You Were Born a Digital Native. Now What?

Digital native – digital immigrant. They are two hot “buzz-words” in the world of Ed Tech right now. And two of the more misunderstood words, I think. The concept is, if you were born near to or after the invention of certain technologies, you will be more comfortable with them. If you were born before that, you had to “immigrate” into the digital world, and no matter how much you learn, you will always be some what of a foreigner to the natives.

Well, that’s a bit of a simplification of the concepts, but that’s how the average person tends to understand them currently. Well, the average EdTech geek, that is. The problem is, I don’t feel they quite exactly describe reality. The thought that your digital “level” is determined solely by your age ignores two other important digitals: the digital divide and digital ignorance.

Most children in this world don’t have access to a computer. So they can’t be considered natives. Many that do have computers simply just don’t learn how to use them properly (as Katrina looked at in an earlier post). Many so-called “digital immigrants” take tests to see where they land on the scale, and test as a native, even thought they are told they have to be immigrants because of their age. (Okay, this last one describes me and maybe I am a little bitter).

I propose that digital labels should follow your actual level of knowledge and training. Maybe we should debate this one in the comments. But here are some ideas:

  • Digital muggles
  • Digital newbies
  • Digital, um, middle-of-the-road-people (who know something but just aren’t gurus yet – can’t think of a term for this one)
  • Digital gurus
Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

6 thoughts on “You Were Born a Digital Native. Now What?

  1. Katrina Adams

    LOL! These folks could also belong to the ‘Digital Ditz’ group. Which reminds me of all the funny stories I have from when I worked at a Helpdesk at a university.

    • I heard two people talking about the help function in MS Word, and one talked about how she couldn’t find info on the function she was using. Her friend’s suggestion: ‘Use the Einstein guy for your help. He’s smarter than the dog or the paper clip.’

    LOL! I kid you not!

  2. Matt Crosslin

    They shouldn’t dog that paper clip. It’s pretty creative with it’s designs :) Maybe we should also have the “Digital Don’t Cares” group for those that ignore computers all together?

  3. Erin Jennings

    In the Wikis/Blogs/Social Bookmarking session at TXDLA, the presenters asked the audience how many considered themselves to be digital natives. I was the only one who raised my hand. When the presenters said that everyone else must be digital immigrants, one lady in the front row chimed in, ‘Actually, I consider myself to be a digital naturalized citizen!’ :)

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