree with you that there is no difference in ability in the use of new technology, but rather an understanding of how technology can be integrated into our life. Each generation will deviate from previous generations (also a natural occurrence of human life) and there will always be the tension between traditional and new ways of doing things. Too many overlook this, somehow assuming because you were born into a culture or time period, you will have some innate ability over previous (or future) generations.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai Sreya!

I understand what you say about older people not wanting to get 'sucked into' new technology. But when it comes to categorising them it would then be just as valid to say 'older people', or even 'some older people', if there is a need to be less specific, but that may be seen as being ageist.

I frequently refer to young learners. Everyone knows who I'm referring to. If I want to be more specific I can refer to year 9 learners, young adults or mature adult learners. These terms are not discriminatory yet they categorise nevertheless.

Hey it's good that you dropped by!

Kia ora Virginia!

I concur with you over how the calculator changed the way we worked and certainly the way we thought through procedures in calculations. For me there were some pluses and some minuses, as there were for my students.

I taught through the period of transition from using arithmetic all the time, even when using logarithm tables, and using a scientific calculator with programmable functions etc.

Some aspects of senior Physics and senior Chemistry suffered through this transition as the fundamental concepts behind such things as powers, indices and logarithms were simply not taught to students who did not enter into senior Mathematics. For those students, grappling with ideas on pH in senior Chemistry was a nightmare. It was part of Chemistry they had to pass up. But that only serves to strengthen the points I make in my post - that younger learners are not necessarily any more capable of utilising the technology than is a mature adult who has been through a similar educational grounding.

As for integrating technology into our lives - time will always sort that one out, and the sorting between the users takes place at all ages.

Catchya later

Kosta said...

Hi Ken, and others,

Prensky (2001) tells us that “students today are all “native speakers” of technology”. I disagree. Many students today have a very limited technological skill set. They can send text messages and post pictures on Facebook, but don’t know how to align text in a word processing document. I think Prensky’s distinction between natives and immigrants is flawed for the simple reason that it depends on birth date, as opposed to true skill, comfort, and ability with technology. The nomenclature aside, Prensky is also tells us that the immigrants “learn” while the natives… well, he doesn’t quite say. Do they just “know”? As students in this program, I think that being labeled as Digital Immigrants is not only inaccurate, but apparently insurmountable, in that Prensky doesn’t present us anyway to get out of the rut he describes. I agree that the distinction truly separates us, when the goal should be to unite us in both learning and teaching. To state that we cannot come to a place where both natives and immigrants can be equals is both sad and in all honesty, naive. Regardless of when someone was born, there are certain skills (both technological and “classical”) that are important to be learned. Knowing how to use a word-processor might be nice, but if you don’t know how to draft a letter, an essay, a memo, etc, that ability is not so useful. I think that Prensky does make some good points about the differences between types of technology users, but he fails to highlight the important similarities (innate and acquired) that require effort on the part of both parties. We all need to be a little flexible, but to state that Digital Immigrants “need to change” and that we shouldn’t expect the natives to do the same is doing a disservice to our students.


Kosta said...


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1 Retrieved November 23, 2009 from

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai e Kosta!

Good you paid a visit to Middle-earth.blogspot. We seem to be in total agreement over this one, at least as far as I can make out. It is always good to have comments in discussion that refute or provide disparity in belief but it is just as useful to learn the level of agreement that another may provide.

I don't link to Marc Prensky's writing other than to his home site when I have to, for as you have learnt, I too have a thing about some of his beliefs.

But if there is one thing that he and a number of his followers do well, it's that they are able to think positively about the younger generation, and that aspect is all good.

Thanks for dropping by Middle-earth.

Catchya later

Kfed15 said...

Hi Middle Earth Bloggers,
It is not many articles that generate such thoughtful and passionate debate, even 8 years later. Whether you agree with Marc Prensky or not, educators must recognize that as Marshall McLuhan stated decades ago, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”, this was true about television and radio then and it seems to be quite true about the net and all the 2.0 tools and toys now. Media has everything to do with how cultural change evolves and ignoring the media’s influence on our students would be a mistake. Of course, the “digital natives” are not net savvy in any uniform way and while they appear to be natural multitaskers, multitasking has defined parenthood since the dawn of time. Clearly reflecting on how our young people learn and how student engagement can be maximized are the big questions that I think Prensky wanted educators to take away. Now that we know that the brain is not a static entity and can be developed much as muscles can be-we need to ask ourselves: How do we get them to utilize the strengths of a brain exercised and develop with technology? Since I can remember (and I consider myself an immigrant), students have not felt engaged or connected to school, selling students on the relevance of current curriculum has been a constant. Students may enjoy learning tremendously-but how many students (and teachers) are sad when summer vacation rolls around? We know they spend a huge amount of time focused on and wired to technology-why not use that which they are drawn to, to teach them? Technology is only going to continue to develop, the horse is not returning to the barn. Good teaching does not require technology, but why shouldn’t we include it in relevant, meaningful ways? A student can teach me how a new technology works, I can teach them how to better use that technology to reflect, question, create-communicate. I think immigrants often have a unique and interesting perspective that can enhance the conversation. While some may have preferred different tags than “native” or “immigrant” for very real reasons- thank you Mr. Prensky for stimulating some interesting and relevant discussion.

Ms. Natalie A. Moses said...

Interesting concepts here, I agree that "anyone" has the ability to learn and be engaged by technology. I also think its easy for others to label and box in the technology phenomenon of teens. Certainly this is a different generation; they may be privvy to technologies unknown to others; but we can learn and embrace these same technologies. Traditional education will always win with or without technology teachers have the responsibility of using all available resources to tap into the true dynamics needed to teacher students effectively on all levels. We must also keep in mind those that have learning disabilities different from our own. Careful care is needed when we embrace any new technology or traditional teaching and the student. One doesn't have an edge over the other; but, each is able to teach the other because of technology experience. We must not isolate we must multiply our knowledge base and not think that a 16 year old is more technologically savvy than a 60 year old. Its a matter of individual, experience, knowledge and openness to this techno-world!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua!

Some great discussion happening here.

Kia ora Kfed15

I agree that our tools shape society. I also see that society has to be ready for the technology when it comes along, and there is no finer example of this than the explosion in usage of the mobile phone.

Yet when the telephone was first invented it had an almost incredible slow start. I'm talking about during and before the time of the pioneering and entrepreneurial Scotsman, Alexander Graham Bell.

This acceptance is a behaviour of society - a collective. It is now well understood that communities behave differently from how individuals would do on their own, and that the behaviour of the community shapes the behaviour of the individual. I believe that this is never more apparent than when we observe the use of technology.

Kia ora e Natalie

I am so aligned with your thinking here! I have many students who are less than 20 years old. While they have a lot to learn (about technology too) I am always heartened that they can also teach me a lot (about technology and other things).

I'm moving into what some used to call the twilight years of my life, but my enthusiasm for learning is always sparked by how I see others, decades younger than myself, making mistakes and learning from them (or sometimes not) the same way as I have for decades.

So you are right. What is the difference? 16 yo or 61 yo, the learning patterns and pathways can be almost identical.

Good that you came by Middle-earth.

Catchya later

PodcastReview said...

I believe you make a valid and foretelling point when you talk about the use of the labels. Initially, it might seem harmless in this purely academic discussion, but what stops the terms "immigrants" (a highly charged word may I add in today's America) and "natives" into the terms "computer dummy" and
"Computer smart". If I had not been the victim of labels since the day I was born maybe I would look at Prensky’s ideas differently. He offers some very astute points in his writings, but I think he could do without the tags. I was amazed with many of the facts presented in his article, for instance today's younger students think in hypertext, they can watch Sesame
Street with a room full of toys, while a control group has none and they both retain the gist of the lesson. I think that most in the world of academic realize there is a digital divide, America's falling test scores around the world prove this fact.
The use of integrating technology of any sort is no longer a choice but a mandate that educators must adhere to--now!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora PodcastReview!

In my comment to Kfed15 I said that the acceptance of technology is a behaviour of society - a collective. It is now well understood that communities behave differently from how individuals would do on their own, and that the behaviour of the community shapes the behaviour of the individual. I believe that this is never more apparent than when we observe the use of technology.

Yes, we (you and I and others) see a need for teachers and educators to embrace the idea of integrating technology. It should be a mandate. But it has to also be accepted by other sectors of society, and that includes the authorities.

Society (community) is a complex beast. It's like a juggernaut. There may well be sections of the juggernaut who do not want the machine to continue along the one path, but they are often powerless to affect its route. That's not to say they should stop trying.

Catchya later

Anonymous said...

Hello All,

Interesting conversation and thoughts on the terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’. Although I agree with the reasoning behind why these terms are not fully accepted my thoughts on Prensky’s (2001) articles focused more on the video game aspect of learning. I found Prensky’s articles intriguing but idealistic and perhaps even unrealistic. His scenario of students playing a video game for 6 hours to gain 3 hours / one school day’s worth of information did not convince me to jump on board with this idea, nor did any of his other reasoning. Whereas I am not against these forms of learning being implemented I had several issues with Prensky’s reasoning for video based learning. But before I touch on that let me say that I totally agree that American education is boring, outdated and irrelevant to learners and there is a desperate need for change.

I wonder what exactly (how many hours, etc) Prensky is purposing that video learning should be incorporated in the classroom when he says all subjects can be covered via video games. My main concern with this type of learning is the social aspect of it, or should I say, the lack thereof. If it would take students 6 hours to complete one day’s worth of work… what happens to students “ability to cooperate, collaborate and work well with others” which Fortune 500 companies have long acknowledged as being “more important than basic skills (such as reading and writing) that traditional schools have long defined as being most important” (Wang, 2001, p. 515).

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1 Retrieved November 23, 2009 from

Wang, C. Y. J. (2001, November). Handshakes in cyberspace: Bridging the cultural differences through effective intercultural communication and collaboration. In Annual Proceedings of Selected Research and Development [and] Practice Papers Presented at the National Convention
of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (24th, Atlanta, GA, November 8-12, 2001). Retrieved September 20, 2009, from ERIC database.

palmangel said...

First, I must address the issue of immigrants vs. natives. I don't believe Prensky was generalizing skills across generations. He described digital natives as "the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age." Prensky describes digital immigrants as, "those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology." In this description he does not attribute any level of skill to either immigrants or natives. He is simply stating a fact and giving it a name.

I am a digital immigrant and make no qualms about it. I was born before microwaves and VCRs, cell phones and MP3s, computers and the Internet. Until I was 19 and went to work at Radio Shack I watched TV on a 13" black and white screen. I do consider myself naturalized--I do not display many of the typical accents described by Prensky. I do not print out emails, I edit on-screen, and even as a librarian, my first instinct when posed a question is to go online. That still does not make me a digital native as described by Prensky.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai!
Haere mai!
Haere mai!

Good that you dropped by Middle-earth. It is a pleasure to host your comments here.

Kia ora Anonymous

Gaining information from a video game over 6 hours does not really provide any control on what sort of information is learnt. This indiscriminate classification of information doesn't impress me, though it could be argued that learning information in a class room over 3 hours is just as arbitrary.

The difference lies in the intent behind the choice of information proffered.

Tēnā koe Palmangel!

My main criticism of Prensky's terms are the connotative aspects associated with the words 'native' and 'immigrant', and the unnecessary and unwarranted barriers that arise because of these possible connotations. There seems to be a significant agreement on this point.

I have no problem with any aspect to do with when a technology user was born, though for many purposes this is an irrelevancy provided they are willing learners. Research has shown that recent experience in learning in an older learner usually provides a huge advantage when learning anew. At least, that's always been my experience in teaching young and older learners.

Catchya later

Anonymous said...

These blogs brought up some interesting points. I don't think that we can simply put people into groups and label all of them with one generic label. There are young and old that are not typical for their generation.
I feel that technology has enabled society to be entertained and over time students expect education to be entertaining too.
In the "olden" days students learned by games such as cards and chess. Gradually we evolved with TV providing the entertaining educational games with learning. If something is fun--don't students spend more time doing it and therefore you learn better and more quickly because you are not resisting the learning. Think of word searches, crosswords, etc.<
Computers and digital technology have simply elevated the games to a new level. Overall, I feel that it has affected the preferences for the students. They want learning to be fun and entertaining--not drudgier. It has affected how they learn and their attention span to old methods. If you had your choice--how would you learn your spelling words--writing them 10 times each or playing a fun game such as hangman to learn the spelling? I don't believe it is a generational divide but simply that technology has given us so many better choices and students want us to use those choices--young and old alike.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Anonymous!

Welcome to Middle-earth!

I would be inclined to agree with you when you say that "technology has given us so many better choices and students want us to use those". I say inclined, for that's not what the majority of learners say when they're asked.

Over recent years, working with distance learners in a distance education centre, the results of learner surveys indicate clearly that the preferred mode of study is not what one would expect, at least not from the argument and perspective that you give in your comment. I'm not knocking your opinion, for I agree with it.

But when it comes to the opinion of learners it is interesting what THEIR first choices and preferences turn out to be. It happens that they are overwhelmingly in favour of traditional methods used for the delivery of learning resources, namely print based - or books.

It's not my choice, but there it is.

Catchya later

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts here. I find the labels Digital Native and Digital Immigrant a bit confusing. I understand Prensky's (2001) explanation of the labels, however as someone in their 30s, I don't completely understand which category I'm in. The labes gave me a mental sterotype that Digital Immigrants would be from generations older than mine, however, after reading the explanation of the differences of Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants, I suppose I would be considered a Digital Immigrant. However, while I wasn't born into the digital world of cell phones, computers, and Internet, I have learned to use them easily. I remember teachers playing games with us during my K-12 education and I never felt my education was boring.

Labeling today's students as Digital Natives implies that today's students understand the technology better. from my point of view, that's not neccessarily true. I teach in an elementary school and the primary aged students require various instruction to be able to use technology. It called basics. Primary aged students spend time in the computer lab learning keyboarding. They cannot move on in their technology experiences until they learn the basic keyboarding skills. That's just one example.

Prensky (2001) states that digital natives prefer games to serious work. Who doesn't? However, there are times in the "real world" job market that serious work is neccessary. Therefore, while I advocate using games and technology in instruction, is it truely meaningful to entertain our students every minute of the school day. If we are teaching them to succeed in the "real world" they need to be able to have the skills and patience to sit down and complete serious work in addition to the "fun and games." Education needs to be balanced. It can't possibily become all about games and entertainment.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Anonymous

"Education needs to be balanced. It can't possibly become all about games and entertainment." Well I'm certainly with you on this one.

The balance that you mention is needed too. It means that entertainment and games can be used in education to provide the necessary (pedagogical - let's not deny it) interest that hooks learners into the idea that learning stuff can be useful.

As a trainee teacher (yonks ago) I was taught that entertainment and games were teaching tools. They are no different today.

Thanks for dropping by Middle-earth!

Catchya later

suzkline said...

Hi Ken,

I agree with you that we are quick to put people in to group and categorize them. I also agree that there are plenty of adults that are just as tech savvy as the young students growing up in this digital world.

While I don't 100% agree with Prensky I do find truth in what he says in his articles.

I am in my 4th year teaching 1st grade and consider myself a "digital native". I have a lot of technology in my classroom and feel that a lot of what Prensky talks about is true with my students. My six year olds are very computer savvy, they can browse the internet, use a variety of different softwares and are very much engaged with technology is involved.

I have also observed the attention span of my students increase when technology is involved. For an example just the other day I did a math lesson on telling time. When my students were sitting in front of my chart paper and had clocks in their hand they were unfocused had trouble with the concepts and I could see the attention drift off. The very next day I created a powerpoint presentation on the same topics and projected on my LCD screen. Every single student was paying attention and couldn't wait to see the next slide. Then I added an assessment piece and gave each student a whiteboard to write their answers on. I did not have one student that was not engaged. They also showed a much better understanding.

I believe that what Prensky is trying to say is the world is changing with all this new technology and with this new world education has to be altered as well. There are new subjects to teach, different forums for teaching these subjects and teachers need to be educated and know how to use these new technology tools in order to teach these new technology savvy children.

There are some teachers who did not grow up with technology that are more resistant to learning these new ways. It is harder for them to catch on than newer teachers who could be considered "digital natives".


cowboysrule said...

Hello Ken,

I agree with your blog and your criticism of Prensky's use of the words "native" and "immigrant". The connotations can sometimes be misconstrued as being something negative. I also do not feel that today's students are all native speakers of technology. Most times, especially in socio-economic deprived areas, students do not have access to technology except in school. Sometimes funding may be low budgeted in schools and the technology department often suffers leaving students inept in how to use various technology applications. also in saying that students are all native speakers, insinuates that students are born with all the technology knowledge necessary to compete in today's world. As we know, that is false.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai!
Haere mai!
Haere mai!

Tēnā korua

So thrilled that you both dropped in on Middle-earth!

Kia ora e Suzanne!

Hey it's good to learn the perspective of a 'digital native'. Amazing how your six-year-olds are so agile in their use of computer. It seems (so I've learnt) that very young children learn the use of the keyboard without formal training in touch-typing etc.

I go along with what you say about Prensky claiming that the world is changing with technology, and that education has to also move with the times with that. Of course, he is right.

Attitude of the learners, and how they feel about their own skills (or lack of them) can have a significant effect on how they continue to learn. Perhaps there is more to these aspects than we would imagine, when it comes to understanding where Prensky is coming from with his categories.

Kia ora Christy!

I think you have got it all here! And I am with you.

I feel that it's the naming of Prensky's categories that is the real problem, coupled with a belief that suggests, as you say, that the abilities are inborn in today's young learners. So off the plot.

I also believe you are right about the socio-economic factors involved here, that can generate gaps that are real. I have to admit that my own children became computer savvy early on, through use of school equipment, at a time when we did not have a computer at home.

Ka kite anō
Catchya later

Cornéli@ said...

I`ve just "discovered" your blog. Great one!
Liked your thoughts about digital natives/immigrants.
Quite opposite to Marc Prensky, right?
There is always two ways of looking at the same issue...

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Cornélia!

Welcome to my blog! I am so glad you found it :-)

I have to say that I'm not entirely opposed to Marc Prensky - just some of his assumptions, and the inferences that fall out of those. I think we humans have to start seeing the worth in each other - there is always something that is worthy, in whatever point of view is held, that can be shared.

I find that, "As you grow older, I think you need to put your arms around each other more." - Barbara Bush.

Best wishes for the season.

Catchya later

Alison Colen said...

I have been in education for the past 7 years and have seen the differences between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" to be true. There are so many times when my students understand how to use the computer programs better than their teachers. The kids have grown up to speak this digital language for their entire lives while we have just begun speaking this language. I do believe that their brains are wired differently than someone who did not grow up learning in the digital age. It makes sense that the brain develops differently depending upon the environment/culture it has been accustomed to. People in different areas of the world understand different things due to the differences in what they have been exposed to. When we learn a new language as an adult, it is different than when a child learns a new language. Kids can pick up the new language much faster than adults learning a new language can. I think we need to change with the times when it comes to teaching these kids that are digital natives. I have seen so many times in the classroom how much more attentive my students are when there is interactivity and technology being utilized. My students will choose not to pay attention to the more traditional ways of learning. And who can blame them? They are just products of their environments. We as educators need to adjust to their learning needs not the other way around.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Alison!

Welcome to Middle-earth.

You mention traditional learning, its effectiveness and how children today respond to it. I wonder at the conduit for the so-called traditional learning you speak of. My experience is that the enthusiasm of the teacher and the pedagogy used are far more important than any learning method. The relationship struck between learner and teacher is extremely important and has been shown to be supremely effective in assisting learning, far more so than the method used, however skilfully it is applied.

You also refer to the learning of a new language and you make the comparison between how children approach this and how adults do, while also alluding to a connection between these and the way children and adults learn and practice their skills in using computers. All this makes me wonder about your knowledge of education across the many learning disciplines.

Making such comparisons is not only illogical, but it is also unscientific. It is well known that the study of the assimilation of linguistic skills, for instance, is not only extremely complex, but that it is also difficult if not impossible to draw comparisons between those and development of learners in other skills areas. Your claim can be seen to be as valid as your declaration to have been in education for 7 years. I’ve been in education for 40 years and have been practicing in education within computer environments for over 26 of these. What difference does that make? Are you now going to claim that, because of my age, I see things differently? I hope you do. But to claim that my vision is any more or any less valid or accurate than yours is also as unscientific.

I agree with what you say about the brain developing according to the learning environment. This applies to any agile brain no matter what its age.

Catchya later

Unknown said...

I agree with the article by Marc Prensky about the fact that digital natives are able to multi-task as well as be more comfortable with technology. The author of the blog tends to agree that anyone can pick up the use of technology and a younger person is not necessarily going to do it faster then someone older. I don't agree with that. I do think that everyone can learn how to use technology, but I do feel that the younger generation has a better understanding.

Just thinking about multi-tasking and what a child can do now. I love to listen to music, I listen all the time, whether I am in the car or watching tv or doing homework. I have music on. My mom on the other hand if she is driving and it starts to rain, she'll turn the music off. Not that she cannot multi-task, but I think she needs to feel like she has a clear head. Kids now a days have so much going on. With after school activities, schools, being part of their family and keeping up with the newest technology they seem to be able to do it.


terry beachy said...

Hi Ken
I agree that natives are on the pulse of technology, when it works. To expand, I have seen young natives quickly become frustrated when technology goes awray - everything from a temper tantrum to throwing the gadget ensues. On another note, I too, see grouping when it comes to technology. This is not limited to students in school. Groups convene on the basis of their interests and in turn, they go to the internet and mingle and share their thoughts. terry b

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Mary

Thank you for taking the time to comment here. Isn’t this a wonderful discussion? I admit to you here that I did not anticipate the popularity of this post even a few days after it was published. It is great to learn so much about what people think about this topic.

The thrust of my post is that two categories of thinkers were created and fostered for people who fell into those, it appears, purely because of their age. In any generalisation, of course, there are going to be exceptions. However, these are so numerous that it puts into question the usefulness of the categorisation other than to simply segregate.

Multi-tasking, it has been shown, is really more likely to be task-switching rather than true multi-tasking where the brain tackles two or more thinking tasks simultaneously. Our supreme thinkers do not use the technique of task-switching, even it were possible. This has been unequivocally shown, in several studies, where the thinker effectively shuts down other parts of the brain in order to achieve a supreme thinking efficiency in one part.

Also it is known that task-switching can only be sustained in bursts. Over time, a period of recovery is essential for the brain to return to normal thinking capacity. Tiring of the executive function of the brain, likened to that of muscle fatigue, occurs very quickly, leading to poor concentration and impaired learning during the time of that fatigue.

While it is true that many kids today have a lot going on, mainly due to the many technologies at their disposal, their effectiveness at making sense of it all, especially from a learning perspective, is still under dispute.

Ngā mihi nui

Unknown said...

I recently read and found Marc Prensky’s article about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants very interesting. At first, I thought that what he was saying made a lot of sense. Personally, I have always felt like an outsider when it comes to technology use. That is exactly why I chose to get my master’s degree in educational technology. I wanted to become more comfortable and more familiar with technology. I felt (and still do feel) inferior to the “Digital Natives” that Mr. Prensky refers to in his article. However, after reading your blog posting, I must admit that the terms Digital Native and Digital Immigrant are very restricting. Our Digital World has changed over time, and depending on when you were born, your comfort level and familiarity with different technologies varies. I think the line between the natives and the immigrants is actually very blurred, which defeats the purpose for these divisive terms. Instead of placing people in labeled categories, I believe that acknowledging the different comfort levels, familiarities, and thinking and learning styles is more important. The fact that our world has drastically changed and thus so has the way we all learn requires that teachers and teaching styles change accordingly. Whether we are natives or immigrants, teachers or students, 50 or 15, our world is driven by continually developing technology, and we need to embrace it remain life-long learners.

Sparks said...

Very interesting point you made about how young people seem to be no faster at understanding new technology than more mature newbies. It has been my experience that perhaps they are not any faster however their lack of fear gives them the courage to continue working until they understand the technology. They aren't afraid of breaking it because they have no reason to believe it can be broken. Digital "immigrants" however draw from prior experiences which forces them to be more cautious. These former misconceptions can get in the way of future learning and causes a stumbling block as they are forced to go against what they think they already know to make room for something new.

Another point I would like to make is that aren't we all in fact Digital Immigrants" of some sort? Even if we are born into this now digital society there will always come a point where we encounter something new and must maneuver our way through a place we have never been. Technology is constantly changing and evolving, in a sense we are constantly immigrating to new areas within our digital world.

Taffy said...

Just as someone just pointed out I agree with Prensky. I think that the Digital Immigrant takes a lot longer to stretch their rubber bands (brains plasticity) than the Digital Natives. It is easier for the Digital Natives to learn technology faster because they are born in it, and they are born with it. I was constantly on the computer while my child is growing in my stomach and after he is born he is continuously exposed to it and feels very comfortable with it. Unlike the digital immigrants the natives are thinking in a very different way as is suggested by Prensky. It is also very evident that most parents cannot use the play station, X-box or the wii as well as their children. The kids would not need to look at the manual to use these equipments they just open them and use them, configure them, adjust them without any difficulty. Where as if an adult is trying to use these same equipment he/she might have to refer to the manual to successfully do the same process. I have tried it and I find this to be true with 99% of my friends or family members. Our kids have a better handle on many of the technologies out there better than the adult. My friend who is an electrical engineer who graduated with great distinction 15 years ago and is a manager of a big company cannot use a TI-84 calculator to solve a geometric problem. But at the same time an average middle school kid will be able to tutor my electrical engineer friend how to fully utilize this machine with confidence. So I can say that we are no way close to being able to use technological equipments as the young generations are the present time.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koutou!

Good grief! There is a lot of activity on this over-a-year-old post all-of-a-sudden!

I would never have thought that such a topic would have been so controversial and bring comment with such serious and genuine thought and robust opinion to Middle-earth as what is given on this post. I thank all who comment here for a thoroughly exhilarating opportunity to take part in debate and share opinion with you all. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? You have to love it!

Tēnā koe e Terry!

Thank you for this different perspective and welcome to the debate!

“On the pulse of technology”. It has to be the phrase of the year – thank you for that! I think you have something here. But also, patience and tolerance certainly seems to come with experience, so I agree with you here.

However, I have to admit to throwing a few tantrums myself when the technology doesn’t cut the mustard and function when it should with me. I’m afraid I tend to disprove your rule at times . . . but then, that’s just me. I’m a middle-aged adolescent. :-)

Kia ora e Cindy!

I like what you say about the lack of fear that young newbies seem to have and I believe it is quite true. My experience with teaching mature adults has shown me that many do fear technology in some way. I know I do, so I think that you have a valid point here. The cautiousness of the mature adult often prevents her from using what I call the suck-it-and-see method of learning about new technology.

“There will always come a point where we encounter something new”. How too true is that! My pet theory is that technology is evolving at a speed far quicker than our genetic disposition to evolve with it. So technology is always leaving us behind, no matter what our age. I am with you all the way with this!

Tēnā koe e Taffy!

Adore the name Taffy!

I also think you too have a point with your rubber band theory, and I love your metaphor! I’ve no doubt about the brain’s plasticity that you mention. A computer foetus has the edge on us all!

As well, I agree with you about young kid’s attitude to manuals. Again, I think the suck-it-and-see method comes into play here. I see it in my own kids, for they don’t need manuals. They use that method all the time and without having to think about it. I have to think about it.

I’m not so sure I can agree with your generalisation that “we are no way close to being able to use technological equipments as the young generations are (at) the present time” though. I have anecdotal evidence to show that it doesn’t always work that way. But neither have I statistically significant evidence to show that it’s generally different from what you say. My feeling is that we have to be wary of using anecdotal evidence to prove any general rule.

Catchya all later

Jillian said...

Hello All,

I think that it’s the same for everything new and up and coming, practice makes perfect. The reality is that students today have more exposure to these new technologies and tools, more so than let’s say my 65 year old grandmother. Is she any less capable of learning the tools and material? No, I certainly think not (and if you disagree you can be the one to tell her!) She just has little reason for venturing out and embracing all of these tools on her own. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, she just doesn’t need to. If she, or anyone else for that matter, was faced with a situation where she needed to learn these tools it would probably take a while considering she has not grown up with using them regularly, but I’m sure she would be able to.

That's what I think anyway!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Jillian

Welcome to Middle-earth!

You are singing my swansong. It just so happens that I am a 63 year old granddad, so I'm inclined to empathise with you and I’m also disposed to even agreeing with you :-)

Will we ever really have an unequivocal answer to this question?

What this debate has shown me is that the understanding of what the issue is about and the interpretation of the thrust of my original post vary hugely from person to person. Each has a valid reason for asserting their own opinion alongside what they think this debate is all about.

My single-minded focus is on the categorisation of people according to age and the (apparent) idea that brains have mysteriously rewired themselves within one generation because of technological developments and changes because of those that have been seen by a cohort of people and within living memory. The ubiquitous nature of undoubted (digital) changes and the in-your-face features that they manifest, I believe, tend to make some people think that their impact on society is earth shattering and profound.

There have been several technological developments that could be considered to eclipse this digital wave we are all besotted with at present. One is electricity, and the 24/7 availability of it in many societies – another is the electrical transmission of international communication – both of which were recognised and firmly established over a hundred years ago.

I believe that technology is evolving at a rate that is far in advance of human evolution and will continue to do so. It continues to accelerate at this breathtaking advancing rate. Will human understanding of technology ever catch it up? I don’t think so. It has already gone beyond that point when any one person can embrace all that it means to humankind.

Let’s not claim that any one sector of society is any better equipped to understand it than another, for we are all doomed to be left behind in that, no matter when we were born or how high our intelligence may have been to start with.

I appreciate the time you took to visit Middle-earth. Thank you for that.

Catchya later

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe e Karen!

I haven’t overlooked your comment! It’s just that the technology at our disposal doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the rate of influx of comments to this post at the moment :-)

You, like Jillian, are singing my swansong.

You mention the blurring between these two mythical categories. To me it is all a blur. So much so that there is no distinction other than some other attribute that bears no real relationship to ability to understand and use technology. Pity.

I even wonder about the learning styles you speak of, for a study of those shows us that the concepts involve the categorisation of people according to arbitrary criteria. Don’t teachers and their like just love to put people into categories? I think they do it to simplify things for themselves, but actually, it’s often not as simple.

I go along wholeheartedly with what you say about the drastic changes happening in our world. The “continually developing technology” was what I waxed the eloquent about in my reply to Jillian’s comment, and before I read yours, which was sitting unread in my blog’s moderator waiting for my approval to be published (sorry about that!)

My feeling is that, rather than categorise each other, we should strive to embrace each other’s talents and understandings, and in particular across the so-called age gaps. It is what I strive to do with my students and in particular with my own children.

I’m heartened to see that often they too make the effort to embrace my understanding of things. Ultimately, we assist one another to each see things in a spectral range of different ways. For as clear as our individual visions may be, it is the interpretation of them that is really where it’s at. An appreciation of one another’s interpretations is the core of a true understanding of each other.

Ngā mihi nui

Anonymous said...

It's quite interesting the words you used to compare the young and the old with computer/technology savviness. I have to agree that just because you were born into the technololgy era that you are apt to learning and knowing more about it, but the young still have to learn the same way the old have to learn how to use it.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Anonymous

Your comment that "the young still have to learn the same way the old have to learn how to use" the technology poses the question for some that people learn differently depending on their age. The suggestion that people do learn differently as they get older gathers favour from those who believe that past experience modifies how they learn.

Johnstone's Information Processing Model implies that the way people learn is tempered by experience. Whether learning techniques actually improve with experience is a another matter for discussion.

Thank you for visiting Middle-earth.

Catchya later

Tammie said...

Hello and I agree with some of what was stated in assuming just because you were born clost to 1990 you are clearly more capable of becoming digitally savvy and acquiring acumen with present day technology. Mostly because you don't have a choice. But I do believe that much of what Prensky said it true. Because we live in a technological world with the younger ones constantly using technology they are more savvy and are quick to pick up on it and take it and advance it way beyond our dreams. I can only say this because of my experience. With my children I feel like I am the immigrant and they are the natives having to introduce me to new ways to listen to and download music, work my cell phone and even purchase items. I am definitely one of the older ones who have been open to using technology more now but let's face it, if you are one of the natives and born in a time when technology rules us then you have no choice but to know it, learn it, live with it and advance it.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai e Tammie

Thank you for giving your opinion here. I wonder at what you say about having no choice "if you are one of the natives and born in a time when technology rules us (then you have no choice but to know it, learn it, live with it and advance it)".

I am a distance educator who has many students. Some of them have online capability, others do not. Of those who have online capability, not all are as technically savvy as other "younger ones constantly using technology" as you explained. Certainly not all of them are as technically savvy as I am. And while I am aware that they were born into the age that I saw evolving, they will not necessarily have a better idea of how to use the technology or its potential for use than I do.

For as expert as the "younger ones" appear to be, there are often times when a few simple questions asked of them, or requests for them to do things using the technology, that they simply cannot rise to. I speak in general terms here, for I am quite aware that there will be "young ones" who do have insight into the potential usefulness of the technology they are handling. But of course, the same can be said of older people, like myself, who may tend to be labelled, simply because of their eclectic perspective of the technology.

I have to admit to you that I am not convinced that this magical ability that Prensky’s ‘digital natives’ have is really anything more than one of perspective.

What I have learnt by watching young and old people using and learning to use new technologies, is that there is really little difference in their abilities to acquire useful knowledge of how the technology can be handled and applied. What is apparent is that older and experienced people can often bring other perspectives to where the technology sits in their day-to-day lives, while the young are mainly ignorant of all other technology that’s gone before. The young also tend to look with disdain on these outdated technologies once they have been introduced to their past existence, whereas the older and more experienced can often see the usefulness and possible merits of a by-gone technology, merits that may not necessarily be carried forward with the advancement in technology.

The postmodern cultural idea that ‘new is good’ summarises how the younger ones can often be dismissive of a technology they know nothing about, and be enchanted with the novelty of a relatively new technology that they perhaps don’t know particularly well either.

Ngā mihi nui

Mrs. Griffith said...

Hi Ken,

I want to thank you for bringing to my attention how the terms native and immigrant are being misused. My grandmother used to say that each generation gets weaker and wiser. When I reflect on my life and those of the students that I now teach, I see that we have some of the same experiences but call the experiences by different names. For example, I used to call my friends, but my students text their friends. The difference is the technology used to contact our friends.

When I am teaching, I often ask for input from my students. Like myself, they are multi-taskers. We refer to our classroom as our office. We eat breakfast, take breaks, move around, engage in conversation, listen to music, and have fun. To date, I have had one major discipline problem.

Do my students and I learn from one another. Yes, we do. When I teach an indicator, my students are free to show us how we can do something better and quicker. Yes, like my students, I like to get to the point and keep things moving.

So, tell others to save the native vs immigrant talk. I do not know everything about the digital world, but when I do want to know something, I ask those who know and I practice getting to know the subject in more detail.

Thanks for reading my rant :)

Dionne "Twinky" Griffith

Mrs. Falkler said...

This is a very interesting post. I am not a big fan of the terms "native" and "immigrant" but I do understand the usage. That being said, I agree with you on many points. I believe the terms could be creating an unnecessary divide between the two groups of people. Just because you are part of the "net" generation does mean you have to like or be good with technology. Furthermore, just because you are old doesn't mean you are bad with technology.

It is true that students growing up now must be taught how to use the technology. I teach first grade and the first few technology lessons with a new batch of kids can be painful because they know virtually nothing. But as the year goes on they kids catch on quickly. I do believe that students born as natives to technology can learn how to use it quicker than an adult who is about to start for the first time. In the same way that children can learn different languages faster than adults (if they want to).
Very interesting post.

Zack Wilson said...

I agree with you in that the terms seem to create a divide where none need be. My students come to me knowing quite a bit about technology, but what they almost always lack is the understanding of how to use it in a constructive way.

Find and watch a Youtube video where some guy gets it in the family jewels? No problem. Create a well thought out and crafted video themselves?, no. Play some silly game where a bird collects eggs? Easy. Create a well thought out and crafted game themselves?, no.

"Digital Natives" still need to be taught how to use the tools effectively and constructively. And often times they need to be taught the tools themselves. How many of them come to school knowing how to edit video, create a game, or build a website? Some, yes... most? No.

However, I have to disagree a bit about your comments that the young have no advantage over the old when learning new tools. Of course, it all depends on the individual, and though I am fairly old (44), I would say a young person does NOT have an advantage over me. That being said, they would have a tremendous advantage over my mother, who despite being a very intelligent person is clueless about technology. While I have educated myself in the "new ways", she has not, and will not. There is no real reason for her to.

So overall I agree with your sentiments, but to say there is absolutely no difference between the people who have held a mouse in their hand since infancy and those who still don't quite understand how to use them is not quite realistic.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai!
Haere mai!
Haere mai!

Tēnā koutou!

I am moved that you didn't pass by Middle-earth!

Tēnā koe Mrs Griffith

I love that phrase you bring to us, "each generation gets weaker and wiser"! I have to admit that I am biased. I do believe that the elderly have a lot to contribute to the wisdom of society. They should be held accountable! Trouble is that they are often ignored.

I also have to admit to being a texter from way back, despite the fact that I received my first mobile (from my son!) when I was old, ten years ago. I must further admit to being an older person who learns (and recognises the need to learn) from the younger generation.

Kia ora Mrs Falkler!

You mention about being old and its wrong connection with being 'bad with technology'.

Many years ago I was a computer trainer. I was in the middle of a training session, training people to use a database system that was still being developed, when the system collapsed and I had to ring the developers for help.

A young and sprightly developer/technician bounced into the training room some minutes later and wrestled with the code of the programme for over half hour with little success. Eventually he phoned for help. An elderly technician arrived. I later found out that this aged programmer was not familiar with the package, yet within minutes, he'd sussed the problem and fixed the fault.

This was a salutary lesson for me as a teacher - one that I've often thought back on as I read about how the younger generation is so attuned to present-day technology.

They may be attuned to it, but it takes the eye of experience to really see the wood from the trees. I often wonder how much the older generations are fooled by a seemingly youthful enthusiasm for the technology that does not necessarily match the ability that's needed to use it fruitfully.

Tēnā koe e Zac

“(W)hat they almost always lack is the understanding of how to use it in a constructive way.” You are singing my swansong! It harmonises with the principle that the Prenskyites are misguided with the idea that enthusiasm for the technology equates to a useful understanding of it. Of course, it doesn’t.

I believe that understanding of how to use present day technology in a constructive way can only come with reflection. This takes time.

I believe that the time needed for that to happen is as important as the time that’s taken up being enthusiastic about it. It is all important. If you can’t generate any enthusiasm for a technology, then you won’t be able to see any constructive use for it. Unfortunately, that syndrome is also possessed by a lot of older people who can't see any use for present day technology.

Ka kite anō
Catchya later

VannyMo said...

Hi Ken,

I totally agree with you. The Millennial (Digital-gen, N-gen, or whatever we want to call the K-college generation) is definitely no more or less technical savvy or inclined than the other generations. My experience has been otherwise. I worked on a project with the N-gens for almost two years and although they knew the basics about technology, that hadn't bothered to master any (except maybe texting on their cell phones). In fact, the N-gens I worked with were very quick to say that the "older" members of the project were actually more tech savvy than what they initially thought.

Another experience I've had was with high school interns who came to our company for a summer program. Although they were aware of some of the technology, they had no clue on how to use it, or even what to use it for.

I think the adults are getting a bum rap and I for one -- am sick and tired of so-called educators stereotyping people and labeling them. The actual words "native" and "immigrant" are offensive and what point do they serve -- none. They merely create another divide amongst society.

Thanks for listening,


Carrie said...

Hi Ken,
First, I enjoyed your "ranting". :)

I agree with you that the titles of Digital Immigrant and Digital Native are way too board of terms. I feel like just because the youth of today has been exposed to new technology devices doesn’t necessarily mean they are more knowledgeable about the technology. I really liked the point you brought up about the youth of today not being any faster at learning new technology as adults. It really depends on the person, and their need/want of learning something new.

Bob Brackett said...

Hi Ken,

One should never apologize for a well reasoned, respectful rant. They have been changing minds since the beginnings of civilization. Technology has just continued to broaden the audience.

I understand your disdain for using categories that have traditionally caused societal strife, and I like Stoerger's idea of a digital melting pot, just as much as I like to assume we as a society should be able to achieve that level of harmony.

At the same time, I do think it is vital to have some from of classification to distinguish skill levels of our students. One that comes to mind is the same classification that I see for foreign languages. We could think in terms of Digital Fluency. Depending on our goals it may be necessary to get a more detailed picture and we could rate individuals on specific tech skills. I for one have attended technology trainings that were geared to faculty members that were many levels below me in terms of fluency with the technology, only to get to the last 15-20 minutes worth of information that was new to me.

As for the claims that those born close to 1990 being more tech savvy, I agree. I believe you are right in stating 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." However, as far as the majority of present educators are concerned, the students they see in front of them do have the upper hand that Prensky claims, simply because most have spent an overwhelmingly greater number of hours sitting in front of a screen.

As for the ramifications of all this, I believe we must be prepared to meet these students in this new medium. To me, the research on the effects it is having on the way the brain processes information is spot on. I do not say this because I claim to be an expert in neuropsychology, but because I see the way that I have changed since I discovered the internet and all of its bounty. Or as Nicholas Carr put it in his book, The Shallows, “The computer screen bulldozes our doubts with its bounties and conveniences. It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master.”

That's my two cents. Thanks for the post.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koutou!

Wow, we have a lot of agreement here!

Kia ora VannyMo!

Educators (and people) like to put other people into categories – labelling them. At least, this was the belief I brought to my original post. I guess it’s like much of what lots of people do – scientists, teachers, politicians etc – they all want to make things simple so that it’s easy to imagine what (you think) is going on.

I’m afraid much of education has been putting labels on things for centuries – even Bloom’s taxonomy, for as much as it’s had a long airing, is simply to do with a labelling system. That’s what ‘taxonomy’ means after all.

Tēnā koe e Carrie!

Speed of uptake is obviously something that must vary from person to person. But it can be improved upon. Given that that is the case, it must be possible for anyone, no matter what their age, to improve their speed of uptake. And indeed this is the so in many fields of learning.

Just look at how quickly a trained and experienced musician can move to accommodate a new idea in melody or rhythm. Old and experienced musicians (and I’m thinking of Jazz but not exclusively) have an ability to move very quickly to learn new things in music. That doesn’t always come easily no matter how good the younger musician may be.

It’s what comes with experience. So, what’s the argument? I think we four are in total agreement over this one.

Kia ora e Bob!

Of course, the ‘rant’ is a label for a specific type of blog post. And you summarised the need for labels and created a new label yourself. I like your ‘digital fluency’. It goes alongside linguistic fluency, as you suggest.

And you have hit on a point that I admit is one that I believe is a factor in how some youngsters do indeed become virtual experts at what they do – they spend hours in front of the computer screen. If you are a follower of Malcolm Gladwell you will be familiar with the idea that hours doing a specific action leads to expertise in that same action.

All the sports people do it. Musicians do it. Magicians do it. Actors and dancers do it, so why shouldn’t it work for youngsters who pick up computer expertise without really trying.

But I believe that there is nothing inherently different between youngsters learning things today and the learning that fanatical teenagers did 50 years ago.

As far as I am concerned, the computer is a tool. I am the master. It’s for that reason that I get annoyed when the computer goes off and does things through some programmed and seemingly intuitive action that makes it look like it knows what I want it to do!

Well, it often doesn’t do what I want it to do. When it goes away and does something else that I find difficult to reverse, sure, I get short with it. I don’t sit back and marvel at the wondrous and mysterious intelligence that is the computer!

There. That’s my two cents.

Ka kite anō
Catchya later

Michelle said...

It does seem to be a drastic split that people are promoting between young and old. I don't agree that kids are automatic tech professionals. As a fourth grade teacher, I can verify that technology is very popular with students, but they still need instruction when using it in an educational setting. Blogging was an activity I started last year, and they needed a great deal of help with the process. Not only that, but they required explicit instruction on the composition of a blog entry from a writing perspective. Not everything can be done with games either, since it sets up the idea that they will have access to games throughout the rest of their working lives as a method for instruction. Overall, I think there needs to be a balance between methods of instruction.

Sherry M. said...

You state that “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.” As a technology teacher of students in preschool through grade 8, I am not quite sure I agree with that. On many occasions, I have been surprised and very impressed with my young students who have a very solid grasp of technology and how it works, yet when I speak to their parents, I learn that they are not aware of how much their child knows or can do using a computer. In some instances, the child is actually teaching his/her parents – and even me, the teacher! It’s amazing! I believe that this is due in large part to the amount of time children are spending exposed to the various technologies and how technology is integrated into all facet of a child’s live – music, games, play, education, communication etc.

Ellen said...

After reading your Blog and Prensky's Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants I find that children born into the digital age seem to understand and accept technology a lot quicker than those who have not been exposed to it all their lives. In the context that the digital native understands and learns it quicker seems to be a misconception in my opinion. I agree with you that if you want to learn something and do not resist change than you should learn it just a quickly as the digital native. As I continue my education within education with the integration of technology I find myself to understand and grasp the concepts just as fast as my young students. Yes, I am sure that their brains work faster however in the end the concept is learned and stored for future use. So in the end I agree that there should not be a divide between generations when it pertains to technology as long as the person is willing to accept change and learn the concept.
Thanks for your opinion and I am glad that you provided a different perspective than Prensky.

Debbie said...

Interesting take on the debate concerning digital natives vs digital immigrants. Your views are different from those of Prensky and whereas I may be tempted to lean towards the other side, I think you have some valid points to your argument and I can appreciate your comments. I do agree that siciety have drawn a line between the two groups that may not be necesary or even in good taste at times. I believe there are many adults (immigrants as we are called) who have adopted brilliantly and are adept at using technology as well as or sometimes better than the digital natives. Your experience has taught you that the younger generation does not have a better grasp on the use of technology "nor a keener vision to its potential". My exposure(outside to the classroom) leads me to believe to an extent, the younger generation have a much faster or firmer grasp on the technology aspect. At least, the interest is there. See how many hours are spent on them being engaged on some form of technology throughout the day. I can't imagine this generation learning and adapting to the way we had to learn and adapt before their time. Good posts.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koutou!

Welcome to Middle-earth.

Kia ora e Michelle!

While it is true that the young need instruction in technology, I feel that we, as teachers, have to tread warily with this as if it is hallowed ground, for our students treat it as such.

A recent blog post gives the opinion that instructing our learners in this particular area of technology is turning them off. I believe that this is a real possibility. My experience with students and with my own children (my youngest is 17) is that they believe they own this sector of life (and its attendant technolgy).

I often feel like a bomb disposal expert in that in attempting to achieve the desired learning outcome I have to defuse all sorts of triggers that have the potential to put an end to any further communication.

It is sobering when you realise that 'communication' is 99% of what teaching is all about.

Tēnā koe e Sherry

Sorry, but I wonder how you can disagree with my experience as stated. Were you there?

You said, "I have been surprised and very impressed with my young students who have a very solid grasp of technology and how it works, yet when I speak to their parents, I learn that they are not aware of how much their child knows".

As a parent, I agree with what you say, for I am always amazed at how much my children know.

But children are like vacuum cleaners when it come to learning. They suck up everything in their path. It's what's learnt that is relevant that is what is most important to us as teachers.

Kia ora e Ellen!

Prensky is an author. He is not an education researcher. For me, this is where the divide occurs.

I am amazed at the number of educators who simply accept the words of an established author who has forged a platform for himself, above some common sense and also the findings of researchers, both psychological and educational.

Don't get me wrong. Prensky has some good ideas. I think he is right, for instance, when he acknowledges that the young mind is facile and wants to take in its environment. After all, the 'environment' is all the young mind experiences. They have no recollection of how it was, or insight, necessarily, into what it could be or should be.

Tēnā koe e Debbie

I nod to what you say about, "this generation learning and adapting to the way we had to learn and adapt". The truth is that no generation would be likely to learn and adapt the way a previous generation has.

I think that this has been the case since the start of time. It has been the conundrum placed before educators and those before them who have attempted to impart their knowledge and experience to the young.

Isn't teaching and learning wonderful?

Ka kite anō
Catchya later

Jaime said...

I read the same Prensky (2001) articles as others who posted on here, and after reading, I immediately agreed with him thinking back to the times that my students recognized something or were teaching me about something related to technology. However, after I read your blog, I realized how quickly we categorize people. I think categorizing people as digital natives or digital immigrants is almost an excuse for why we continue to educate the way we do (ie: using outdated strategies). I think the ability to learn and use technology comes down to individuals and their ability and willingness to adapt to new situations. In my personal experiences, I have found that students are more open and excited about learning new technologies than teachers, but I know this is not always the case.

LaRon Norris said...

I also agree with a few of Allen’s (2009) bloggers as it relates to Prensky’s labeling individuals or groups of individuals. He’s totally off base with that! I think it boils down to those students who have more exposure and opportunity to use technology will be more tech savvy than those who don’t. For me, it’s solely based again on those who have, and those who don’t. As for educators, I believe it depends on the teacher. Teachers who seek to advance their tech skills will be better equipped to effectively integrate technology into their curriculum and motivate their students than those who don’t.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Jaime

There is no question that the young are capable of extreme enthusiasm – for anything. And what a wonderful quality that is!

I watch my own children as they move through their teens and I am always moved at their capacity to latch on to ideas and glean the essence of these.

A facile mind is one that can adapt what it learns to new situations, as you say. This, if anything, is what determines the capacity to learn how to use new technologies, not just enthusiasm, though a dollop of that goes a long way to assist learning.

Tēnā koe LaRon

Ooooh! the haves and the have nots! They define many advantages – from the situational to the mental agility and ability to apply new things – and disadvantages – from the jejune learning environment to the lack of mental capacity within the learner who lacks the facility to see a usefulness in anything, whether old or new.

Remarkably, history is strewn with examples of individuals who, seemingly against all odds, thumbed their noses at either their environment or the perceived potential they had to succeed and rose to acquire a mastery of the technologies available to them.

Ngā mihi nui

Robb said...

On the issue of Digital Natives versus Digital Immigrants, I believe that both sides of the fence have very valid reasons for their statements. However, I am more inclined to feel that while Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants can be very different in terms of their capabilities, we cannot rely on that theory exclusively.

I believe that it’s more about the digital culture that the person lives in or perpetuates. Some people are born into a culture and some people create their own culture while others adapt to or adopt an existing culture. I recently encountered a 22 year old male who would certainly fall into the digital native category yet he was digitally uninformed. He was given a much better digital foundation than someone who is in their 50s but once he graduated from high school and settled into his vocation, he started to get absorbed into a non-digital culture where he seems to feel very comfortable as do his friends and colleagues. In the same way that many people forget 12 grade algebra after they leave school, some people slip out of the digital supremacy afforded the younger generation. On the other side of the fence, I was recently on a camping trip with several middle aged men like myself who would otherwise be considered digital immigrants. Each person came camping equipped with BlackBerries tethered via blue tooth connections to their play books or iPads. We had enough technology in our tent to launch a space shuttle.

In terms of the use of the term immigrant, I am an immigrant. I was not born in the United States. However, I know more about US politics and the structure and history of our country than my native born American friends and colleagues. I came here from Jamaica, a place some would call the third world. Yet while many of my native born American counterparts struggle with programming their DVRs, activating their cells phones, and using the self-check in kiosk at the airport, my 100 year old grandmother sits in her home in Jamaica and uses computers that are better equipped than many college labs to skype with her friends and family around the world. She’s definitely not a digital native.

So my point is that the terminology provides a great starting point to “thin the herd” but it should not be used to define the masses.



Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe e Robb

I wonder about your use of the term “thin the herd”. What comes to mind is the question, “for what purpose?”

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

It seems that everything today is being classified. Especially in education where the use of data drives everything from teaching to funding in today’s schools. I would say that the use connotation put behind native and immigrant all stems on a persons experience with those words. I would say that if I hear the words immigrant and native that I would place the native as being more intelligent/familiar with what is being talked about. An immigrant almost appears as an outsider looking in. This though is definitely not the case with today’s technology because everyone who has lived for the past twenty years are aware of it, but doesn’t necessarily mean they use the technology. I personally would also like to see different connotations such as beginner/novice/or expert.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe e Anonymous!

You raise a valid point and one that I wholeheartedly agree with: why should someone who lived through the rise of present day technology and watched its development be called an immigrant?

Your connotation makes the terms immigrant and native seem almost out of kilter with chronology.

Thank you for bringing a new perspective to this discussion!

Ngā mihi nui

NMajano22 said...

As I was reading the articles by Prensky (2001)the labeling of natives vs immigrants in reference to technology wise helped put things in perspective. Sadly, most of what is stated in those articles is right in regards to some teachers tryiong to teach using outdated methods. It's not about growing up in the digital age, it's about not taking the time to keep up. Now, I understand that teachers have more than enough on their plates but if they take a bit of time to learn new technologies it might end up helping them reach more students in the end. On the other hand, students are definitely at times more exposed to technology but not necessarily for educational purposes and certain technology will not help them in their future in the workforce. As an immigrant (not born in the USA) I can tell you that one can adapt to any environment since I was able to learn the language and learn the new technologies presented to me (was not exposed to any back home).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Nevi

I guess there will always be "some teachers trying to teach using outdated methods". You will have a distribution in any sample of teachers.

But similarly you will also have a distribution, along the same parameters of willingness to adapt and learn, from any sample of young(er) people.

For this reason I am quite reluctant to accept a worth in any system that shoves people into categories, especially when that system is so blatantly bound to the time of their birth.

Ka kite anō
Catchya later