I love getting together with people that think like I do. So that is probably why I like the annual TxDLA conference. I just got back with a load of new information to process. I was also thrilled to see that many people are getting tired of some of my least favorite Ed Tech buzzwords: “digital native” and “digital immigrant.”
It seems like whenever I bring up the term digital native or digital immigrant, I get at least a few (if not more) stories from teachers that can’t seem to find many of these “digital natives” out there. Those of us that are ready to let the students loose in the digital world that they are supposedly native to are getting blank stares from said students. I polled my wife’s 9th grade class last year and found that most of them had no idea what a blog was. Really – no clue. Do you know why? They don’t own a computer at home. Over 80% of them didn’t. There is this thing called the digital divide that is very real and very ignored.
Chris Duke sent me a link to an excellent blog post he wrote called “Millenials” are NOT different learners!! I think he makes an excellent point:
“Millenials have the opportunity to learn with grander and newer technologies than the those available to their teachers when their teachers were in secondary or undergraduate education.”
So, in other words, learning is the same – its just that society has changed and given our natural desire to learn new directions to grow that were not available just a decade ago. We’re tapping in to stuff that we always wanted, but just didn’t have the technology to do.
Just because someone was born a certain year does not mean they will have access to a computer and therefore become a native. I know that there are those that grow up with a computer at home and they technically are a digital native. But there is also this implication that they are automatically more tech-savy than any given digital immigrant on any given day. This is just not true. Think about all of the people that you know who are true early adopters. I am thinking of some now… and no natives are coming to mind. I am usually the one convincing my 20 year old sister-in-law that she needs to sign up for a new website. Not the other way around.
I do recognize that there are differences with every generation. Always has been, always will be. We need to know what these differences are. But won’t focusing so much unnecessary attention on the differences just serve to drive a larger wedge between “us” and “them”? There are also huge similarities. We should stop acting like younger generations are an entirely different species than us. Recognize the differences, but learn to focus on the positive stuff that is there.
- George Siemens has some interesting thoughts on his Connectivism Blog. The commenters also add some interesting thoughts.
- David Thornburg actually apologized in a blog post for using the term.
- Jamie McKenzie writes an interesting indictment of the term.
Here are also some past EduGeek Journal posts on this issue:
- You Were Born a Digital Native. Now What?
- Survey Says… (shattering online myths of digital natives)
- The World is Not Flat – It is a Plateau
Also, if you are interested, here is the link to the original Digital Native Myth post for context.