Digital Natives v. Digital Immigrants

Marc Prensky is one of those who has discussed the differences between how digital natives and immigrants think. (Please remember I think many of our students are NOT digital natives, even if students of their age can be. I think this is primarily a socioeconomic demographic, though I know there can be other factors.)

Delaney Kirk on Alltop Education brought Prensky’s work up again this year. Prensky’s 2001 article is available for perusal. It asks the question of whether or not digital natives think differently.

Certainly experience changes our thought processes. It is possible that digital experiences would create different thought processes than non-digital experiences. (I was trying to think of a term for this. Real world? No, digital is real. Active? That implies digital experiences are passive and they are not or at least they don’t have to be. …)

But wouldn’t this be true of every experience that is different? People who grew up in the United States in the South in the 70s think differently than people who grew up in the United States in the North in the 70s who think very differently from people who grew up in France during the 40s or India during the 20s.

Kirk says that listening to a 2-minute talk explaining the internet in 1994 will show how far we have come. Really? I didn’t need the internet explained in 1994. But I didn’t tough a computer till 1987, when I was fully adult. I am definitely a digital immigrant, but I would not have needed this two-minute clip’s explanation.

And, really, just because someone needs an introduction to something does that mean that they can’t possibly be the same as someone who doesn’t? My sons are digital natives. In some ways they know far more about the digital world than I do. But in other ways I am more experienced because of my longer and wider use. My eldest doesn’t use facebook or Twitter. My youngest doesn’t use Twitter. (I’m on my second or third iteration of using Twitter now.) Neither of them ever had a MySpace page. Neither of them has a blog. I have four. Do you think my sons really think significantly differently than I do about the internet? or about anything because of the internet? I don’t.

I do think that we need to understand that some students have far more experience with the internet than we do and some have far less.

Other posts on this topic:
Digital Natives?
Computers and Writing: Relevant Websites
Computers and Writing: My Topic
Technology as a Boon and a Challenge
Testing for Tech Literacy

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